Live like a kid

I’m sure almost everyone has heard the Robert Fulghum poem, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”

I was thinking of that poem this evening as I watched my kindergartner play at the park. I decided to jot down notes as I watched him approach kids he’d never met before… forming instant bonds.

And I came to the conclusion that six-year-olds are seriously underrated.


“All I Really Need to Know I’m Learning from My Kindergartner”

Talk to people you don’t know, you may find a best friend.

Never pass a swing without taking a ride.

Splash in a puddle simply because it’s there.

Laughing is good. Do it when you’re happy, and even when you aren’t.

Make art using anything you can find. Create the extraordinary out of the ordinary.

Sing for no reason.

Play outside as long as you can.

Question injustice.

Greet loved ones as though you’ve missed them forever.

Love fearlessly and fiercely.

Ignore the regular trail and create your own.

The Wisdom of Seuss

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” ~~ Dr. Seuss

I have a collection of quotes I love. Today this one jumped out at me.

I’ve always thought everyone should live their lives this way. 🙂

It’s been a long week (yes, I realize it’s only Tuesday) so unfortunately I don’t have more to add at this time. But I hope everyone will remember Dr. Seuss’ words of wisdom.

A Change of Heart

This “good news” (a passion of mine) is brought to us by a dear friend of mine (Jim Douglas, the reporter who wrote the original story), and it brought tears to my eyes. In a good way.

Jami McElrath has inoperable cancer. Like many terminally ill patients, she’s been working hard to collect mementos for her children so they will have things they can physically hold onto to remember her after she passes away.

Among those mementos… she’s been taking photos she wants to put in a scrapbook.

During a family trip to Texas, Jami’s camera was stolen from her car while her family ate in a restaurant. The camera was loaded with photos of the trip, including their time at Six Flags amusement park.

As if that weren’t enough, the camera also had extra sentimental value. It had belonged to her father, who died of a heart attack two years before.

Jami told her heart-wrenching story to Jim, who works at WFAA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Dallas.

“I just want my camera back,” she told Jim in the story. “I just want those memories back.”

Part of her plea also included this heartwarming message of hope: “People are good,” she said. “That’s what I’m saying. I don’t think this person who took my camera is out to hurt people. I think they have a desperate situation they’re in.”

A few days after the story aired, Jim received a phone call from a man who didn’t want to identify himself. He told Jim to look behind a red car in the station’s parking lot. He also added that he felt bad about the incident.

Needless to say, Jim found the camera. He and a news crew traveled to Oklahoma to return it to Jami, who burst into tears. She had some words for the man who took it.

“Whoever you are, thank you so much,” she said. “Thank you for having a conscience and bringing it back. I can’t tell you what it means to me.”

I love this story for so many reasons. I love it for the obvious reasons— and one that’s probably not so obvious. I love the fact that she had hope and positive feelings in her heart… even though her heart was broken. This is one of those stories that reminds me that the more love you send out into the world, the more it will return to you.

I have a personal story that also reinforces this belief, but I’ll share it some other time. I want this post to be about Jami.


Living with Procrastination

If any of you get the OnDemand service on Comcast cable, I highly suggest going to “The Cutting Edge” section, and checking out some of the ‘school scare films’ on “Something Weird.” Depending on how old you are, you may have seen some of these films in school growing up. My personal favorite is a variation on the classic “Duck and Cover,” which offers you “lifesaving tips” on how to survive an atomic bomb blast.

My favorite gem from that film: “the instant you hear the air raid sirens, take cover under whatever you can find. A table, a doorway— even a picnic blanket or a newspaper can provide some protection against an atomic blast!” (Here, the film shows a family enjoying a lovely picnic in the park when a bright light flashes and they cover themselves with their lifesaving blanket.)

Yeah, riiiiiiiiiiight.

They rotate the films every couple of weeks or so… so over the past several months I’ve seen other great “how to” films from the 1940’s and 50’s— such as how to make friends (the lesson here: force yourself to be like everyone else— suppress those pesky feelings of individuality….!), the importance of personal hygiene (a film for new recruits in the military— did you know that foot powder can solve a whole slew of problems????), and a 60’s film about the dangers of LSD (which— honestly, was more of an ad for LSD than a scare film…. I don’t think the “squares” back then ‘got it’).

