Caught in Conversation



L-R: Edie (Catholic), Judy Lewis (Jewish), Bro. Al Mascia, OFM (Catholic) and R. Kahn (Muslim) Co

Caught in Conversation is the brainchild, or maybe I should say heartchild, of Mary Gilhuly. Because I don’t know that the brain could come up with, and keep advocating five years for, a gathering of Jews, Christians and Muslims to come together for dinner and conversation. The brain would serve up a heap of reasons not to — it could get heated; who would show up?; why bother?  where ?

I’m one of Mary’s tiling volunteers at Song and Spirit. For the purposes of this post however, Mary was the force behind this week’s Caught in Conversation held at the Muslim Unity Center here in Bloomfield    Township. Over one hundred people signed up.

Envision the setting — twenty tables covered with white cloths, each one set for six.  I know, it sounds like the set up for a joke — two Christians, two Muslims and two Jews show up for dinner conversation.  We began with blessings led in turn by Hazzan Steve Klaper, Imam Elturk of IONA and finally Brother Al Mascia. Whispers in Hebrew, Arabic and English rolled through the room, three quiet waves of gratitude for the meal before us.

I was a bit trepidatious. How would I, a pro-Zionist  Jew feel in a Muslim community center?  Would the conversations be stilted? How was this really going to work? The most contact I’ve had with women wearing a hijab has been a casual wave around town. But I believe in the power of conversation; how could I miss this?

Darvick-Picture-a-Conversation-IMG_2409Over felafel sandwiches, chicken rollups, and salad we introduced ourselves.  At our table was a Catholic man who serves on Song & Spirit’s Board of Directors; a young man who is making his initial vows to become a Franciscan friar; two Muslim women, one a doctor, the other an attorney;  a Jewish woman I know from tiles and me. It was an evening of learning; a night of uncovering similarities; a meal over which assumptions were set right and customs were shared.

The doctor at our table recalled her surprise upon realizing the parallels between  Muslim and Jewish burial customs. The board member assumed that rabbis, like Catholic priests, do not marry or have families. Not true, but without an evening like this, how might he have ever known? The young man beside me, a postulant in the Franciscan order, told of us his plans to become a friar —  pursuing a divinity degree, taking vows of poverty and celibacy. It was quite moving hear a young person filled with such dedication to his faith eagerly on a path so different from that of his peers. Adjacent to our table, six mothers discussed the challenges of keeping their teens connected to church, mosque and synagogue.

The six of us discussed Original Sin and how something that is expunged by baptism in the Catholic faith doesn’t exist for Jews or Muslims.  We learned of a moving Muslim birth custom — whispering the call to prayer into the ear of a newborn so that the first words the infant hears are sweet words of tradition and not the whisperings of any evil spirits that might be hovering near by. It made me wish that I had whispered the Shema to Elliot and Emma at their moments of birth.

Granted, we were a self-selected group open to learning and new experiences. The night’s purpose wasn’t to solve global crises, but to engage in positive religious dialogues that the world beyond our dinner tables rarely notices or envisions. I think we all felt a sense of safety from the pundits and politics. The briquets of today’s rhetoric-soaked sound bites fuel little that brings harmony within or without. Our goal was to lay down a few hefty logs of community and kindle them with hope and conversation, not ignoring our religious traditions but because of them. I wondered if such a gathering could happen anywhere else in the world but America.  Likely in Israel. And Canada. But France? Lebanon? Egypt? Last night was about being ourselves and bringing ourselves to the table precisely because we are Americans of different religions.

As I was leaving, one of the women from the Center called out to me that she hoped we would do this again.  I said I hoped so.  In Sh’Allah, she said. I nodded, which prompted her to ask if I knew what it meant. “Of course,” I replied. “It means Baruch HaShem. May it be God’s will.”

I’m not so Pollyanna-ish to think that an evening’s program will change the world. But you have to start somewhere and a civil, engaging and heartfelt conversation is a pretty good place to start.


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Sprite and the Broken Clasp

Thanks always to Martin, whose photos grace my posts and whose listening heart graces my life.

Thanks always to Martin, whose photos grace my posts and whose listening heart graces my life.

In a sea cottage at the edge of the marsh where the waves washed the shore, a sprite was sobbing. Not just sobbing but all out howling the kind of howls that hitched her little chest, turned her eyes into rivers and her nose into a gooey faucet.

