We All Have a Story ...
And What Part Do We Choose to Tell?

 Note to Reader: In my work I have frequently been interviewed or asked to send in biographical information.  These have been great opportunities to sort through the details of my life journey and pick out those things that are important to me.  These short sketches have helped steer the course of my life.  I do believe that's true. What we tell about ourselves is what we believe about ourselves.  It is how we reframe the past.  It is what we project into the future.

What follows is yet another version of this slightly egocentric activity of telling my story. BUT, I encourage you to do the same.  Write your own interview.  Compose your own biographical sketch.  Put on paper who you are. You can write about one little part of your story.  Or a whole lot.  But do begin. It isn't wasted time.

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Maureen Carlson's Center for
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102 Water  Street
Jordan, MN 55352

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One Story ....

I'll start with when I came "of age", in the 60's. It's a time that for me is caught up in the song "Alfie", by Burt Baccarach. Sorrow and hope, despair and longing for love are all embedded in Dionne Warwick's soulful voice and those anguished words:
What's it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?

walking stick It was a strange time of opposites when friends were heading fearfully off to war in Viet Nam while in the streets the Flower Children were singing songs of love and peace. At Michigan State University I was more concerned with my inner turmoil over questioned family values than I was about what was happening with Martin Luther King's March on Washington or the increasingly violent anti-war protests. My world religion class was right up there with the sexual revolution and relaxed views about drugs in breaking open that secure little box in which I held my grip on the world and my rightful place in it.

The summer of 1966 I headed off to Mackinac Island for work as a salad girl at one of the resort hotels. I don't recall reading the news that whole long summer, but in the streets of Cleveland and Chicago there was turmoil boiling over into race riots and outrage. I was living out an idyllic summer romance, relatively free from worry about life, limb or happiness, while across the world future friends of mine were seeing their culture erode and begin the slow slide into despair, a despair which would eventually end their way of life and result in their refugee status and 1980 placement in our home as members of our family.

A lot has happened since then, but the questions and the questioning ... and the listening ... have remained my companions, my way of holding the opposites in place along a teeter-totter line of longed-for understanding. And continued sorting. And tossing. And learning. And hope. And love.

All of those experiences brought me to where I am today. Here. With you. It's a good place to be.

I love journey stories and walking sticks and unexpected happenings along the way. But maybe I always knew, in some part of my knowing, that I'd be a spiritual director, and be working with Spirituality, Creativity and Imagination. Looking back I can see how it all makes sense.  

Prior to 2010 I didn't have a name for what it was that I did, or what happened, when people told their stories. I just knew that stories mattered, and that respectful listening in a safe environment allowed people to fit more comfortably into their own skin, to dig more deeply into their own stories in order to find what really mattered to them.  And, for me, Spirit was always a part of all things, everywhere and everywhen ... in remote corners of woods and late night conversations as well as in magnificent structures and in gatherings of celebrants. Seems like I've always been looking for the "Face of God".  

My understanding of God and the Sacred has changed since those dorm room conversations of 1965. But what I know is that we are connected by a mysterious force that is within each of us, yet is more than our individual selves. Some of us call this force, God, and others use names like Higher Power, Inner Spirit, Great Father, Divine Mother, Allah, Mystery and Jehova, while still others leave this force totally nameless, beyond all names and all definitive knowing. No name at all.

I know now that I can not define Spirit or put God in a box of my making. What I can do is experience wonder and joy and love. And, in some mysterious way, I can experience the Sacred through each of you as we are the Face of Love to each other. And I can be silent. And I can listen.


A Chronological Biography

First 20 years: Born in 1947.  Grew up on a farm in Elsie, Michigan.  Explored life.  Active in Methodist Church, 4-H.  Exchange student to the Netherlands through Youth for Understanding.  Attended Michigan State University.  Met husband Dan on Mackinac Island. Fell in love with Dan and with life.

Next 20 years: Graduated from Cleveland State University with a B.S. in education.  Taught 5th grade in Berea, Ohio.  Moved to Prior Lake Minnesota.  Involved parent of Jenelle and Renee.  Foster parent.  Sponsored/befriended a family of 7 during the crises in Cambodia.  Became a working artist.  Thoroughly loved being a part of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Began to take very seriously the making of art as symbol and story

Flew through 20 more:
Took interest in creativity and art into the area of product design, teaching, authorship of how-to books and videos. Involved with the crafts community at a national level.  Wrote magazine how-to articles.  Appeared on HGTV and other cable television craft programs. Worked with American Art Clay Company as a polymer clay designer and consultant.  Developed gift lines for the collectibles market, including Pippsywoggins and Sister Folk.  Opened Maureen Carlson's Center for Creative Arts in Jordan, MN, USA.  Wondered where all of this was heading, and why?  Combined storytelling with artmaking and called it Storyclay Telling.

Began the latest 20-year cycle: Completed class work for spiritual direction at Sacred Ground in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Entered the supervision process of spiritual direction training. Continued private spiritual direction, hosting of retreats and classes at Maureen's.  Continued authoring how to books and materials for adults and children. Continued Storyclay Telling to adults and children.  Intrigued by what it means to be a lightworker and a storycatcher.  Continued to celebrate life in all of it's complexity.

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