Category Archives: commonplace book

Make Mistakes and Roll With Them

“Weren’t you worried you would make a mistake?” I ask.

“Made two of ‘em. No one seemed to notice.”

I nearly choke on my carrot stick. “What? You made two mistakes?”

“Acting’s like real life, Mon. You make a mistake, you keep going. Everyone adapts. It’s no big deal.” He hurries to say hello to Mr. Jurzek while I stand in the wake of his words.

He made a mistake in front of hundreds of people and he doesn’t care? Better yet, no one even noticed? How is it possible that Dad got to me more as a fictional character that he ever has as a father? Maybe he should concentrate on what he loves to do rather than orchestrating lame heart-to-heart talks in pet stores. I smile across the room at him and he gives a goofy wave back. I guess he’s just muddling through like the rest of us.”
– from Janet Tashjian’s novel “Multiple Choice” pg 164-165

What an inspirational passage!

Making mistakes is a part of life. You can’t be worried about making one. And if you do make a mistake, you need to just keep going. You can let a small error stop you in your tracks. Obsessing over your past mistakes also doesn’t erase them, doesn’t fix them, and just expends needless energy.

I try to encourage my students to make mistakes and to learn from them. There is no way to do something perfect the first time. Everything we do is a learning experience. And sometimes the mistakes themselves can fade away into the performance as long as you keep rolling with it. That is one of the messages I got from this book.

I love how you can learn things through fiction. I hope you have found this passage as inspiring as I have. 

The Truth is Hidden Within Us

Remember when I used to feature a quotation on this blog every week?

That was a long time ago.

Today, I thought I’d share a nice quote with you all here.
I really like this one. It shows a connection that I feel is present among us all. It speaks a truth. And yes, it is from fiction. Just one of the reasons I love writing and reading fiction.

“Maybe there is a universal truth embedded in everyone’s soul.

Maybe we all have the same story hiding inside
like a shared constant in our DNA.

Maybe this collective truth is responsible for the similarity in all our stories.

Truth has a power
and if we all gravitate towards similar ideas,
maybe we do so because those ideas are true,
written deep within is
and when we hear the truth,
even if we don’t understand it,
we fell that truth resonate within us,
vibrating with our unconscious wisdom.

Perhaps the truth is not learned by us,
but rather




as that which is already inside us.”

– transcribed from the audio book presentation of “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown

What started as a weekly feature on this blog, quickly spun into a separate blog at the start of 2008. If you love quotations, please visit Thoughtful Cacophony to view my ever-growing Commonplace Book Blog.


Collected Wisdom This Week

I’ve come across a few really cool jewels of wisdom in my online travels this week. I wanted to share them with you.
This week’s contributers are,
Reverend Run (of Run-DMC.) – he posts inspirational Tweets each and every day.
Calvin – runs a great blog where he shares what he finds online.
Nothing Profound – doesn’t post often but his posts are filled with great aphorisms.
Bubbabrain – shares useful links and resources for teachers


“When you end a hurtful relationship, throw away the key! We have a tendency to re-open doors that need to remain SHUT!”

“A man went in search of one perfect moment. The price he had to pay was the rest of his life.”

“News used to come too late; now it comes too early.”

via Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Coolness

“You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” – Jessica, age 8

“Great teachers tend to set big goals for their students. They also perpetually look for ways to improve their effectiveness.”
I really need to start adding these collected jewels into my commonplace book. I haven’t been doing so because I have been sharing them on Twitter. However posts on Twitter get quickly buried and they don’t seem to be easily searchable. So perhaps once a week or so, I can quickly collect my favourite tweets into a post here. Sounds like a solution.

Quotations of the Week

I thought I’d share with you some of the quotes I’ve been posting this week from my commonplace blog. If you like what you read, check out Thoughtful Cacophony.

Motivational Monday – I always start out the week with a motivational quote.

“It is through cooperation, rather than conflict, from which your greatest successes be derived.”

– Ralph Charell

Tube Tuesday – Wisdom pulled from movies or television

“There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.”

Pearl Harbour movie dialogue spoken by Colonel James H. Doolittle.

This film strived to be an accurate account of the Pearl Harbor disaster. The above quotation is not just mere dialogue but the words from this brave Colonel.

What!?! Wednesday – Song lyrics that make me stop and think.

“There are no role models
It’s up to the parents to teach the kids
to understand the music they’re hearing
cause hip hop was created for social awareness.”

DL Icognito “Make a Difference” lyrics from the album Organic Music For A Digital World.

Storied Thursday – Quotes about story and reality

“Stories are the most helpful tools a child has for sorting this all out. Stories have authority. Stories normalize. Stories model behaviour and feeling. Stories model the power to make stories – a power that children must develop in order to manage their own particular individual worlds, the ones seen through their own unique eyes.”

Joseph Gold. Read For Your Life: Literature as a Life Support System. Fitzhenry and Whiteside: Markham, 1990. pg 153

Anything Goes Fridays – I pick a quote from my extensive collection to post up on any topic on Fridays.

“Women tended to get married before they knew themselves, before they’d made contact with their inviolate selves. Another fact: it takes ages, years and years, to train a man to be even moderately sensitive and to equip him with the expertise to carry out ordinary household tasks. By the time all the information has been dispensed and processed, the trainer is worn out.”

Jane Hamilton. Disobedience. Anchor Books. 2000. pg 75.

Well, that’s a sample of what you can expect from my sister blog Thoughtful Cacophony. If you love quotations go check it out. I run these features every week. Enjoy!

What’s It Mean?

I’ve picked up a few stock phrases that my dad always used to use when I was a kid. I’ve done the same thing with my some of my grandpa’s phrases. I never thought twice about what some of those phrases meant. They just sounded cool and it spewed them out with pride.

When I was a teenager, I realized that some phrases that people say all the time are offensive. Like my grandpa used to say,

“Wait a cotton-picking moment.”

This is a racist slur. It goes back to the slaves working in the fields. Fortunately this phrase has fallen out of common usage and I only used it a few times when I was younger before I realized that it was not appropriate.

My dad used to say.

“For crying out loud!”

I still say this one all the time. I don’t even know what it really means. So I just looked it up.

This is what I found,

“for crying out loud: An ejaculation,usually indicating complaint or astonishment. Many of the users of this expression would be shocked to learn that it is in the category known as a minced oath; that is,a substitute based on, but slightly different from a profanity.”

– from the book “Heavens to Betsy” that has curious sayings in them.

It seems that this saying is also based on a bad word.

I think that there is a place for euphemisms, but not all of them. We need to understand when a phrase is hurtful of based on something hurtful. We should try to stop using these phrases.

I know that I try not to swear. I don’t take the Lords name in vain. I don’t say cotton-picking anymore but I still say for crying out loud. I think that one is tame and harmless these days, but maybe I am wrong there too.

How about you, what phrases do you find yourself saying that you don’t really know what they mean. