A Seed Planted 30 Years Ago

It’s a sunny summer day in 1987. I was wearing my jams, my unruly bangs were hanging in my eyes, and I had scabs on both my knees. My family had moved to a new town and I was outside in the yard with my mom.

She loved gardening and was building a circular flower bed near the edge of the lawn. She asked me to help her (more like volun-told me to help her) so I did.

Looks like I was volun-told to rake too.

She had dug up the grass and got the dirt ready. I helped line the red decorative bricks along the edge of the flower bed. Next came the planting of the seeds. I remember noticing how they all looked identical, so they probably were all going to be the same color plants.

A few weeks later as the zinnias grew I quickly noticed the differences- in height, color, the way the leaves on the stalks were spaced out. How interesting is that, right?


While the zinnias grew, so did other flowers my mom had planted. Along the garage vinca and dianthus were their own unique colors, shapes, and smells too. All this time in the garden sparked my imagination to run wild! These different flowers must have different personalities, right?

I bet they have lots of stories to tell.  I should tell their stories!  

Oh the sweet, creative mind of a 9 year old – I remember it vividly. I quickly started thinking of different story lines, what the names of the different flowers should be, and of course how I’d want to illustrate it.


A few days later I felt I had drafted a good story, and was ready to take the next step. I took a stack of college ruled notebook paper, pulled out my mom’s well-worn typewriter, and went to work.

Yep, this was from the cover page that I typed 🙂

I carefully typed in no more than a few sentences for each half page so I had plenty of room to draw in my illustrations later. I had the laser focus and seriousness of a newsroom reporter about to publish a breaking story.

I love that I even decided how long plant years were compared to human years!


Not long after that I put my finishing touches on the final page, paper clipped it together, and felt incredibly proud. I did it! I had written a children’s book! Take that 4th grade class – I was on my way to being an author!!! 


Want to know how many children’s books I went on to draft and illustrate since then?

None. Nope, not a single one.

Want to know how many times I’ve thought about it, or have written down an idea for one with intentions to go back to it when I had more time?

Probably thousands. No joke.

Fast forward to December 2016. I was training for a 100 mile run when I got to a point that I had to accept the fact that my body had other plans. My detailed calendar that was to cover the next 4 months with long runs,speed work and hill repeats was thrown out the window, and I was left with *gasp*, free time.

Sounds nice, right? I could get caught up on all the what nots that I had always said I’d do when my schedule allowed. Now my time allowed for anything I wanted outside of my normal working hours.

So what have I done?

I started a strength training regimen that I absolutely love and look forward to doing at 4:30 am every day.


I’ve given a lot of thought to my friendships and who I need to invest more in, and who I should take a step back from.

I’ve spent a lot of good quality time with my sick dog, and my lovely boyfriend.

family photo
Photo by John Urban

With these great ways to spend my time, there’s still this…. Restlessness.

I felt this restlessness most recently on Sunday when I was taking a walk on the Ice Age Trail with my boyfriend and I was seeing people out there trail running. It made me miss ultramarathons, and coaching high school track and cross country.

I mentioned I’ve been investing in friends more lately, one of which I got together with this past Saturday morning for coffee. She’s a lighthouse of a person, super warm, very motivated, really open and someone that I always enjoy talking with. She mentioned a man named Jason Kotecki who speaks down at Dream Bank in Madison on occasion, so I made a mental note to check out his work.

My wonderful friend I mentioned- volunteering at the Duck Dash in 2016

As I was getting ready for work today I listened to his presentation that he did down at Dream Bank last summer and it was exactly what I needed! He talks about the importance of tinkering. Of allowing ourselves to be curious, try something without an expectation attached to it, and just experiment.

Jason Kotecki addresses those things that come up in our heads that keep us from doing things like working on a children’s book. Thoughts like:

That’s not a practical career.

It’s unrealistic to think I could be good at that.

I don’t even have kids, how do I know what they want to read?

You have too many other things to do.

You aren’t artistic enough to illustrate your own story.

You’re a banker, you can’t do both things well.

Our minds can be total pricks sometimes! A lot of the time actually. Jason talks about tinkering as a way to explore something that interests us. I don’t need to be all serious and work on a children’s book with my hopes resting on it being a best seller, or to get a book tour out of it – I can just do it for fun! How liberating is that?

I was going to keep this to myself as my own private tinkering project, but I just know there are other people out there who have those same little nagging voices in the back of their heads about something they’ve always wanted to do, or were curious about.

Maybe this could inspire you to take on a tinkering project of your own.

Maybe you could silence your adult asshole brain that is so good at telling you reasons why you shouldn’t do things.

Maybe you could choose to do something for fun, knowing it won’t be perfect and that it’s okay.

If this is resonating you, check out Jason’s talk here. He’s also got an awesome website and blog that I’m really impressed with.

It feels good to finally be giving attention to that seed I planted 30 years ago. Happy tinkering!

Tinker Project banner from Jason Kotecki’s website. Check it out!


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