Cap’s Off To You!-Dianne de Las Casas (Posthumously) and Celebrating Story


Featuring:  Dianne de Las Casas (Posthumously)

Dazzle & Sparkle Queen, Storyteller & Writer Extraordinaire, Champion Promoter and Advocate for All Arts

Dianne de Las Casas brightened any room, actual or virtual.  She invited challenges, encouraged tenacity in herself and others, and did this all with sparkle.  She embraced fears and taught others how “the scary” was more of a friend than a foe.  Whether at conferences or book signings or performances, she treated everyone as if the friendship was a forever one.  She continues to inspire today.

Dianne was 47 when a tragic house fire claimed her life.  The news shocked the storytelling world and beyond, especially when earlier that same day she shared posts on the beauty of the solar eclipse.

My connection with Dianne was more virtual than in-the-same-room.  About eight years ago, I noticed that Dianne had a “green light” next to her name on Facebook.  I took a chance and said hello, not really expecting a response as it was towards 2 am.  We chatted back and forth on our upcoming projects and dreams.  We admitted to each other that we either had insomnia or our brains just would not turn off when we had ideas jumping around.  This meant we were most productive in these wee hours.  We both typically stayed up to 2 or 3am, had about four hours of sleep regularly, and then continued on with the next day.  Yet, we laughed how our bodies still were rested enough so far and it was best to take advantage of this now before our bodies decided something else as we got older.  On this particular day, Dianne was in a time zone ahead of me.  The online chatting back and forth then turned into a late night/early morning phone call.

We discovered that we had similar paths to the storytelling world, both as youth tellers.  We were barely less than 10 years apart in age.  We shared many of the same views of how the storytelling world could be more inclusive instead of feeling contained and constrained.  The idea of Story Crossroads was there at the time with connecting to many cultures, languages, and styles.  Story Crossroads was not even called Story Crossroads at that time.  It was simply “The Dream.”  We both loved storytelling and marketing equally, and how it was not so strange to apply a performance audience with a target audience.  We laughed that more storytellers would love marketing and not hate it if only they made that audience connection.

We then went back to chatting online.  Dianne had her own big ideas that she was excited and anxious about.  When we finally decided to end the night, I wrote this to Dianne, “You will reach your dreams for you are a dreamer of dreams and a doer of dreams. Things naturally happen for those who “do”.  ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. . .it is Dianne de Las Casas. . .the name you all know!'”

This was near the emergence of the Professional Storyteller Ning site, an online community that still connects others today.  Dianne envisioned storytellers from around the world connecting at all times of the day–not just at 2 or 3am–and being stronger tellers and people as a result.

I could list a whole bunch of accomplishments of Dianne.  She supported her two daughters in their own dreams.  Dianne is the reason that Picture Book Month exists every November.  Dianne was a prolific writer who used her Cajun background to breathe new life into old tales.  She wrote the Bible on storytelling marketing with “The Story Biz Handbook” that first was self-published and then became updated and even more amazing when Libraries Unlimited picked it up.

Yet, in order to have these events or accomplishments, Dianne had to be a doer.  She had to be a dreamer and a doer.

When I heard of Dianne’s passing, I scrounged through my pictures and hoped to find at least one or more pictures of when we met at the National Storytelling Conferences.  Surely, I had one of her wearing a tiara.  Nothing.  Yet, the picture in my head of her openness and sparkle is so clear that it is enough to inspire me forever.

Death is not the end.  We miss her here, though Death is the beginning of her new adventure.  I know she is a dreamer and doer there, too.  I look forward to when we all see each other again.

I appreciate Dianne for the influence of yesterday, today, and forever in storytelling and in human decency and generosity.

Dianne still has a story.  You have a story.  We all have stories.

