Unlikely Inspiration: Once Upon a Time

November 24, 2014

You know I love a good life lesson, and I’m not picky about where I pick it up—from my pets, from a tea bag, etc. My latest source? The TV program Once Upon a Time.

If you’re not familiar with it, Once Upon a Time is set in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine. During the first season, we learned that the residents are characters from fairy tales (such as Snow White, Prince Charming, Rumplestiltskin, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and so on) who had been brought to the “real world” and robbed of their memories by a curse cast by the Evil Queen Regina. The townspeople had lived in Storybrooke for 28 years, without being aware of their true identities (or even of their own lack of aging) until a character named Emma Swan broke the curse and restored the residents’ memories. Turns out Emma was the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming who had been sent into the real world as an infant before the curse was cast. Emma is also the birth mother of Henry, adopted son of Regina, and it is Henry who brings Emma to Storybrooke in the first place.

And from there on it only gets more complicated.

At first I didn’t like it that the writers kept adding more and more characters from every possible tale…Dr. Frankenstein made a brief appearance, as did the Mad Hatter and Pinocchio (the newest additions are Anna and Elsa from Frozen.) Once I let go of any possible logic and went with the fantasy flow, I found the show more enjoyable as pure entertainment. And then I began to realize that it actually contained some excellent life lessons. For instance:

Magic has a price. This is most often said by Rumplestiltskin. Characters are always trying to make deals with him and each other to get what they want, often with terrible consequences. For me, this means that shortcuts to what you want come with a cost, usually a high one.

No one is all evil or all good. The backstories of the “evil” characters all feature some type of trauma or tragedy that helps to send them down the wrong path. I’m not excusing them their evil deeds, of course, but it’s a good reminder to condemn actions and have empathy for the people who commit them. Another positive point of the show is that characters are frequently offered the choice to do right or do wrong. To put it simplistically, it’s their choices and actions that make them good or evil. Oddly enough, my favorite character on the show is Regina, the evil queen who cast the curse that started it all. While she’s certainly done more than her share of evil deeds, she’s also been through a great deal of suffering and heartache. She’s also done good things—by all accounts she was a loving mother to Henry, and she’s joined with the other townspeople to fight this season’s new villain. She’s continually being crossed in love, and I really want her to find the happy ending she’s seeking. On the other hand, Snow White, who is mostly pure and good, killed Regina’s evil mother, Cora, thus blackening her own heart just a bit. It’s so easy for us to want everything to be clearly black and white—we forget that people, especially, are not that way.

We must accept ourselves and what we’re capable of. Some of the characters in the show have magic powers, including Emma. Emma has imperfect control over her power, and nearly gave it up. She’s coming to realize that it’s not enough to receive acceptance from others. She also has to accept herself before she can feel truly whole (and control that pesky magic). We often think that we won’t feel good about ourselves until we are accepted by others—but sometimes it’s the other way around. Accepting ourselves for who we are is just as important, if not more so, than receiving acceptance from others.

I admit that I may be the only person who is drawing life lessons from the frothy concoction that is Once Upon a Time. That’s OK with me. I like my life lessons to come to me lightly rather than hammer me over the head. How about you?

Have you found any unlikely sources of inspiration or life lessons lately?


Field Trip Friday: Renninger's Antique and Collector's Extravaganza

November 21, 2014

Last Friday, Laure Ferlita and I rose before the crack of dawn to trek out to Mount Dora, FL, where Renninger’s was hosting an “Antique and Collectors Extravaganza.” This popular 3-day event attracts vendors from all over the country, and many thousands of visitors. We wanted to be there when it opened so we could cover as much ground as possible. 

It was a gray and drizzly day, which kept a few of the more casual buyers away early. By late morning, the sun had come out and by the end of the day, we were glad of the trees shading many of the booths. (Florida may not have traditional seasons, but we like to pack as many weather changes into one day as we can.)

Laure is an experienced Renninger visitor, but it was my first time. I was astonished by the sheer volume of antiques and collectibles—including antique and vintage furniture, art, jewelry, collectible glass, porcelain, sterling silver, architectural pieces and much more. We wandered the aisles, admiring, questioning the wisdom of, laughing, drinking in the sights and sounds, generally filling the inspiration well with a complete change of pace from our usual routine. (We also ate mini donuts—they weren’t beignets, but still pretty tasty! We had to keep our strength up, after all.)

My only purchases were three of these spools:

…and a copy of A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. However, I was mightily tempted by some Beatrix Potter figurines (which I unfortunately did not get a picture of) and hope one day to start a little collection of them.

I did collect a few things that were not things that day, including:
  • Appreciation of some people’s creativity
  • Inspiration to be more creative myself
  • Realization and gratitude that I have nearly all of the “things” I think I need to furnish my home
  • Happy memories of spending time with a good friend
  • Very sore feet!

Altogether, a most satisfactory field trip.

If you had been with us, what would you have been looking for? What do you collect?

See anything you like?


Mosaic Season

November 19, 2014

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.”
—Stanley Horowitz

Always Well Within

Link Love XI

November 14, 2014

Ready for some Web surfing? Grab your wetsuit and dive in!

Read Laura Vanderkam’s suggestions for reclaiming your free time when other people want you to do something for or with them in “When Other People Eat Your Time.”

“What is enough for me?” Jennifer Louden’s post “Conditions of Enoughness, or the Art of Building Your Truer Life,” explains four steps in creating boundaries in your life. Learn to train “the hounds of more”—I love that phrase!

This artist collaborates with her young daughter to create paintings. She says it helps her to “move out of her comfort zone, … relinquish control and think creatively.” How much fun would that be?

Make way for joy and contentment when you discover “The Art of a Distraction Free Life.”

Life lessons from Taylor Swift, via Dani Dipirro of Positively Present. Somewhat to my surprise, several resonated with me.

Calm the stress response with these mantras from Always Well Within.

A recipe for ice—the comments are the best part. 

And if you truly have too much time on your hands, find out what your name would be if you were a cat here. My name would be Doctor Sassy McMittens. So from now on, I expect to be addressed as Doctor. You’re welcome.

Have a happy weekend!

Joe Paddock

Joy in Each Breath

November 12, 2014

Photo courtesy Heri West

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Joe Paddock is a Minnesota poet and he and I are, as we say in the Midwest, “of an age.” Here is a fine poem about arriving at a stage when there can be great joy in accepting life as it comes to us.

One’s Ship Comes In

I swear
my way now will be
to continue without
plan or hope, to accept
the drift of things, to shift
from endless effort
to joy in, say,
that robin, plunging
into the mossy shallows
of my bird bath and
splashing madly till
the air shines with spray.
Joy it will be, say,
in Nancy, pretty in pink
and rumpled T-shirt,
rubbing sleep from her eyes, or
joy even in
just this breathing, free
of fright and clutch, knowing
how one’s ship comes in
with each such breath.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Joe Paddock from his most recent book of poetry, “Dark Dreaming, Global Dimming,” Red Dragonfly Press, 2009. Reprinted by permission of Joe Paddock and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.