Mr. Rogers’ Spirit Lives On

I suspect that most people simply want to be liked just the way they are.

Due to my recent autism diagnosis, I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about acceptance and the lack thereof. It is very comforting to finally understand why it is that I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole, but that knowledge does not render me less square-ish or peg-ish to those around me. It just means that I’m finally able to comprehend why so many people get impatient or irritated with me or confused by me. I have a tendency to be rather polarizing, but that doesn’t mean I’m broken. I’m just different.

Birds of a feather like to flock together. My feathers are beautiful, but they screech, “I am not part of your flock!” and that causes most of the other birds to take flight, leaving me standing alone and befuddled in an empty marsh. Oh well. More crustaceans for me, then.

No wonder I was so emotionally drawn to Mr. Rogers and his wonderful neighborhood. He told me he liked me just the way I was. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. But that kind of unconditional acceptance is elusive. I’ll never understand why.

I suspect that most people simply want to be liked just the way they are, but very few people take the time or make the effort to say that very thing to others. It’s like we all know what the most precious gift in the world is, and yet we withhold it. Fred Rogers’ calling was to remind all of us that this kind of acceptance is possible. Even 20 years after his passing, his legacy lives on.

Recently, a friend shared a story that she had seen on Facebook that showed what a lasting impact Mr. Rogers and his acceptance has had on the world. With her permission (Thanks, Jenny!), I’ll share it here.

“A good portion of my pro-bono work is defending abused children. It’s a cause close to my heart. In the course of my work I met a man who was an adult survivor. You wouldn’t have known it looking at him. He was this gigantic Polynesian guy. Wild curly hair. I think of him every time I see Khal Drogo on GoT. He was counseling some of the little kids, and doing a fantastic job of it.

“I visited his home to get his opinion on something and I noticed a little toy on his desk. It was Trolley. Naturally curious, I asked him about it. This is what he told me:

“’The most dangerous time for me was in the afternoon when my mother got tired and irritable. Like clockwork. Now, she liked to beat me in discreet places so my father wouldn’t see the bruises. That particular day she went for the legs. Not uncommon for her. I was knocked down and couldn’t get back up. Also not uncommon. She gave me one last kick, the one I had come to learn meant ‘I’m done now’. Then she left me there upstairs, face in the carpet, alone. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. So I dragged myself, arm over arm, to the television, climbed up the tv cabinet and turned on the TV.

“’And there was Mr. Rogers. It was the end of the show and he was having a quiet, calm conversation with those hundreds of kids. In that moment, he seemed to look me in the eye when he said ‘And I like you just for being you’. In that moment, it was like he was reaching across time and space to say these words to me when I needed them most.

“’It was like the hand of God, if you’re into that kind of thing. It hit me in the soul. I was a miserable little kid. I was sure I was a horrible person. I was sure I deserved every last moment of abuse, every blow, every bad name. I was sure I earned it, sure I didn’t deserve better. I *knew* all of these things … until that moment. If this man, who I hadn’t even met, liked me just for being me, then I couldn’t be all bad. Then maybe someone could love me, even if it wasn’t my mom.

“’It gave me hope. If that nice man liked me, then I wasn’t a monster. I was worth fighting for. From that day on, his words were like a secret fortress in my heart. No matter how broken I was, no matter how much it hurt or what was done to me, I could remember his words, get back on my feet, and go on for another day.

“’That’s why I keep Trolley there. To remind me that, no matter how terrible things look, someone who had never met me liked me just for being me, and that makes even the worst day worth it to me. I know how stupid it sounds, but Mr. Rogers saved my life.’

“The next time I saw him, he was talking to one of my little clients. When they were done with their session, he helped her out of her chair, took both of her hands, looked her in the eyes and said: ‘And remember, I like you just for being you.’

“That, to me, is Mr. Rogers’ most powerful legacy. All of the little lives he changed and made better with simple and sincere words of love and kindness.”

Author Unknown

That’s heartwarming, just as Fred Rogers was. He inspired me to write several blog posts about him. Fred Rogers Was My Father is all about the safe place he provided me in my chaotic childhood. In Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I described the political backlash about him that I’m glad he didn’t live to see, and also talked about an amazing documentary that had recently come out about him, which I highly recommend. What Would Fred Rogers Think? is about the movie about him that stars Tom Hanks, who, it turns out, is actually Fred Rogers’ 6th cousin in real life. (Why doesn’t that surprise me?) In that post I also wonder whether Mr. Rogers would be proud of the adult I’ve become. I hope so.

