a little wordy

because words can inspire

Focus

Michele Viner
v. pay particular attention to

My daughter, Emma, is in the process of deciding what university she is going to attend.  She applied to seven schools and was granted acceptances at all seven.  I think she thought that she wouldn’t get into all of them and that the decision would be made for her, but no such luck for my very smart daughter.  Now she is agonizing over which school to choose.

Just as a short aside.  When I was in grade 12 and preparing to go to university I lobbied to add my biology mark to Billy Tannor’s biology mark just so one of us could pass.  Billy was a kid in my class who had the same acumen in biology that I had.  Let’s just say, it didn’t work out the way we hoped, although I think we might each have managed to eke out a 51 on the promise we would drop sciences.  

But I digress.

Too much choice?  Seems to me to be a good problem to have.

And at the end of the day, is the choice the real issue, or is it our ability to concentrate and evaluate long enough to make that choice?

This week’s word is focus.  I think we are a generation of people who are struggling with the ability to do so. 

Every time we turn around we are being pinged, beeped, rung and insta’d this or that.  It used to be that someone who could be paged on the spot was a VIP who was saving lives.  Now we are being paged to bring home milk.  Even since I have typed these 282 words my phone has yelled at me four times and every time I have gone to it, like a gerbil to a pellet when they hear a bell.  And no.  In case you are wondering, none of them required any life saving actions at all.  Thankfully.

So.  The question is.  How do we develop focus?  How do we create the quiet in our lives to actually be able to hear our little voices; the voices that are so wise.  The voices that help us to make our decisions.

Many years ago when I worked for an industrial psychologist, she gave me advice that I have never forgotten.  I think maybe there was a lot of stuff going on in my life at the time and I was having trouble concentrating on my job.

“Treat your mind like its a puppy,” she told me.

Her instruction was to let the “puppy” wander the room and explore at reckless abandon for five minutes.  And then, coax the puppy back into my lap and ask it kindly and gently to remain there for the next five minutes.

The wandering puppy represented the chaos in our minds and the inability to focus.  The puppy in the lap represented the ability to quiet those thoughts for a brief period of time and train our minds to quieten.  The idea would be that eventually the puppy could sit for longer than five minutes.

“And you must do so kindly,” she advised.  “You would never yell at a little puppy, so you must not admonish yourself for feeling distracted.  That just makes things worse.”

Over the years I have used that advice many times.  Now I am passing it along to my daughter.

Emma’s facing a major decision that will impact her life for the next four years.  Maybe you are facing a much smaller choice.  Either way, coax the puppy into your lap and get quiet and focus.

The answer will be there.

Integrity

Michele Viner
n. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness

What’s in a name?  Do you like your name?  If you had it to do all over again would you pick the name you have now or would you choose another one?  Not that we have a choice.  Our names are, of course, picked for us.

And chances are much thought has gone into that choice.

That was certainly the case for both of our daughters - Jacqueline Abigail and Emma Ariel.  Although things didn’t quite go to plan.

When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I was convinced I was having a boy.  
C-O-N-V-I-N-C-E-D. I would literally tell people I was having a boy and they just assumed an ultrasound had determined that.  

“No ultrasound,” I would say, “I just know.”

So naturally, being so sure (and so stupid), I thought only about boy names and not girl names, or gender neutral names.  For Kevin and I, the choice would be easy.  It is tradition in Judaism to honour someone who has passed away with the use of their name, or with the use of the same first letter of a name.  For us, that was Jack.  Jack was my dad who had died when I was 14 years old and it would give us great pleasure to name our son after him.  The second name would be Arthur, after Kevin’s grandfather who had also passed from this world, and who was a person very worthy of the honour.

It was decided.  Jack Arthur.

And then I went into labour.

“It’s a GIRL!” yelled my doctor, Jennifer, as she pulled our little baby into the world.

“It’s a what?!" I said, groggily, puffed up like a blowfish after labour, and sure I wasn’t hearing correctly.  But I was.

And just like that, Jack Arthur became Jacqueline Abigail.  

This past week, another little girl was pulled into the world.  The daughter of my sweet friends, Bonnie and Albert.  I have known Bonnie since she was a little kid as she is the daughter of our very good friends, and in fact, Bonnie was my flower girl at my wedding.

Trippy when your flower girl becomes a mama, not going to lie.

And, of course, I thought the whole time she was having a boy.  I was (yup, stupidly) sure of it throughout her entire pregnancy.

