Big Bird

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I woke up sad today. It wasn’t because I went to a party last night, nor was it because I had a nice day yesterday. All those are good things, no sadness required. After my meditation I got up made breakfast sat down to read the news and learned Big Bird died today. My daughter said, “I’m so sorry.” and that made me cry.

This summer Caroll Spinney, the original puppeteer for Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, announced he would not be attending any more fan expos. That was sad but understandable, the man was 86, he deserved some alone time with his wife. I reached out to him and thanked him for being there every day for me as a kid and every day for my kids. I loved Big Bird and Oscar and told him so. Not that he likely didn’t hear it every day, but he wrote me back.

Let’s pause for a moment.

CAROLL SPINNEY WROTE ME BACK.

He told me how much he appreciated the kind words and how much it meant to him when his fans said thank you. He then invited me to join his private group for fans. I was honoured. I lost my mind for about a day, but then I was back to normal just admiring the artistry of his skills. He was a master of puppetry, improv, acting, singing and was an artist/illustrator. His work touched me deeply. Related image

Spinney originated Big Bird and Oscar fifty years ago, November 10, 1969. I was two. They have been apart of my entire life. I shared my love of muppets with my kids and one day will share them with my grandkids. I remember Oscar was orange before he was green and Big Bird was 5. Apparently, Big Bird is now six.

I loved the giant size of his nest and his imaginary friend Snuffy. I also had an imaginary friend, her name was Lucy. Only Big Bird and I knew Snuffy wasn’t imaginary, neither was Lucy, but the adults in our life never believed us. This made us get each other on a level I didn’t reach with other muppets. Big Bird was special, just like me.

Big Bird, Super Grover, and Kermit were the big three for me. Grover is the last one left. Each of them made me feel as if I was important. Little five year old me that wore a cape and had imaginary friends who were real. I was included in the ragtag bunch because they embraced diversity and uniqueness. Everyone was welcome. I wish I could say that I was welcome with everyone in real life, but I can’t. I was often on the outs because of my looks, my ideas and my interests. I still have to deal with cliques, mean girls and mean boys at the age of 52. For crying out loud… people are just unbelievable in their actions and behaviour. I suppose that’s why I love the Muppets so much. Everyone was welcome and everyone was recognized for their uniqueness. They practiced kindness. This isn’t a hard concept. BE KIND.

I am grateful to Caroll Spinney, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Fran Brill and Jim Henson. Grover and Prairie Dawn are the only ones left. I am happy I was fortunate enough to have had Seasame Street as a large part of my life. As a Tribute to Caroll Spinney, they are asking for donations to be made to the Yellow Feather Fund. They support giving kids a healthy start, think of it as Seasame Street in communities.

At least original Snuffy and Big Brid are together again.

Caroll Spinney 1933 – 2019.

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Birds will be the death of me

Big Bird - Library of Congress, Living Legend ...
Big Bird – One of many muppet birds who don’t scare me like the real things do – not that Big Bird isn’t real, you know what I mean.

I get asked LOTS of questions here at the Edmonton Tourist. Usually they come from the ‘contact me‘ page, people will message me on my facebook page (hey come like me!) or they message me and chat away with me on twitter @edmontontourist. Sometimes I get asked questions directly in the comment section here on this blog or my Me and Mo Running blog. I get invitations to speak at gatherings, events and even summits (hello Canadian Medical Association!). But sometimes someone who I consider a bloggy friend, who morphed into a facebook friend asks me a question that has me stumped.

This is hard for me to take because I brag CONSTANTLY to my children about how I know EVERYTHING. Although now that they are approaching their adulthood – and quickly – they don’t believe me with the same intensity. If fact – sometimes I am called a LIAR. Shocking…but true. They have called me worse, but that might shock my grandma – so let’s just leave it at ‘liar’.

Mark Petruska, or should I say Author Mark Petruska who hails from Portland Vancouver, Washington asked me this:

Does your fear of birds stem from old Hitchcock movies? Scientific documentaries proclaiming that birds are descended from dinosaurs? Mitt Romney throwing Big Bird under the bus? Or is it something else entirely?

 

Hmmm. Good question Mark! I need to think about it.

For as long as I could remember, I feared birds in the “HOLY CRAP I AM GOING TO DIE!” way. Never in the “EWWW THEY ARE ICKY” way. Because Birds are not icky. Rodents are. Birds scare me in ways that I fear a stroke or a heart attack.

But the question remains WHY?

I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds when I was a teen, but I was already REALLY SUPER SCARED of birds by then. I would never pet chicks, never feed chickens, never feed ducks at the pond, and never EVER help grandpa fill his 9 billion bird feeders or paint any of his bird houses because I had no interest in those birds being anywhere near me – EVER.

Then a memory came to me. Then I realized I had REPRESSED this memory. Thinking about it TERRIFIES ME STILL.

