Sunday, April 22, 2012


Vada Sultenfuss is an 11 year old who is obsessed with death. Her mother is dead, and her father runs a funeral parlor. She is also in love with her English teacher. This movie stars Anne Chlumsky, Macaulay Culkin, Dan Akroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis. My Girl came out in 1991 and was a very cute movie in my opinion. A good story and well played. In 1994 it was followed up with My Girl 2. Same cast of characters and a new plot. Vada Sultenfuss has a holiday coming up, and an assignment: to do an essay on someone she admires and has never met. She decides she wants to do an assignment on her mother, but quickly realizes she knows very little about her.
I couldn't tell you how the movie ends, because unlike the first one, I really cannot recall if I actually watched the entire thing. It was most likely a few years later on television that I watched it. The first one I saw fairly soon after, but not the second. I probably did get through it all and it just wasn't memorable enough for me, but I know this one scene struck a cord. Vada discovers that her mother, before marriage to her dad, was a fairly high spirited, charismatic, and talented individual. A lot of this information is recovered through stories from her Uncle, old home-made movies, articles and postings on her acting. Vada was very impressed, but also a little saddened. Did marrying her dad mean the sacrifice of a great career?
(Gotta tell ya, my creative imagination may be filling in some blanks here)
So it was this little part of the movie (I'm sure still cute) that made me think about keeping track of all my artistic accomplishments. It didn't really dawn on me at the time of watching it but I do think about it every time I frame and hang something in my office.

I sit here today and I look around at the framed photos of my book covers. (Even the third one which I have not released yet) Some of my published short stories, my articles for non-profits, the cover of an anthology I contributed a story too, my dissertation. There are framed shots from my first book launch and the profile piece that was written on me and my book. I have three graduate diplomas on my wall. Two drawings from my school years in Graphic design. I have two portfolios, a large one and a smaller binder that is more easier to carry around.
I know the facts: I'm not a best selling author and I never made any head way in a long ago attempt to build a career in Graphic Design. But I'm proud of what I've done and I smile at these things around me, knowing that, in time, I'll only be adding or changing to better accomplishments. As I continue to look, I also begin to realize all the things in between.

I've fulfilled the things Vada was searching for from her mom. You can tell some of the big things I've done just by entering my office. Nothing is hidden, things are not stored away. But I've also accomplished, and continue to accomplish, what Vada's Uncle told to her after her questioning the dramatic change from the charismatic actress to the pregnant mom.

I have quite a few books on my self that have not only given me joy to read, but have fueled my imagination. Some of these books are from my childhood (The Hardy Boys and the Famous Five) and bring great memories. Some have led to great conversations and offered inspiration. I look at my self and I immediately think of one that has led to friendship. I look further and see the photos of family and friends. I see a box were I have all my comic books that were collected and discussed when I was in my mid teens. On my window sill sits a model airplane I put together when I was a kid. I have an enlarged photo of my dad when he worked in insurance, standing at a table with a bunch of toy trucks, about to make a presentation to a group of kids.
These things, and much more, are accomplishments as well. Ultimately, and kinda sadly, not the first things that always come to mind when we hear the word "accomplishment", but perhaps the most important.

I think we should all have two lists that boast our accomplishment. The resume we're all used to throwing around that shows off our education and work experience, maybe even our volunteer duties, and one that fills our soul. My writing, my work and my volunteering do do that, but I could also add:
Being a son to wonderful parents
Getting along with my sibling
Being a fun Uncle
Reading a book to a child
Writing a letter or sending an email that makes someone smile
Writing a blog post and sharing it

The definition of Accomplishment: anything accomplished; deed; achievement: a career measured in a series of small accomplishments. But let's not forget to add: fulfillment: the accomplishment of our desires. And I'd like to propose: the enjoyment of our soul when shared with others; by any means.

I think the point the movie was trying to convey to us (or at least that one little scene I remember) that it was having a good marriage and giving birth to Vada that was her mom's proudest moment and best accomplishment; not those other things.

So we should keep track and be proud of those resume accomplishments, but we should also not forget about those soul-filling ones either.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Where The Lions Are!

So when I was in my mid teens I remember taking a vacation with my mom and my sister to go visit my Uncle and his wife in the Turks & Caicos islands. That first evening there news had come in that one of my Uncle's business partners, a friend, and a well known, friendly guy around the island, had been in a car accident. He wasn't killed but was seriously injured and hospitalized. His family were a wreck, scared not only for the man himself, but for the fact that his injury would most likely become a long term, if not life sustaining, disability that would seriously create problems or even end his career. There would be physical ailments to be dealt with, a heap of financial difficulties would be presented, and ultimately a downward lifestyle change would take place.
What I was amazed at was the large number of people that came together and lent a hand during and after this crisis. It was only a vacation that I was on so eventually my family and I left the island, but through my Uncle we got updates about all the love and support given to this person and his family.
22,500 people live on Providencialis today. (the island of the group that we were on) I'm sure it wasn't quite as high almost 20 plus years ago, and I know it wasn't every single person on the island, but it was pretty awe inspiring to see people come together like that.

Here we are in the year 2012 and I listen to the news and read all these stories about crime, illness, poverty, and how people are alone. I understand that we shouldn't always believe what we hear or read in the media, but I've seen with my own eyes how cruel people can be to one another; friends, even family, that can turn and walk away over misunderstanding or fear because of egos or possibly illness. Just walk around the streets of Toronto and lay witness to all of the homeless or drug/alcohol addicted people..... a lot of which comes from being alone. Just thinking about this stuff can be very depressing and make one to give up or not want to care anymore! Life can be, and is in a lot of ways, very lonely and sad. It is a fact that we can't avoid and even if some or all of these things have not plagued our lives, we cannot ignore those that it has.

But there is hope, and more than I think we realize. I could say there is a balance between good and bad, but I don't think there is. I think (or at least I like to believe) that the scales are tipped in our favor. I believe the biggest disadvantage we often face, you, me, all of us, is that we give too much focus to the negative. I'm not saying life doesn't truly suck at times. Car accidents or being diagnosed with Cancer aren't made up. But saying things like: "I'm alone", "I can't do this", "My life is over" aren't just words, they're unhealthy words.
It is unfortunate that we cannot prevent a lot of the bad things that happen in the world, from earthquakes, floods and tornadoes all the way down to personal traumas such as the brain injury that my mother sustained or the car accident that affected the guy in Turks & Caicos. Things happen, mistakes, accidents, illness or disease; it's life. But it is what happens afterwards that counts and tips the scales.

People (lions) band together and stretch out hands. We work in tandem and overcome life's challenges and disasters. I believe there are more open arms and kind hearts out there than get acknowledged. I think about that Turks & Caicos story I told above, I start to think of some others like it, (I'm sure if you think about it you know some stories like that too) and my saying I believe it, changes to I know it. The words become "We are not alone", "We can do this", "We can build a good life". Because We are together in this. We tend to be fighting the same, or similar, battles. The Lions are out there, in more places than not. We just need to look for and accept them.