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You Are the Map!

On this day during National Poetry month, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite poems.

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference.

I follow Jess Keating, an author, cartoonist, zoologist, and creative coach. I LOVE her newsletter as it always has a gem. Today's opening article really struck a chord with me- The Time I Almost Screwed it All Up (A quick story about how I got here, in hopes that it might help you accept the wild, unyielding parts of yourself, too)

I highly recommend subscribing here and reading it.

You might know someone who could use her message.

"And you should also know that, if you’ve ever felt like you don’t fit, you’re not alone.

But you were never meant to fit.

You're too original, too multi-faceted and brilliant and full of creative power.

You don't need to fit. You need to look to your mountaintops.

It’s okay to love what you love, and build a life using all of it. The only signposts you need are the ones built by your own intuition, and the minute you start to feel constrained by someone else’s valley, just know:

The mountaintop is always there for you.

You aren’t all over the map.

You are the map."

I think our society conditions us to think that after we graduate high school we MUST go to college and somehow know EXACTLY what we want to do with our lives. Some people do, most do not. For some, it is a lifetime of trying different things or heading toward that one vocation, that one goal. For some of us, it is about the journey.

I was blessed to have a husband who worked hard for our family and enabled me to try different careers at different times during my life. When the kids were little, being a licensed daycare provider allowed me to stay home with them. As they got into school, getting up at

4 a.m. to be the opening manger for a bakery and being home when they got off the bus, fit in well. And so it went. Each stage brought new challenges and opportunities that I fit into my life.

Over the last 40 years, I have been:

  • A check sorter/ bank statement mailer

  • Sales person and night manager at assorted retail jobs (Crate & Barrel, Fabric Place to name a few)

  • Opening Manager at Bakery on the Common

  • Licensed Daycare Provider for 6 little ones

  • Custom Cake decorator

  • A seamstress sewing wedding attire, drapes and bedding

  • License and Trademark Administrator for TJX. Cos

  • Director of Religious Education/ Confirmation coordinator at St. Mary's

  • Editorial coordinator at Charlesbridge Publishing

  • A mural artist

  • and currently... an author.

For my job tracking licenses and paying monthly fees for TJX Co.s, I moved into it, not with a CPA degree, but with cumulative experience gained from many other administrative positions I had held. This housewife from Holliston got to travel to Hong King and London, something I could never have imagined. Sometimes a new opportunity will present it self in the most unexpected moments.

It isn't always a straight path to find your career. You may even be like me and have MANY things you do throughout your life. I am the writer I am today because of all these experiences, and I would not have missed any of them for the world.

What kind of winding road have you taken?

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When my father, a 'Type A' manger who was used to always being in control, was having a hard time with a diagnosis that turned his world upside down, I was at a loss for words. What could I say that expressed how I felt, and not be too emotional tripping over my words?

Since the written word is where I find inspiration, I sought out some books to send to him.

It turns out, there are many picture books that will help you tell your special someone what is in your heart.

Here are a few of my favorites:

"It was on top of the world when it happened.

Its entire life changed with the switch of a button."

Bug in a Vacuum

by Mélanie Watt

This heartwarming story takes the reader through The Kübler- Ross five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, despair, anger and acceptance. When a fly is sucked into a vacuum, all will relate to their world changing and trying to make it through the darkness. It ends on a hopeful note which was perfect for my father. Yes, he probably thought I was crazy...but in the end, it really touched his heart. It has just enough childlike fun in the illustrations to be at a kid's level and deep enough for any adult. Highly recommend.

"But that's only half the story... Because I decided to get back up.

And when I did, something amazing happened."

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again

by Dan Santat

It was a brilliant idea Dan Santat had, to let us know what happened after this famous incident. The unexpected ending will make your heart soar. Inspiration for anyone afraid to take the next step in life, work. college, whatever!

"But one day, the unthinkable happened."

The Rough Patch

by Brian Lies

Brian Lie's amazing illustrations take us on a journey from hopelessness to hope. Tender and heartfelt, you can feel the emotion on every page. His use of shadows and white space evoke deep feelings for the reader. It is a great book to share with children when they encounter their first real losses in life and may need to talk about it.

"What is the bravest thing you've ever said?" asked the boy.

"Help," said the horse.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

by Charlie Mackesy

This book is a must have. A delicious gift for nearly every occasion you can think of. The beautiful pen and ink hand drawn illustrations and lettering feel like you are getting a peek inside someone's private journal where they write their deepest thoughts. While the book can be taken as a whole, each page stands alone and makes you ponder how this author can say so much in so few words. Every age will take away something at their own level. Amazing!

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How you can make your dreams come true

If you had asked me a few years ago, "Who is Cathy Stenquist?" I would probably have responded, "Wife, mother, lover of all things creative." But I wouldn't have called myself a writer. Though I have always had a special connection to the written word, my dabbling with playgroup newsletters or drafting the occasional article for the church bulletin never felt like it earned the moniker 'writer' or 'author'.

Then I took a chance.

I sent in one of my stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul on a whim. And to my great surprise, they contacted me a few weeks later and wanted to publish it. Within a few months a heavy box arrived, and like a child on Christmas morning, I couldn't wait to tear open the package. Holding the copy of that book in my hand was magical. As I giggled and cried, I flipped to the Table of Contents, and there it was ...

"A Note from Heaven"......... Cathleen Stenquist Pg 30

I held the edge of the page in disbelief. My name... Cathleen Stenquist, printed on the paper. My finger slowly scanned across the Times New Roman font, as if to feel that it was actually there. It was the first time I let myself believe it.

I am a writer.

The journey since has been more than I could have imagined. Every webinar, class or writer's group I have joined, has led me to a community which generously shares and supports each other in our efforts to be published. I have listened, learned and grown as a writer.

In a very short time my first picture book, Forever Home, will be published and I know the same tears and laughter I felt that day several years ago, will fill my kitchen as I tear open my box of picture books. It is the moment that a writer lives for. To know that my words have become something tangible; an instrument that will now touch someone else's heart, making them think, learn, laugh and cry and just maybe ... be richer because of my words.

I understand Nike's motto "Just Do It!" a bit better now. For a moment I stopped questioning, worrying and waiting; took one bold step and found my true vocation. What is your dream? It may only take one brave step. I cannot wait to share the journey with you. Here we go!

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A Little Bit of This & That

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