I was 6 years old and living in Canada’s Arctic in a town called Yellowknife, North West Territories. Ravens were as bad as mosquitos. I kid you not. They were huge from my point of view and memory – so I looked them up. They are like flying chickens. My mom threatened to cook one for Thanksgiving one year. The problem with Ravens is they are smart. And not your usual “oh look a bird feeder” they are “hey fella’s, look over there, I see a grocery store. Let’s devise a plan to open the door and have a feast!”

I know you don’t believe me.

I remember walk home from school and my friend was eating a snack. The ravens swooped in, pulled my jacket so I was not in reaching distance of her. Another one flapped his wings in her face, while a third took the food out of her hands. It was scary.

Another time I was sitting in the window of our home and I watched two raven hover over a garbage can while a third one took the lid off. Then the other two went in and lifted the garbage bag out – first guy drops the lid and the 3 of them fly off with the garbage bag.

They would tease dogs for fun. I read about a raven working an automatic light and turning it on then wrapping its wings around the light to keep warm. These critters are smart. This was my first close encounter with birds. No wonder I am scared.

I saw a video of a Yellowknifer playing with a Raven. He would stick his finger out, say don’t peck me and of course the Raven would and the Raven would LAUGH! Are you kidding me? THAT BIRD LAUGHED! Fast forward after  you watch the beginning – PROOF!

These birds are far to smart for my liking, they will gesture to their pals, point with their feet, wings and beaks to hatch a hunting plan.

Now, I know they can talk but it isn’t the same as if Big Bird was speaking to me or if Clara and her hen party were singing at my birthday. These birds are normal in my eyes. Ravens have scarred me forever.

So now I need a little Muppet Happiness so I can sleep tonight.

 

Chick-fil-a vrs. the Muppets? I choose the Tao of the Muppets

 

The Muppets Embracing Diversity for 50 years

 

I follow the Tao of Muppets.

At the age of remembering, for me that was the age of 3, I became an avid fan of the Muppets via Sesame Street. It first aired on the CBC in Canada in 1969. I was 2, although I believe my Gran had it on for me while the rest of the family was working in the printshop next door. I don’t have any tangible recollection of the program that early on. I do remember a conversation with my mom when she asked me which preschool class I would prefer, morning or afternoon. For a kid of the early 70’s in Canada, the good shows were on in the morning. That left the afternoon for social interaction, imaginative play and mischief. She agreed with me, and that was the very first choice I remember making. It was significant, it affected my life and it made me feel grown up with responsibility.

These were the days before Elmo. Super Grover was the one I related to most. He had a cape, he was kind, he often made mistakes, and he learned from all those mistakes. I loved Super Grover, his alter ego Grover was just as delightful. Kermit was the adult muppet. Always in control, always making sound choices and I found comfort in him – yet I didn’t bond with Kermit until I became an adult myself.

The Muppets were friends, family and advisors. I learned without realizing what I was gaining. I do remember other influences in my life, my parents, my grandparents and of course extended family. Within that circle the Catholic Church played a large role. Now, all you Christians may think that being Catholic doesn’t mean being Christian. I have had this discussion a million times, and let me tell you this. Don’t judge what you don’t know or don’t understand. Delve into the teachings and you will discover that the two are not that different. Christ is the foundation of the beliefs. Yet not once do I recall  the Church judging me or my family. The parishoners – absolutley, but not the Church itself. I learned that everyone tries their hardest to follow the teachings of Christ and at no time was it ever okay to judge someone else because they are only human. This also meant embrace each other, for we don’t know, nor could we possibly understand their struggle. Walk a mile in their shoes and then only do you get a glimpse of the struggles of the human spirit. Value based teachings still reside within me today. Yet I do not practice being Roman catholic, I do practice Dignity,Respect, Honesty, Loyalty, and Fairness. Kindness and Compassion are what comes forward by practicing those core values.

Funny thing is, the Muppets taught me this too. Jim Henson was a compassionate genius. His values came through the characters he portrayed and flowed into the characters of his puppeteers. The things I learned are a great foundation for all souls and the corporate aspect happened because of the success of his teachings, his efforts and his example. There is not a successful business that lasted the test of time without these fundamental values. More importantly, The Muppets’ teachings  have lasted and influenced generations of people, all striving to be the same, kind, compassionate, accepting and human. Not that the Muppets were human, but they had that human spark thanks to the hands underneath them. With that said, let’s look closer at the Tao of the Muppets.

