Monday, February 13, 2012

Words to Warm a Lifetime

Thought for the day:  One kind word can warm three winter months.  [Japanese proverb]

Woo HOO! I'm playing in my very first blogfest today, and the object is for us to dig up the roots of our writing dreams and try to turn them into a pretty little posy for your reading pleasure. I'll see what I can do.

Hmmm, so where did it all start for me ...?

                                           In the beginning, God created Heaven and earth.


Too far back?

Okay, well, contrary to what some people may think, I wasn't actually around for THAT beginning anyway, but sometimes it feels like I've been in love with the written word since MY beginning. Matter of fact, if there had been better lighting and more room in my mother's womb, I'm pretty sure I would've been reading a good book or tapping away on an Underwood before I was even born.

When I was a kid, I made up stories for a bunch of other kids one hot summer. They'd gather round, and I'd spin a tale. Just like Uncle Remus. (Only I was a girl. And skinny. And white.) It was kinda neat that so many gathered to listen, but I also realized the shady spot we met in a neighbor's yard might've played a role, too.  Anyhow, if I wasn't making up fairy tales on the fly to tell my friends, I was writing stories, reading stories, and writing some more. But my real  AHA moment came when I was in fifth grade. Something happened that year to make me believe I just might have some real writing talent.

That was the year of the big essay contest.

I can't remember for sure which organization sponsored it, but I think it was the American Legion, and the topic was brotherhood. Wait a minute. I should capitalize that. Make that Brotherhood. You see, there was a whole lot of hoopla about this contest, with politicians pontificating about it, and a whole host of cool prizes waiting for the lucky winner.

                                                         And it wasn't me.

I didn't win a cool trophy or plaque.

I didn't win money. (Not even a little bit!)

And nobody put a blue ribbon around my neck.

But what I got was just as good. Maybe better. My teacher, who happened to be one of the judges,  told me every single one of the judges loved my essay. In fact, they all voted for it.

 So why didn't I win?

Um, my essay was too different. It didn't fall within the parameters of what the sponsors wanted a student to say. You see, I said something about how people tend to align themselves in sides of them vs. us, and the only way we'd ever have true unity and brotherhood in this world is if we found a common enemy from beyond it. Yeah, I know. Not exactly rah-rah, Mom and apple pie stuff, huh?

But my teacher said the judges loved my writing. 

And I've been hooked ever since.

The point is, Mr. McGrafft had no reason to tell me. But he did. So I'm thinking  we shouldn't hesitate to express kind words of encouragement, either. Ya never know how your words may influence another person, or how they may spark that person's dream. Kind words may very well warm much more than that Japanese proverb's three months. After all, they've kept me warm for a lifetime.

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. Are you sure you were only in fifth grade when you wrote something that was too meaningful for me to even comprehend now? Just what were your parents feeding you anyway? Glad you also joined this blogfest,and everyone else will be too! Julie

  2. That was an excellent teacher. I have an idea though, that even without his words of encouragement, you would have continued on your path.

  3. Wow, that was a pretty deep concept for someone so young.

    And pretty darn accurate.

    Were you by any chance reading science fiction at the time -- the human race united against a common enemy?

  4. Great story!! And great encouragement from your teacher!

  5. I'm so glad you had a teacher like this. Encouragement is so important, sometimes it can make the difference between carrying on or giving up.

  6. Julie- Yep, I was in fifth grade. (I was a very weird kid.)

    Delores- He was my favorite teacher ever.

    Dianne- Yeah, like I said, a weird kid. I did a lot of reading back then, but not much in the way of science fiction, unless you count some of the strange comic books I read.

    Jennifer- Thanks. He was a fabulous teacher.

    Sarah- Me, too. Yeah, it's kinda scary to think how many people gave up on their dreams because no one ever encouraged them.

  7. That's a very good blogfest topic and what a story behind the story! You were scarily wise beyond your years. And yes, we all have soundbytes that stick with us; having encouraging ones, kind words and praise, is most important. I'm glad Mr. McGrafft did it, cuz we have your writing now, all these years later. Plant your love and let it grow.

