Once upon a time … the power of story

 

Alan Rickman

In stories we find our hopes, our dreams, our inspirations, and our fears.  In stories our imaginations take flight as we contemplate ideas never before encountered.  Stories help us figure out the world and our place in it. We come to understand the stories of others and develop compassion and empathy. We find ways of confronting our fears in safety. We escape the ordinariness of the everyday with dreams as much of the impossible as the possible.

The love of reading is gift

Stories can be shared orally, in print, or through a variety of media. All are valid and valuable sources, but sharing the stories presented in books is especially important to the development of young children, and anything that can put books into the hearts and hands of children is to be encouraged. The ability to read is empowering and the love of books is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. Not only can reading change the life of an individual, it can improve the lives of many through education.

This week I read a post by Paul Thomas  on his blog the becoming radical. In this post, entitled “Please—a little less love, and a little more common decency. Paul said,

“If we cannot change the world (and I suspect we can’t), we can provide all children the sorts of environments all children deserve in their school day—environments of kindness, compassion, safety, and challenges.”

I think Paul meant that we can’t change the whole world, that would be a rather daunting task, but the provisions mentioned are vital and change the lives of individuals in important ways, just as reading does. I like to think of changing the world with one thought, one word, one action at a time, or as Mem Fox says, also quoted in my post The magic effect – why children need books,

“. . . let’s get on and change the world, one page at a time.”

malala

Another post I read this week was by Michelle Eastman Calling all Book Lovers and Authors to make a Difference to a Child in Need on her blog Michelle Eastman’s Books. In that post Michelle explains that, last year, she initiated a project “MARCHing books to Kids”. The purpose of this project is to raise awareness of and provide books for children of incarcerated parents. Michelle goes on to say,

“I believe that every child’s Bill of Rights should be indelibly inked with the right to have picture books read to him/her and to own their very own books. “

I agree with her of course and consider her project to be very worthwhile. It reminds me of another very worthwhile program mentioned by Caroline Lodge, who blogs at Book Word, about providing books to prisoners. Both of these projects have the ability to change lives, to empower people and by so doing, change the world, not only their world.

As well as changing lives, stories influence our attitudes. If they encourage feelings of kindness and compassion, as Paul Thomas says, that may be a good thing.  But what of the stereotypes that seem so pervasive? How many stories have you read about princesses in dire circumstances waiting to be rescued by handsome princes or knights in shining armour who must slay a dragon in doing so? What effect do these stories have upon the developing self-image of a young girl or boy? It is important to teach children to think critically about the stories they read, and about the portrayal of characters and their attitudes, especially stereotypes.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

But that is in reading stories. What of writing stories? Writing stories, whether factual accounts or imagined events, is also empowering. In writing stories children, and adults, can express and explore their hopes, dreams, inspirations, and fears.  In writing stories their imaginations take flight as they contemplate ideas never before encountered.  Writing stories helps us figure out the world and our place in it.

In her post Storytelling as Personal Metaphor Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal raised the question of how much of the self is revealed in fiction.

Paula Reed Nancarrow, whose blog tagline is Essays, Stories, Ephemera, talked about working towards an understanding of contentment: what it is and how it is experienced; in her post Enough Already: Exploring the Art of Contentment,

Contentment is something that I too wonder about, and am especially perplexed by the need to push myself into new territory and new learning when others are content to sit back and watch the clouds pass by. Why are there so many things I feel I must do? Pretty soon I’ll be gone and it won’t matter a hoot. I have sometimes thought that if I were to write a fictionalised account of my life I would begin with the words She was an unremarkable woman”.

I have connected these thoughts: about the power of story to change lives, the revelation of self in fiction and the quest for contentment; to write my response to the one who initiated my thinking about stories this week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications with her flash fiction challenge to in 99 words (no more, no less) begin a story with, “Once upon a time …”  I’d love to know what you think.