It wasn’t until I was with her just a few evenings before she gave birth.  We were passing each other in a hallway and suddenly I was surrounded by the most incredible feeling of a female presence.  It practically took my breath away. “Bonnie, I said.  “I just had the most incredible feeling that you are having a girl.”

And she did.  Just a day or so later, beautiful little Mollie Luna was born.  And just like Jacqueline Abigail all those years before, she was named in honour of two men - the baby’s great grandfathers - who were kind and exemplary people.

So, after all that.  What is this week’s word?  Integrity.

I heard it said once that what we ultimately leave this world is our good name.

When we are given our name at a baptism or naming ceremony it is in the hope of what’s to come. When that name is uttered one final time as we leave this world, it is in honour of all we have accomplished and given to the world.  When all is said and done, our name defines us, and defines the dignity and integrity with which we carry ourselves.

What’s in a name?  Plenty.  Use yours well.

Goodness

Michele Viner
n.  the quality of being good

You know that rule that you shouldn’t grocery shop when you’re hungry because you end up clearing out the aisles of Twinkies and Haagen Dazs?

Well, I am sure that somewhere in the blogging 101 handbook (if there is such a thing) there is a similar rule about not blogging when you are having an emotionally charged reaction to something.  

But what the hey.  Rules were made to be broken.

Yesterday my family and I saw the musical, Come From Away.  Wowza.  For anyone who has been living under a rock (haha - get it?) it is the musical account of 38 planes landing in Gander, Newfoundland in the panic of September 11, 2001.

Anyone of a certain age who lived through 9/11 knows exactly where they were on that morning.  I know I certainly do. I had just dropped my two year old daughter off for the very first time at a three morning a week daycare program.  I remember saying cheerio to Jac and then pushing one year old Emma home in the stroller.  It was a 15 minute walk, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and I was despondent.  I had separated from my baby for the first time.  It felt like the world was coming to an end.

Little did I know.

When I entered my house the phone was ringing and it was my friend, Charlene.

“Turn on your tv,” she said and hung up.  And so I did, sinking into the couch in horror.  

I also remember the days after the attack, when we were all glued to tv sets trying to make sense of all that was happening. My innocent little babies played at my feet in a world that no longer was innocent.  

“Big boom?” asked Jacqueline on one occasion when she entered the room before we had a chance to turn the channel. 

“Yes, honey,” I said back.  “Big boom, but it’s all okay.”

And so began the job of every parent in a post 9/11 world to teach our children that everything was going to, in fact, be okay.   From that day on, I started to tell my girls what I firmly and truly believed - that even though terrible things happen, there is more love in the world than hate.  That even though some people do bad things, far more people are good.  And that even though circumstances will coax you into thinking otherwise, we must always believe in goodness.

That is this week’s word.  Goodness.   

Now, 17 years after the big boom, when I find myself sitting with my husband and two daughters in a theatre in Toronto, all of those feelings come back, and I am overwhelmed as the story unfolds.  

Here it is on stage for all to see.  For the thousands of people from all over the world who were literally pulled from the sky and grounded, Gander became a temporary home.    Through the telling of this story, while using humour, dance, song, incredible stage direction and choreography, and a few hits of screech, we see first hand that an entire community swooped in to embrace them.

We see that clothing, food, shelter, companionship, support and friendship is extended in a way we can’t imagine.

We see that a community becomes transformed, and in the matter of just five days, people from other cultures and locales become honourary Newfoundlanders for life.

And we see that even though terrible things happen, there is more love in the world than hate.  That even though some people do bad things, far more people are good.  And that even though circumstances will coax you into thinking otherwise, we must always believe in goodness.

And in the end, we do a jig.

 

Flow

Michele Viner
adj.  move along steadily and consistently in a current or stream

 

Okay peeps.  Gather in.  I have a question for you.

How many of you out there consider yourself to be an artist, or at the very least, creative?

Waiting ... waiting ...

Crickets, peeps, crickets.  I hear nothing.

It was kind of a trick question because the answer is, we are all creative.  Whether we make our living through the arts or not, we are all creative beings.  Or at least we are born that way.

I used to tell a story to parents as I was showing them the school; if you entered a classroom of 25 kids in kindergarten - age 4 - and asked for a show of hands of how many of them were artists, every hand would rise.  If you asked those same 25 kids how many of them were artists years later in their grade 8 class, you might be lucky to get two hands to rise, maybe three.  Somewhere throughout those years, they stopped believing in their creativity.  Tragic.

Because when you stop believing in your creativity, you stop giving yourself permission to be creative. 