One film I saw recently was about a girl named Mary who was the ultimate procrastinator. She was appointed by her classmates to organize the school dance, much to the chagrin of one boy who said she never did things on time and other students always paid for it. Well, you can guess what happened… Mary failed to let other students’ mothers know days ahead of time which foods they needed to make for the party, she put off buying the decorations until the day before (the local store was out of what she needed), and she showed up late to the decorating party (because she was out looking for other decorations). The last scene shows the other students putting up their measly few rolls of streamers in disgust while Mary sits alone in the corner, obviously realizing that her life was now ruined— all because of her procrastinative ways.

I don’t mean to make light of procrastination. I used to be Mary. When I was in seventh grade I was in an accelerated math course. Instead of making us hand in assignments on a regular basis, the teacher left it up to us to get the work done… and just hand it all in at the end of the semester (I still don’t understand the benefits of this— all of you teachers out there… would you really want a huge pile of papers to grade at the end of the semester?).

Well, since I was Mary— you can guess what happened. I didn’t do my assignments in a regular and timely fashion. I think I started off the semester by getting a half dozen assignments out of the way immediately… then everything else went on the back burner, because according to my seventh grade reasoning I was AHEAD at that point, right? If I could complete six assignments in one sitting, surely the rest would be a breeze.


The NIGHT before the assignments were due, I decided to tackle the other— oh, 40-50 assignments I had for the rest of the semester. I was up all night. And my mother had very little sympathy for me the next day (shocker!) when I begged to be able to go in and turn in my assignments and then come home to sleep.

The good news is, I learned my lesson. I made a decision right then and there that I never wanted to pull another all-nighter (at least not for schoolwork). And I never did after that.

But even though I now make my deadlines 99.9999% of the time, I still struggle with procrastination every once in a while. Unfortunately, I’m also a perfectionist. And as a perfectionist, I still beat myself up over leaving things until the last minute. Yet I keep doing it. So, I’ve decided to apply my new mindset (changing my perspective and looking at things differently) to this issue.

I’ve decided I need to make procrastination work for me.

A lot of life experiences have led up to this point. When I was in TV, I discovered that no matter how much time I had to put a story together— whether it was ten minutes or five hours— I always finished right at the deadline. It wasn’t a matter of procrastination in TV— it was just the way the business worked (we were always in a rush). But what’s interesting is that some of those stories I slapped together in ten minutes were better than the ones I had more time to spend on.

I’m going to try to look at that as a sign that I actually thrive under pressure (how’s that for spin?).

Likewise, I find that when I put off doing something, I tend to get a lot of other things done in the meantime. For instance, if I know I have to write a difficult email I will stay away from my computer and instead put away dishes, clean up the living room, mow the lawn… you get the idea. And the whole time I’m doing these things, I’m thinking about what I’m going to say in the email. So… by the time I sit down at my computer, I’ve not only decided how to handle it, but I’ve got a cleaner house and a tidier lawn as well.

And of course, since I thrive under pressure (see above) the email comes out a lot better later than it would if I’d spent the last three hours at my computer.

I know… it’s a reach. But it’s better than beating myself up for not sitting down until the last minute to write that email. 😉

I know this exact process won’t work for everyone. But here’s my point: nobody’s perfect. We all want to be, but sometimes life prevents us from living up to our own high standards. If you are trying to reach a summit— there could be several paths that lead up to it— and it really doesn’t matter which one you take… as long as you get there.

I would love to be that person who starts things as soon as they are given to me. But the conclusion I’ve reached is that starting earlier (in my case) doesn’t really help. I get things done in the time they need to be done. And they usually turn out really well. In fact, looking back at several projects— I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing… even if I’d had more time. So there’s no point in me beating myself up for not starting sooner.

Now I want to make my own school scare film called: “Making Procrastination Work for You.”

The Power of Good News

It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.” ~~ Charles Kuralt

Not feeling so hot today (under the weather), and reading the news is making me feel worse. News outlets I really used to enjoy are focusing a little too much on “Jon and Kate” these days.

Don’t get me started.