Cap’s Off to You!-South Jordan Arts Council and Celebrating Story

South Jordan collageJim Luter said that he had an appointment with the South Jordan Arts Council and asked if I would come along.  We met at the Gale Center of History and Culture in South Jordan and gathered around the table with several from the Council.  They allowed us plenty of time to share about Story Crossroads, especially as they had questions and comments.  Then I asked, the big question, “Am I right that we can ask up to $1,000 for Story Crossroads.”  One of the Council Members said, “Well, you can’t get $5 if you ask for $1.”  I followed up with the group by asking, “Then can we apply for $5,000 instead of the $1,000?”  Everyone in the group nodded.

The next day the application was turned in and a few weeks later we learned that the South Jordan Arts Council did commit to the $5,000.  Katie Lindquist, the Arts and Volunteer Coordinator, mentioned that the South Jordan Arts Council was very interested in what Story Crossroads was doing and wished down the road for the event to be headquartered in South Jordan.

The South Jordan Arts Council, specifically Katie Lindquist, was pro-active in attending several events leading up to the Story Crossroads Festival including the Canyon School District Storytelling Festival.  She spoke with the Coordinator of that Festival, Rebecca Smith, on how the Arts Council could be more involved.  Everyone recognized that more schools from the district needed to be participate in this annual school district event.  Katie also represented the Council by coming to the Festival itself as well as a couple outreaches.

Of the experience, Katie Lindquist said:

I look forward to working with her more and seeing how the South Jordan Arts Council can help support and expand Storytelling in South Jordan City….I was impressed with the variety of outreaches that went on, leading up to the main Festival event. I am excited to see how this festival will grow.

Katie Lindquist provided the mission and some key events that the South Jordan Arts Council already supports:

Mission Statement
“Provide opportunities for individuals and families to experience the arts through education, participation, and performance.”

“Inspire life-long appreciation for the Arts.”

The South Jordan Arts Council consists of volunteer member residents who possess a desire to support and promote Arts in South Jordan City. The Arts Council serves as an advisory board to the City Council and meets monthly to evaluate artistic opportunities and needs in the community. Over the last several years, the Arts Council has been able to provide seed money to a variety of different Arts groups through their Grant program.

Some of the Arts Council’s major programs include the following:

Annual Art Show – residents may submit a max of two pieces of work (photography, 2-D, and 3-D). Over the last few years, the number of submissions have increased, especially in the 3-D category. We had a 10’ statue entered during the 2017 Art Show!

Annual Chalk Art Contest – The chalk art contest as always been a highlight, traditionally taking place during Farmers Market. All ages participate in teams or as an individual artist. We see a lot of variety and colors that brighten Towne Center Drive all week! This year, for 2017 – the Chalk Art Contest will be taking place in conjunction with Stage 4 of Tour of Utah in Heritage Park, first Thursday of August.

Quilt Show – Typically featured during Farmer’s Market in front of City Hall. All are welcome to step under the tent, admire the variety styles and designs, and vote on their favorite for a Publics Choice award. This year, for 2017 – the Quilt show will also include other Textile Arts.

Resident on Display – Resident on Display is a program that spotlights an artist or photographer from within South Jordan City. The Artist’s work is displayed at the Gale Center of History & Culture for one month along the back wall of the museum. Afterwards, the pieces are moved and displayed at City Hall for another month. We love showing off the amazing talent of the residents of South Jordan!

Arts at the Gale – Throughout the year, the Arts Council provides free evening workshops in different art disciplines, including: theater, writing, quilting, origami, etc. The Arts Council is always looking for new ideas to bring to the workshops.

Currently the Arts Council is working with the City to wrap utility boxes near City Park, with vinyl-wraps of artist’s work. These boxes are expected to be wrapped and displayed in time for Stage 4 of Tour of Utah.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to the South Jordan Arts Council!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 3rd Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 23, 2018.