This week’s word is flow.  All of life needs flow.  When we have it, life is good.  When we don’t, things start to go awry.

If the flow of traffic stops, we get into traffic jams.  If the flow of our lifeblood stagnates, we experience illness.  If the flow of communication ceases, we get lonely and isolated.  And if our finances stop flowing, well, who hasn’t been there once or twice or always? And if your creativity ceases to flow, you might be missing out on a big part of who you are.

I had the absolute privilege a few weeks ago of watching a high school production of  Little Shop of Horrors.

It was fantastic.  

The singing, the dancing, the choreography, the direction, the lighting, the setting - all of it was fabulous.  And while all of the kids were remarkable, I was partial to a cute little character named Doris, the dental assistant.  She was played by my younger daughter.  

What was most amazing, aside from her performance, was that this was new to Emma, who is 17 years old and in grade 12.  She was surrounded by kids who had been performing in musicals for years, but she was essentially new to the musical stage.  And while she was singing, dancing and performing, what was really taking place was that she was finding her creativity in a whole new way. 

Personally, (health issues aside, of course) I think a lack of creative flow is a shame.  Our creativity is our artistry, and our artistry is a part of ourselves that deserves to be seen.  It doesn’t mean you need to dance or sing (personally, dogs howl when I sing) or even draw a picture.  What it means is that you offer up a true expression of you - not in what you do, but who you are on the inside.

So, in honour of that, and in honour of Doris and all of the amazing kids who sang and danced their hearts out on the stage that night, let’s tap into our creative being.

Because creativity isn’t just on the artistic stage, it belongs on life’s stage.

The world needs your shine.  Go get your creative on.

And then let it flow.

 

Love

Michele Viner
n. a passionate affection for another person; a strong liking for something or someone.

Of course this week’s word is love.  It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

Love Love Love.  It’s all about love. 

Ah yes, Valentine’s Day.  The day when my single friends lament not having someone to love, and my attached friends lament that they never get the last piece of pie.  Although, I married a fabulous man who hates pie.  Ha.

No, I am not making fun of Valentine’s Day.  I am a sucker for hearts and flowers just like the next girl, and I am ALL about spreading love.  I think the world needs it.  Its just that, as I’ve grown older and have lived through a few things, my definition of love has changed.  A lot.  I don’t look at it any more as the romance and the poetry and the bling, I look at it as the courage to stand in another’s corner as you would stand in your own.  That doesn’t have to be romantic love, although it can be.  It can also be for a child, for a parent, for a sibling, for a friend.

One of my greatest lessons about love came from my kids’ pediatrician.  

It was New Year’s eve 2015.  We were about to ring in 2016 and my family had just returned from a quick getaway to Old Montreal (my personal creative mothership) over Christmas.

Somewhere between Montreal and Toronto, something went terribly wrong for my older daughter.  I have shared in my blog before that my daughter lives with bipolar disorder.  Through medical intervention, it is something that she manages extremely well, but bipolar disorder is a beast, and it can raise its head without warning.  Such was the case on this evening.  My daughter fell into a severe depressive state unlike anything we had seen before.  And we had seen a lot.

“We need to get her help,” I said to Kevin.  But honestly, I didn’t know what that looked like.  It was 6 p.m. on New Year’s eve.  None of her medical team would be available and I didn’t expect them to be.

We stood in her room looking at each other, when I took the notion to call Dr. Marvin.  Marvin Gans had looked after my girls as kids, and as such, he had become an invaluable confidant to me.  He was aware of my daughter’s diagnosis although he no longer was their primary caregiver as they were now older.  That said, I wondered if I could get his advice.

Within 10 minutes of calling him, I got just that.

“Dr. Marvin, I said,” I don’t know what to do,” after telling him the story.  “It’s bad.  Tell me what to do.”

“You want to know what to do,” he asked?

“Yes,” I said, “please.”

“Nothing.  You do nothing.  You and I love this child way too much to try to decide what she needs right now.  You put her in the car and take her to the ER and let them tell you what she needs.”

Love.

“Sometimes in life you need to separate the love from the help,” Marvin continued.  ‘You and I can love her.  The professionals will help her.”

Love.

So we did just that.  My daughter would spend a week in the hospital before she was feeling well enough to return home.  Truth be told, it was a turning point for her, and she came out of the experience stronger than ever.  Today she is thriving.

Love.

It really is everywhere, and it isn’t always about wine and roses.  More often than not, it is about meeting someone exactly where they are. It is about giving someone what they need to be them, and it is something we all share with someone, whether we are married, single, or eat pie. 

Who do you love?