Anyway, I decided to pull out a good news story I once talked about on another blog. I started the blog with the intention of highlighting stories of hope— stories that honor and celebrate people who do the right thing. I eventually had to give it up because it was getting harder and harder to find good news. Not because it’s not happening— but because no one is reporting it. Right now, the economy, GM’s demise (ahem, excuse me…. “rebirth”), and apparently Jon and Kate :p trump those types of stories.

Every once in a while, I’ll re-post one of those stories here. Because I think we could all use a pick-me-up every once in a while. 😉

Saved by a Stranger

A little girl needed a miracle.

Sarah Dickman lives with a genetic disease called juvenile nephronophthisis. The disease slowly destroys the kidneys, and can take the life of a child before he or she reaches the age of 15.

At the age of eight, Sarah already needed a new kidney. Doctors placed on dialysis and the Atlanta girl’s condition was getting worse by the day.

Neither of her parents were a good match. Sarah’s name was already on a national waiting list, but no matches had been determined. So as a last ditch effort, her parents put up flyers around their community. They knew there was little chance of finding a suitable donor that way. But they wanted to give their little girl every chance they could.

34-year-old Laura Bolan saw the flyer at the elementary school where Sarah and two of Laura’s children attend class. Her heart melted when she saw the girl’s smiling face.

Laura noted that she had the same blood type as the little girl. She talked to her own family, and called the Dickmans later that night.

Two people called in about the flyer, but Laura was the better match. And she didn’t even hesitate. As she told a reporter, “It breaks your heart to know there’s a little girl sick out there who you could help.”

The two underwent successful surgery in February.

Sarah’s parents say they are not only eternally indebted to Laura, they also plan to pay the favor forward. Her father, Joe became a living donor as a result of the sacrifice a stranger made for his child… knowing he might one day have the same opportunity to save a life.

Mountains, Lakes, and Filters

Why is traffic so infuriating?

I’ve asked myself that question many, MANY times over the years. I am a relatively level-headed and sane person— until I get onto an interstate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type of person who is going to chase down drivers who cut me off… but I will admit that every once in a while, I’ve been known to raise my hands in frustration and say loudly (within the confines of my car), “you’ve gotta be frakking kidding me!”

I think everyone has their own personal reasons for this road rage transformation. I’ve decided in my case, it centers around my frustration with selfish people.

Example: as soon as I see that there is a line forming to get off at my exit, I will move over into the lane as soon as I can. I will then proceed to wait for five to ten minutes in stop-and-go traffic trying to get off at this exit. Inevitably, there’s always some jerk in the next lane who speeds his way to the front of the line and forces himself over in front of me JUST as I’m about to exit… and that’s when I become incensed (not to mention the fact— if EVERYONE moved over earlier, we would get off the highway sooner. The reason the line backs up is because of the jerks who are forcing their way in instead of just following the rules of common courtesy).

So, the first thought that goes through my head when I encounter this EVERY DAY: what makes these people think they are so much better than everyone else that they don’t have to wait in line?

My blood pressure is rising just thinking about it. And that’s the problem. I’ve now come to expect this in my commute (because it happens every day) which makes the thought of getting on the road less than desirable.

I have to admit, though…. if it weren’t for traffic, I wouldn’t have reconnected with my surroundings this past week.

I work about ten miles away from where I live. Yet, on an average day in typical rush hour— it can take 45 minutes to get to work. What makes this more difficult is that there are really only two ways to get to my workplace (and one of them is very much out of my way). Both routes involve bridges over a large lake. That’s usually where the height of the traffic jam takes place… all of those cars trying to get across the lake at the same time is not good.

This past week, I was sitting on the bridge in stop-and-go traffic… when all of a sudden we came to a complete stop. A check of the radio indicated that there was an accident ahead. When that happens, all traffic comes to a halt— because there are no shoulders on this bridge. So I sat. And I looked at my watch. And I realized that I was going to be considerably late to work. The blood pressure started to rise…. :p

So, since I was sitting in one spot anyway, I turned and looked southward. I saw something I see almost every day (weather permitting) just sitting there. It’s always been there… even before people settled here.


Mount Rainier rising above the lake.

I’ve seen it hundreds… if not thousands of times before. It’s just part of daily life in western Washington state.

But this time, it hit me like a whack in the head.