Z is for Zodiac–A to Z Blog Challenge

ZodiacZ is for Zodiac

Symbols in Stories from Around the World

I love reading the Zodiac placemats usually found in Chinese restaurants.  I also enjoy Greek mythology.  Combine those together and I am a Leo born in the Year of the Ram (or Sheep depending on your view).  I have always had a kick out of having a lion and a lamb.  To add to it, Rachel means “lamb” and my middle name Renee’ means “reborn.”  My parents had no idea at the time.  They thought Rachel Renee’ sounded lovely.

The signs of the Zodiac are more than fascinating conversations.  This was how people explained the movement of planets (of which the Sun and Moon were usually added—star and satellite) and the adventures of life that happen to us.

I am positive the tracking of celestial bodies started as early as Adam and Eve though official documentation takes us to 3000 BC in Mesopotamia.  The gods and goddesses believed in at the time connected to each of these celestial bodies.

In response to these Zodiacs, some Christians created the “Labours of the Months” that used specific Twelve Apostles that were most popular during the Medieval and Renaissance times.  The Labours according to months:  January-Feasting (Jesus Christ); February-Sitting by the Fire; March-Pruning Trees/Digging; April-Planting/Enjoying the Country and Picking Flowers; May-Hawking/Courtly Love; June-Hay Harvest; July-Wheat Harvest (St. Peter); August-Wheat Threshing; September-Grape Harvest; October-Ploughing and Sowing; November-Gathering Acorns for Pigs; December-Killing Pigs/Baking.

Western Zodiac (Greek)

The word “Zodiac” comes from the Greek word “zodiakos” and means “Circle of Living Things.”  The Greek Zodiac is divided into twelve parts.  The sun spends one month in each sign while the moon passes through every sign each month.

Twelve Constellations:  Aries,Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces

Times of Each Constellation:  March 21-April 20, April 21-May 21, May 22-June 21, June 22-July 22, July 23-August 23, August 24-September 23, September 24-October 23, October 24-November 22, November 23-December 21, December 22-January 20, January 21-February 19, February 20-March 20

This Zodiac starts on March 21st as this is the Spring Equinox and the best time to start work—in this case—preparing the ground for growing.

Eastern Zodiac (Chinese)

The Chinese Zodiac originated in the Han Dynasty (202 BC to 220 AD).  The story shared is that the Jade Emperor called for a calendar to be determined with each of the twelve parts being represented by an animal.  This calendar was based on the Chinese lunar calendar.  The people saw that there were 12 full moons over the course of the year.

Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals Signs:  Zi Rat (Wisdom), Chou Ox (Industry), Yin Tiger (Valor), Mao Rabbit (Caution), Chen Dragon (Strength), Si Snake (Flexibility), Wu Horse (Forging Ahead), Wei Sheep (Unity), Shen Monkey (Changeability), You Rooster (Being Constant), Xu Dog (Fidelity), Hai Pig (Amiability)

The number of toes for each of these animals also determined personality traits.  Even toes on a foot are yin (male and negative) while odd toes on a foot are yang (female and positive).  Many of the animals have hooves and thus have one toe.  The snake is considered as having to toes due to the fork in its tongue.  The rat is both yin and yang as it has four toes on each of its front paws and five toes on each of its back paws.

It is also bad luck when it your Zodiac year.  Every 12 years, your animal year comes and so these ages are hardest for you:  12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, 84, 96, etc.  This is because you offend the God of Age during that time though you can wear something red given by an elder or a relative to return your luck.

8 Burmese Zodiac Signs

This Zodiac was created by monks of Myanmar (formerly Burma).  Rather than dividing into 12 parts as the Greek and Chinese Zodiacs had done, the Burmese one saw the world divided into 8 parts.  There were eight planetary energies—seven that we are aware of today as well as Rahu, a conceptual celestial presence that intersects with the earth, sun, and moon during an eclipse.  The sacred lotus blossom has eight petals that solidified the number eight as precious.