Even in the throes of great pain due to the stomach cancer that ultimately took his life, Fred Rogers took the time to leave us one last message, which you can see here. When he recorded it, he knew he was saying goodbye to all of us for the final time, and he made a point to say, as he so often did, “I’m proud of you,” and “I like you just the way you are.” The very last thing he said to us all in that very last message was, “It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.”

That chokes me up every time.

I think the world would be a much better place if we all took the time to really see people and accept them for who they are, and make a point of telling them so. Fred Rogers embodied that philosophy, and it’s wonderful to see so many people out there who are trying to share that love and wisdom with today’s children. It is something we all need, and we each have it within us to provide that comfort to others, if only we’d take the time.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!


The Mere Existence of This Makes My Life Complete

Three Cheers for Drag Queen Story Hour!

Every once in a while, I stumble upon a story that makes me feel better about humanity. Such gifts may be few and far between these days, but they still fill me with joy. It’s good to know that there are decent, intelligent, caring people on this planet who are doing their best to make the world a better place. I particularly enjoy these people when they come up with creative, innovative, and even controversial ways to have a positive impact.

An interview I heard recently on CBC Radio (listen for yourself here) had me grinning from ear to ear on my long commute home the other night. Tom Power interviewed Lil Miss Hot Mess, a fabulously charismatic drag queen, about her latest children’s book, If You’re a Drag Queen and You Know It.

That alone would have been enough to make me happy, but during her interview, she also mentioned an organization that she is a part of called Drag Queen Story Hour. It’s a nonprofit organization that is, as their website explains, “drag queens reading stories to children in libraries, schools, and bookstores. DQSH captures the imagination and play of the gender fluidity of childhood and gives kids glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models. In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress up is real.”

I was surprised there was not a chapter of this organization here in Seattle. Seattle is usually on the cutting edge when it comes to being inclusive. And I for one would move heaven and earth to attend a Drag Queen Story Hour. I think it would be a delight.

Of course there has been pushback from conservatives who can’t get past the stupid notion that the entire LGBTQ community was put on this earth solely to prey on children and create more “members”. Ignorance like that is the very reason we need such story hours. If your children are so easily influenced that they spend the rest of their lives acting contrary to their natural tendencies, whatever those may be, then those kids have much worse problems than those that even the most evil Drag Queen Story Hour from hell could bring out.

These events are not about grooming. They’re about teaching children that there are all kinds of people in this world, as will always be the case, and it’s better to approach those who differ from us with kindness and love rather than hostility and hate if we are to have a happy, healthy society. It’s about teaching them that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to like pink or enjoy sequins or be interested in things that other kids might not be interested in. If you want to be a rocket scientist, go for it! If you want to see what it’s like to paint your toenails, go for it! If your creativity is unlike that of your siblings, that’s fine, too. And, above all else, being mean to someone who is different means that you’re a bully, and that’s not good. Own your hair! Love your freckles! Be who you are! If you like wearing knee socks with sandals and shorts… Well, okay, that’s a bridge too far, but you get the idea.

In this turbulent, hate-filled age that we find ourselves in, it’s important that we teach our children to be comfortable in their own skin and remind them that they should allow other people to be comfortable in theirs as well. I’m here to tell you, every child feels, on some level, that they don’t fit in. Too short, too tall, too thin, too fat, too queer, too straight, too nerdy, and never, ever cool enough. That’s heartbreaking.

I, for one, long for the day when there is no “in” in which we are all expected to “fit”. Wouldn’t that be a freakin’ relief? Imagine a world where everybody minded their own business and didn’t judge or bully others. I’d love to no longer have to put up with the constant pressure to change who I am. We should all feel like we’re enough. None of us should have to walk around feeling flawed or broken. We should be loved for who we are.

So I say, three cheers for Drag Queen Story Hour! I’m going to try to get the Drag Queens in our area to start a chapter! I’d be their biggest fan.