Contentment

Once upon a time there was an ordinary girl who lived an ordinary life with her ordinary family. She did all the ordinary things that others did and dreamed of nothing else. Each day followed one after the other with little difference. There was no magic. There were no fairies, and there were no dragons to slay. She just did what she had to do and took little notice of others doing the same. Strangely enough she was content for, from somewhere deep within, she knew that this ordinary life was but preparation for the extraordinariness of the next.

Monarch butterfly

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

62 thoughts on “Once upon a time … the power of story

  1. Bec

    What a wonderful post, and so packed full of wonderful thoughts and information. I love that you discuss the empowerment of children in writing their own stories, and the need for children to be critical thinkers too. Although – I must thorough disagree with this: “She was an unremarkable woman”!!!!!!!!! Sorry for not getting to this sooner, it is such a great read.

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  2. Sarah Brentyn

    I absolutely love that Alan Rickman quote. And, as a fairy tale goes, I do love the flash. Though I’m going to have to agree with others, disagreeing with you. I know what you’re trying to say. I DO get it. I’d most definitely write the same about myself. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. But, Norah, you are not ordinary. ❤

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    1. Sarah Brentyn

      Okay. Here it is. Here’s the guest post I was talking about and you wanted to read.
      https://broccoliaddict.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/finding-the-way-to-narnia/
      My point is, in it, I refer to myself as “ordinary”. It’s all in the context. It’s not a bad thing. On the other hand, the word “unremarkable” has negative connotations (at least for me) and that, my lovely friend, is something you are certainly NOT. (Though I must admit, it is a fabulous first line for a children’s or middle grade book.) 😉

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      1. Norah Post author

        Thank you for linking to that most remarkable post, Sarah. I’m sorry I missed it at the time and am grateful to you for sending me over there. C.S. Lewis definitely achieved something extraordinary with those stories. Maybe it’s because they were just ordinary kids. It could happen to any of us, in any wardrobe, on any ordinary day when we’re shut indoors.
        I’m pleased you, the mistress of first lines, thinks my first line of a book to be a good one. 🙂

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    2. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sarah. I wish I had thought to say what Alan Rickman said! 🙂
      Coming from one extraordinary person who refuses to acknowledge her extraordinariness, your words are priceless, and I treasure them. Thank you. 🙂

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  3. Sacha Black

    I sort of don’t know how to respond to this. I am glad you are content. But I have to wholeheartedly disagree. You are not even close to ordinary. So far from it, you don’t even exist on the same planet as ordinary things. You ability, enthusiasm and passion for teaching is extraordinary for a start, thats without your unending ability to provoke thought and draw amazing connections that send our minds wondering… No, Norah Colvin, you are anything but ordinary.

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    1. Norah Post author

      You are so sweet, Sacha. Thank you so much for your wonderful words. Interesting though. You and Sarah had a conversation about the need for affirmation from oneself (internal) or others (external). I think the decision reached was that the internals (like me and many of us writers) is that what we think of ourselves has more sway that anything anyone else says. So, while I really appreciate your words and wish like hell they were true, I still feel pretty ordinary. 🙂 I am pleased that I do provoke some thinking in my readers who in turn provoke more thinking in me! The wondering is extraordinary! 🙂