  1. Dignitybearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation. Each one of those fluffy critters was treated with dignity and treated each other with dignity.This showed through in the manner in which they learned. They never shamed or belittled each other, but embraced the need for knowledge and understanding.
  2. Respectesteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment. There was never a more diverse motley crew than the Muppets. They all respected the thoughts, opinions and choices of others. This is hard to do when you feel you are right in knowledge and passing judgement is typically the path people  take. This never happened within the Muppets – aside from Waldorf and Statler. Those characters were needed to show the ugliness of judgement. It taught you the path of compassion and empathy. Seeing the hurt feelings of another and what it does to the human spirit is heartbreaking, yet it was an important lesson that needed to be taught.
  3. Honestytruthfulness, sincerity, or frankness. Freedom from deceit or fraud. This was always a lesson learned by the younger Muppet. Big Bird, Robin, Grover all experienced how it felt to lie or deceive and the consequences that went along with it. The kindness from the older Muppets or adults really showed the importance of honesty and how it clears your conscience. A hard lesson to learn when lies pour so easily out of the mouths in an effort to gain. Yet having empathy and compassion on both sides show that honesty is the better choice.
  4. Loyaltyfaithfulness to commitments or obligations. No one showed more loyalty than Kermit. He moved mountains in an effort to show his fellow Muppets what they meant to him and how he would choose them over anyone in spite of their choices. He cared deeply about outcomes and was always dependable. His loyalty made him accountable to the thing he treasured most, friendship or in this case, family.
  5. Fairnessthe state, condition, or quality of being fair,  or free from bias or injustice; evenhandedness. Everyone had a chance to shine. Equal opportunity in the face of different. To be different meant you were embraced. By being embraced you had the chance to share your story, try new things and be supported along the way. Not everyone is lucky enough to be treated with an unbiased fairness. Those who are, do not take it for granted – they pass it forward to share in the feeling.
  6. Compassiona feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. No one was more different than Gonzo. His choices and passions made others look at him as if he was weird. The Muppets held great compassion for him and embraced his flashy differences. They supported his need to discover his roots, they understood his need for a hen party. They gave him undying support because it leads back to Loyalty, Fairness, Respect and Dignity. We should all be so lucky.
  7. Kindnessindulgent, considerate, or helpful; humane. What kind of world would we live in if everyone was kind? Kind without judgement. This is the difficult aspect  – without judgement. I choose to live my life surrounded my kind and compassionate people. That is not to say my world isn’t filled with the opposite, because there are plenty of people who are just mean for the sake of being mean. I have been mean, I have been the recipient of mean. Neither is preferable. It’s hard to embrace your friends when they judge or say mean things – that is human nature. Choosing to be with someone, yet their actions are mean to helpless creatures, be it animals, children or people who are different. Over looking these qualities is a must, however I struggle with the judging part. It’s easy to cut off people because they offend you, hurt children or discriminate against others. But what would Kermit do? He would tell them he is uncomfortable with their actions, love them more and hope they mend their ways. Yet sometimes we must choose to protect the innocent and defenseless. Fight for what is right all the while keeping in mind where these people are coming from. Using Empathy in the highest order – to understand the why.

Meanwhile, Chick-fil-a is choosing a stance of “traditional family” and “the biblical definition of the family unit.” Once again people, this is where you need to do your research instead of judging or making assumptions. “The biblical definition of the family unit” could possible mean multiple wives, lack of women’s rights and not necessarily the respect that can be defined by society today.

Times change. I for one am happy with the way society now considers me a person under the law. 100 years ago, this was not the case in Canada. Change can be great. The United States of America has a black man as President. Did you think that could happen 100 years ago? Alberta and British Columbia have Women Premier’s running the province. In fact, the leader of the opposition in Alberta is also a female. So much for the “old boys club”. Why is it that these minorities have made such head way and the LGBT are not even considered for human rights? Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut died from cancer last week. It came out that she was in a lesbian relationship for 27 years. Yet her partner will not receive any benefits because of what some people deem as disgusting behaviour. Really? I am not interested in what straight couples do in their bedroom either. Yet does anyone dispute the the work Ride did as important? Not until it was discovered that she was a lesbian. What you do and who you are are not the same as what you like to do and who you like to do it with. That is called PRIVACY. You deserve privacy. I am sure there are somethings you do in the privacy of your own home that you would not like your place of employment finding out about. Does that change the work you do? Does that define who you are and how you treat other humans? No. Or at least it shouldn’t.

I have had the privilege of working with some members of the LGBT community. They know their job, work tirelessly for the common goal. I have worked with people who are mean and judgemental, who have a sense of entitlement because they appear to be sanctimonious. This attitude interferes with their job. They are too busy making sure everyone knows how they feel about situations, how they are judging situations and how they see themselves as in the right every time – it actually brings down their level of effectiveness in the work place.

You don’t have to agree with or even like other people’s choices. Just be kind.When people are kind to each other and work towards a common goal, mountains can be moved.

Lets try that for a change… be kind, and sit back and watch the world change.

That is why I follow the Tao of The Muppets. Thank you Jim Henson Company for taking a stand and doing the right thing.