In other news:

On this day in 1969, the police once again raided New York’s Stonewall Inn, and its patrons had finally had enough. On this day in 1970, the first Pride Parade was held in that same city. Today, take a moment to remember how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go. Happy Pride!

Incidentally, I’m adding Lil Miss Hot Mess’ books to my Amazon wish list called Children’s Books for Clark Lake Park Little Free Library, so if the spirit moves you, review that diverse list and purchase one or more of the books that you’ll find there for the library! Thank you!

I wrote an actual book, too, and you can own it! How cool is that?

Meeting Me Where I Live

Its such a relief to meet someone who understands me.

For most of my life, I’ve felt like an oddball. An outsider. A square peg in a round hole.

Perhaps that’s because I was uprooted from New England at age 10, and plopped smack dab in the middle of the rural south. In a tent. Or maybe it was because I was liberal in a red state for 40 years. I was also a girl who never wore make up, and preferred tonka trucks to dolls. Like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I just didn’t fit in.

Because of this, on the rare occasion when I encounter someone who gets me, I’m so relieved that I feel like weeping. It is only in moments like those that I realize what a heavy burden it is to be different. It’s exhausting, always having to explain oneself or justify one’s actions. And then there’s the constant second guessing. “Nobody else has this opinion. Does that mean I’m wrong?”

When someone meets me where I live, deep in the heart of me, I know I’m home. And it’s so nice to have someone right there, in my home. It makes me realize how lonely I am the rest of the time.

If you find someone who truly understands you, dear reader, cherish that person. It’s a miraculous thing when two unicorns meet. Rainbows have been known to happen.


Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!


Culture Shock

Culture shock has an unwarranted bad reputation.

When people travel to other countries, they often speak of culture shock. I’ve experienced this myself on many occasions. But I think culture shock, in general, has an unwarranted bad reputation.

Many people think that culture shock is something to be avoided. They use it as an excuse to remain in their comfort zones and not explore the wider world. Culture shock may be a bit uncomfortable, but I believe that just as a defibrillator can get your heart beating again, a culture shock can get your brain working and nourish your very soul.

Whenever I experience culture shock, I learn something about myself and the society in which I live. It makes me realize that there are certain things that I take for granted that other people do not. It makes me look at myself differently. It makes me appreciate what I have. It makes me wonder about the things that I lack. It causes me to think about the fact that there are many different ways to live, and my way may not necessarily be the best way.

Culture shock can be something very simple, such as going into a McDonalds in the Netherlands and discovering that they ask if you’d like mayonnaise with your fries rather than ketchup. (To this day, I prefer mayonnaise. I cannot remember the last time I put ketchup on anything.)

Or it can be something huge, such as not being allowed to rent a car in Turkey until I could show the agency that I could actually drive it around the block. (I then realized that I was seeing very few women behind the wheel there. It made me really appreciate my feminist freedoms.)

It can be rather jolting, such as going from Mexico, where I was the tallest person in any room, and where their extremely close concept of personal space made me uncomfortable, and then going to the Netherlands, where I was the shortest person in any room, and where their extremely distant concept of personal space made me uncomfortable.

I always thought I was a nice person until I went to Canada, where everyone is really, really, really nice. I always feel 1,000 times fatter when I go to Europe. In Croatia, I realized that I really should take the time to relax more. Spain made me appreciate a good nap. The Bahamas made me truly get how terrifying the thought of sea level rise can be. Turkey reminded me that all of civilization is built upon past history. Hungary taught me that some past history can be rather terrifying.

I have never, ever traveled to another country without learning a great deal about myself and my place in the wider world. I genuinely believe that if more Americans traveled, they’d be a lot more open minded. This trend toward rigid, “America first” inflexibility is scary and extremely detrimental.

It breaks my heart that because of COVID-19, we’re all forced to stay closer to home. I suspect I won’t leave the country again until a vaccine is developed, and that’s frustrating because the older I get, the more I realize how little time I have left. I need the occasional culture shock to appreciate being alive.

Dear reader, my wish for you is that, in healthier times, you get a chance to be shocked by the wider world.


Enjoy my random musings? Then you’ll love my book!


Birds of an Entirely Different Feather

You can be odd and still live your life.

When my niece and nephew were teenagers, their public high school did not allow kids to dye their hair different colors. This always struck me as absurd. How was it hurting anybody? That, and kids that age are seeking self-expression, so they can learn who they are. Take away healthy outlets for that instinct, and it may just come out in other, less desirable ways.

