The Golden Compass in My Head Is Made of Plastic

Like any married couple, the Norwegian Artist and I have divvied the duties through the years – you know, cooking, laundry, mucking out the goat pen. I’ll happily fold socks.

Given a choice between dirty socks and goat pellets, I'll rock for the socks. "Fenceline Encounter," Steve Henderson

On long car trips, our duties have been set in stone since he put the rock on my finger: He Drives; I Navigate.

This latter is odd since the directional compass points of North, South, East and West only make sense when I’m looking at a globe, which isn’t something you carry around in the car. To the Norwegian’s silent frustration, at 70 m.p.h. I rely less on the crumpled swathe of paper map on my lap than I do on bright green road signs.

For my part, I get disagreeable when we pass some indeterminate road and the Norwegian wants to know where it goes– not so that we can drive on it, but merely because the man is curious.

“It leads into a green shaded area somewhere around a large lake,” I tell him curtly.

“What large lake?”

I. Don’t. Care.

Over the years, Eldest Supreme trained her siblings in the back of the car to maintain death silence while the Norwegian and I, having mistakenly taken the wrong exit, drifted aimlessly through urban streets — all one way, all the wrong direction — in fruitless attempts to find the freeway, which was generally overhead.

When the Norwegian Artist and I get lost, the freeway we need to be on is generally in some inaccessible place. "Canyon Silhouettes," by Steve Henderson

Regionally, as I clock hours of my own transporting the Norwegian Artist’s paintings from one venue to another, I rely upon Tired of Being Youngest to assume navigational duties, and I am struck by the realization that I am a good navigator indeed, finding it easier to memorize multiple MapQuest directions to my destination rather than argue with the Person on My Right.

It is best, however, not to trust MapQuest implicitly.

Outside of a mid-sized mass of metropolitan mayhem, I was looking for Lewis Street when the exit for Commercial Avenue rapidly approached. According to MapQuest, this was the exit I was to take. A half-mile away, however, was an exit for Lewis Street.

My 15-year-old navigator was busy with her iPod, not looking up directions, incidentally. The car was hurtling forward. Since I have a disturbingly innate tendency to do what I am told, we exited at Commercial Avenue, winding up in the middle of, not surprisingly, commercial enterprise.

I backtracked, eventually winding up behind a truck driving school, the supreme spot for asking directions.

And it would have been a grand place indeed were it not for three large, incredibly lifelike-because-they-were-actually-alive Rottweilers, guarding a seemingly empty building. We stayed in the car.

You’ll be relieved to know that I eventually got to our destination, without the assistance of MapQuest, my “navigator,” or the Rottweilers.

Returning home from across state lines the other day, I pulled over to a safe spot while I did some quick mental calculations: East or west? Atlantic Ocean or Pacific? Good thing I stopped to figure it out, or I would have eaten dinner in Canada.

Years ago I read the quotation, “Whichever way I’m heading feels North.”

This is so true in the same way that my first two kids, both daughters, felt like boys when I was pregnant with them. Or the third one, the son, felt like a girl. After having the fourth one, I announced to my husband and midwife — “Oh, it’s a boy!”

Seriously, how did I mistake this one for a boy? "Contemplation," by Steve Henderson

“She is?” they asked.

(“She,” by the way, is my recently unemployed navigator.)

Given my lack of instincts in the matter, I really shouldn’t depend upon my feelings when it comes to predicting the gender of a child or determining the direction in which I’m heading.

Because it always feels like North.

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She writes about life, art, and the art of life.
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14 Responses to The Golden Compass in My Head Is Made of Plastic

  1. oldswimmer says:

    Carolyn, you are up there with Erma and Bill (Bombeck and Cosby) in my book when reporting family interactions. Kudos. Susan

  2. Susan, I am speechless. Thank you.

    I too love the work of both of these artists — Erma Bombeck paved the way for today’s bloggers and family writers with her wit, humor, honesty, candor, and grace. Bill Cosby continues to speak out and for the ordinary person, taking some major heat in the process. But he maintains his aplomb and gentleman-ness.

    I do so wish that you worked at Creator’s Syndicate, or any other major syndication company! I am an ordinary person, writing about and for ordinary people, and it is difficult to get the ear of the Big People — but I keep trying! I ask you, and my other wonderful readers, to speak up and for me to your friends, family, and co-workers, encouraging them to check me out and become a reader (and, if any of them work for a major syndication company, to contact me!)

    Best to you, Susan. Thank you again for your wonderful words.