  8. You won something much better than a cheap plastic trophy that day. :))

  9. Contests and great teachers have helped many writers realize their potential.

    Great to meet you. I'm one of your followers :).

  10. Wow. Weren't you a smart kid! Thanks for following my blog today :o) I'm now following you too! Cheers, Susan.

  11. You were wise beyond your years. Thank heavens you had a teacher smart enough to tell you. :)

  12. Fabulous Origins story, Susan! I really enjoyed it.

    And sounds like that precocious little fifth-grader wrote a wonderful and insightful essay. There's always been too much "us vs them" (queue the Pink Floyd classic) in our human makeup.

    ...and you also have a new follower.

  13. I thought your essay topic was perfect. And we did start our Origins the same! Too funny.

  14. wow that is fantastic. I so love that you also had a great teacher! Am following you now! :)

  15. Awesome. I'm blown away by the impact the right word, at the right time, from the right person can have. Always write from your heart! Great post.

  16. Nice to meet you, Susan! This was the perfect post to get to know you.
    In my opinion different is good. You should have won! : )

  17. What a cute picture of you. And, what a great story. I'm so impressed by your essay topic! Love the proverb as well, that's definitely one to remember.

  18. Austan- I dunno if I was "scarily wise", but I was admittedly a little weird. (Come to think of it, still AM!) Thanks.

    L.G.- I sure did!

    Isis- Thank you, and welcome aboard.

    Jessica- I can't figure out why I wasn't ALREADY following you. I've read enough of your comments on other blogs. Anyway, thank you, and welcome aboard.

    Linda- He was the best teacher ever, and he probably never knew just how much I needed his kindness and encouragement at that point in my life.

    Chris- Thank you dear sir. I'm happy to have you aboard. (And thanks ... now Pink Floyd is playing in my head!)

    Alex- Yeah, like I told ya. Great minds think alike.

    Sylvia- Teachers rarely know how much of an impact they have on their students. And thanks for the follow. I appreciate it, and welcome aboard.

    Jenny- Absolutely. Never underestimate the power of a kind word.

    Emily- Thanks, but I can understand why the sponsors didn't want such an unusual essay to represent their Brotherhood theme.

    Julie- Thanks. On these cold winter days, especially, that's a good proverb to remember.

  19. What a cute picture of you!

    As an ex-teacher, it's amazing to me to think about the power of those words you got from your teacher.

  20. Teachers are so awesome! I'm sure mine gave me the drive to continue writing.

  21. In other words, you didn't win because you were thinking outside of the box from a young age. Good for you! So glad you got the feedback and have been making great use of it ever since.

    Thanks so much for following. I'm glad to see I've already joined your pack.


  22. You would think that us vs. them would be right up the American Legion's alley.
    The one thing I never had in school was a teacher that inspired me.

  23. That's awesome that your teacher gave you the compliment. Funny how those moments stick with us, although I think the negative ones are stickier - maybe that's just me. Following back. :)

  24. Wow! Those are some deep thoughts for grade 5. Way to go!

  25. Haha--yeah, research shows that conflicting groups will actually work together if they have a common goal, so I'd say you were on to something! Great origin story!

  26. Yay for teachers making a difference. And if you didn't win the contest, at least it was for an awesome reason.

    Thanks for sharing!

  27. Jay- No matter what subject or grade level you taught, I'm betting that you made a lasting impression on some of your students. And if you're very fortunate, you may have even inspired some of them. I have the deepest respect for teachers. Thank you for stopping by, dear sir, and for following.

    Ashley- You betcha. Teachers have so much potential power to make a real difference in the lives of their students.

    Robyn- Yeah, that's me. Always gotta see things a little differently than the average bear. Thanks for visiting, and welcome aboard.

    Mr. C- I am truly sorry to hear that. Everyone should have at least ONE special teacher.