As a result, these other “eights” appeared–

Eight Cardinal Directions:   Northeast, East, Southeast, South, Northwest, West, North, Southwest

Eight Days of the Week:  Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Morning, Wednesday Afternoon, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday

Eight Burmese Zodiac Animal Signs:  Garuda, Tiger, Lion, Elephant with tusks, Elephant without tusks, Rat, Guinea Pig, Dragon

Stories that feature a Zodiac or images from a Zodiac:

  • “Hercules and the Nemean Lion,” Greek tale—connected with Leo in Zodiac, Hercules had Twelve Labors and the first one was to slay the Nemean Lion that terrorized the land though its skin could not be pierced so Hercules had to stun and strangle and cut the pelt with the lion’s own claws
  • “Order of the Animals,” Chinese tale, the Jade Emperor said that the first twelve animals to arrive and rat was first in this race though tricked several animals to have this be so
  • “Garuda and the Naga Serpent Race,” Burmese/Hindu tale—connected with Garuda in Zodiac, when Garuda was born, his bird deity size and energy was so large that he scared all the other deities so he shrunk down to not intimidate though he declared himself a devourer of snakes and became the enemy of the Naga serpent race

What stories do you know that feature a Zodiac?  Images from a Zodiac?  Please comment below and share with others.

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 24, 2017 (see schedule here:  

We thank our fiscal sponsor, the Utah Storytelling Guild, as well as our funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, the City of Murray, the South Jordan Arts Council, the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership and many other individuals. Join us in the support by attending or donating or both! (Click here to go directly to donation page.

Y is for Yellow…and Other Colors–A to Z Blog Challenge

Primary colors -- with yellowY is for Yellow….and Other Colors

Symbols in Stories from Around the World

Yellow is a dazzling and cheerful color…depending on the culture.  It can be quite the opposite.  The other colors also have the positive and the negative views even within the same culture.

Sometimes one color dominates a story or becomes famous as a trademark or tradition for a certain character such as Little Red Riding Hood.  Other times, all the colors are celebrated or explained of their origins.  Let us explore the primary colors:  yellow, red, and blue.


The Aborigines thought yellow to connect with death while the Chinese saw yellow connected to life and part of the creation story of Nii Gua creating the first people out of yellow clay.

In China, yellow also linked to the earth and to dragons.  These dragons, in turn, linked to the emperor.  During the Ch’ing dynasty, only the emperor could wear yellow.

The western hermetic tradition saw yellow as representing the air and the direction East.

Many cultures see yellow as being for gold and wealth as well as for the sun and fire.  Yellow turmeric powder was scattered on the god Khandobain during the Somavati Amavasya Festival in India.  This showed the power of the sun, especially as this festival celebrated the conjunction of the sun and moon.

During the Middle Ages, yellow became a color of betrayal.  Artists painted Judas, who betrayed Jesus, often in yellow or gold hues.


Like yellow, red is connected to fire.  In China, Japan, and Korea, red is associated with the sun.  The sun provides life and red carries that meaning.

Brides in India and in China wore red to increase fertility and grant luck for the life ahead.  Red has been a color of passion, sexual desire, and virility.  This has stayed with us today as a red car is a way to spout these exact attributes.

Red is also a life and death symbol through being the color of blood.  Many religions have honored martyrs including Jesus Christ with Christianity.  Christian calendars often had holy days marked in red to honor Christ’s blood or of martyrs and saints.  These later became known as “red-letter days.”

Red can also be the color of anger and often was used to depict deities of war in art.  Many revolutions used flags of red to show the anger and the fight within and beyond to make a difference.  The French Revolution had many peasants raise the red flag while the Russian Communists spread their message through using a flag of mainly red.  Warnings from the large to the everyday kind are also marked in red.


Looking around in the world, and blue quickly connected to the sky and to the seas.  Sky and water deities abounded with this color with what they wore as well as skin color.  The Ancient Egyptian god Amun, king of the gods as well as the wind, was depicted by artists often in blue while Hindu gods Shiva and Krishna were blue-skinned.  The blue of these Hindu gods represented the vastness of the heavens.  For the Christians, the Virgin Mary is shown in blue as to meaning purity.  The temples in Mesopotamia had ceilings painted in blue for divine favor.