No one knew exactly why Sprite was crying. Could have been the way the sheets tangled her ankles during the night, or that the last of the oatmeal got eaten before she came to table. Or it just might have been the fact that the air that summer morning just didn’t feel right. Since she wouldn’t stop her wailing, the olders in her midst timed her out, even though the power to rescue herself from this utter meltdown was so far beyond her that the gulls flying skyward heard her shrieks through their cawing and squawking.

Her mother tried muting her with a promise of ice cream after lunch. This did nothing to stop her hitchy chest. Her father tried silencing her with the threat of no bedtime story. That did nothing to stop her rivery eyes. Her grandmother tried stilling her with the wheedle that her crying was upsetting her grandfather, her cousins and even Aunty. Which did nothing, but absolutely nothing, to stop her faucety nose. But that last wheedle did catch the ears of Aunty who was just waking up from a totally wonderful nap in the hammock overlooking the marsh.

When Aunty heard her name invoked in a try to stop the sprite’s hitching, rivering and fauceting, she spun from the hammock, crossed the wooden decking, and knelt down in front of the sprite — eye to eye, nose to nose, chest to chest. Nobody, but nobody, uses Aunty’s sensibilities as a threat to stop a sprite from sobbing.

“I’m here,” said Aunty, “What’s up?” Sprite’s cries escalated, forcing Aunty to adjust her hearing aid a bit.  “Breathe with me?” Aunty tried. The sprite shook her head, “What’s wrong?” Aunty finally asked. “Why are you crying, Sprite? Why are you crying?” Aunty waited, still kneeling in front of the sprite, even though her knees had only the least bit of kneeling left in them for the morning.

Sprite opened her tiny fist and held it out to Aunty. On her palm lay a broken hair clasp. It was silver and gold; the picture of the queen that adorned it had fallen off. “Oh, my goodness,” said Aunty. “Your hair clasp has broken. What a terrible, terrible thing. A terrible thing.” And then she waited again, quietly honoring the sprite’s sobs.

Bit by bit, Sprite’s chest began to unhitch and her cries slowed. “It’s an awful thing to have something you love break,” said Aunty, “especially when you’re just a sprite. It’s no fun when you’re an older, either, but when you’re a sprite, well, it can feel like the end of the world, huh?”  Sprite nodded, wiping her nose with the hem of her nightgown before Aunty could pull a handkerchief from her back pocket.

“Why don’t we try to fix it?” Aunty asked. Sprite looked up, her blue eyes twin questions of such a possibility. “We can try,” replied Aunty. “And if it doesn’t work, you can still keep the Queen’s picture in your treasure box. What about that?” Sprite considered this for a moment, then nodded, and raised her hand to Aunty.

“Things break,” Aunty told Sprite as she lifted the pieces from her palm. “Sometimes we can fix them, and sometimes we just have to gather up the brokens and save them as we go.”

Sprite let Aunty wipe her eyes with the handkerchief. “Isn’t this the morning you’re making drip castles on the sands?” Sprite nodded in remembering. She hugged Aunty a quiet hug and scampered to the shed for her shovel and pail. Aunty watched her go, knowing full well wisely, and fiercely, just how many brokens it takes to make up a lifetime…


I wrote this grown-up’s fable after a conversation with a little person who was bereft because something she treasured had broken. Sometimes all it takes to mend our “brokens” is a quiet conversation with someone who will listen.

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A “Sprained” Conversation

What a blessing to have use of my thumb!

What a blessing to have use of my thumb!

I fell recently and my wrist, while not broken, was still hurting. The hand surgeon confirmed that nothing was fractured and sent me to the local medical supply place for a brace.  It was a long wait in a place devoted to the old-age infirmities that can befall us — adult diapers, walkers, splints, crutches and more. I signed in and counted the names above mine. It was going to be a long wait.

I picked up a magazine and took a seat next to a woman who was also waiting to be seen. Minutes passed.  Long minutes.  Then a quarter of an hour that turned into a half hour. The woman began talking to herself not so sotto voce,  “I’ve been waiting over an hour to be seen. I KNOW I didn’t have an appointment. But I didn’t KNOW I was going to break my wrist today.” Then her mutterings escalating to curses. I tried to voice commiseration that I hoped would ease the tension. Truth be told, she was just saying what the rest of us were thinking; we just had better filters in place. But I grew uneasy. Would she go from words physical venting?  Did she have a gun? Had she broken her dominant hand?  Could she shoot left-handed?