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  4. Sherri

    Oh Norah, as Jeanne said, there is so much in this post I want to respond to, and I haven’t even read the posts you’ve linked to! But firstly, I have to say I had to do a double take with the darling photo of Bec because when I first scrolled down, I thought how much like my daughter she looked at that age, the same happy face, similar colour hair (warm strawberry blonde), sat at her little table surrounded by her colouring books and crayons. Her favourite activity. After listening to Neil Diamond and then seeing Bec’s beautiful photo, I am tearing up again! How happy your daughter looks. Oh I am feeling so darned sentimental these days, something’s going on. And I saw the wonderful quote from the incomparable Alan Rickman on FB and thought if someone’s going to share it on their blog, it will be and has to be Norah. And here it is. I love the way you lead in week after week to Charli’s excellent flash prompts, tying in your own excellent thoughts and tips and links to resources about education (as opposed to schooling, and how right on you are!) and urging time and again how absolutely vital it is to read to our children. I have to say that reading to mine and those years were some of the happiest I’ve ever had, those moments of sharing the colourful pictures, reading the words, the warmth and snuggliness of those cuddled-up moments, the sweet smell of their heads, the utter contentment of those moments. Oh goodness, I’ll be bawling in a minute! And yes, contentment. There it is. To experience that in every day life, no matter what, well, that is a true gift. Like you, I wonder why I have never been content to just ‘sit back’ and accept things as they are. I too feel there are so many things left to do and I wish I were twenty years younger. But when we have something that pulls us along, urging us to chase our dreams and achieve our goals, perhaps we can be content in that pull, that we are doing what we are called to do and so we are actually content but we just don’t know it. Gosh, I’m rambling like an idiot this morning. And one more thing dear Norah. YOU ARE NOT UNREMARKEABLE. No way. Although I do see you mention a ‘fictionalised account’. So I’ll let you off for that. But if you were to write memoir (that old chestnut again, ha!), you would have to start it with all the acknowledgements from your many students testifiying how much you touched and improved their lives with your caring, compassionate yet highly skilled teaching, as a most wonderful, REMARKEABLE INSPIRATIONAL educator. You have left your mark and continue to do so. Finally, your flash had me right to the end, I didn’t guess it was a caterpillar until I paid attention to the butterfly. Excellent, every thing about this post ❤

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sherri, for your wonderful supportive, encouraging comment. I don’t know where to start with it, you have touched on so many points, when you should have been working on your own memoir; a fact that makes me all the more appreciative.
      Bec does look happy in that photo, doesn’t she? I’m so pleased it reminded you of happy times with your daughter, with her drawings and stories and reading to her. Those times are very special, that’s for sure.
      I think I saw Alan Rickman’s quote on FB (I’m not often on FB, I don’t really get it) on Charli’s timeline and both you and I commented or liked. I’m not sure who this pic belongs to, so I hope it’s okay to use it. It is a great one.
      I like your suggestion of the acknowledgements from students. I have some lovely letters from students, parents and colleagues. They are treasures. When I have a down day I get them out and read them. It makes me realise that perhaps I am not all bad all of the time. I would feel a bit uncomfortable sharing them. I did share one of my blog a few months ago and it sat a bit awkwardly with me, as if it was blowing my own trumpet, but there was a reason for sharing that particular one.
      I think I’m far too wordy. Just don’t seem to tell my story right in 99 words. Not sure if I try to tell too much, or just use too many words. I do appreciate your kind words though. Thank you. 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        I remember you sharing that particular, treasured letter Norah, and how you felt about it at the time. It is very hard ‘blowing our own trumpet’, a part of writing (when the time for marketing comes) I am dreading. I never know what to say when I’m asked what my book is about, or what I’m writing, I sort of mumble and try to deflect the conversation back to the other person! I love your flashes Norah, I really do! I have idea what I’m doing half the time, but one thing I’ve noticed is that when I write them, they seem to bring out my darker, angrier side. Strange…we all have our own ways of letting the writing speak to us and take us along our unique, sometimes difficult, sometimes amazing, paths. You are on yours my friend, and we are all here to support you. Remember, it’s all about the SMAG!!! ❤ My plan is to get back to my memoir next week and I will be doing some serious thinking about how to proceed with blogging. So hard, as I love it so much, darn it! But I will visit you as much as I can, even if not every post, but I will try my very best…because I want to, not because I feel I must 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend my friend…hugs and smiles to you 🙂 xo

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you my SMAG friend! It’s funny that you say your flashes bring out your darker, angrier side, for there was often a lot of humour in them too. I guess humour helps us cope with a full range of emotions; helps disguise them at times too.
          I know what you mean about how to describe your work. I also found it difficult to describe what I do. People just seem to want to know what you do for an employer, what ‘real’ job you do. I hit upon a solution last week. I have decided I am self-employed three days a week and work for an employer two days. You are a writer. You write a blog, and you write memoir. Be proud of it. I think sometimes we just need to find confidence in the words we use to describe our work to others. Be confident. You are doing your bit to make our world a better place! 🙂

