Whoops! Michael Ondaatje and Me…

Have you ever had any mortifying moments of embarrassment? I’ve had plenty of them. It’s funny how we remember forever such moments and the feelings we have around them. The other day I was reminded of one such time.

I was taking a leisurely stroll exploring my new neighborhood. The air was crisp, clear and sunny-a taste of spring hopefully around the corner. On my way back  home, I stopped in front of TYPE, a small independent bookstore.

michael ondaatje3

I stepped inside. Listening to chatter between the sales woman and customer, I wandered the aisles glancing at the racks, shelves and tables full of new books, celebration cards and knickknacks of various kinds and uses.

And then, I stopped at the table displaying a book of poetry by Michael Ondaatje.

michael ondaatje

I flipped its pages, deeply sensing the book would be dedicated to his late friend and collaborator, Barrie Nichol, otherwise known worldwide as bp Nichol. It was.  (bp was my creative writing prof when I returned to university as an adult in the mid 80’s. )

michael ondaatje2

Memories start spilling out…

Reading those two names reminded me once again of the time when Ondaatje caught me unprepared for class.  But first, the background.

I was enjoying this particular course focus on early Canadian Literature since nothing like it had been available when I studied the subject in high school twenty years earlier. We read groundbreaking early Canadian books including Wild Geese by Martha Ostenso. At the time, I was also taking three other demanding courses: Media studies, Logical Thinking and Writing, and an intensive hands-on art course called Line and Form. Each prof gave us assignments to complete during Xmas break: a take-home exam from Media; a quiz for logic; creation of art pieces for a portfolio; and the reading of a short book called Tay John by Howard O’Hagan.

Did I mention I’m also a wife and a mom to four children, ranging in age at that time from 2 1/2 to 13 years? Needless to say, I had to set priorities. As an avid reader, I figured that I could read the book quickly at any time, so the decision was to leave it til I could take the time.

So, to continue…

We are back from Christmas break. I’ve arrived early to take my regular spot, a seat at the front of the very small classroom, facing the podium. Our prof steps up as usual to begin her lecture, but instead proceeds to introduce the already well-known author Michael Ondaatje, who, she says, is the world-renowned Tay John expert. “Wow!!’ I thought. “Who knew?”

Then I look again at the book’s cover…Tay John2

It reads, “Afterword by Michael Ondaatje.” How nice! Impressive, I think.

Tay John2

Ondaatje nods, walks up to the lectern – which is only about six feet a way from me – leans in, and begins… He says Tay John is a mispronunciation of the french Tête Jaune (Yellow Head), referring to the hair colour of the protagonist who is the result of a rape of a Native woman. She was impregnated. Before giving birth, she died and was buried on a hill. Legend goes that her child arose as a toddler out of the earth – and strode away.

Since I have not yet read the story, I am listening so carefully my mouth drops open with  surprise. Unfortunately, Ondaatje’s attention is caught by the movement. He leans further forward on the lectern. “And if you haven’t read that,” he roars at me (or so it seemed), “you haven’t read far, because this piece of information appears on page TWO!”

I was mortified. Completely. I felt my face burn. All I could think of was that he didn’t know me, nor my name, nor did he read or grade my exams. Those facts saved me.

A few years later, I graduated on the Honours List. And was armed with yet another story to share with you.

Life is like that, isn’t it?

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Letter to My Children

Friendship

I’m at that stage of life when I am sorting, organizing and eliminating clutter in preparation for moving out and on.  Digging through boxes stored away for years, I am making so many discoveries.  In the process, I read everything. Forgotten memories are stirred up. Letters to and from friends and relatives remind me of past relationships, events, losses and achievements. Among all that paper, I’ve come across notes I wrote to my children to help guide them through life. They grew up into loving, responsible, caring adults, now parents themselves. Hoping they will share this with their children,  written from the heart and unedited, here is one of the letters I wrote to them decades ago:

……………………

LETTER TO MY CHILDREN

Be true.

Discover your whole person.

Develop you.

