decorating an office

Yesterday I read where super successful people spend 12 minutes of every day thinking.

12 minutes spent not on their phones or making lists or watching television or meeting with other super successful people in private planes over the Atlantic ocean.

I thought I would try it so I went to the Gatehouse to think.

And I thought and thought and thought and thought and thought….

….and discovered two things.

1.  Thinking for 12 minutes is a lot harder than it looks.

2.  I think in stories.

Like this one that I’ve told a version of before.

About the history of a tree.

And the family that loved it.


I never really remembered life without the tree.

It was one of those things that was an ever-present reality in my life growing up along with Fantasy Island, Aqua Net hairspray and Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans.

My father had moved it as a sapling to a spot right beyond the drive-way.

And there it grew and grew. straight and tall as an arrow….

….until it kind of took over the driveway with its leafy branches.

wood bowl project

As a teenager, I almost backed into it.

As a student, it welcomed me home from college every summer.

As an adult, I sat in the back yard with it on cool, crisp fall afternoons and watched as big wheels and tricycles and scooters raced by it at lightning speed.

And its leaves fell every fall.

And grew again every spring.

As season after season tiptoed across its branches.


My father loved that tree.

He was so proud of it.

He watered it through the hot, dry summers and trimmed its leaves and watched it grow.

I think it was his favorite place to work out all his problems.

At twilight he would water the yard and pick up the branches…..

….and talk to the tree.

They were long, lengthy conversations, told in confidence to an old friend.

I was never really sure what he whispered or what was on his heart.

But I know that the tree heard every single word.

office desk

And then one day….suddenly….early in the morning on a summer day….

….my father, the most wonderful, incredible tree whisperer, passed away.

I’m not sure that the tree ever fully recovered.

After my father died no one really paid much attention to it.

No one watered it or trimmed it or whispered to it any more.

We couldn’t.

Our hearts were too sad.

A year later a lightening bolt struck the tree and it came crashing down.

And I thought that was the end of a season.

The end of the chapter.

wooden bowl with flowers

But you see…..I have this brother.

This amazing, wonderful, creative brother.

A tree-whisper in his own right.

He took that broken tree and painstakingly carved it into a thing of beauty.

This wooden bowl full of spring flowers sitting on my desk at the gatehouse was carved from the tree that my father had guarded so closely all those years.

wood bowl project

I had almost forgotten the story.

Until those 12 minutes of thinking about life and my family and my father and my hopes and my dreams and in the middle of all that thinking, I remembered the bowl tucked away on a bookshelf.

And when I placed it on the desk and filled it with flowers, I smiled quietly to myself and my heart gave a little leap of joy…..

….because another tree whispering season had begun. 🙂

PS  So many of you have asked about my brother and his adoption journey.

I just got to meet my newest niece and she’s beautiful and wonderful and special and her smile could light up a room.

He writes his heart on his blog, too.  You can read all his stories here.

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  1. Image for Barbara Barbara

    Love that you have a piece of the tree- wonderful story! We cringed cutting a few trees to get a view....I love them all:)

  2. Image for Anne Porter Anne Porter

    Tender and "touchable" as a good story must be. I think of all the stories Jesus told ... the which we hear his heart , are taught life lessons, and are always left with HOPE! Your parable is for our hearts and I thank you for touching mine❣

  3. Image for Preppy Mountain Farmer Preppy Mountain Farmer

    You truly are such a creative soul. Your story reminds me of the importance of slowing down, stilling my mind, and just...being. Allow the thoughts and memories and ideas to come instead of going over constant mental checklists of what all needs to be done, what I have already completed, and what I feel I should do, but don't really want to. With all those lists, how can there be any room for the stories to form, the dreams to take shape, the creativity to flourish? Thank you for sharing that beautiful story and all of your creations with us here. Have a lovely week.

  4. Image for Mimi - 247 Mulberry Lane Mimi - 247 Mulberry Lane

    I'm so glad you think in stories. :-) In the next couple of weeks I have to have a beautiful Weeping Birch tree cut down in our front yard and it has me, well...weeping. That was the tree my redheads played under when they were tiny children, that was the place we had graduation pictures taken for each kid, and that was the tree that protected the two picture windows in our living room from the dreaded hailstorms each summer. I often think of Shel Silverstein's THE GIVING TREE when I look at her. Now I know exactly what I will do to preserve those precious memories. Thanks for the brilliant idea! :-)