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          1. Sherri

            I’m glad you pick up on the humour too Norah…I know it’s a bit tongue in cheek but you’re so right about it helping to deflect from other, more difficult emotions 😉 Well done for your solution! It’s great to be able feel sure about what to say when others ask. I always dread it when I’m asked the inevitable ‘So what do you do?’ I do at least now say that I’m a writer (took me ages to say that), but then the next question is the kicker: ‘Oh yes, what do you write?’ Arrrrrrggghhh!!!! Confidence (why won’t it let me spell it right with the ‘f’, same with ‘deflect’ – it keeps taking the ‘f’ out but I can type it seperately…and it came out as ‘lashes’ on your reply too…what the heck???? ) is key. I shall remember that and be proud of what I do. As must you my friend. We can only do our best with the resources and abilities we have, and at least we are doing our utmost to achieve our goals! And hey, we have SMAG, so we’re on a roll 😀 I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend, I’ll see you soon dear Norah 🙂 ❤

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            1. Norah Post author

              Were we talking about lashes of flashes? Have you told it that no f words are acceptable? I like the ones you have used: confidence and deflect. Now we just need to work on your response. “I am a writer”. “Oh what do you write?” “I write a blog, and flash fiction, but mainly I am writing my memoir because my story is one that … (put in your own words) provides hope, inspiration, support for others who … and I need to do it. I have hundreds of readers eagerly waiting to read it!” 🙂

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              1. Sherri

                Haha…I’m reminded of a Spongebob Squarepants episode, where Spongebob warns Patrick that they might get forty lashes and Patrick imagines in his thought bubble an eye lid fitted with forty, black fake eye lashes. Always made me laugh that, back in the day 😀 Those f words had me baffled that day Norah, ha! But seriously yes, thank you so much, I love your idea here. I think I should memorise it, write it on the back of my hand or something! You’ve made my day with this…maybe now I won’t sound so garbled when I struggle for a response! And I love the idea of hundreds of readers eagerly waiting to read my memoir…I love your optimism. I can think of one or two 😉 Have a great week my friend, I’ll catch up with you soon! xx

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                1. Norah Post author

                  Well my “one or two” girl, just go back through all of your wonderful readers who have said they are waiting to read your book. Take that number and multiple it by any number you like. There are far more than one or two! Indeed! 🙂
                  You know I have never seen an episode of Spongebob. I really don’t like his name at all and he doesn’t sound very exciting. Am I missing something? Should I rectify it?
                  Have a good week. Keep chipping away at that memoir and that job description. 🙂

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                  1. Sherri

                    Haha…thanks Norah! That’s really kind 🙂 Sorry I’ve taken so long to reply, I disappeared last week from blogging and social media in general. Not intended, just had to fight for every moment and they didn’t arrive! Hoping to attempt to get back on track this week, albeit it slowly. But you’ll be pleased to know I am geared up to get back to work on my memoir 🙂 I also met two writing deadlines by the seat of my pants, as per…but I got there!!!!! Well, what can I say about Spongebob? It’s been a long while since I watched it myself, when my daughter was younger, but as silly as it is, it did used to make me laugh out loud. I think I’m quite childish at times, lol 😀 I don’t think you’re missing much Norah, so I wouldn’t worry 😉 I hope you had a lovely weekend, and a great week ahead. I will be over (I hope I haven’t missed anything about your site launch) and catch up over at the Ranch too. Oh…and I’ll keep working on that job description too…I promise! 🙂 xx

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                    1. Norah Post author