I have always been drawn to the unique. I am fascinated by people who march to the beat of a different drummer. And I have nothing but admiration for those who are different through no choice of their own, and yet still manage to cope, and even thrive, in a world where so many of us try so hard not to stand out. (I even blogged about a solid black penguin at one point.)

Recently, I heard a few other stories from the natural world that fascinated me.

The first was about a snake with three perfectly functional eyes discovered in Australia. The third eye was at the top of its head. I wonder what sight must have been like for this creature. I mean, we have depth perception because we have two eyes. What did it have?

And then, I was listening to Bird Note on NPR on my Friday morning commute, as I do every week, and I learned about leucism (Pronounced LUKE-ism.) Unlike Albinism, which results in a problem producing melanin, which causes white hair, fur, or feathers, and quite often pink skin and eyes, Leucism is a condition that prevents pigments from reaching some parts of the fur or feathers, but the eyes, lips, and beaks remain standard. Some animals with leucism have only patchy white spots. In others it is more evenly distributed, but quite often a washed out version of their coloring pattern will remain.

Bird Note, naturally, only discussed leucism in birds, but upon further reading, I’ve come to learn that it occurs in all sorts of other animals as well. Giraffes. Snakes, Squirrels. Buffalo. Fish. Lions and tigers and bears. (Oh, my!)

I think the reason I’m drawn to these special traits is that, while I look like your average person, I’ve spent my whole life feeling as though I was the odd person out. The fact that you can be odd and still live your life is encouraging to me.

Like this quirky little blog? Then You’ll love my book!

Just the Right Amount of Strange

Have you ever met someone and clicked with them instantly because they’re the same kind of weird that you are? Isn’t it great? It’s such a relief to feel understood and accepted.

Recently someone pointed out to me that there’s really no such thing as normal. Good point. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t felt at least a little bit “out there”.

Personally, I’d find it rather creepy if we were all alike. The implication would be that we had no free will or independent thought. I can think of no better definition of hell.

That’s why I’m instantly repulsed by people who tell me that the only way to get to heaven is by subscribing to a specific creed. That sure doesn’t sound like heaven to me. I don’t want to agree with everyone all the time. I don’t want to check my brains and my personality at the door. I would die of boredom. You keep your Stepford Wife Heaven to yourself. I’ll have no part of it.

I like to let my freak flag fly, and enjoy having it fly with plenty of crazy company!


Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!

Even Weeds Belong Somewhere

My whole life, I’ve felt as though I didn’t quite fit in. So much so, that at some point I gave up trying. In fact, these days I seem to have gone to the other end of the bell curve entirely. I kind of delight in being out in left field most of the time.

Except when I’m feeling vulnerable. When I’m tired, I feel much more insecure. When I’m improperly dressed at a party, and have no idea which fork to use, I’m not going to lie–that kind of sucks.

But it isn’t anyone else telling me that I don’t fit in. It’s entirely me. And it’s based on some pretty arbitrary social rules. It always makes me think of weeds. I’m a weed.

During my young adult life, I lived in a town called Apopka, which called itself the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World.” (I wonder if they still do? It’s been many decades since I’ve been back.) Back then, you couldn’t throw a rock in that town without shattering a greenhouse window. It made me look at plants in an entirely new way.

It amazed me how much people were willing to pay for stuff that you can find growing entirely wild somewhere or other. People do love the exotic, but even exotic things have to be commonplace in some location, or they wouldn’t exist.

So, a weed is simply something that doesn’t fit in. It’s not where it’s supposed to be. Worse case scenario, it’s invasive. But that’s not the weed’s fault. It never asked to be uprooted. There it was, minding its own business in its natural habitat, when some fool decided to send it half way across the world without considering the consequences. And then the name calling begins. (Damned weed. Get out of my yard! We don’t want you here!)

So it’s all about perspective and location. We all have our place. It’s just a matter of finding it. So maybe as you walk along the path of your life, try being a little less judge-y of the other living things that you encounter who are feeling out of place. They, too, have their journey. Just sayin’.


Read any good books lately? Try mine!

Why Is This One Different?