Why in the world do I complain about sitting in traffic when I have one of the most beautiful commutes in the world?

When I first moved to Washington state, I fell in love with the natural beauty and couldn’t imagine myself living anywhere else. I stayed connected to that beauty for a long time… but eventually it started to move its way into the background. I can’t tell you when or how it happened. But—- as I realized last week— it definitely happened.

This brings up a recurring theme for me lately. Filters. We all have them. We all use them to block out certain aspects of our lives… because there is way too much going on. We can only handle so much input at once.

IMHO, filters aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Again, too much input would be overwhelming and exhausting. But I think many of us are letting too much of the bad through… at the expense of the good.

There’s a LOT of good out there. We just have to recognize it, and let it come through. Even if it means RE-connecting with something you’ve gotten used to.

A little stressed as you head into work?
Along the way, notice the flowers and trees along the highway.
As you walk from your car to your office building… listen. Are birds chirping? Perhaps there’s the subtle sound of leaves rustling as the wind hits the trees…?
If you are fortunate enough to have an actual lunch hour where you don’t have to sit at your desk…. sit outside. And while you’re eating, think about nothing. And notice everything.

Live in the moment.

As I noticed last week, this helps me handle stress throughout the day. Things that would normally seem REALLY stressful… aren’t quite as troubling.

I should also mention…. since I started doing this, my commute has been much more pleasant. 🙂



The Importance of Grey

Grey, n., any of a series of neutral colors ranging between black and white.

Our society is set up to make us believe that we have to have opposites in every situation… black vs. white, good vs. evil, Republicans vs. Democrats, the hero vs. the villain. Meanwhile, those of us who choose not to view the world in black and white are accused of being indecisive and dull.

The truth is, looking at things in black and white— by definition—is limiting. Those who choose to stick to black and white are missing an incredible world full of infinite shades of grey.

Grey can be beautiful. And eye-opening. And inspiring.


Case in point: Susan Boyle of Scotland took YouTube by storm when she tried out for “Britain’s Got Talent.”

I know many people consider her 15 minutes of fame to be over, but I still think hers is a heartwarming story… because it’s a good lesson in the importance of grey.

The 47-year-old church volunteer had spent all of her life with her parents, taking care of them as they grew older and eventually passed away. People who view things in black and white would most likely apply certain negative labels to someone with her life story. Labels like “spinster” or “old maid.”

And as we saw in the video, people in the audience had preconceived notions of her before she even opened her mouth.

The black and white conclusion: [older woman] + [always lived with her parents] + [doesn’t look like a singer you’d see on a Broadway stage] = obviously can’t sing.

The moment she sang her first line, it was clear the assumptions were wrong. Her appearance and age has nothing to do with what she is capable of accomplishing. She forced many people to shift their focus from black and white to grey. It IS possible for someone with her appearance, age, and life story to have a beautiful voice.

In my opinion, there are several reasons this story has been so captivating.

For those who view things in B&W, it proved that labeling people without actually knowing the person is deceiving… in a good way. Looking at the audience in that video, I’ve never seen so many people (including the judges) so happy to be wrong.

Also, her story shows that when you stop viewing things in B&W the world is full of infinite possibilities and opportunities.

We don’t have to be what society perceives us to be… or tries to force us to be.

(Change your Perspective: Many people think of dandelions as a weed. My 6-year-old views them as beautiful flowers and picks bouquets of them for me.)

So much of our B&W-based society tries to pigeonhole us at an early age, whether it be from teachers, coaches, parents, etc.

I spent much of my childhood education convinced that grades weren’t that important, because my teachers didn’t expect good grades from me (I’ll talk more about that another time).

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I was limiting myself. And my possibilities. I was viewing things in black and white.

You see, when you look at things in varying shades of grey you realize all things are possible.

Viewing it in terms of stereotypes from high school:
The “jock” can become an artist….
The so-called “computer geek” can eventually become a rock star….
The cheerleader can become a software development engineer….
And the drama club devotee can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics.

Likewise, an 11-year-old can all of a sudden come up with the solution to world peace.
And a 96-year-old can all of a sudden decide to take up skydiving.

Anyone can do anything. Shades of grey are infinite. There are no limits or restrictions.

Take some time to celebrate the grey.