                      Thank you, Sherri. Now it’s my turn to apologise for my tardiness in responding. I’ve had a few other distractions the past couple of weeks as well so have not been able to keep up with anyone’s posts, sadly.
                      I’m pleased to hear that you met a couple deadlines (without dying in the process!) and that you are getting back on track with your memoir.
                      It is wonderful to have things that make you laugh out loud. One can’t do enough of that! I’m just a six year old at heart so I’m sure we’d have a good chuckle at SpongeBob together!
                      You haven’t missed anything about my launch. I am very disappointed with the people who made big promises and haven’t followed through. I’ve been drafting a letter today to let them know what I think. I’d rather have a paper trail than a phone call gone wrong. It’s not easy to draft though. It’s a real test. I’d much rather not be doing it.
                      I’m looking forward to reading your job description. Sometimes all these additional tasks seem a bit overwhelming. Breathe. One step, one word, one letter at a time. We’ll do it! 🙂 xx

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                    2. Sherri

                      Oh Norah, I am so very sorry that you’ve been let down. Darn it all, I wish there was something I could do. Having to draft a letter like that is so hard, but as you say, much better to have a paper trail at times like these. Oh maybe you should watch some Spongebob now, it might help take your mind off things 😉 Seriously though, trying times like this take us away from the very things we really want to do and therein lies the frustration. I’m sending you a huge hug and hoping you are okay. I’m here, we’re all here, and boy do I understand how challenging it can be. Hang in there my dear friend, you will do it and so will I, by hook or by crook!! I hope this makes you laugh 🙂 xx

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                    3. Norah Post author

                      Thanks for the smiles, Sherri. Forty lashes! I could do with a few of those myself (Patrick’s kind, that is!)
                      I wrote the email, but didn’t send it. Finally phoned the owner yesterday. He was very apologetic. We’ll see what happens now. I explained that all it would have taken was a bit of communication. I didn’t threaten forty lashes! Yes, my dear, we will get there – hopefully not by crook, in any of its definitions! 🙂

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  5. jeanne229

    There is so much to respond to in your posts Norah. I could spend all day pondering your points and clicking on your links to delve in further. Your flash was extraordinary, the way you turned the whole idea of the wondrous fairy tale ending around…and somehow showed, too, the value of the ordinary life, which is the unheralded reality for most of us. I know several young people that have squandered years dreaming of unwarranted fame, with no thought to the HARD WORK that goes into whatever talent leads to it, no passion for any particular calling. Such a fool’s errand when the real riches are all around us for the taking–BOOKS. Treasure troves of books! I used to quote Heraclitus often to my kids: “Asses prefer garbage to gold.” Our charge with the young is to help them distinguish early on what the gold really is. Really loved the discussion here, too, with Pauline and Anne and others. What a great forum you have created.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Jeanne, Thank you so much for visiting and adding to the value of the post with the richness of your comment. I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash and were able to draw from it messages of inspiration to others. Books and stories are indeed a treasure, and one that we need to make available for all without limit. Distinguishing the real gold from the fool’s gold – now there’s a task, but it is an important one to learn.
      The discussion is wonderful. I very much appreciate the contribution of others. Thank you very much for joining in. 🙂

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  6. stuckinscared

    Another great post Norah. I don’t know where I’d be without ‘Once-Upon-a-Time’, or where I’d have been as a child. Or, where my Littlie would be now.
    What if. What if Caterpillar had taken a moment in the ordinary to…imagine. There’s magic in the ordinary (fairies too… Littlie and I have seen them 😉 )

    I enjoyed your flash… Got me thinking, about the difference between ‘Contentment’ (of peace, satisfaction, acceptance) and ‘Happiness’ (of Butterfly-Tummies, magical-moments, desiring-more).
    What if. What if we all took a leaf from Caterpillars book.