The receptionist said they were moving as quickly as they could.  Things quieted down, and then I heard crying.  The woman’s body language projected utter defeat —  shoulders slumped, head in her hands, completely withdrawn. Through her cries she whimpered that she was in pain. That it was her twins’ birthday and she needed to get home to celebrate, but how could she make them a cake with a broken hand?  In that moment, the whole drama shifted from a one-person play to a scene in which we all had a part — we were all in some degree of pain; we all had somewhere else to be; we were all wondering how we would handle the physical tasks that, pre-injury, we did on autopilot.  Again, this woman was projecting what all of us were confronting within.  And for this poor woman it was just too much. She was overwhelmed, and simply could no longer cope. Or maybe she was coping better than the rest of us by expressing exactly what she was feeling and facing (minus the cursing, mind you.)

So I started a conversation.  Tell me about your kids.  How old are they? How did you hurt yourself? Turns out her kids were 17, a boy and a girl.  Like me, she had taken a spill in a moment of distraction. She confessed to being an impatient person.  I said the same and joked that the universe was probably testing me by giving me a situation requiring patience.  Trying not to sound too preachy I gently suggested that maybe this was an opportunity for us both to try and go with the flow.  And because I write an advice column, I couldn’t help but add that at 17, her kids could wait a bit. Her physical well-being had to take priority so that she could be there for them later.   A minute or two passed; it was finally her turn. I didn’t see her again.

We are so wrapped up in our own worlds, our own hurts, our own lives. Random conversations are beautiful reminders that we are not as separate as we think and that sometimes, simply talking to one another helps to mend what is broken, yet unseen.

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Image First

Darvick-Hydrangeas-FenceNo one will ever figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg.  But at Picture a Conversation, it’s always image first, words second.  I mine Martin’s trove of photographs from our travels until one stops me in my tracks and speaks to me about our relationships. Or our troubles. And our triumphs.

Occasionally, I’ll see a flash of something that gets my thoughts tumbling and a theme begins to emerge. Can Martin frame the visual flash into an artful photograph that I can work with?  Our partnership is really about translation. Martin’s images speak to my heart.  How do I translate, in as few a words as possible, what my heart heard?

We were walking in the neighborhood and came across this bright white fence with a handful of hydrangeas peeking through. I loved the sweet simplicity of pink and white and realized the buds had to have breached the fence slats before blossoming. My thoughts began seeking  a theme. Break free from the crowd….Sometimes life calls on us to push through to the other side. Maybe, Find your place in the sunlight. Or Sometimes the only way to blossom is away from the crowd.

“Can you get a good photo of this?” I asked Martin. Our rule is that every photo has to stand on its own as a great image. I don’t know if this one will make the grade, but I wanted to try just the same.  So he took a few shots from a lot of angles, and I snapped a few as well.

If we do decide to use it as a prompt, next comes writing the questions that will spark meaningful conversations our concept is known for.  Recall a time when you had to make a radical change to blossom. How did you feel leaving others behind? What did you discover on the “other side of the fence” as it were? Did you find your place in the sun? 

Or what about now? Leave a comment and start the conversation. Add another to join it. Or share this post and start a face-to-face conversation on your own.

Until next time……

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Reveling in Lupine

In this week’s post, the conversation veers a bit. With pictures, lots of pictures.

UnknownTo visit Maine in June is to slip into the pages of Barbara Cooney’s glorious children’s book, Miss Rumphius. Fans will recognize the eponymous Miss Rumphius as the one who made the world more beautiful by scattering lupine seeds through the fields and headlands, along the highways and country roads and tossing them into hollows along stone walls. Of all her books, this remains my favorite, not only for the lupines, but for the gentle admonition to leave the world a more beautiful place.

We were visiting our former neighbors and forever friends who moved to Maine four years ago. When Shelby left, I gave her a copy of Miss Rumphius. Her first spring, she began planting lupine in the field beyond her barn. We arrived last month just in time for the blooming. I was ecstatic. Color does this to me. Somehow those shades of blue and purple send my spirit soaring and I walked the edges of Shelby’s lupine field in utter color ecstasy.

Shelby's lupines beyond the barn.

Shelby’s lupines beyond the barn.

I always thought that the flower got its name because its bushy blossoms resembled a wolf’s tail. (Lupine is wolf in Latin.) Reading a wildlife journal I learned the plant was so named because of the mistaken belief  the plant wolfed down the soil, depleting it of all nutrients. In fact, it is just the opposite. Lupine, similar to the soy bean, returns nitrogen to the soils where it is planted.

