Monday, April 30, 2012

The Artist Inside...

I am a writer, therefore I write.

I have several encouraging messages that reside on the wall beside my desk. These inspirations persuade me to keep going. The aforementioned, is just one, and is a simple statement that speaks volumes.
As I have said before, I have been writing since I could, but did not really learn how I write best until I went back to University to do my Masters. While researching and writing, I discovered that I was over editing my work during the free writing process, instead of editing after. When it was revealed to me, I also knew that this practise was not serving me well.
As a writer, I am always looking for a better way to say something. Jeff Goins notes, as artists, “we are always waiting, never satisfied, waiting for that ultimate validation”, even when that validation is from self. He talks about a shift needing to take place, where one finally takes the artist inside, seriously.
I have one published piece, four blogs and have been invited to guest blog on two others. I write daily and am disciplined. Am I a writer?
Of course I am.
Jeff’s soon to be published eBook, You Are a Writer. Start Acting Like One, substantiates why I do what I do and I am grateful to hear my thoughts emulated through someone else. However, as the sun rises, I awake each morning and fight this battle that endures within me to avoid my pen, and I wonder if the artist in me will ever win or perhaps it’s as Bagger Vance says, maybe “its the game that can’t be won, only played. So I play. I play on.”
~ Ellyn

Friday, April 27, 2012

Being In Community...

“Human beings are hardwired with the impulse to share ideas and the desire to know we’ve been heard. It’s all a part of our need for community. “ Jake Bohm
Theologian, Martin Marty, of the University of Chicago, observes that as crucial as the family is to preserving civilization, it is the tribe rather than the nuclear family that ensures cultural survival. It is not surprising that the word “tribe” has been associated with online groups of common interest as Web 2.0 became the tribal web for personalized learning.
Is it plausible, that we as a society, moving from rural to urban, delving in deeper to intense, meaningful solitary work, and changing the makeup of our nuclear family, needed to create alternate communities in order to fulfill some basic human needs?
In Dr. Martin Brokenleg’s book, ReclaimingYouth at Risk, he proposes that as people search to make meaning out of their existence, we need to mend some of the broken circles that have been created and suggests that the first step, is ensuring that a person feels that she or he belongs. In this rural area where I live, I have several opportunities to belong. My school community fills a different need for me than my social group, exercise class and church community and yet I feel the need to reach out to even more communities. I tweet, Facebook, pin and blog and have tried other modes of SM but only these fit for me, and they suit me in different ways for different purposes. Writing allows me the opportunity to express myself and these venues mean that I can share those expressions in a variety of ways.
Sometimes I wonder if the world of Social Media came about purposefully and as I put this out to this community, with the intent to share and dialogue, would relish hearing what you think?  
~ Ellyn

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Maybe Human is Divine

I have been gifted the unique opportunity to work with a group of youth at church. It has been a few years since I have done this and I had forgotten how much I learn from these teens.
This year, as we journeyed through Lent and discussed the Easter Story, I was pleased to hear a young fellow, puzzled by, and questioning what happened to Jesus, wondering how it is that he rose from the dead. Not only am I warmed by the notion that he is developing his views about what he believes in, but also I am delighted that he felt comfortable enough to express his thoughts.  
This young man, in the youth group is not alone in his wonderings, and many a scholarly folk have queried about the divinity as well as humanness of Jesus.
And they still do.
David McKane, part of the team at The United Church Observer magazine recently answered a question surrounding the possibility that maybe Jesus’ humanity is attractive enough, not unlike other heroes such as Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. He brings forth the thought that the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451 did. That particular ecumenical assemblage debated the personhood of Christ, and concurred that there must be more at work than just humans. “There it was made clear that Jesus must be both human and divine to provide a bridge between us and God.” And only 15 years after the crucifixion, Paul wrote, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view… we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” Nevertheless, what does all of this mean to the young man in our church youth group? Maybe very little.  Although for me, I am thrilled that he is allowed to explore aloud, his beliefs, thoughts and questions surrounding all things church, and in turn he appeals to others to do so as well. Even me.
There is a simple affirmation, in the form of a question and a thought, which is still one of the loveliest inspirations I ponder on from time to time. It is a memorable quote from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, where character Robert Langdon states, “Why does it have to be human or divine? Maybe human is divine.”
~ Ellyn