  5. Image for Jeanne @ I Dream of Jeanne Marie Jeanne @ I Dream of Jeanne Marie

    Hi KariAnne, We too, have a special tree on our property. It is a mammoth Sassafrass tree over 200 years old and the trunk is over 6 feet in diameter. Usually Sassafrass don't get very big but this one did and people would stop all the time and ask if they could take a picture of it or measure around its trunk. It was in the Tree Registry as the 3rd largest Sassafrass, too got struck by lightning. Then little by little it started withering away. Now we just have this shell of a tree with peeling bark and a nice place for the vultures to hang out... I know your post wasn't about "the tree" so much, but it got me to "thinking" about what it's "story" was....who cared for it and loved it and talked to it. After reading your wonderful story today, I won't be able to pass by it without doing a little "thinking!" Thank you for how you tell your stories! You are such a fantastic story teller! Blessings, Jeanne

  6. Image for Leslie Watkins Leslie Watkins

    Pass the Kleenex, please! You have this way of reaching down into our hearts and touching deeply, my friend. You had me at the beautiful photography...and endeared me to your tree whispering dad and brother...but when I watched the video of Gotcha Day at the end! I'm a blubbering mess!!! Thanks for pulling on every heart string this morning! Love to you and yours.

  7. Image for jackie jackie

    What a precious story.........and the story of the adoption is unbelievable and I still have tears streaming down my face! Thanks for sharing your story and the story of your brother......what a way to start the week off!

  8. Image for Lenore Lenore

    I thought your story was tear jerky enough and then I hopped over to your brother's website and watched the video. I am now a HUGE MESS! I know I am not alone. Ah L-O-V-E...doesn't get much better than this. Thanks!

  9. Image for Laura Ingalls Gunn Laura Ingalls Gunn

    I just watched the Son of Whale video and now my heart is leaking out through my tear ducts. It was an honor to meet the beautiful Mia Kate. I truly wanted to scoop her up and put her in my pocket. As someone who grew up in foster care I always clap and cheer when I see a lovely child receive a forever family.

  10. Image for Cindy Cindy

    Awww...that's precious:) I'm glad your brother did that for you, and I'm so happy you remembered that 12 minutes:) I've always found it amazing that even after our loved ones move on, they still find a way to touch our lives. Congrats to your brother and his wife:)

  11. Image for Lisa at celebrate creativity Lisa at celebrate creativity

    Hi KariAnne, lovely story and what a beautiful piece of wood you have to remind you about your Dad (and the tree). I recall reading about your brother and his wonderful way with wood. He created a really nice keepsake for you and I like the way you filled it with pretty blooms. That's a sweet way to display the piece this time of year. Hope you have a wonderful day.

  12. Image for Gail Gail

    This is one weepy morning. between your story and your brothers my face is wet, my T shirt is soaked and I have had my second shower of the morning.. You are blessed.

  13. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Tears. For love and for memories and for brothers who bring magic to life...through nature and children. God bless you all.

  14. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    Okay, you've got me sniffling -- AGAIN!! I simply love your stories. I think life is filled with stories, some happy and some sad. I think I'll go sit in a quiet room and think -- hopefully I won't get a headache :-( Have a wonderful day!!

  15. Image for Shirley Shirley

    Oh Karianne you are such a great storyteller.I had a similar thing happen to me. I had a cactus that my mother in law gave me. I'd had it years. When we found out that she was terminally ill the cactus started to shrivel up. I tried repotting it , new fertiliser, talking to it but it died about the same time as she passed. I looked at your brothers blog again & your Dad seemed quite a character. His sayings! But how beautiful is your niece!!! That smile- she is so blessed to come to your family. But it is so heartbreaking to see all those other cots & the poor area where the orphanage is. Your blog is entertaining & educational. I am now going to look up sassafrass trees. We don't have those in England!

  16. Image for Jemma Jemma

    You know, I loved this story with all of my heart and soul. My Mother and Father were both farm whisperer's. I am so thankful that you have your sweet brother to carry on this message. Now I am hoping on over to read your brother's story too:) xo Jemma

  17. Image for Norma Jean Norma Jean

    Congratulations Auntie Karie! Mia Kate is beautiful and you are right , her smile can light up a room or a total stranger's heart. Loved revisiting the tree story! Loved reading your brother's blog.

  18. Image for Jane Youmans Jane Youmans

    Love the tree story. We had my wedding reception at my parents' home. In our back yard there were two very tall trees and that is where my dad put our swing. That swing was in constant use for years. Getting the yard ready for my reception my mother realized the swing has to come down because it was in the way. I think she cried for two days-kept planning but was quietly sobbing. Mia Kate is adorable and my prayers are for a wonderful life for her and her family. Lauren Elizabeth and Melissa Meade are my two adopted adult daughters. Enjoy the ride!