Years back, Shelby and I tried growing them here in Michigan. We’d get a halfhearted stalk or two that would never reseed and soon moved on to hardier choices. As with people, flowers do best when planted where they can bloom. For lupine, this means Maine’s salty air and wide open fields of dry soil. For the rest of us, well, it’s our life’s journey, to find the right conditions for blooming.

For those of you also smitten with these glorious spikes of cobalt, purple, and rose — enjoy!



And now a conversation topic to get you texting less and talking more — What would you do to make the world more beautiful?


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Picture a Conversation — Tell vs. Sell

Picture A Conversation - 25 CardsWhen my first book was published back in 2003, I was thrilled. Seven years, 60+ interviews, two publishers, 10 months with Toastmasters learning how to tame the butterflies in my stomach. Finally, the books arrived. Review copies were sent out. It was time to start selling the book and begin recouping at least some of the costs and time I’d expended for so many years.

That was my focus — selling. I was thrilled to be on book tour, to be a keynote speaker, to give a lecture at my son’s college and more. But the yardstick of success I carried with me in those days was how many books I sold at the end of each event. If I didn’t reach my target, I didn’t feel successful. I never allowed myself to feel deep in my bones the glow of satisfaction that I would have, had I only shifted my focus from selling books to absorbing just how much the book and my talks inspired people.

Yes, I was gratified when a woman approached me after a lecture on pursuing dreams, and said she was going to start painting, something she had always longed to do. Yes, it was thrilling when a college student, now a cardiologist in Boston, told me he had decided to do what it took to go to med school despite bombing his MCATs the first time around. Another young man, whom I met in Russia, said my book inspired him to reclaim a religious heritage he knew nothing about save for a few hazy stories from his grandmother during his childhood.  It was quite moving to hear how my words had transformed people’s dreams into action. But was that success? Back then I didn’t think so, because I was so obsessed with transforming the numbers in the red column into the black.

This time around it’s different. I’m a good deal older. Time and experience birth perspective. Instead of seven years, it’s been one long and intense year of researching, beta testing, meeting with fabricators and printers. It’s been the assembling of 27,000 cards and the folding into shape of 1000 boxes to create 1000 sets of Picture a Conversation that yes, it is now time to sell. There’s no escaping the red numbers in the debit column.

Except this time I do not feel that old compulsion to sell. Instead I want to tell. I want to tell people of our journey.  I want to share why I believe it’s crucial for us to text less and talk more. I want to tell mothers, Here are great conversation prompts. Create a weekly dinner ritual that will inspire the conversation you crave. I want couples to know, Here’s something to spark conversations. Find your way back to each other by talking.    I want to tell any and everyone who will listen that having meaningful conversations recaptures the closeness that true conversation can bring.

Sure I want those red numbers to turn black, but that’s not what gets me out of bed each morning. What gets me out of bed is the message Text less. Talk more. What gets me out of bed is my belief in the power within each card to inspire fun and enlightening conversations where they might not otherwise happen. What gets me out of bed each morning is the joy that I feel in telling, not selling.

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Mindfulness Alights in the Everglades

We are often asked, “Where did your husband take these photos?” Truth is, we considered including a card detailing the locale of the 25 images in each Picture a Conversation set, but the economics of doing so this time around was prohibitive. Duh, I finally realized that I can share that info here. So here goes:
Darvick-Eveglades- alligatorA few years ago Martin and I decided to divide and conquer.  I flew to LA to be with our son. He flew to Florida for a week’s visit with friends and family. While there, Martin headed to Everglades National Park. I’ve never been and hope to go one day.  But as you might imagine, and might have experienced yourself, having Martin’s photos of a beautiful place is the next best thing to being there. He spent the whole day and into early evening, walking, bike riding, giving the alligators wide berth and reveling in the myriad of birds that make the Everglades their home.

When I saw the photo above of the anhinga in flight, I knew I had an image for our His Lens/My Pen greeting cards and a rich discussion prompt for Picture a Conversation. Mindfulness is part of our cultural zeitgeist today. The way Martin captured this image — freezing the anhinga in flight and rendering the background as a whir of green — spoke to me of the challenge of staying mindfully focussed upon a single important task, even as the world attempts to propel us maniacally forward. I love that he was able to capture the bird’s eye.  I just adore this one!

Crafting the questions to accompany this image for the Picture a Conversation set was an easy flight. We are all faced with demands of multi-tasking, stirring any number of pots at one time. We know it’s good to slow down and pay attention, better to meditate first and write a column second, best to devote our complete attention to the matter at hand instead of scattering our attention hither and yon. The first question on the back of this card asks, “What does mindfulness mean to you?”  The next two questions will take your conversation deeper and your insights higher.   Order your set now and enjoy a mindful face-to-face conversation!


