Bringing in the New Year with My Birthday Buddies

When your family recipe for Hurry Up Chocolate birthday cake is the most delicious ever, with its pink frosting with a few drops of Nana’s ancient almond extract, well, the cake is a thing. The thing you really look forward to and savor for dessert and breakfast the following day(s).

When your tummy finally calls Uncle and asks you to eliminate sugar, eggs, flour, butter, milk, and more, there isn’t a lot of cake you can make. There is that sugar-free aquafava chocolate mousse from Lazy Cat Kitchen, which is pretty great, but this year, after a year of quarantine, we had an even better idea. 

Let’s make a sandcastle at the river-beach, light a candle, and have a birthday playdate, sans picnic.  The sand was too rocky to hold a cupcake shape, but the River’s frozen snow-ice was an even better cake-and-frosting alternative.

The Candle took fire-breathing lessons from the dragon and the West Wind must’ve been having a birthday too, because she kept blowing it out. 

My birthday buddies have plans for 2021, coming to books for you with their creative courage.

The Dragon figures in a fairy tale I’m calling “Once Upon a Heartstring.” It was in the last chapter of Damocles’ Wife, chapter 55, and now that I’m turning 56 it makes perfect sense to finish the story. Winter winds had brought a mean and terrible dragon that ravaged the village and farms, wounding the boy’s father who is barely beginning to heal. When the grownups can’t decide what to do, the boy decides to leave his village to go put an end to the dragon. Does he slay or befriend it, or does he learn something else entirely true? I wrote the beginning and end one starry night in 1998 but couldn’t imagine the middle back then. The middle has finally made itself known, and an illustrator is standing by to bring the story to life. This dragon is standing by as inspiration and model. 

The tortoise and the big elephant are also on a journey, having met each other one day in the jungle when the little tortoise was lost. How will the poetry of their unfolding friendship help them find their way home? Dr. Mukta Panda, author of Resilient Threads, is birthing this children’s book to reimagine a path to living with joy and meaning. She and I are co-leading an online retreat together in March on Reframing Resilience, Renewing Leadership.

Emotikin is going through her archives of adventures since 2003 and deciding which ones to turn into storybooks. If you didn’t see it on Solstice, you can find her first offering, Eleven Brave Pinecones, here. 

Later that 56th birthday day, by the way, my mom and dad got creative and made me a broccoli birthday cake!! It was the sweetest cake ever! Turns out you really don’t need chocolate to sing Happy Birthday to You! 

I’m already feeling the creative expansion of 2021 and hope you do, too! 

A book for you for Solstice 2020

It’s been a long LONG time since my last post. Life took detours and several coast to coast road trips where my camera was busy but my soul needed solitude and silence. The Emotikin met up with elephants, micro, mini and even full size at many zoos across America. The micro elephants are portable, pocket-sized and are here to stay. And the Emotikin is ready to come back out to play.

In fact, I thought an elephant story would be next. And there is one coming which also includes a turtle. And then I thought finishing a fairy tale about a boy and a dragon would be next (it’s a story I started in 1998 but could only see the beginning and ending back then). The middle has been emerging since August. Stay tuned for more about that! But as it turns out, the Emotikin insisted she gets to go first. The paper-version is in the works, and so for now, I am giving you this gift of a virtual book thanks to the ease of Canva. Enjoy!

Eleven Brave Pinecones ebook cover
Click to view book on a full screen. Enjoy!

Feel free to share this link, watch it on Zoom with little kids in your life. https://bit.ly/BrvPnCnz

Happy Winter!

Follow me on Instagram @ShellyLFrancis for more frequent photos and my Fortitude blog. My current work life includes having founded Creative Courage Press, publishing books by remarkable authors with refreshing ideas. Together we’re creating courage for the complexity of being human!

Dancing With the New Year

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Before I could welcome the New Year
I had goodbyes to say
and thank yous to pray,
and rare sunshine showed up to take notice.

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Goodbye was due to my old friend Doug Fir,
whose last wish was I dance on his growth rings.
His rings tallied up drought and the raining disasters
that helped him grow tall and yet taller.

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Before my goodbyes my knees buckled and bent.
Long skinny shadows suggested forgiveness I seek
for too many days through too many years
tucked under a desk, life ignoring.