Draw upon your inner resources.

Success is being happy.

Success is being fulfilled.

Success is being secure with yourself.

Be honest.

Analyze your shortcomings.

Work on a plan to improve.

ENVY

Envy no person.

No one can have it all. No one can have it all. If they do, at what price?

The rich lose their possessions; the beautiful, their looks.

The powerful, fall.

KNOWLEDGE

Learn from others.

Learn from yourself.

Read.

Discuss.

Watch.

Think.

Pause.

SELF-DEVELOPMENT

Identify your strengths. Build upon them.

Admire yourself.

Be proud of your accomplishments.

Identify your weaknesses. Attend to them.

Love yourself.

IMPROVEMENT

Not everything is self-fixable.

Get help if and when you need it.

Grow up.

Become mature.

Take responsibility for your actions and words.

Let go of blame.

CONSIDERATION

Be courteous.

Be irreverent but not rude.

THE RIPPLE EFFECT

What you don’t do can have a great – or greater – effect than what you choose to do.

Consider the effect of your words and actions on others.

SHARING

Carry your share.

Each excuse creates a heavier burden for the rest of us.

RESPECT

Don’t look down at others.

It’s too easy to be critical and patronizing.

LUCK

It is not everyone’s luck to be good-looking, bright, capable and privileged as you.

COMPASSION

Be forgiving.

You may never know what secrets your friends and acquaintances carry.

Be compassionate.

You may never know the burdens and tragedies of people you meet in your lifetime.

PRESUMPTIONS

Don’t presume.

Don’t presume you know all the answers.

You don’t even know all the questions.

No one knows. if he or she says they do, they are either lying or fooling themselves.

SUCCESS

Behind the face of every adult is a kid trying to figure out what the hell he or she is doing.

Some seem to accomplish it better than others.

No one is successful in every area.

The secrets of life are within yourself.

Have faith.

The world is wondrous.

Question values.

Hold onto humour. It may save your life.

FRIENDS

Choose friends you can love,

Choose friends who love you back.

ATTITUDE

Be open.

Learn to trust.

Accept love.

Guard yourself.

Don’t be naive.

Give yourself time.

Be patient with others.

Allow mistakes.

Reach higher, always.

GET HIGH

Forget drugs.

Learn about art. You will appreciate beauty.

Learn about music. Its rhythms captivate.

Study literature. Attend live theatre. Gather ideas.

Forget television and electronics. Interact with people. Volunteer.

Look for positive role models. follow their lead. Become a leader.

Mentor others, then set them free.

Recognize those who labour for you.

Acknowledge their work.

Be open-minded.

Consider new ideas and approach.

BALANCE

Balance your life.

Develop hobbies.

Cultivate interests.

Follow your interests and hobbies.

Become physically active.

Nurture family relationships.

Work at friendships.

Keep in touch. Regularly.

Visit.

Meet for lunch or dinner, movies, theatre.

Phone.

Write.

Email.

Be balanced emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually.

Believe in something.

Nurture yourself.

Pamper yourself.

Relax.

Take time.

Abandon sarcasm.

Don’t goad.

Encourage others.

Give compliments.

Be generous to those who deserve it.

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Michael Jackson Eulogy: “I didn’t Know …”

michael jacksonExtravaganza and spectacle aside, there is no question that anyone listening to the eulogies for Michael Jackson learned a lot more about the man.

I certainly didn’t know he donated hugely to widespread charities and causes; that he laughed – a lot;  that he was a caring and excellent friend and mentor; that he loved his family as much as they say he did; or that his very favorite song was “Smile”. (I also didn’t know that this song was written by Charlie Chaplin.)

EulogyIf you think about eulogies, consider this question: why is it we only get the fuller picture of  any person – whether a celebrity or not – at their funerals?  

As example, immediately after my brother, sons and I gave eulogies for my father in an overflowing funeral chapel in 1999, people came up to say, “I didn’t know…” or “I had no idea…”.  The son of my dad’s close friend admitted that, although he’d known my dad for most of his life, he now realized how much he could have learned from dad’s wisdom and only wished that he’d asked him more questions when he was alive.