    How wonderful it would be if we could all have both. Happiness-and-contentment… in the ordinary.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you very much for the encouragement of your comment, Kimmie. I don’t know where any of us would be without “Once upon a time…” Stories are just so wonderful, aren’t they?
      I appreciate your comparison of contentment and happiness, and absolutely love the poetry of your suggestion: “What if we all took a leaf from Caterpillar’s book.” I think that would make an awesome inspirational message. I can see the words on a picture of a caterpillar on a leaf. Gorgeous!
      I wish you both happiness and contentment – in the ordinary, and in the extraordinary that is you every day! 🙂

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  7. Pingback: Once Upon a Time « Carrot Ranch Communications

  8. TanGental

    You do bring out the best thoughts, Norah. And as I read down so many commentators add a richness, Anne and Pauline especially. I’m certainly of Pauline’s school of contentment – it s down to you to create your content environment. One aspect that I have embraced that has enhanced my contentment is in ensuring I don’t feel the need for praise or thanks. I will happily do what may be perceived to be a good deed but I go out of my way to fix my mindset on not wanting anything back; no thanks, no praise, not even any acknowledgement. I accept my charity is selfish. I do whatever I do because that makes me feels good. No one else needs to endorse or validate that for me to feel the worth. Indeed I have had offers of help thrown back at me. Why not? If they haven’t asked for help why shouldn’t they reject my advances? I wasn’t always of such a mind but now I can continue to do what I want to do and my thanks is my own sense of self. This then goes for any aspect of life from the humdrum of doing the cooking or cleaning to picking up someone to the grander projects. All this from once upon a time. Sorry, I seem to be talking about me again. Thank you for the stimulating post. As per!!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much, Geoff. I really appreciate your comment, and your sharing yourself so openly and honestly. All of this from “Once up a time …” Actually, I agree with you. I prefer to do my giving anonymously. I don’t see it as something to brag about. I do it to help others, not for thanks or recognition. The idea for this came from reading a book about 35 years ago. I think it was “The Devil’s Advocate” by Morris West, but I can’t be sure. The suggestion had some similarities to karma. Which ever book it was, I thought it was a great idea and have practised it ever since. Not that I do all that much worth bragging about really, but I do what I can. Perhaps contentment does come down to creating one’s own content environment, or maybe content frame of mind? Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  9. macjam47

    A wonderful post, Norah. I especially liked “The ability to read is empowering and the love of books is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child.” This statement resonates with me. I totally embrace every word of it.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Michelle. And isn’t it great to see it handed down to the next generation. My six year old grandson was over this morning.I can’t remember what exactly we were talking about at the time, but he said, “That makes me think of a story. Everything makes me think of a story.” His words brought joy to my heart. Not only a reader but a writer too. 🙂

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  10. katespencer17

    I can’t agree with you more that the love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child. I liked your flash about the ordinary girl living an ordinary life. It made me think of one of my favorite quotes about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
    “Do not ask your children
    to strive for extraordinary lives.
    Such striving may seem admirable,
    but it is the way of foolishness.
    Help them instead to find the wonder
    and the marvel of an ordinary life.
    Show them the joy of tasting
    tomatoes, apples and pears.
    Show them how to cry
    when pets and people die.
    Show them the infinite pleasure
    in the touch of a hand.
    And make the ordinary come alive for them.
    The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
    ― William Martin,

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    1. Norah Post author

      That is a beautiful quote, Kate. Thank you for sharing it. I’m pleased my story made you think of it. 🙂 It’s tone reminds be a little of what Kahlil Gibran wrote of children. I’m not aware of William Martin and just googled the name. Is he the one who wrote The Parent’s Tao Te Ching? Is this quote from it?

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      1. katespencer17

        Yes, William Martin is the one who wrote The Parent’s Tao Te Ching. When we are babies, we instinctively know how to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. We lose that spark so soon – so soon that even as parents we need to start re-teaching it to our children. The good thing about that is that we get to re-teach it to ourselves as well.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks for that, Kate. I may have to check out Martin’s book.
          I know what you mean about children’s appreciation of the extraordinary in what we older people have come to consider ordinary. It takes the wonder of children to open our hearts and minds again to the extraordinary in everything around us. I know my children did that for me, and I am very grateful. 🙂

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  11. Allison Maruska

    Great post. I love Rickman’s quote. And sadly, at least where I live, people who brag about being non-readers are eagerly electing those idiots to govern us.
    Your little flash piece is lovely. I cherish that sense of “something big on the horizon” – that what we do today may seem insignificant but is really preparing for the next chapter.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for popping over, Allison. I can’t comprehend that being a non-reader is something to brag about. It just doesn’t make sense. I guess we all try to justify our own positions, otherwise we may find it difficult to live with ourselves.
      Thanks for your kind words about the flash. We may never know the importance of today’s (seemingly) insignificant actions. Thank you for pointing that out.