    Tonja- I prefer to think that the negative memories eventually fall away, and leave us with the good ones. Thank you for following, dear lady, and welcome aboard.

    Marta- Thanks. I was a nerdy kid.

    Sarah- Thanks! Good to know I was on the right track.

  28. It's so true that we don't know how our words of encouragement will affect others. Sometimes, that's all we need - a kind word to keep us going.

  29. Stephanie- Thanks. I say YAY for teachers making a difference, too. And thanks for following. Welcome aboard!

    J.L.- Absolutely! Kindness can create ripples that last for many years. Welcome aboard, dear lady.

  30. That is so cool you had a teacher to encourage you. I did, too, and I haven't forgotten them.

    Excellent post - sounds like we both started exercising our imagination around the same time - 5th grade. I will NOT, however, say what year that was for me ;)

  31. Now I'm your newest follower.

    You Brotherhood essay sounded like it may have been a little too sci-fi for the fifth grade judges.

    Good that you were encouraged and kept on writing.

  32. Kind words from teachers can go a long long way! I hope they never forget that!

  33. What a kind thing to pass on. And lucky you to have such a great teacher. I'll try to pass that on. Nice to know your origins.

  34. I love your ending sentiment! We don't know the reaches of our encouraging words.

  35. The person who can tell a good story always has an audience. Not a Japanese or Chinese proverb, just an Arleen attempt at such.

    You have been entertaining people for years and your kindness and encouragement to others always comes through.

  36. In the beginning...Lol! Did you see Alex's blog post today? Great minds think alike, eh? It is so, so true about kind words...yours have made a difference to me. :-) You can hear your passion for writing in this post...beautiful.

  37. It's sad that they let a political agenda get in the way of talent. What a good teacher to still be supportive and encouraging. Today's children are definitely the bright minds of tomorrow.

  38. Marcy- It's too bad all kids don't have at least one terrific teacher to inspire them. Glad you did.

    Mary- You could be right about that. Thanks for coming by, and welcome aboard.

    Laura- What with all of the stress of their jobs, I'm afraid they all forget it from time to time.

    Susan- Yes, it was very kind of him. First male teacher I ever had, and he was also the best.

    L. Diane- You're right. Sometimes we forget how much impact a simple act of kindness can have.

    Arleen- How sweet. I sure wish you lived close enough so we could hang out over a cup of tea.

    Tracy- Yeah, I thought it was pretty funny that Alex and I went for the same start, too. And thank you, dear lady.

    K. Turley- Well, I dunno if it was politics exactly. Kinda, I guess. Thank you for stopping by, and welcome aboard.

  39. You're the second writer in the blogfest who's brilliance kept her from winning an award. The other individual lost before she didn't have a happily-ever-after ending. :P

  40. I think teachers played a big role in encouraging a lot of us to write. I did an American Legion essay too. It was 1969 and I think I may have been writing from the wrong side from their perspective.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  41. I love it. You saw a truth (them vs us mentality) and wrote about it. Good for you! An excellent "origin." I really love how you point out, and in such a lovely way, that we should not hesitate to give words of encouragement. I believe that, too. You have a new follower (me!). I'm looking forward to your future posts. :)

  42. You made me laugh; therefore, I am a new follower! Anyway, what a cool story. Too different - I can see as a kid that may not mean much, but the older we get, the more we crave to be DIFFERENT. To stick out from the crowd. And how cool that you spun tales for your friends! Love it!

  43. Awesome origin story! And I love your writing style!

  44. Hi Susan. Just stopping in as one of the co-hosts, and am now your newest follower. Nice to meet you!

  45. Awww, wow. It's amazing what influence a teacher can have. Cheers to them, and cheers to you.

  46. YAY for Mr. McGrafft! If only our teachers knew how much of an affect they have sometimes! Thank you for sharing your story! :)

  47. Hurrah for Mr. McGrafft! I'm trying to think if I ever gave that sort of encouragement when I was a teacher. I remember shouting at the naughty kids! I hope I did.

