It seems like the perfect day, the Friday before Christmas, to write a wrap up of our year and to tell you all the ways we are grateful for each of you for your support, encouragement, and cheerleading as we launched Food for the Soul Train this year.
1. Bringing home our vintage caravan, Maude. Towing her for the first time from Massachusetts back to New Jersey. The scary feeling of her weight shifting behind our car at first, and then the natural rhythm of the road and how great it felt to see her parked in our driveway and know our dreams were coming true.
2. Sunny spring afternoons on the High Line with the little blue typewriter. Playing our collaborative writing game - I Witness. All the amazing people we met and the tales they told. The tears we shed. Belly laughs. Kismet and kindred and the freedom to play with no attachment to the ending. Watching story after story unfold in front of us.
3. Collaborative teaching. Liz Kalloch, a dream team. How right it felt with her by our side in the studio. The intensity of learning, mixed with the pleasure of progress. Success. The beautiful necklaces and charms adorning our students (friends). The way we wanted Liz to stay forever.
4. It's official! Food for the Soul Train launches for real, with our very own tax ID number! We received our business certification in the mail and opened a bank account with Noe (of TD Bank in Nutley), the friendliest, most supportive bank manager on the planet. Our dear friend, Danielle, designs a logo we fall in love with immediately. And Joanne begins building a website that knocks our socks off every time we click.
5. Maude gets a makeover! Choosing fabrics. Learning how to rewire her electric (thanks, YouTube!). A thousand trips to Home Depot. John, the relentless, kind friend who lost sleep over how to install a new floor, sink, door, siding, window screens, and about a million hex screws. Our extraordinary seamstress, Debbie, who taught herself how to sew piping on vinyl and nearly lost a few fingers in the process. The days spent waiting for the wind to calm so we could spray paint her exterior. The beautiful finished product.
6. Summer camps. Tiny books. Dreams of songwriting. Backyard serenades. Guerilla art on the streets of Nutley, NJ and Amherst, MA. Girls and women creating and writing side by side, learning from each other in the most delightful ways. Collaborative stories on paper bags. The sound of pens on a page. Swimming in a cold pond on a hot summer day. Yoga to start the mornings. A trampoline. The start of a novel by an eleven-year-old and the way she read it aloud with so much pride. The connections and contradictions and community and creation we witnessed and inspired.
7. Taking a risk and entering The Start Something Challenge. Making our 30-second video on Animoto and wishing we had 30 minutes. The pride and excitement we felt as the number of "likes" mounted. The delicious anticipation waiting to find out if we made it to round two. And round three. The incredible outpouring of support all the way to the end.
8. A sunny fall afternoon in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Two typewriters. Two poets. A quilt full of friends. A park bench and a plan. Our first attempt at Tandem Poetry. The tears a mother shed when we read our poems to her daughter, whose word was "kindergarten," and the new school she was headed to the very next day. The friend who sat by our side in his fedora and shouted, "Give them a word, they'll give you two poems!" - his enthusiasm and support making all the difference in the world. More tandem poems at Salon Gossip the night they unveiled the private room for cancer patients. Poems about diamonds and chaos. Donna. Then Fall for the Book at George Mason University. The line of college students waiting for their poems, too. Their instant understanding. The veiled women who unveiled something for us. The kindness and generosity of Kim. Taylor's drawing of a lion. A microphone. A stage full of talented spoken-word poets.
9. Maude, finished at last, and looking as shiny and gorgeous and inviting as we'd dreamed. Ready to hit the road for her debut, and her maiden voyage is a 17-hour drive to Georgia for Patti Digh's Design Your Life Camp. A wellspring of inspiration. New friends. Strong offers. Hours and hours of tandem poetry. Never feeling more at home in our skin. A tribe of campers who continue to commune with us from near and far. Two campgrounds in North Carolina. Maude's first sleepover with Melissa. The 17-hour drive home in a terrible storm. Soft rain on Maude's roof. Inside the car, feeling so filled up we wanted to cry. Feeling so filled up we did.
10. Serendipity. Our first time teaching together. Writing down the bones. Our incredible students. Their spirit of play. Egg tosses. Sand between our toes. Laughter. Shouting to the sea. Haircuts on the beach. Jen's film and Jonatha's music - in the living room! The bonds of friendship. A bonfire. Giant sparklers in our hands and in our hearts. Returning home to find out we'd made it to the finals of The Start Something Challenge. Preparation. Anxiety. Fear. The stage. A pitch. Feeling like we won something more important than the prize.
11. Fall comes, and the leaves change. Beautiful bursts of red-orange and yellow-green. New class offerings. An inkling of coming adventure. A Saturday full of writing. Two women who take the plunge and open their hearts and bare their souls to write with us. The things we teach. The things we learn. Hula hoops in the living room. Fresh starts. Mom and Me. Girls. Their patient, creative mothers who gave them all the gift of time. Giving thanks again. A new Twist. A full house. Painting on hot rocks. Two sisters whose reunion made us weep. Stories that broke our hearts open in the best way. Lessons learned. Postcards for mailing. "YOU are . . ."
12. December. A final trip. A cooking gig. Hawaii. Laurie Wagner and Alexandra Franzen - enough said! Twenty-four women who write new dreams while we feed them. Palm trees and black sand beaches and incredible vistas. Fields of lava. Warm water. New friends we "knew" the very moment we met. Plans for the future. Jaw-dropping sunsets we never got tired of. Top Chef challenges. Hot tub soaks under the moon. First attempts at ukulele. Cocktail concocting. A beautiful birthday party. Paper umbrellas. Dinner the last evening that could have lasted our whole lives. 29 ways to say it was an amazing trip.
We have been incredibly blessed this year to co-create a business that nourishes our growth, imagination, and learning, and to be simultaneously co-creating a life that invites us to step forward with our hearts out and open and dig deep into our capacities as writers, artists, and facilitators. Our journeys this year - the exterior and interior both - have gifted us with a tremendously engaged community of supporters, collaborators, students, mentors, ambassadors, and guides whose love and support is a constant source of inspiration. Thank you for joining us so far. We are excited to see what 2014 has in store for us...or more accurately, what WE have in store for 2014.