My Flight Up: Earning My Joy Badge with Girlfriends

December 16, 2012

By Guest Blogger Noonie Benford

Girlfriends help you fill in the blanks of milestones you may have missed. My sister and I were raised by our grandparents in an idyllic limestone farmhouse miles from town. We used to slide down the dam at Ludden’s Lake, build hay bale forts in the barn and ride gentle horses, cows and the occasional Saint Bernard. We were so happy, we hardly even realized we were total goofballs. I was soon to be enlightened by the Brownies of America.

Noonie, the Brownie

I was about 7 when my grandma decided it was a good idea for me to fold in with some other girls from town. They seemed exotic and worldly in this berg of 2,305. I vaguely remember some crafts involving Popsicle sticks, and a highly decorated Brownie named Suzanne who wore shiny white boots and had a husky Peppermint Patty voice. Even at that tender age, I had the sense she had anger issues, as she pressed down so hard on her crayons when coloring that her drawings looked liked stained glass.

Just before Christmas, the Brownies hosted a white elephant gift exchange. I placed the two gifts Grammie had wrapped for me on the mountain of presents. Had I not felt a little woozy from the dizzying swirl of gift wrap, pine scent and baking cookies, I might have anticipated what happened next.

Suzanne reached into the circle, grabbed the gifts wrapped in the paper I recognized, and tore into them like shucking corn. Rather than the delighted squeal I’d been hearing from the other girls, she emitted an incredulous screech. I looked up and to my horror, saw her brandishing a box of chocolate-covered prunes and my personal copy of Dr. Goat’s Manners Book. I didn’t make eye contact or draw attention to myself.

“Who brought this crud?” she demanded in her sandpaper voice. I kept mum but felt my face burn with embarrassment for myself and for Grammie, who had assured me she had picked out “some candy and a nice book.” This was the last thing I had imagined. How could she?! Didn’t she know those stupid gifts would mark me for life? I never had the heart to tell her what happened. In fact, I rarely spoke of it again.

Here’s what I do know. I spent a very short time as a Brownie. Whether they were actually mean to me or I just felt wildly out of place, I never made my “flight up” from Brownies to Girl Scouts. I let it go, and have thought of it infrequently.

Noonie (center) and her Joy Weekend friends, (l to r) Leslie, Diane, Deb and Julie

Flash forward a few decades. My close friend and colleague Deb had designed her dream career helping people find their joy. She invited a handful of gal pals who had worked together to test drive her new joy workshop during a girls-only weekend.

Each of us came armed with a “quest” – a problem to solve or goal to pursue. Deb guided us through her carefully designed journey of joy-seeking. We were enveloped in a safe exploration of our personal joy journey, surrounded by great women we felt safe with, laughing not at anyone but all together, nourished by scrumptious food and friendship, long scenic walks and kayaking, and the inspiring vistas of water that surrounded us. Time flew, roadblocks dissolved, wounds healed and possibilities blossomed before each of us. I left with a stack of joy journal pages, slight face cramps from non-stop smiling, and a deepened soul.

When it came time to fly home, as my plane taxied – wheels up – and we started our ascent, it hit me. I had spent an amazing weekend earning my joy badge. After all these years, my girlfriends blessed me with recapturing that milestone I had missed way back in Brownies. I had finally made my flight up!

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