If you are here, you can’t be there. If you’re there, you can’t be here. Unless, of course, you have made a clone of yourself to send adventuring in the hands of others.

One of my former students, Jennifer Person, was recently inducted into the Brainerd High School Legendary Women Hall of Fame, Class of 2024. She was in my Spanish class in 1993 and one of the students traveling with me to Mexico. Jennifer, and her good friend, Debbie Piepgras, were together then, and continue their friendship and their travels, now.

Earlier this year, Jennifer was the guest pianist at our church one Sunday. I hadn’t seen her in, as they say, “ages” so I scurried over to greet her after the service. We shared a bear hug and squeeze, before she leaned in and with a covert grin, whispered her news:  she was chosen to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. She went on, “I want you to know that you are one of the two women I wrote about as influencers in my life,” she stopped and looked at me. Her list of credentials professionally and personally is impressive, but in that moment, she was a teenager again, making me promise not to tell anyone until it was made public.

“When,” I whispered back, “is the big celebration?” This was one of those trail marks on the journey of life and I wanted to be there with and for her.

“March 21st,” she replied.

My heart sank. I was pretty sure that was over the spring break trip to Georgia. I promised her I would check and let her know.

And, oh whoa, it was when I’d be gone.  I would not be able to attend. How could I make myself present, honoring her as she had honored me? What token? A gift? What words would convey my feelings for being held up as part of her foundation? 

Then, two other “legendary” women came to mind. Jennifer’s good buddy Debbie, and my good buddy, Sue, both live in town.  Debbie, now a local veterinarian, and Sue, an IT wizard at the college might help me. If Sue and her crew could fabricate a ‘popsicle’ photo and Debbie would be willing to sneak it into the celebration, I could, in theory, be there (at the event) and, at that moment) be here in Georgia!

It took some doing to get a photo sized. I found a wooden “Catrina” cutout with handle in the bin of leftovers from October’s Halloween/Día de Muertos at JoAnn Fabrics. It wasn’t perfect, but we did it. I wrote a thoughtful letter to Jennifer and dropped that off with my “Flat Jan” profile. This was going to be fun.

I still would like to be two places at once, but Star Trek’s transporter beam is “light years” away. Until that technology, cut-and-paste was my venue. However, texting does exist. Thanks to Debbie, I made my surprise debut as “Flat Jan” at the event “in real time.” Debbie even posed me at the right height for the photos of the three of us – sharing our mutual admiration and joy, celebrating together.

End of story?  Nope. Jennifer and Debbie were embarking on another journey, this one to Holland, a river cruise, Germany and beyond. The next text showed me with them at the airport and later, holding down the fort at a hotel while they went shopping. In this way, I am now here and there. Their Facebook photos take me back to the tulip fields and windmills I traveled with my mom for her 80th birthday some years ago! I’ve never been to Germany, so that is all new adventure.

Mil gracias, amigas!  When you were students, I was the guide and opened your lives to new cultures. Now, you are taking me along, en teoria, with you. I am so tickled (yes, tickled) that you included me – for fun and for real – continuing a story that will surely be retold!


If you don’t understand the FLAT JAN reference, please watch this teacher explain an assignment of FLAT STANLEY to her students.  Your assignment, if you wish to accept it:  Take me along, as if you had my Flat Jan, and then share the story of where you stopped to take a photo of the “two of us” adventuring. 

Take Flat Jan on your next excursion and write in comments what you did….