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As penance and promise when I welcome the New Year,
I will measure the width of your growth rings, Doug Fir.
I will witness your years with the breadth of a hug
that tugs my heart wide, wide, wide open.

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Take a deep breath now, I said to myself,
and I shifted my sorrow to solace.
Will you dance with me now, Mr. New Year? I asked.
Will you honor my friend
who is gone?

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Yes I will.
Who will lead?

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We’ll take turns.
You go first.
Spring leads.
Summer follows.

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But it’s winter.

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As I welcome the New Year
I will dance in the darkness
deep down in my heart
I will welcome the shade
and the cold.

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Then let’s dance in the sunlight
that shines on us now
even though the air
is still frosty.

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Bring me lightDSC_0901

Bring me joy
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Bring friendship
DSC_0899Bring blue sky

Help me ring in the New Year with gladness.

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Make me silly
Make me strong
Make me giddy

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Make me wrong
to sit too long at my desk without playing.

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Help me laugh

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Help me sing
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Help me flap my strong wingsDSC_0979

Help me land on my feet DSC_0950

Please stand with me each day,
Mr. New Year.

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May I count my own growth rings
this year as I change.

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May I remember to bow
and say thank you.

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May I take time to dance
and play with my friends.

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And sing wondrous songs with my soul.*

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Thanks for dancing with me, Mr. New Year!
~ You’re welcome! ~

*Big thanks to my friend Alan Claassen for permission to put his wondrous song in this video:

The Answer Was Yes!

We've moved!

We’ve moved!

Is this mine, was my October question. This place with the blue door in the meadow. This cottage with the piano inside. This yard with swings in three trees.

It takes courage to say Yes to your life when it shows up with a gift without warning. Like love at first sight. Your mind can come up with a long list of reasons (and fears) to say No.

It’s too much. It sounds hard. I’m not ready.

Or you can open your mind by hearing the thoughts of your heart.

It’s what I always imagined…in detail. It feels like a gift. I’m singing silly songs I’m so happy. It feels like home and we’re not even there yet. I believe I can do this! I will trust in the process…and outcome…and future.

Then give it some time. Take some deep breaths. Accept the October invitation. Wait for the November answer.

Yes. Yes. Yes!

Uncross your fingers and slap a high five!

Pack your boxes and move! Unpack. Bake a turkey. Give thanks. Begin to get settled. Add a tree. Hang some lights. Do the dance of a happy December.

Then let the adventure begin!!

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Hoisting our own sunshine on a non-sun Sunday in Seattle

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Some days in Seattle, especially Sundays,
it’s necessary to make your own.
Sun, that is.

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We have these Pantone color-matching cards that make the perfect,
and we mean perfect, sunshine colors.
Mimosa makes sense for PMS 14-0848,
like Sunday brunch at the beach.

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The mechanics are a bit like flying a kite,
string required, of course.
A bit of wind helps, but not too much.

hoisting-sun-mimosaYou wait for just the right breeze, the right lift,
and you hoist your sunshine into the sky.
And bask in the glow.
Good for the soul.
SPF 2 is plenty.

Message in a bottle on a beach in West Seattle

whats-this-bottleon a sunless day in West Seattle
we saw an empty bottle on the beach

wrote-a-notealways wanted to send a message in a bottle,
I thought, feeling extra adventurous in my fabulous oyster-shell hat.
so I wrote one.
and rolled up a second blank one saying “write your own”
for whoever finds it next.
one should carry extra pencils for occasions such as this.
sealed-it-intucked it in, stoppered tight

sitting-with-it-sealed-a-minuteand sat there a moment, with my message
that momentarily would travel into the world
like a wish to come true

into-the-surfmessage bottles are a bit cumbersome to drag to the sea
without any handles

sending-msg-in-a-bottlehere we are, moments before it embarked…

msg-in-a-bottle-in-surfbon voyage, my message in a bottle

2-msgs-in-a-bottlewho might find it?

In awe of the textures of New Years Day in the forest

simply random snapshots of New Years Day in the woods of Lincoln Park…
tree-communing-NewYearsDay2013communing with trees

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composting autumn on the 138th step

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in-awe-of-algae-texturesawed by so many layers of life in these woods

awesome-olympicsa posterized view over Puget Sound