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


When my day begins to fill up and I feel as if it is getting the best of me, the one thing I seem ready to do away with, is my writing. And yet it is in, through and with writing that I gain peace, satisfaction and control of my day.
I have been writing since I have been able to write. In spite of this, I didn’t really learn how I write best until I went back to University to do my Masters. I had spent the bulk of my adult life with children, but I knew it was time to be done, when it was time to be done. Although I loved teaching, I left enthusiastically enrolled in University and sat down to research and write. When I had to hand in my first paper, I was a wreck! I paced around, cursing APA formatting, and wondered how I could possibly have thought that I could go back to school at age forty-six. That first paper was met with great appreciation and I settled into two years of writing. I loved it and discovered that I truly was/am a writer.
“Go to thy bosom… and ask your heart what it doth know”, William Shakespeare, beloved author and source of wisdom with whom I visit regularly, states this in Measure for Measure.  His words, spoken profoundly, roll around in me from time to time and offer me clarity of, and for my own being.
Upon completion of my Masters of Science in Education, I knew I needed to stay home and write. I am grateful that my husband, Brent, has supported me in order that I can do this. Nevertheless, that was three years ago and although I manage four web logs, and have been asked to guest blog on a few, I have made very few pennies from my writing. In January of 2012, I made a commitment to myself to honour my writing like it was and is a full time job. It is now April, and I have several unfinished works that have seen only a little bit of writing – I am at war with myself and knowing what I know about war, someone may lose and so I wonder, which part of me might it be?
As I sit here today, with the sun pouring in on me, avoiding the phone that has been ringing, avoiding the to-do list on the counter, and reminding myself that I chose the word Honour, as my focus word for 2012, I see, out of the corner of my eye, something white flit by the window and I am reminded of the white flag of surrender, recognized internationally as a protective sign to stop and renegotiate. Negotiating with self, hmmm… always an interesting excursion.
Now, after a thirty-minute run and brief meditation, I return to this piece to re-evaluate why I continue to do what I do, and am drawn to the writings of Daniel Pink. In a recent article that he posted, from the work of Karl Pillemer, whose work with senior citizens caused him to glean this:

1. Choose a career for the intrinsic rewards, not the financial ones.
2. Don’t give up on looking for a job that makes you happy.
3. Make the most of a bad job.
4. Emotional intelligence trumps every other kind.
5. Everyone needs autonomy.

I am truly grateful that, presently, I do not have to work for a wage, and will ceasefire on myself, sit down and write…

~ Ellyn

Thursday, April 5, 2012

On Superhero Play

I strongly believe and support children immersed in Superhero play.

This stand is something that I have come to support and is in direct contrast to how I was raised. The home that I was raised in, was decidedly passive. Toy guns and swords were not allowed. We never even had water guns. I remember when my brother Jim, was about eight years old, and his friend’s dad had carved him a wooden toy gun, that his friend, Phillip, had gifted Jim with. It resided on top of my parent’s dresser while they tried to decide whether Jim could keep it or not. Eventually, they decided that since it was a work of art, he could indeed keep it. I loved it and would hold it clumsily in my small girly hands, almost coveting it.

In our neighbourhood, the boys played Cops & Robbers readily, and often. Since I was a girl, I was not allowed to play but moreover, I had no weapons. Not weaponry that the other kids could envision, that is. I did have a keen mind and could find places to hide and would eagerly jump out and ambush them with my finger gun. This of course only made the fellas angrier.

Today, I marvel at young ones immersed in Superhero play, and have learned of its value. When my son was a preschooler, I was filled with wonder of how he seemed to, almost naturally, slip into this rich and dramatic way of playing. Children’s play is their work, and it is how they make sense of their world. When something they experience is distressing, they look for ways to come back to peace, through play. If they can slay the source that causes the distress, they become powerful over their being once again. Superheroes are larger than life, courageous and commanding, all things that young preschoolers feel they may not be. For my son Max, his bucket of swords in his room, helped ward off any nightmares. His pirate ship tree house complete with a Jolly Roger and telescope was a safe haven for him to battle off any foes.
“Research tells us that play is a major vehicle in development. Through play, children test the waters, try out roles and behaviours, investigate right and wrong, experiment with language, use creativity, find outlets for physical activity, and learn more about difficult skills like impulse control and conflict resolution.” ~ Early Childhood News 

As a discerning mom, I fussed about whether I was creating a son that would be more violent and yet, at seventeen years of age, he subscribes to stalwart passivism. I do not believe that Superhero play leads to violent behaviours and with twenty-one years of teaching mostly five and six year olds, and the experience with my own children, I believe that it actually can do the opposite.

In the face of the atrocities that many children are inundated with daily, and thinking about how they work to make sense of their world, I would be interested in a conversation surrounding your thoughts about Superhero play, and whether you think there is a place for it or not?

~ Ellyn
The Pirate Ship