Rick Riordan’s ‘Golden Fleece’

In Rick Riordan's book The Sea of Monsters, the second in a series of children's novels loosely based on ancient Greek mythology, the magical tree that guards Camp Half-Blood has been poisoned.  Perseus (Percy) Jackson, a half-blood son of Poseidon, and Annabeth, half-blood daughter of Athena, have only days to find the Golden Fleece, the one magical item, that will heal the tree before Camp Half-Blood is overrun by monsters.


After the Golden Ram was sacrificed, the Golden Fleece hung on a tree in the middle of the kingdom. Riordan's character Annabeth explains, “The Fleece brought prosperity to the land. Animals stopped getting sick. Plants grew better. Farmers had bumper crops. Plagues never visited. That's why Jason wanted the Fleece. It can revitalize any land where it's placed. It cures sickness, strengthens nature, clean up pollution….”

It's striking that as Psyche continues her journey to really grow up (aka her hero's journey), her second task requires that she gather fleece, fleece that has the power to heal. And yet to obtain the fleece she must wait until sundown when the rams disperse, so as to safely pick strands of fleece off the brambles.

Psyche’s ability to acquire the golden fleece without being crushed is a metaphor for every woman’s task of gaining power without losing her innate sense of connectedness and compassion.

The Fleece thus symbolizes the power to get things done in a way that gives life to and revitalizes others.

In the How Star Women Build Portable Skills post, Stacey P observed that we need to beware the steam-rolling, head-butting approach. Should we go down this path, we are likely to get crushed.  Worse yet, in our effort to get the fleece in order to make a difference, we may ultimately get fleeced (aka become corrupted) by what we did to get there.

When we decide we are ready to go on our own hero's journey, are we able to do so without upending relationships (e.g. butting heads) with our loved ones? Is it possible to get something done for ourselves, even as we give life to others, whether children, husband, friends?

Related Posts:

Psyche's 2nd Task: Obtain Golden Fleece
Second Thoughts on Psyche's 2nd Task
Doorsteps, Doors and Dreams
The Galadriel Test

Getting In the Game

I went to a Celtics game last week — my first actually.

I was neither a player, nor a cheerleader, but a spectator.

But you know, I didn't feel like a spectator.

Perhaps because my friend Kim had purchased four tickets at the East End House's Cooking for a Cause benefit, and invited two up-and-coming professional women, and myself, along.  There is something empowering about paying our own way.  Remember the Destiny Child's song, all the honeys making money, throw your hands up at me?  Well, I'm throwing my hands up at Kim.


Then there were the remarkably short lines in the women's bathrooms, a metaphor, odd as it may seem, that women still aren't contributing as they could in the workplace.  Beth Peterson of life as a hero made the comment some weeks back that getting in the game can be so much easier, when someone invites us, and then shows us how, to play.  Being the oldest of the four women, I certainly hope that I am doing my share of inviting and teaching…

The winning shot of the evening was the systergy, the connecting and collaborating, as we discussed our career aspirations, and the challenge of balancing work, family, church, and life.

None of us were cheerleaders, nor were we any of us dribbling the ball down the court.

But we were cheering one another on — and playing ball.

Spectators — yes.

But in all the important ways, we were players in the game.

Our game.

Related posts:
The Hazards of ‘Getting in the Game'
Throw Down Your Pom-Poms and Get in the Game
A Down Payment on Our Dream
Do You Need to Do-It-Yourself?
Soundtracks: Finding Our Voice, Telling Our Story

Children and the Call to Adventure

My 11 year-old son David recently got a 100% on his geography test.

I was thrilled.

In part, because I've handed my own ambition to him (if he looks good, I look good), but it was more than that.

David had studied, and because he'd studied, he knew the Asian countries and capitals cold. In light of a conversation we'd had just a few weeks prior, this was quite important.

Here's the redux.

“David, you got an 18 out of 24 on your Wordly Wise exam. I don't quite understand how you can be so articulate and not do well on vocabulary tests.”

“Mom, a B+ when I'm just winging it is pretty good.”

“You're right David, it is pretty good.”

Photo courtesy of Marcelo Wain

But David, “winging it” and “pretty good”?

“How are you going to do the good you were meant to do with “pretty good” as your watchword? The world will be just fine if you don't do that good, but will you be?”