MINING YOUR HUMAN RESOURCESTruth is, how much do we really know about our family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances? Why don’t we know more about each other’s  wonderful qualities and rich resources?

A friend whose son invited her to a hugely successful community event he was instrumental in developing admitted, “I didn’t know he was into this.”

There are strategies to get to know each other better.  As a radio interviewer with a significant Curiosity Factor, I ask questions in advance of each broadcast logo-radio-show7about the guest’s history, background,  philosophy, and experiences. 

By honoring the individual with my full attention – listening without distraction  my guests know I’m interested – and respond accordingly.

I transfer that interest to anyone I know and to people I meet. Not only have I found within them so much useful information, their personal experiences resonate with my soul.  They also offer tons of skills and lessons that I can apply to so many aspects of my life.  And, hopefully, I return the favors.

Lessons Learned

1. Meaningful conversations  include  ideas, philosophies, and psychologies (not only a list of previous and upcoming events and gossip).

2. So much is learned by exploration and digging deep.

 3. Most people have abilities, talents, experiences and knowledge that their personal and professional networks don’t know at all.

 The next consideration is, “How much do we know about ourselves?” That’s a question for another time….

Creatively Yours,

Nellie Jacobs

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Through her Igniting Imagination programs and services, creativity consultant Nellie Jacobs stimulates creative-thinking, providing tools to individuals, organizations and companies to help ‘mine’ hidden or latent human resources for the personal and professional betterment of all.

All Igniting Imagination with Nellie Jacobs talk radio episodes are numbered and archived for your listening pleasure, inspiration and convenience at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Igniting-Imagination.

Seasons 1 and 2 guest photos, profiles, topics and links to their episodes are posted on at www.ignitingimagination.com. Just follow the links.

Twitter:@nelliejacobs                                                                                                                    Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nelliejacobs

Does the ‘Law of Attraction’ Really Work?

Napoleon Hill-Think and Grow RichAfter years of hearing/reading about it, I finally bought and just finished going through Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” 

The points Hill makes are as relevant today as they were in 1937 when the book was first published. Without doubt, the key messages throughout his book are the source of so many current bestselling self-help books/programs such as The Secret, the genesis of the Master Mind movement, and the ideas behind the Law of Attraction.

logo-radio-show7Does the Law of Attraction really work? In Episode 3 of my Internet radio show,  entrepreneur and consultant Karen Fraser discusses “Making Opportunity Knock”.   I decided to take notice of  any opportunity I was attracting. 

Here’s how the stars aligned recently:

Two week-ends ago I discussed a need for an honest-to-goodness marketer to help me implement and promote the vision I have for products and services.  How would I find that person?

Read on …

Typically, I look after my little grandson on Wednesdays. Last Tuesday morning (two days after the discussion about marketing) I was called in because his regular babysitter was ill.  Later that afternoon I picked up a telephone message inviting me to be a participant in a full day marketing workshop the very next day.  I was able to take advantage of the opportunity because I didn’t have to babysit that day.

The workshop, hosted by Conext Inc., was excellent. Not only did I learn a lot about marketing from the workshop facilitator, I also learned a good deal of information from the other participants. 

Whitby Chamber of Commerce Logo Sept 07For example,   Teresa Shaver, Membership Development Manager of the Whitby Chamber of Commerce and Dave Stell, Communications Specialist with the Ajax-Pickering Board of Trade  both explained that Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade are basically the same entity, depending on how they originated, and that they each offer a multitude of benefits to business members who sign up (including networking events and group insurance rates).

Ajax Pickering Board Of Trade new logo - small

Follow-up: I’m meeting with Eric Gilboord, the marketer who impressed me that day. 

Lesson Learned:

1. Be clear about what you want and state it in some form or other.

2. Opportunities will come knocking – and offer many possibilities; if you keep your eyes open and your wits about you, you will identify them.

3. An opportunity becomes a reality if you follow up.

What is your experience with this concept?