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  12. Lisa Reiter

    I could take this flash a number of ways but love the notion that it’s a caterpillar preparing for the butterfly stage. It could be any of us on a self-improvement path too – learning to be happy with the smallest things which in turn leads onto a better life.
    Anyway, last-minute as ever, I’m still working on my own flash so I’d better sprout wings and fly on! Lxx

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  13. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I’m glad I made it over this week Norah as I think this is one of my favourite posts of yours. I loved the Rickman quote.There is so much in this that I don’t know where to start so I will come back when I am not so tired. Your flash is perfect though I didn’t get it was a caterpillar. A perfect metaphor possibly for our own life. Who knows what comes after.

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  14. Annecdotist

    Love the SMAGiness (thanks for the mention), the celebration of story, the lovely picture of lovely Bec and especially the flash (apart from the final line which conflict so strongly with my beliefs it stopped me in my tracks).
    But I’m so glad you picked up on the value of ordinary – it’s something I’ve been thinking about since Paula’s post. There’s a real skill in not needing to be “special” which doesn’t necessarily mean stagnating. It makes me think of how sad it is when a lot of young people seem to want to be famous, without any sense of what they want to be famous for.
    Anyway, I don’t think you are unremarkable: not only are you continually questioning and learning, you’re such an advocate for young children. It’s only chance that you’re not the person giving the TED talks you often share. Whether or not you’re able to make a difference (and I think you certainly do), you are using what power you have to contribute to the good.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely words of encouragement, Anne. I wonder how you would have ended the flash. It could have a religious interpretation to some, I suppose, and I’m assuming that is how it conflicts with your beliefs, and possibly mine. My jury is still out on that one. However I wasn’t thinking of a human girl, I was thinking of a caterpillar girl. Hence the photo of the butterfly at the end. I initially had thoughts of a story about a caterpillar who dreamed of flying when everyone else around was content to just munch on the leaves (a bit like JLSeagull in retrospect). However I realised it didn’t really work as all of them would end up flying (unless they suffered a tragic demise in the meantime) whether they wished for it or not. So I made it that they were all ordinary in this life but beautiful in the next – not really a next life, really just an iteration. Now that was longer than 100 words! 🙂
      Unfortunately that need to be “special” that we see so much of in the media, the irresponsibility and the recklessness, is not really representative of most young people, I think. Most young people that I have anything to do with are rather lovely, responsible caring citizens doing their bit to make a positive difference in the world. They, like me, just get on and do what we believe without needing the 5 seconds of fame. I would have had to work a lot harder (or smarter) to be the person giving the TED talks! But thank you for saying so. 🙂

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      1. Annecdotist

        I stand corrected! I just thought the butterfly was a jolly illustration – or perhaps I just wanted it to be in praise of ordinary life. Fascinating what we see and don’t see even in such concise pieces.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Sorry, I wasn’t meaning to correct you. I understood your interpretation. I like to be a bit obscure to allow for a variety of interpretations if I can. My choice of the word “girl” was problematic and would have pushed you in that direction. I didn’t want to use caterpillar for I felt it would have made what I was thinking obvious also, as would have my initial title “Metamorphosis”. Do you have a suggestion for an alternative more suitable word?

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          1. Annecdotist

            Of course, I know that you of all people will leave me free to make up my own mind! Though I must confess, that sometimes there is a gap between my reading of the post and commenting, and sometimes my own stuff comes into that gap to confuse things.
            But no, though the title certainly fits, I don’t think it would have worked for me that way either, although I might have better understood what you were getting at. But I really loved that you were writing a story in praise of ordinary (or so I thought), I liked the idea of not needing a happy ending.

