The Power to Go Back

Happy Groundhog Day!

Let’s put aside for a moment Punxsutawney Phil and the science of shadow forecasting.

Instead, picture Bill Murray, an alarm clock and the sounds of “I got you babe.”

Because I’m rewinding time and starting over–all the way back to penny candy and sun bonnets.  Well, sort of.

Let’s go back to the beginning of my blog and see.




I loved Little House on the Prairie when I was a kid, so reading Wendy McClure’s book, The Wilder LifeMy Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie was like catching up with dear friends.

In fact I was reminded how much LHOP played a role in my own life as I remembered along with Wendy about bonnets,  Plum Creek, the sod house, and above all the spunky, carefree, adventurous spirit that was Laura.



I did too.  I admired Laura’s pluck, her spunk, her spirit.

Once when someone commented that I looked like the Mary from the television show, I actually felt insulted.  Okay so my hair was blonde and I was the oldest of four siblings, but I did not want to be the bossy, know-it-all (although that characteristic probably fit too).  I just wanted to be carefree and adventurous, like Laura.

But I felt a kinship with both girls for many reasons.  After all, I knew what it was like to share a bed with your sister, and to move a lot (my dad was in the Coast Guard).  Plus, I think we were the last family to buy a color TV (1984!!).    We were practically a frontier family.

prairie family coleen patrick


Don’t let my parents fool you–they may have dressed the part, but they did not appreciate my attempt to clear out our backyard shed to make my very own prairie house (not even after I dressed my youngest sister in prairie garb to complete the effect).

 And twelve years later, my mom would bring this hat as a gift for my first child, so I wonder if maybe that gift was less my LHOP sensibility and more of my mother’s, as evidenced in the following baby picture of me :

baby Coleen Patrick bonnet_opt




I think the best thing I learned from LHOP was that the simplest things make us happy, like those jars of penny candy in the Olson’s store, or a retweet or a yummy grilled cheese sandwich (even if nowadays it has to be gluten and dairy free).

Even seeing a pile of freshly picked cucumbers from our tiny garden gives me some sort of odd, geeky, perhaps prairie thrill.  But it’s the stressful times that really bring out “my bad, prairie self”, because that’s when I find myself longing to burrow deep into some mythical cabin in the woods.  My sister E and I call this my Grizzly Woman status (she even gifted me a grizzly bear keychain).

The good thing is you don’t have to go all the way to Walnut Grove to experience LHOP nostalgia.  All you need is a little connection, like reading Wendy’s book or re-reading the LHOP series.  Because of course we always carry the power to go home within ourselves, right?  Like Glinda the Good Witch said (to another girl from a Midwestern prairie), “You’ve always had the power to go back . . .”

It’s as simple as clicking your (bare foot) heels.

What simple things make you happy?

I’d love to know!



The Young Know Everything


“The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.”

~ Oscar Wilde


When I was your age . . .

Almost makes you want to roll your eyes, right?

Well my son turns sixteen this week and I’m nostalgic thinking about how far he’s come . . .

Happy birthday G!!


. . . and where he might be going.

It got me thinking about what life was like for me when I was on the verge of sixteen and what advice I could offer my son.

Other than “Cool is overrated” (a motto I’d like you to keep in mind for the rest of this post).

Because looking back at my diary, I can sum up the bulk of my teenage musings with one word:


Seriously.  And if you don’t believe me here’s something I wrote when I was a sophomore in high school–it’s a list I started compiling to predict what I thought college would be like:


College life will be fun:  

dorm parties


dancing in the rain

jamming to the hits of the week

wearing baggy sweat shirts

going with the styles


Obviously I thought college was going to be a movie montage featuring the cast of The Breakfast Club (and maybe even Gene Kelly & Debbie Reynolds via Singing in the Rain).

Coleen when i was your age _opt

 Forget SAT scores, I was ready for college–I had a sweatshirt!


But wait there’s more!  On the next page of my diary, I detail my future house and backyard.  A yard that is “537 acres” complete with a “show barn and stables.”  Which is hysterical considering I couldn’t even get on a horse without cringing in terror, but yet I wrote:


Imagine riding at free will towards the flowing grass swaying in the wind.  Your hair whipping away from your face.


Ah yes, dream big–I had that down pat.

So what would I tell my sixteen year old self now?

Forget about trying to please other people.

Because you know what I wrote as my future career back then?  A Young Adult novelist (well, that and a big time screenwriter–how else could I afford 537 acres?), but some time after turning sixteen I stopped considering any of it as a possibility, I let it slip away into that flowing grass and whipping wind.

Apparently I was going with the styles.

I cared too much about what other people thought, and about fitting in.


“We all want to be extraordinary

and we all just want to fit in.

Unfortunately, extraordinary people rarely fit in.”

― Sebastyne Young


So I say dream big and be extraordinary.


Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

― Dr. Seuss



What would you tell your younger self?