The Ruby Slippers

“Today the ruby slippers went on auction,” I wrote to my college-aged daughter in November, 2011. “They’re expected to be sold for 2 or 3 million dollars!”

Photo credit: twm1340 on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Audrey and I share a love of old movies, including The Wizard of Oz.

I went on to say, “And that’s only one of the pairs. This happens to be the pair Judy Garland wore when she was clicking her heels, saying, ‘There’s no place like home.’ But sad to say, I will not be bidding on these!”

Audrey wrote back:

“If I had 10 million dollars, I would spend three million on the slippers, and give the rest to the church as penance for spending so much on such a trifle . . .”

Actually, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t buy the slippers even if she did have 10 million dollars. This is the same daughter who thought the Palace of Versailles should be turned into a homeless shelter.

Speaking of the ruby slippers . . . they were really silver slippers in the book by L. Frank Baum, but silver wouldn’t show up very well against the Yellow Brick Road.

As usual, the film director used artistic license when adapting book to screen. Novelists use this license, too, when taking real-life situations from their observations and experience. Authors imbue them with new perspective and mix in original characters.


And Baum, who understood children and their needs for wonderment and fantasy, gave plenty of fodder for young imaginations to grow and bloom.

“Stunt, dwarf, or destroy the imagination of a child,
and you have taken away its chances of success in life.
Imagination transforms the commonplace into the great
and creates the new out of the old.”
— L. Frank Baum,
1909 interview The Advance magazine

If the kindergarten teachers of the world had understood this in the 1960s, would we be in a different place today?

I’ve always believed that if you can teach a child to create rather than destroy, he’ll be headed in a good direction. If he feels good about what he can create, he won’t have reason to destroy.

For by creating, you have a little bit of the world in your hands, to shape and bring under your control. You’re contributing to your community’s well-being, and to your own mental health.

“Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages
to its present state of civilization.
Imagination led Columbus to discover America.
Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity.
Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone,
the talking-machine and the automobile,
for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities.
So I believe that dreams – day dreams, you know,
with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing –
are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.
The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman
most apt to create, to invent,
and therefore to foster civilization.”
—L. Frank Baum in Preface to The Lost Princess of Oz, 1917

Thank you, Mr. Baum. He’s one of my favorites, by the way. More on him later.

Incidentally, he disliked school. His main memory was being tagged as a daydreamer and being chided for being left-handed.

We’ve all probably been asked the question: What would you do with a million dollars?

Would you buy the ruby slippers? Or turn Versailles into a homeless shelter?

But today I’m wondering . . . what would you do if you had enough money to create anything you want?

Or are you already creating what you want? Whether it’s a painting, a room, a building, a lifestyle, a business, a non-profit/charity, a family, a story, a legacy . . .

Please add your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,


P.S. I will be featuring several fellow creatives as guests. So whether you have a muse that plagues you or just want to be inspired, please watch for my future posts! My guests will be answering these questions:

1.  What do you love to create?
2.  Where do you get your ideas?
3.  How do you create? Say something about your creative process.
4.  How do you bring creativity into your daily life?
5.  Any tips for others who want to create (write/draw/design, etc.)?

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14 thoughts on “The Ruby Slippers

  1. As a teacher, I always bristle when news reports claim other countries are so much farther ahead than us in science and math. (Actually, most of those countries only report a certain percentage of their population’s test scores because they determine what kids will be at a young age, whereas in America, we test EVERYBODY and believe everybody can learn.)
    Either way, a friend of mine from one of those “high test score” countries announced he would never take his children back to his country for schooling. Because it’s all about drilling and fitting into the mold, without ingenuity or real thinking or digesting.

    He was so thankful his kids could be here in America where they were taught to learn with all their senses.

    That’s what I remind myself when I hear someone start quoting our stats on test results.

    With a million dollars? I’d start taking classes to learn all the stuff that I’m trying to self-teach now. (Acckk, coding and Photoshop 😉 And I’d go visit Israel and Ireland. Both excellent backgrounds for novels…

    1. In case my comment didn’t make sense, I was trying to say that while our schools may sometimes stifle kids’ imaginations, I’m thankful for the many U.S. teachers who applaud creativity. And I’m excited to see other countries sending teachers over here to see how we do it. I wish the business people would realize there’s more to learning than stats.

      1. Thank goodness education in the USA has come a long way since the 1960s and before! But even so, there’s the push in some schools to employ a rigorous schedule of teaching reading and writing skills to even kindergarten students, regardless of individual readiness and developmental variations. I believe this causes more harm than good.

        Then there’s UW-Stevens Point who, just this morning, was featured on NBC’s Today Show for contemplating the elimination of 13 humanities majors, including art, English, history, social sciences, and languages–the foundation of critical thinking and various soft skills. Only minors would possibly be offered in these realms, no majors. Instead, UWSP may plan to focus on engineering, computer, business, and sciences–all of which have more practical outcomes as far as future employment.

        On the other hand, you’ve got small liberal arts colleges where some future engineers are getting their starts. In these schools, faculty and students see the value of a liberal arts education, consisting of history, communication, and the arts. Future employers of these engineering students will benefit from having employees with a more well-rounded background who can effectively communicate and understand social issues as well as technical ones.

        So not all is lost.

      2. As far as creating something with a million dollars, I, too, would travel and visit settings for current and future novels I have underway. But there’s no way I’d spend a million just traveling. I’d also start a non-profit, its purpose yet to be determined.

        I’ve love to hear what other readers want to create with their million!

  2. First thought: I actually got to see a pair of those Ruby Slippers on one of my many trips to Washington, D.C. with students! Second thought: Can you teach students and adults to be imaginative? Maybe that is how I would like to use my million dollars!

    1. Brad, I’d like to think you CAN teach people to be imaginative. Even if they’ve been victims of criticism, workbooks, perfectionism, etc. over the years. It might take some effort to pull out the creativity that’s been stuck inside for a long time. And that person must be willing to go outside his comfort zone in order to uncover it! I’m hoping that this blog helps to function in that fashion.

  3. My creativity, my muse, is best expressed in the kitchen. So, to answer the million dollar question…. a gourmet kitchen, cooking school, and a month long trip to Italy for gastronomic inspiration. Not completely selfish…. think of all the joy that would be brought to those who will feast at my table ; )

    1. Vicki, I think I’d like to be among the joyous ones at your dinner table after your month-long culinary trip to Italy!

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