Creatively Yours,

Nellie Jacobs

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Through her Igniting Imagination programs and services, creativity consultant Nellie Jacobs stimulates creative-thinking, providing tools to individuals, organizations and companies to help ‘mine’ hidden or latent human resources for the personal and professional betterment of all.

All Igniting Imagination with Nellie Jacobs talk radio episodes are numbered and archived for your listening pleasure, inspiration and convenience at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Igniting-Imagination.

Seasons 1 and 2 guest photos, profiles, topics and links to their episodes are posted on at www.ignitingimagination.com. Just follow the links.

Twitter:@nelliejacobs                                                                                                                    Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nelliejacobs

* Lessons learned from people I’ve met-Part 3

PERSEVERANCE

oil wellIn November, 1946, Imperial Oil sent Vern “Dry Hole” Hunter to Leduc, Alberta to set up a drilling rig on Mike Turta’s farm. For 10 weeks of freezing weather, his crew drilled to the depth of 1,544 metres – with no success. The men wanted “to give up, but Hunter had them drill just one more metre.”  On Friday, February 13th, they hit the gusher that began Alberta’s post-war oil boom. *

What does this true story have to do with my own experience? It’s all about that extra step. I have a very small story about someone I met a couple of months ago that illustrates the point.

On February 14th,  my husband and I leisurely drove around Lake Muskoka, arriving in Bracebridge, Ontario in late afternoon, both of us a bit cranky with hunger – we hadn’t yet had lunch.

On the outskirts of town, he suggested we stop at the local Harvey’s/Swiss Chalet for a quick bite. I refused.

Hearts

Click on design by NJ

“Look,” I said, “it’s Valentine’s Day, we tried to book a dinner at our two favourite restaurants. We were disappointed that they were each closed for the season.  So, I’m happy to prepare a dinner at home; but, the last thing I want now is a quick bite of fast food even though I’m really, really hungry. Let’s make this a bit more romantic and pleasurable.”

He agreed. We parked on the main street and walked down its hill and and then back up looking for an imaginary little shop, quaint in decor, clean, inviting, with loving home-cooked meals and decent, caring staff. We found stores closed (a sign of the times) and cafes that promised good food but didn’t deliver it. 

Colder, much more tired and much crabbier, we ended standing next to the car, ready to get in and drive home. “Let’s just go up the hill a bit and see if there’s something new there,” I suggested. To his credit, my husband again agreed.

Fine Thymes restaurant window. Bracebridge, Ontario

Fine Thymes restaurant window. Bracebridge, Ontario

Just one shop further up the hill we found it! Hestitatingly, we opened its door, stepped into the warmth and  the delicious aromas of home-cooked soups and baked goods of the Fine Thymes Restaurant and Tea-Room.

Proprietor Elizabeth welcomed us and waved us to a table next to  the picture window overlooking the street. There was obvious attention to detail in every corner. Tables and walls were even decorated with red hearts, honouring the day. As soon as we sat down, the proprietor welcomed us with complimentary hot, pink drinks served in small glasses.

We ordered freshly made soups, sandwiches, and salads. Elizabeth used unusal ingredients and herbs. Food was delicious. Since it was late in the afternoon, we chatted until closing time with her and her partner Claude about their backgrounds, business, fishing, and travelling. It was such a delightful time to spend with lovely people – and we made a newfound discovery to recommend to all our friends!

 Lessons Learned

1. To achieve any goal, identify what you want, and why.

2. Persevere to find/get what you’re looking for.

(To read about and listen to Episode 4 about Perseverance, the creative theme of my talk radio interview with Neil Doctorow, turn on your speakers and click here)

3. Often, getting to your goal means taking just one more step.

Creatively Yours,

Nellie

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LINKS:Website: http://www.ignitingimagination.com

Internet Radio Show: http://blogtalkradio.com/igniting-imagination

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nelliejacobs

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nelliejacobs

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nelliejacobs

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* From the National Post newspaper, Friday, February 13, 2009.