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            1. Norah Post author

              Thanks for your further comment, Anne. You are definitely free to make up your own mind! 🙂 I know what you mean about the gap and confusion. I suffer from quite a bit of that myself. I was writing in praise of the ordinary, but I thought to end a story with “She died. The end.” Was a bit flat. Maybe a bit too real, for a once upon a time … 🙂

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  15. lucciagray

    I agree that stories and a love of reading are the greatest gifts we can give children. I wouldn’t be who I am if it hadn’t been given to me! Lovely flash. Hard to tell a once upon a time story in 100 words!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Luccia. Being without books in one’s life doesn’t bear thinking about does it?
      It is very difficult to tell a once upon a time story in 100 words! Particularly when you repeat a few, as I did. 🙂

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  16. thecontentedcrafter

    Hi there Norah, another interesting post that sparks another whole conversational thread going…………. As an active pursuer of contentment I have to say it is not easy and it certainly doesn’t mean sitting around doing nothing and watching everyone else get on with it – whatever ‘it’ is. For me living a contented life means I am taking full responsibility for all that goes well or ill in my world. I work hard to keep my thoughts positive, my words positive and to put my money where my mouth is. I do not expect anyone else to fix anything for me or on my behalf.

    I accept that the world has areas of bleakness and inhospitality and angst and depression. I see that the world is run by people who ought not be in charge, and that corporations, money and personal greed ordain wars, power and corruption in all countries.

    However I also see that there are good people in the world who do good things and who try their best to live honourable lives. We don’t hear about them as they are not ‘newsworthy’ but they are there in their thousands and millions. So I take no notice of the ‘news’ or the latest scandal and I don’t listen to fear based information. I do this because it is my experience that where I place my attention is what I get more of. And I want a more positive and hopeful world.

    All these things help me to attain a level of personal contentment and inner peace that I must strive anew every day to build and hold. I still get angry and annoyed at stupidity and selfishness and greed – but really, I can’t change anyone else, I can only change me, and feeling angry and annoyed makes me feel bad and I don’t want to feel bad – I’m no good to myself or anyone else when I feel unhappy. So I avoid it.

    Does any of this make sense?

    One day I’d love to talk to you about fairy tales.

    You can delete part or all of this comment if you wish 🙂 xo

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    1. Norah Post author

      I love your definition of contentment, Pauline. I don’t think I had ever thought of it in that way. I think it is also doing what one loves to do, and chooses to do. I am contented when I am pushing my boundaries and learning new things. I get frustrated if I have to sit still for too long (metaphorically, I’m not referring to physical movement). However there are times when other expectations are placed on my time, ones that I accept are unavoidable, and may wish to do, if only I didn’t want to do other things too. To cope with this I became very practiced at the art of being in the present moment, not wishing I was anywhere else. For me, that’s the secret.
      I agree with you about taking responsibility for your life, what’s good and what’s bad. I also love your choice to be positive. A word I discovered last year is “meliorism”. I love it. It means a belief that things are improving, and can be improved by human engagement. Listening to the negativity that is a constant in the news doesn’t help things. Most of it I cannot change, so I focus on what I can. I’m with you in wanting a more hopeful and peaceful world.
      Your paragraph about change reminds me of the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror”. The self is the best place to start with any change.
      All of your comment makes sense. I won’t delete a word of it. It is wonderful to meet someone who shares similar thoughts, beliefs and practices.
      I’m ready for that fairy tale discussion any time you are!
      Thanks for being a part of SMAG! http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-sA

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      1. Thom Hickey

        Thanks for these wise words Norah. I know that in my life reading has opened up so much imaginative territory immeasurably enriching my life. All lives are both ordinary and extraordinary and it’s through story we recognise the wonder of this.

        You might enjoy the immortal jukebox post on this theme http://wp.me/p4pE0N-3M

        Regards

        Thom.

        Liked by 1 person

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks for reading and sharing, Thom. I enjoyed reading your post and appreciate that you linked to it in your comment. Story is certainly a powerful way of enriching our lives.

          Liked by 1 person

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