by Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas
by Sheri Boggs
Remember merit badges? Every Girl Scout worth her salt knew not only what the various emblems - a tent, the trefoil, a red cross - represented but how to get them. You'd go to the official handbook, pick a skill or a hobby you wanted to master, do the steps -- et voila, a new merit badge to sew on your sash. Eat my shorts, Troop 674.
Of course with adulthood, you're supposed to take on new respon-sibilities and learn new activities without all the hoo-hah of a reward. In fact, you're supposed to do it because "the process is its own reward." Well maybe, but the first time I edited the entire Arts & amp; Culture section of The Inlander and did it both on time and without all my usual beginner's mistakes, I wanted a badge. A big one.
You Can Do It! caters to my mindset: Within its hefty 495 pages are meritorious tasks from the ordinary ("gardening" and "home maintenance") to the downright adventurous ("skydiving," "firewalking" and "aviation"). Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, herself a former Brownie and Girl Scout, envisioned the book as a way for grown women to connect with the fun of taking on new challenges and learning along the way. She had worked on the book for about a year before she died on 9/11, flying home from her grandmother's funeral on United Airlines Flight 93. Aware of her dream project, her sisters Vaughn and Dara located experts, fleshed out the projects and got the book published for her.
Each "Badge Chapter" is set up to engage the imagination and quell any self-doubts. Readers check out the payoffs from learning the described skill and are introduced to real-life mentors, women who have mastered a given skill themselves and know how to teach it to others. There are "Badge Steps" to follow, as well as "Expert Tips," and the mentors are for the most part really well-chosen; I noted two Bust editors, the founder of the first Our Bodies, Our Selves clinic, a pilot who first flew solo at 17 and a prominent Seattle painter. The only disappoint-ment, of course, is that the book's Merit Badges are merely stickers. I'm just geeky enough to want real ones I could maybe sew onto a denim jacket or show off to the other Inlanderites. One can only hope I'll be too busy scuba diving, learning Spanish or making a real camp fire to care.
Publication date: 05/26/05