  19. Image for Shirley Shirley

    What a wonderful story and such a grand idea. I have a piece of a tree that is special to me and I am on my journey to find someone to do something with it so that I too can bring it inside and love and enjoy it. Thanks for being there every day for all of us to enjoy and admire.

  20. Image for Sue B. Sue B.

    Maybe your dad knew what lay ahead and when he talked to his tree he told it that he had a son who would use his (tree's) magnificent branches to make beautiful hand-carved bowls that could be handed down from generation to generation, "living" proof that love lasts forever.

  21. Image for Carol Lander Carol Lander

    KariAnne, I'm so sorry you lost your dad. I have too and I still miss him. Your story made me think of The Giving Tree, which my grandson read to me last week when he was here visiting. The tree gave to your dad and he gave back. And the tree just keeps giving. And so does your dad.

  22. Image for Rebecca Turner Rebecca Turner

    Thank you for sharing a little of your dad, and your heart with us, in your story! I really enjoyed reading your brother's blog as well! Such a sweet family!

  23. Image for Marian@CMShawStudios Marian@CMShawStudios

    Such a wonderful story. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, by Micheal Pollan in A Place of My Own..."there is great optimism in wood." It reminds me that something made of wood can have so very many lives and versions of itself. Like your charming bowl made of love and giving tree. The Other Marian

  24. Image for PJ PJ

    What a lovely and touching story. Thank you for sharing this. It brought back memories of my dad who also passed quickly and unexpectedly. Shedding happy tears...

  25. Image for Laurie of LoLa Builds Laurie of LoLa Builds

    I have read your tree story before but it is just as beautiful the second time. I also took a few moments to watch your brothers Best Day Ever. You are so lucky to part of such a beautiful family. You make me smile. Have a happy day, I will because I will be thinking about your lovely stories!

  26. Image for Leona Leona

    So, successful people think for 12 minutes a day ? ......that should make me on the top of the heap for success. Seems all I do is think. Now the trick for me is to try and meditate for 12 minutes ...that equals mission impossible. Sweet story as usual, but the tear breaker was to read your brothers blog and watch the videos of Mia. She is so fortunate in many ways. When some couples talk about having a large family, it will now stop and make me THINK. Why not save a life ? What a great, giving and gifted family you all are. I am sure your Dad would have been proud of all of you.

  27. Image for Debbie Esparza Debbie Esparza

    You and your brother are amazing! So you are daughter of Whale? What a beautiful family you are blessed with and grew up with. I so love your blog and now your brothers too!

  28. Image for Mindy Whipple Mindy Whipple

    Such a beautiful (I am teary eyed) story brought to your mind once again. I SO love when someone can remake something like your brother did, especially something with such meaning.

  29. Image for Debra Debra

    Thank you for writing yet another great story. You are such a talented writer as well as the many other things you do. Very inspiring. I really loved hearing about your brother as well as you many times show his very creative work as well. This time I followed to his blog and WOW! A wonderful story there. Now subscribed to him as well. Little Mia Kate is a treasured joy as well as the other children. A very blessed family are you all. I so admire all of you. Thank uou for all of your posts. I treasure every one.

  30. Image for Susie @ The Chelsea Project Susie @ The Chelsea Project

    Your stories are so wonderful. Sadly, I don't think in stories. I think in bullet dots...I think it's my perpetual "to-do" list running in my head. As I was reading this post, I couldn't help but whisper a little prayer. "Lord, help me to think in these wonderful stories, too.....and bless KariAnne...and continue to bless all that she gives to the world." Thanks for sharing your brother with us, too. XOXO Susie from The Chelsea Project

  31. Image for Terri Terri

    How beautiful .... Precious memories!! Somehow.. I did not know that your brother had a blog.... I just went over and visited.... How very talented he is!! I'm thinking the whole family is "so very talented" ?? .... Thank you for sharing such a beautiful "real life" story with all of us......

  32. Image for gina gina

    Beautiful story. Sadly, lost my brother ,48, the day before Easter. Oh, the seasons of life. So happy for the newest addition to your family!

  33. Image for kathy kathy

    I have read this... about the tree on your blog... but how fitting that I read about it again today. Our dear friend suddenly lost his dad this morning. I am reminded again of how precious life is and how it can change in a second. I am so, so blessed to have my dad (who is also a wood worker) in my life. Thank you for the reminder of taking time to think, reflect, and appreciate.

  34. Image for Jan Light Jan Light

    I love your site and read all of your posts. But can I please say that you have an amazing family. I am blessed to have read his adoption story many many times. To see that sweet baby girl go from terror to laughing shows you their family is filled with love. Thanks for sharing that. It touched my heart. And speaking of hearts, I want one of his hearts!! He needs to re-open his shop!!!! Love you KariAnne for sharing your family. J

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