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Sometimes a Hug Says More Than Words

Darvick-Chicken-Point-SedonaMy husband and I had just returned to Sedona, a place we both love and whose trails we have spent many months and untold miles hiking.  It was early February, unseasonably warm even for this mountain town.  We were hiking Broken Arrow on the way to Chicken Point which has a breath-taking overlook and a cozy spot for lunch tucked in among the red rocks.

As it was early in the season; the trails were pretty empty. Hiking for over an hour already, we’d not encountered another person.  We took a water break along the trail and while we were resting, another hiker came up to chat.  We went through the usual run of questions — exchanging where we were from, how long we planned to stay, what trails we’d done and the inevitable and grateful exclamations of how gorgeous red rock country is and how fortunate we were to be in this special place. All pretty standard fare for these brief exchanges before parting ways.

This hiker was alone, in his early forties perhaps. He was a big burly kind of guy in Sedona for the day, having just attended a work conference in Phoenix. He had a few hours to hike before returning to Sky Harbor Airport and his flight back home somewhere in the Midwest.  Just as he was about to start off again he stopped and said, “My wife died four months ago. I miss her so.” And then he broke down sobbing.

In a single moment a casual conversation on the trail, like dozens we had had before, veered onto another path. My husband and were both a bit stunned. This big muscled guy, shaved head, in a white T-shirt and a pack slung over one shoulder began to tell us about losing beloved wife of twenty plus years.  They were high school sweethearts. They had two  teenaged boys, one off to college in the fall. She had been battling breast cancer for over a dozen years. I did the math and realized she had been ill most of their sons’ lives.

“I feel so guilty for wanting her to die at the end,” he said through choked cries.  “Just so she would stop suffering. Am I a monster for praying for that?  She fought so hard. I love her so much. I’m so lost now.” This stranger, who was no longer a stranger but a fellow human being stripped raw by grief standing before us in such pain. A moment opened and I took a chance.

“May I give you a hug?” I asked. “It looks like you need a hug.” In an instant, this big burly man just fell onto me, collapsed onto me the way a child might, utterly spent and vulnerable. I wrapped my arms around him and held him for longer than I ever thought he would allow.  The moment passed. We all kind of awkwardly regrouped. We introduced ourselves properly, kind of laughing self-consciously at where we found ourselves. He mumbled something about the grieving process. I said something about how crucial it is to give himself the time and permission to grieve, that there is no timetable when processing such a life-altering devastation.

I shared that I was Jewish and had benefited from the structure of reciting Kaddish daily for the traditional eleven-month period of mourning. Having gone through the process when my mother died, I understood the wisdom of follow the timetable as our sages laid it out. I urged him to find a community, whether within his church or elsewhere in his circle, where he might continue to find a place and the support to grieve.

He walked on and we followed soon after, making it to Chicken Point and our little niche in the rocks for lunch.  We didn’t see our friend until we climbed back down and ran into him on the plateau below.  I was astonished to see how much lighter he seemed. He was smiling and came up to us, arms wide, and hugged us each once again with thanks for listening and being there.  We wished him a safe flight back home.

You never know where a seemingly simple conversation can lead.  A total stranger opened up and revealed his suffering right before us. I offered him a hug and held him as cried.  We had been put upon one another’s path by some Divine intention.  What an extraordinary moment of humanity and communion.

*                                       *                                   *

This links to an interesting article about grief and the grieving process.

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Eat Your Own Dog Food

How would you answer these questions?

How would you answer these questions?

You gotta eat your own dog food, Mom,” my son said to me one day.  We were in the midst of creating the set of Picture a Conversation cards and were making up questions, matching them with photos, sharing them with families, women’s groups and therapists to use and test.  I had participated with some of the women-only focus groups but hadn’t actually used them with my friends or family.  Ergo my son’s dog food comment.

He was right, as he usually is with his mom’s endeavors.  Elliot is a great sounding board and idea bouncer off-er. He designed my first website and over the years has amazed me as he stays a few steps ahead of emerging technologies.  He told me about Twitter when the phenom was still wet behind the feathers; and years before it came to pass, he realized that privacy would be the world wide web’s next great commodity.  So when Elliot talks, I listen.