I have been hearing a lot of people saying that those of us who didn’t vote for Trump need to “get over it,” “quit our whining,” and “move on”. It’s not the first time my person didn’t win. I mean, I’ve lived through Reagan and both of the Bushes, after all. And I did, in fact, get over it. But this one is very different.

Why is it different? Even I couldn’t answer that for quite some time. I just knew I felt and still feel sick. I feel defeated and depressed and discounted and demoralized. I feel scared and in shock. That was not how I felt after past defeats. At least not to this extent. But I couldn’t put it into words, and that goes against my very nature.

Then I read this article by Phil Shailer in the Sun Sentinel. I strongly encourage you to read it. It’s extremely short and it’s very much to the point.

In a nutshell, this isn’t sour grapes because Trump is about to be president. It isn’t about me rooting for the losing team. No. It’s about what your support of him says about those of you who voted for him, and about us as a nation.

You may not be a racist, but you just supported one. You may not grab pussies, but you just gave the keys to the kingdom to someone who condones that and thinks it’s funny. You gave the go ahead to someone who wants to destroy the lives of immigrants when you yourself are most likely descended from immigrants. You are shouting yes to someone who is striking fear in the hearts of your neighbors, both foreign and domestic, and you just took away our access to health care and free speech and a safe environment.

By voting for him you are telling our children that it’s okay to be a bully, it’s okay to make fun of the disabled, it’s okay to judge women by their weight, it’s okay to encourage violence. By voting for him you give all of his behavior a stamp of approval. And that’s an ugly thing to see.

The truth is, this country is the same as it was a few months ago. It’s just that now the tumors that used to be hidden deep inside are all on the surface, and that’s making it a lot harder to see its beauty. So you’ll just have to forgive me if I feel the need to mourn, and no, I quite likely won’t get over it.


Despite this rant, I still believe there are things to be grateful for. Claim your copy of my book about gratitude.


According to Wikipedia,

Heterodoxy in a religious sense means “any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position”. Under this definition, heterodoxy is similar to unorthodoxy, while the adjective “heterodox” could be applied to a dissident.

This word has been around since at least the 1650’s. How have I managed to live my life without knowing it? I love this word. I live it. I should tattoo this on my behind.

I have never felt comfortable walking in lock step with the rest of the crowd. When someone tries to force me into that mindless parade, my first instinct is to think, “But… what if we should be looking at things from a different angle?”

I’m a questioner. I always have been. I like thinking outside the box because the box always makes me nervous. I’m not just talking about religion. I’m talking about life in general.

This is how bad I am. When I’m surrounded by outrageously unique people, my instinct is to get all conservative. I just can’t be the same, even if “the same”, in this case, is different.

This means I’ve pretty much gone through life feeling kind of weird. It also means that I’m quite often misunderstood. It isn’t easy being me. But I don’t know how else to be.

But here all this time I’ve been a heterodox and I didn’t even know it! Uh oh. Now I want to get all orthodox…

This is one of my favorite poems for a reason.

A New Point of View

Every once in a while it’s fun to shake things up. Sticking to a routine may feel quite comfortable, but it isn’t particularly exciting. So recently I volunteered to trade bridges with a coworker, just for a day. I got to work at Fremont Bridge here in Seattle.

It’s been well over a year since I set foot on this bridge. I actually had to stare at the operating console for a while and read the instructions to familiarize myself with the operation. No two drawbridges are quite the same. Each one has its quirks and blind spots and operating weaknesses, and the various nobs and switches and buttons are in different locations.

When I had my first opening of the day, I felt like a baby deer just learning to walk. But I did it! It’s been quite some time since I’ve felt such accomplishment just by doing my job.

It’s also given me a fresh perspective on this blog. As eclectic as it is, the overarching theme is that I get to examine the same view day after day, in minute detail. It allows me plenty of time to think about things and share those thoughts with you.

So all of a sudden, having a different view is a bit unsettling. Will I be able to write? Will I be too distracted? Too nervous?

It does sort of feel as if I’m using a whole new set of synapses. I feel both revitalized and a little befuddled. I didn’t realize how often I let myself go into “automatic pilot”. I can’t do that here. Nothing on this bridge is automatic for me. I miss my comfort zone, but at the same time this feels good for me. I think I’m going to have to make a mental note to do this every few months. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!

My view for today!