    This is an excellent blogfest idea. I missed out on it but I'm so enjoying reading them all and I must say, you were a really cute kid!

  48. I've heard many inspiring stories about teachers on this blogfest. The way I look at it, your essay was just too good to win!

  49. WOW, you should have won that contest! But I bet you freaked everyone out with your intelligence. :)

  50. Stina- Thanks for your sweet spin on it, but I don't think it was "brilliance" as much as an overactive imagination. Thank you so much for stopping by.

    Lee- Yeah, that's it exactly. We were simply writing from the wrong side of their perspective. I like that!

    Intricate- Thanks for the vote of confidence. I appreciate it, and I appreciate you stopping by and signing on as a new follower. Welcome aboard!

    April- Glad I gave you a chuckle, and thank you so much for signing on, dear lady.

    M Pepper- Thank you! Music to my ears. (um ... eyes?)

    Matt- Thank you so much for co-hosting this fun blogfest, and thanks for dropping by and signing up, too. I do appreciate it.

    Carrie- Absolutely! I hope Roz has some great teachers like that, too.

    DL- You're right. If only they knew. Maybe we should all make an effort to track some of them down and tell them. Thanks for hosting this cool fest.

    Rosalind- My money's on you being a very supportive teacher. So, YAY you!

    Botanist- That's a sweet way to look at it. Too good? Nah, more like too weird. But thanks for the effort. I appreciate it, and welcome aboard, dear sir.

    Trisha- Mostly, I freaked out my parents. Thank you so much for stopping by.

  51. HI susan!
    A bit tough to get to 212 people in one day, so I'm sorry for the late Origins blogfest visit. I love how the judges took the time to tell you they loved your essay. And I'm glad you continued writing after that.

    your newest follower,

  52. Nutshell- No need to apologize. You're right about how difficult (Nay! Impossible!) it is trying to hit all of those posts in one day. Thank you so much for stopping by, and welcome aboard. (Love your name!)

  53. I'm late as well, but I just had to comment. That's a great beginning! I love how so many have been inspired by teachers, as well as everyone around them. It tells me that we really need to be supportive, because it can change lives. :)

  54. Hi, Bonnie. It's NEVER too late to stop by here. It's nice to meet you. You're right; we all have the power to change lives, and with a healthy dose of kindness, we can make it a change for the better.

  55. Awh what a sweet story. I love the presentation and the ending picture. Wonderful.

  56. Hi, Madeleine. Thanks so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  57. Hi Susan .. better late than never I guess .. and I so enjoyed the tales you created under your tree - I wonder if the kids remember those days and your stories -

    It's those phrases and words - we wonder why people say them sometimes - but hold onto them .. then they come true -

    We all need to encourage everyone .. great start to your writing life ... cheers Hilary

  58. Hi, Hilary. Hey, it's never too late for friends to drop by. Yeah, I wonder if the other kids remember those stories, too. We were old enough that they should remember the sessions, if not the stories themselves. Cheers to you, too.

  59. Hi Susan - I'm popping in super-late... but you know how difficult it is to get to SOOO many blogs in one day...
    This is an awesome origin post... I'm one of the "late bloomers"... reading was my first love.
    Nice to meet you!
    ... looking forward to reading your A-Z posts...

  60. Hi, Mish. Thanks so much for stopping by. Boy, you sure have a lot of stick-to-it-tiveness, dontcha?) It seems to be a common thread that most of us got interested in writing after falling in love with reading. Kinda nice to realize there are so many of us! And it's nice to meet you, too. Take care.

  61. It makes you realize how important one teacher or one book or series can be. They really do light the spark and inspire us. Thanks for sharing your origins story!

  62. Hi, Jeremy. A single good teacher who cares can make all the difference in the world. Thank you for stopping by, dear sir. Bless your heart, if you're planning to visit every blog involved in the A-Z, you'll be playing catch-up until December! I appreciate your stick-to-it-tiveness.