Blue represented the East for the Chinese and the South for the Navajo.

Blue is a calming color and this calmness brings about intellect and meditation.

Stories that feature one or more colors:

  • “Nii Gua and the Yellow Clay,” Chinese tale, Nii Gua makes the first humans out of yellow clay
  • “Little Red Riding Hood,” a girl always sporting a red hood talks to a stranger—a wolf—finds out why that is the case
  • “Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox,” Minnesota tall tale, a giant lumberjack walked during the Winter of the Blue Snow and found a baby blue ox stained by that snow and cared for that ox
  • “How the Rainbow was Made,” Objiwe tale, Nanabozho came upon a meadow of white flowers and decided to paint them and two birds fly about and dip into his paints and chase about so much that a rainbow was formed when Brother Sun shone through the misting of the waterfall nearby

What stories do you know that feature one or more colors?  Does one or more characters become famous for certain color or colors?  Is there an object or items that is significant due to the color?  Please comment below and share with others.

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 24, 2017 (see schedule here:  

We thank our fiscal sponsor, the Utah Storytelling Guild, as well as our funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, the City of Murray, the South Jordan Arts Council, the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership and many other individuals. Join us in the support by attending or donating or both! (Click here to go directly to donation page.

X is for Xi-wang-mu–A to Z Blog Challenge

xiwangmuX is for Xi-wang-mu

Symbols in Stories from Around the World

So the letter “X” is always tricky and rather than doing “X-tra” or something of that sort, I wanted to honor Xi-wang-mu, Queen Mother of the West (China).  She came to be before Taoism though usually still attributed as being part of Taoism.  Xi-wang-mu is pronounced Shee Warng Moo.

Stories of Xi-wang-mu grew in popularity when the Silk Road, or trade routes connecting the East with the West, were made safer to travel.  The following alternative names for her were:  His-wang-mu, Wang-mu-niang, Weiwobo, His-wang-mu, Seiōbo (Japan), Seowangmo (Korea), and Tây Vương Mẫu (Vietnam).

She has been pictured as a beautiful young lady full of grace and calm as well as an older woman who sometimes shares features of a tigress and a leopard’s tail.  The throne upon which she sits has been known as the “Dragon-and-Tiger Throne.”

The ferocity comes from her ability to send forth diseases and dangers to the people on earth.  Despite these banes, she also holds the elixir or herb of immortality.  She lives among the Kunlun Mountains (Western China) where special peaches also promise immortality.  She often wears a headdress where these Peaches of Immorality hang from it.  She sometimes flies the skies upon a crane, which symbolizes long life.  She also connects with jade, also associated with longevity.

Of the yin and yang symbol, Xi-wang-mu is part of yin and stands for women including female musician and prostitutes.  As such, she is linked to sexuality, especially when drawn or honored in her elegant young lady form.  However, when Xi-wang-mu sits upon the Dragon and Tiger Throne, then the yin and yang are present and unified.  Females and males are respected.

Stories that feature Xi-wang-mu:

  • “Peaches of Immortality,” Chinese tale, Xi-wang-mu serves peaches to her guests—usually deities— to grant immortality in honor of her birthday
  • “Elixir of Life and the Celestial Archer” Chinese tale, Xi-wang-mu took pity of Yi when he shot down nine of the ten suns to prevent the earth from burning but Yi’s wife drank the elixir instead

Do you know any stories that feature Xi-wang-mu?  Do you know similar characters as Xi-wang-mu?   Please comment below and share with others.

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 24, 2017 (see schedule here:  

We thank our fiscal sponsor, the Utah Storytelling Guild, as well as our funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, the City of Murray, the South Jordan Arts Council, the Nubian Storytellers of Utah Leadership and many other individuals. Join us in the support by attending or donating or both! (Click here to go directly to donation page.