Sunday, January 31, 2010

People of Influence - Mr. Rogers


Get it out of your system because I'm serious. This post is about Mr. Rogers. Mr. Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers neighborhood. I have endured 14 years of mockery from my husband because of my enduring affection for Mr. Rogers.

I remember sitting on the floor in front of my grandparents' television and watching the three best shows ever. Sesame Street. The Friendly Giant. Mr. Rogers. That winning line-up filled my mornings throughout my preschool years. Sesame Street taught me my ABC's, 123s and not to litter (pick it up, pick it up, don't litter). The Friendly Giant taught me you can stick a rooster in a bag and hang it on a hook and he'll still be your friend if you play the recorder for him.

And Mr. Rogers taught me that imagination is a precious gift and that I am one of a kind, special and that is a wonderful thing.

I would imagine that I was on the trolley speeding toward the Land of Make Believe. I would play with Daniel in his clock/house, avoid Lady Elaine and sing with Lady Aberlin. It was a place where anything you thought of was possible. It was a place where imagination was king. It was my favourite place in the world.

But it wasn't just the Land of Make Believe that drew me in. It was those moments when Mr. Rogers looked into the camera and spoke directly to me. When he talked about feelings, being special and liking people just the way they were. Those words were like a magic spell that made me feel invincible. I was special and unique and that was powerful.

Everyday he would sing simple little songs to affirm his wee watchers. He wasn't a great singer but he was genuine and he connected with us. I remember many of those songs and now sing them to my own children. I want them to feel the strength in the words and know the truth that even though we are all different we are all special. I want them to know this so well that when they become teenagers and feel pressured to be 'part of the crowd' they will say "no" because mom & Mr. Rogers say I'm okay just the way I am.

Sound naive? Not really, I had those moments as a teen and I know part of my strength to stand up for myself came from being taught from toddlerhood that I am important, special and great "as is."

If you question the power of these simple words take a minute and try this out. Below I am going to include the lyrics to two of Mr. Rogers' songs, print them off and head for a mirror. Look yourself in the eye and say the lyrics to yourself. I challenge you not to feel the strength of this message.

"I'm proud of you, I'm proud of you.
I hope that you're as proud as
I am proud of you...
And that you're learning
How important you are
How important each person you see can be"

"You are my friend
You are special
You are my friend
You're special to me
You are the only one like you
Like you, my friend, I like you"

Now take another minute and say these words to a kid in your life. Say them everyday and watch their self esteem sore.

People of Influence - Intro

I have been thinking about how we become who we are. What people make an impact on us? What moments change and mold us? What words stick with us? Who were the people who shaped the world for us?

I grew up in Christian home and my parents were very involved in our church. All my life I have had a church 'family' that played as big a role in my life as my biological family did. I have always appreciated these extra adults in my life. Their wisdom, love and patience saw me through my childhood, those awkward teen years and into adulthood. I still rely on many of those people to help me navigate my way as a wife and mother. And in turn I now find myself influencing the lives of the next generation.

I'd like to think that I am a positive influence all the time but let's be realistic. I am a flawed person with a short temper and a sharp wit...not always a great combination. But I will say this I have always been keenly aware of how much power words hold. I have had people in my past who have encouraged and empowered me just with their words and I have known people who have in an instant of carelessness have bruised my heart and crushed my dreams. Its just that easy to build up or tear down when you are speaking to a child.

"Excellent!" And self esteem rises.

"Stupid!" And the heart cracks.

And once spoken words cannot be taken back. You can apologize and work to repair the damage but that word is always there...floating around the periphery of your relationship. Even as you mature into adulthood sometimes those harshly spoken words of your childhood can creep up on you and open a wound you thought long healed.

On the flip side of this are the good, kind and uplifting words that were spoken to you as you grew. Those are like little gems that gleam and shimmer in the corner of your mind as you enbark on a new project, tkae a leap of faith in business or put your talent to a new test. Those are the words we pull front and center when we are feeling weak or discouraged. It is those words spoken by that person who cared that can carry you through or push you forward.

It is those words and those people who I want to celebrate this week. Stop in every day this week as I honour five of the most influential people of my childhood.

And think about the people you have shaped and encouraged you...

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Good Place to Stop

At this time of the year people are all about fresh starts. A new year, a new focus, a new direction. Its time to get up and go and get things done but do we know when to stop?

I'm not talking about throwing your hands up in frustration and giving up but the time when you know that you have done everything you can and now you must let go. Do you know? Do I?

I am a great starter. I start to reorganize, start reading a book, start writing a book, start crafting, start a project, start a relationship but I do not know when to stop. Someone once said for every mile of road there is two miles of ditch and that's me. Some things I quit too easily like cleaning out the closets, new craft projects and bad books. Other things I just can't let go of.

For me, right now, its a book. I completed this manuscript three years ago. I submitted it to an agent and was rejected. I polished it up, sent it to another agent and was rejected (I must say it was a lovely rejection letter, I kept it). Submit, reject, repeat for the better part of two years. Now, I knew about 8 months into this process that this book was essentially unsellable (is that even a word?) but I didn't want to let it go because it represented four years of work. Four years of late nights, solitude and self doubt. Four years of working out the plot, developing characters and shaping the story. Four years. Four years.

I know I need to let this book go and in truth I don't even like it anymore. I don't like the plot and biggest writer sin of all I don't like my main character. Its time to let go. But I can't. I should but I can't.

Just when I talk myself into putting the stupid thing in a drawer and moving on my mind starts to spin and I come up with a thousand ideas of how I can brush it up and make something readable out of it. I know in my heart that its crazy talk but when you spend the better part of 7 years with something its just not that easy to walk away.

Or is it?


Seems like a big jump I took just there but its not.

We all know people who are separated, divorced or in our opinion should be. We have friends who jumped ship as soon as the waters got rough and others who have tied themselves to the mainmast and are sinking fast. Neither is the right thing to do. Giving up on your marriage because your bored or don't feel appreciated is selfish and impulsive but putting yourself in physical or emotional peril and becoming a martyr for your marriage is just plain crazy.

I don't have the answer here. I'm just asking the question. Asking you to ask the question. Is this a good place to stop?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Truth of It

I'm a fan of the sets you free, unless of course the truth is you have committed a felony then it gets you sent to prison...but generally speaking the truth is good. Now I, being an admitted fan of the truth, need to come clean and tell the truth. I'm a slacker.

I say that I am a writer, a volunteer, a mother but mostly I slack. And if you take the updating of this blog as an indication of this truth then you'll see that I am telling...well...the truth.

I like the idea of being busy, of writing, creating. But the reality is that by the time I finish up all the 'must do' tasks in my life all I want to do is nothing. My brain is tired and my patience is used up. I think about sitting down and pounding out a few thousand words but I don't. I see my writer friends achieve success and rejection (even rejection is an indication of effort) and I think "How nice that must be," but that's where my productivity usually ends.

I make excuses for not producing...I have to volunteer, I have meetings with Gavin's team, I have to clean the house (ha!), do laundry (ha, ha!), I need a proper office, I need a nanny for the kids, I need world peace! There's always an excuse but the reality is there is no excuse.

I don't work outside the home, most of the kids are in school now and those who are not in school can usually occupy themselves for an hour or so at a time. My husband expects very little from me where housekeeping is concerned...and if we're telling the truth here he is uber supportive of me writing.

So what's the problem?

No more more slacking.

So if you're out there reading this I give you permission to ask, hound and harass me about my writing. I'll post projects and word counts here from time to time...maybe even a few excerpts.

Here's to no more slacking!