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.
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.
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. )
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…
It reads, “Afterword by Michael Ondaatje.” How nice! Impressive, I think.
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?
As previously, this week’s SunnySideUp! preview was a success! (Then again, we plied participants with great refreshments beforehand to soften them up…)
I LOVED doing it. I loved the interaction of guests to each other (meeting for first time) and to the stories. I’m looking forward to take the show on the road.
Thank you so much for a delightful afternoon. You are such a good story teller that I forgot my aches & pains for a few hours. Please send me your poem about f*ck’n dancing… Thanks again for a wonderful afternoon.” Lila Satok
“Bravo! Bravo! Bravo! Nellie” Sondra Ezrin
“Thank you for a delightfully entertaining afternoon. It was easy to relate to all your stories Nellie. Some happy , some sad but all with a humorous slant. It is wonderful to see a glass as half full rather than half empty. Good luck. I even liked the sweater you made.” Kathy Rottmann
“Hi Nellie, I was truly entertained with your stories and of course being your neighbour for 41 years a few of them included us! I truly feel blessed to have grown up with our children and with you and Paul next door. Good luck in all you do.” Cheryl Graff
“A great afternoon! Creative Nellie at her best – a natural!” Bonnie Otto
“Hi, Nellie!!! Thank you for inviting me!! ..,your stories weave common threads of our lives into tapestries of our common experiences as daughters, working mothers, wives, and (some of you lucky people) grandmothers . Or something like that !!!! …The stories were wonderful and I enjoyed every moment!!! It was great to connect with new people in such a lovely environment. Each story contained recognizable moments for someone in the group. It was a great afternoon —- ohhhh and the refreshments were out of this world!!!! Those Skor bars—– to die for.
I would change nothing… except … maybe allow some time for sharing stories after you speak? Your stories spark other stories. I loved the story behind your poem so much and could relate very easily to it. So I started videotaping it up to the point where you started reading the poem. Thank you again for a wonderful, warm and enlightening afternoon.” Fran Cohen
“I’m still chuckling remembering some of your stories. I see you doing a ‘One woman show’ in intimate theatres. I love the rather worldly naivety in your presentation. All the very best to you.” Tamara Penn
“I think you have a great idea and your positivity is amazing. You reach out and draw people in with ease and warmth.” Laurie Manoim
“You are able to encourage people to “open up”, shares thoughts, stories and feelings and, even more importantly, encourage and enable them to connect with each other. The afternoon was light and light-hearted while still touching on some of the realities of life that are not always “light”. Keep doing what you are doing — you bring joy, happiness and laughter to those around you — what could be better!! Also — if you would like to share the chocolate cake recipe….. I would be a willing and mouth-wateringly happy recipient!” Lynn Catzman
“Just got back from your SunnySideUp performance and it was hilarious. I can’t believe how everyone laughed and enjoyed your life stories. You are so creative and should bring your talent to a wide audience… You are a natural born comedian and you write your own material. Congratulations.” Lusette Shapson
To read my post about the first SunnySideUp! preview and the motivation behind it, click here.
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Click on each of these blue links for more details about the SunnySideUp! program, my book take-home bonus gift Making Opportunity Knock, rave reviews, FAQs, pricing, contact, and to visit the new Nellie Jacobs Presents SunnySideUp! website homepage.
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
Discover your whole person.
Draw upon your inner resources.
Success is being happy.
Success is being fulfilled.
Success is being secure with yourself.
Analyze your shortcomings.
Work on a plan to improve.
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.
Learn from others.
Learn from yourself.
Identify your strengths. Build upon them.
Be proud of your accomplishments.
Identify your weaknesses. Attend to them.
Not everything is self-fixable.
Get help if and when you need it.
Take responsibility for your actions and words.
Let go of blame.
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.
Carry your share.
Each excuse creates a heavier burden for the rest of us.
Don’t look down at others.
It’s too easy to be critical and patronizing.
It is not everyone’s luck to be good-looking, bright, capable and privileged as you.
You may never know what secrets your friends and acquaintances carry.
You may never know the burdens and tragedies of people you meet in your lifetime.
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.
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.
The world is wondrous.
Hold onto humour. It may save your life.
Choose friends you can love,
Choose friends who love you back.
Learn to trust.
Don’t be naive.
Give yourself time.
Be patient with others.
Reach higher, always.
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.
Consider new ideas and approach.
Balance your life.
Follow your interests and hobbies.
Become physically active.
Nurture family relationships.
Work at friendships.
Keep in touch. Regularly.
Meet for lunch or dinner, movies, theatre.
Be balanced emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually.
Believe in something.
Be generous to those who deserve it.
My very first large sheet of water colour painting, Life Series #2, was created in one of several series of classes I took that were led by Elaine Gitalis, an extraordinary instructor and fine artist.
Life series #1, below, was my first experiment in shape, lighting and shading. It was also a study in negative and positive space:
In the week-end nature and photography retreat I attended in April, rocks were again a focus of many of my pictures:
1. Rocks can represent the positive characteristics of people.
Rocks symbolize steadiness, permanance, reliability and strength. All of these are fine features I look for in colleagues and friends.
2. Like rocks, people come in all different sizes, shapes and colors. The source of their creation and their history are varied, as well.
3. Like rocks, people can be surface (interested mainly in events) or deep (interested in ideas).
I love the way these rocks below nestle into each other like friends sharing secrets, or maybe recipes:
What are some metaphors you like to use or that fascinate you?
Creatively Yours,Nellie Jacobs
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.