  3. oldswimmer says:

    I wish I worked at Creator’s Syndicate too… but that saves me a major relocation…they seem to be fleeing LA, from what I read. Maybe they will move to Hoodsport WA where I can apply.

    However, there is a way to submit columns that I found on the above site. If you like, I’ll write something that “bravo’s” you to follow your submission. Some of your articles are just plain spot on genius. If I think so, so will others.

    Hugs to you. Susan

  4. Yes, Susan, yes! I have already submitted by mail to Creator’s Syndicate, but I will gladly do so again if we can coordinate the “bravo” that you send — This is the address I found on the link you sent:
    Creators Syndicate
    5777 West Century Blvd. Suite 700
    Los Angeles, CA 90045
    Let me know how you want to do this — I can get a letter and more sample columns to send them by next week.
    Gosh, do I sound really, majorly over the top eager? I love writing Middle Aged Plague, and I love the response I get — which is that I’m not so dumb after all, and that other people feel this way too.

    • oldswimmer says:

      Carolyn, I wish I were Steven King or Michener or someone, but I will gladly tell folks how much I love your way of getting the reader in on your take (attitude and love and all) on things.

      Do you think it would be best to write the letter and then send it to you to enclose? (will it be a physical letter, or an e-letter?) I will work on something while you are gathering, and when and if it seems good to you, we can decide how to get it to them with the best impact.

      Let’s see what we can come up with here. Give me a day or so, ok? Susan

    • oldswimmer says:

      Carolyn, should I send my drafts to here or to a separate email address?
      Mine is

  5. Susan, I’m glad you’re you — you are Someone.

    How about this — work on the letter, get it done, put it in an envelope with Creator’s Syndicate on the front; then sign the sealed back, so that they will know that I never opened it (sort of like an official transcript). When you’re ready, e-mail me at and I’ll send you my address so you can send the “transcript” to me to forward on with my submission.

    Does that make sense? Am I being hopelessly complicated?

    You are so gracious and kind to offer to do this — WHEN syndication happens, we’ll all yell Hurrah!

  6. oldswimmer says:

    I’m working on it, and will do as you suggest. It sounds very smart. I need someone like you to be MY business manager. Lucky Norwegian Artist!! 😉 Soon! happily, Susan

  7. Jana says:

    Susan, I echo your sentiments completely! It would be wonderful to read Carolyn’s columns in a newspaper. Better, in a book! Carolyn, is there anyway I can write a letter of “bravo’ too? (I mean one that might help!)

  8. oldswimmer says:

    Jana! Let’s do it! Hey, you fellow readers! We can all do this, I’ll betcha. I’ve go a letter ready to send. Ask Carolyn how to get them to her. Time is of the essence, I sense, and a BUNCH of bravos would very possibly be proof that Carolyn is read and enjoyed regularly by a LOT of people. Carolyn? Help us out here, and tell Jana how to get her letter to you.
    Mindful of privacy issues, of course. Excited…Susan

    • Susan — what a lovely way to begin the week, with your enthusiasm and grace. Jana, and other readers who would like to write a “bravo,” may contact me directly at, and I will forward on a mailing address.

      I am assembling a number of my printed columns with a letter, and will put it all together with the Bravos to send to Creators Syndicate, which has already rejected me once, but invited me to re-submit anytime. If I can make copies of the letters, I will forward them on to additional syndication companies.

      Very very few columns make it to syndication — but there are also very very few decent humor columns out there being syndicated. Newspapers these days have a narrow focus on local local local (read: free, free, free), and there is an idea that humor and daily life columns are superfluous fluff. I kind of think that humor and daily life are a part of most readers’ . . . daily lives.

      Another thing readers can do, if they would like to see my column in their local newspaper, is to write the newspaper directly with the link to the Middle Aged Plague website,, and ask the newspaper to carry my column. This does not pay the way syndication does, but it builds the number of newspapers who carry the column, which carries weight with the syndicators.

    • Jana says:

      Right on, Susan! Sounds like you are as big a fan of Carolyn as I am! I just e’d her and will follow up tomorrow. By the way, your name “oldswimmer” looks clickable, but it takes me nowhere! Is your site not active?

      • oldswimmer says:

        Jana, the old swimmer site can be reached by
        You will find all sorts of things there, including a new banner format that needs tweaking…I’m in the middle of a re-design effort. My “everything” URL is (meaning “only one out there”)

        Nice to know you…and tell me your online sites. I don’t do Facebook of other social networking…I got very tired of the excess chatter and just decided to bag it. Worries about privacy issues and such.

        Welcome to my world. (imperfect links and all.)

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