Martin and I began taking the cards with us on our walks, and as we meandered the trails in Sedona, our conversations began to take on similar movement. We’d start with a question only to have it branch into conversations and sub-conversations like tributaries splitting off from a river. Some questions let us to reminisce about loved ones, now gone, whose wisdom helped shape our choices and thus our lives.

New BudOne day our daughter surprised us and brought the set to a restaurant.  Like a Vegas dealer, she deftly dealt us each a couple of cards.  “I know some of these answers,” she said, “but I want to hear what you’ll say, anyway.”  Over a leisurely meal we looked back on our early days of parenting. To the question What advice would you give new parents? Martin answered that babies aren’t as breakable as he had feared. We talked about the traits of ours our daughter shares, and the qualities she’s developed by following her own path.  By the time dessert arrived, we three had shared experiences past, present, and future on a new and valuable level.

When I was coming up with Picture a Conversation’s 75 questions, I knew they were good. I strove for depth and breadth, wanting to give our future users opportunities for meaningful self-reflection and sharing. I wanted there to be a lot to mull over each time someone chose a card. My son was right — you gotta eat your own dog food. But not just to discern what is gold and what is lead. Eating your own dog food can be a reward in and of itself. It’s the process by which you reckon with your creation and deem it worthy.

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Out of the Box and Keeping it Local

The box was the crux of it all.

The box was the crux of it all.

When we decided to take the plunge and create Picture a Conversation, the idea of staying with local fabricators wasn’t my prime concern. I did have a printer who did a wonderful job on our greeting card sets, but he didn’t have the capability to fabricate a box. I set out to find someone who could do both jobs.

I cast the net wide, getting estimates from companies in Florida, Maine, New York and even an artist in Santa Fe who called herself a “creative doula.”  That title was pretty enticing; I’d created something and it needed some big-time birthing. By having factories in China, each of these firms could give me the kind of box I wanted — hinged top, magnetic closure. But international shipping would have taken up 20% of our production budget, and I was getting cold feet working with people I hadn’t met face-to-face. I began looking closer to home again.

A friend gave me the name of a colleague who could print not only our cards, but the boxes, too.  His office was a ten-minute drive from my house. He couldn’t make the kind of “presentation” box I wanted, but he could manufacture what’s called in the trade a “doughnut” box. Think Krispy-Kreme and the way that lid lifts.

In the end I split the job between two local companies — family-owned Skip Printing with whom I already had a solid business relationship, and family-owned Tepel Brothers Printing whose representative came up with a wonderful box design and walked me through every stage of production. (The image at the left is the very cool backsplash designed by Harriet Tepel who assembled old type pieces.)  Beyond the fact that I needed boxes at a reasonable cost, it felt right to stay in Michigan, to keep the jobs in my home state.  In fact, when I called the salesman from the Maine factory to thank him and tell him I was staying local, he said, “God bless you! We need to keep jobs in America.”

I didn’t know it then, but using local firms was the right move for reasons beyond our bottom line. Being able to meet face to face during this process was crucial. There were glitches along the way; I was learning things I had no idea even existed. Rob (from Skip) and John (from Tepel Brothers) never stinted on the time they gave me explaining things each step of the way. Our job was small, probably minuscule, in comparison to their other jobs but I always felt our project was important to them. They were dedicated to making sure every detail came out exactly as we wanted it to.

On the Friday afternoon after I had signed off on the boxes, hours before we were going to print, John called me. “I think your bar code is too small to be scanned.” This wasn’t his job in the least but he was right, and he had just saved my derriere from disaster. Had I gone the Chinese route, I would have taken delivery of 1000 boxes whose QR code would have been worthless. It wasn’t John’s job to enlarge the bar code but he did that too, and still kept us on schedule.

Over the course of creating Picture a Conversation, I got a tour of the Tepel Brothers factory. I saw in action what a great group of people they have working for them. I learned from Rob that his dad was one of Detroit’s Mad Men who left the advertising business in the early 70’s to start Skip Printing. Rob now runs the business. His aunt, Sue, has done some great graphic design for us and even used one of our greeting cards as her family Christmas card last year. Small as our job was, it felt good to realize we were playing a part in supporting two Michigan companies meet their payroll.

We might be small now, but nothing says we won’t be mighty in the future. As we grow, that growth will spill over locally. Picture a Conversation merits Made in Michigan status, a designation that will open up new opportunities for us. I aim to keep it that way. Someone mentioned she has “resources in China” for when we get “big enough.” I don’t ever want getting big to mean disengaging from those who supported us when we were small. That’s one box I’m staying out of.

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