What I didn't say, but thought, because this interchange was not entirely about him (one of the burdens of being the oldest child), was this:

If I dare and dream, and dream and dare some more, only to have my children Not dream, or they dream, but haven't the competence needed to make their dream happen, then what?

So, am I pleased that my son is learning about capitals and countries?


But his learning to be competent, to prepare for his call to adventure, to do the good he was meant to do — makes my heart sing.

P.S. My son has read and approved the publication of this post.

What can we as parents do to help our children feel a sense of responsibility to build on what we've given them (while forgiving us for our not-so-good) to make the world a better place?

Is framing their life as a hero's journey helpful?

How do we keep a vision of the “good our children are meant to do” top-of-mind?

Is the angst I'm feeling pretty typical for moms of 11 year-old boys? Or should I be more concerned, and re-read Madeline Levine's The Price of Privilege?

Related posts:

A Hero's Journey
The Hero's Journey and Accountability
Mum's the Word
Google's Lesson on Dreams vs. Expectations
Seeing with New Eyes

Parenting and the Hero’s Journey

My friend's daughter will go away to college next year.

Her daughter is bright, hard-working, well-rounded, and could have gone pretty much anywhere, but elected to go to Brigham Young University (my alma mater, by the way), a university that many would consider a second-tier ‘safety' school.

The decision has been tough for both.

For Daughter, because she wants Mom to be proud, and the ‘safety' school wasn't Mom's first choice.

Source: Growing, Growing by Ashley Goldberg

For Mom — for all moms — I wonder if it's tough because we are afraid, feel fear?

The fear that we inevitably feel at the start of a hero's journey as we prepare to walk through the unknown?

Except that when it's our children, not us, the fear is heightened because we desperately want them to become more of who they are, and yet we realize that because it is their journey, not ours, we are supposed to be bystanders.

And could it be that this fear makes it nearly impossible for parents not to try and tell their children where to go, what to be?

Knowing my friend and her daughter, had Mom insisted, required, even simply asked Daughter to go to a different school, Daughter would have.

Mom wanted to ask — oh, how she wanted to.

But she didn't.

She instead courageously walked into her unknown, so that her daughter can walk into hers, and be the hero of her story.

In this unknown, Daughter — and Mom too — will no doubt find more of who they are.

Why else might it be difficult to send our children off on their journey?

Could it be possible that our children have become our dream keepers, and so we've become attached to a specific outcome for their lives — Do you remember the NY Times article about Esther Mobley?

Why does allowing our children to walk through their unknown, allow us to walk through ours?

Looking Back Can Be a Good Thing

There was a detail about rock climbing that I purposely omitted.

What detail you ask?

Well…. I stopped climbing a few feet short of the summit.

If I listen closely, I can hear you thinking “Whitney, you were so close. It was within your grasp. Why didn't you go for it?”

At least I think I hear you thinking this, because I have a tendency to think it.

But on that day of rock climbing, I opted (with encouragement from my belayer/mentor Laurel) to look down rather than up.

Back, not forward; to be proud of what I had accomplished, rather than what I hadn't.

Just days before, I'd had another opportunity to look back.

We were in the Hamptons visiting one of my oldest and dearest friends, Liz, her husband David, and their children.

They first invited us out when their Alexander, and our David, had just turned two; their second child, Nicholas, was a newborn.

I have two vivid memories of that visit.

One was of Liz and I sitting in the living room talking while she rocked Nicholas to sleep. The other is of me speaking to clients on the way there, while there, and checking my e-mail constantly. Did I mention we were there for only 24 hours?

As you can see from the photo below, Nicholas is now 9, David and Alexander are 11, Eleni and Miranda are seven.


The children growing up was inevitable.

But what of my growth?

Ten years ago, I was busy, so very busy, climbing, climbing, to where I was going.

This summer I was also busy, busy enjoying, relishing, savoring who we were with, where we were.

Email and phone messages? Not a one in three days.

The Hamptons may be near the seashore, and nowhere near the mountains, but as I looked back at who I was, comparing it with who I'm becoming, it seemed I'd reached a summit.

Said Nelson Mandela, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

When was the last time that you looked back, not ahead? Down, not up?

What was the context? Who were you with? Where were you?

Was this glimpse of yourself a gift — a well-deserved one along your hero's journey?

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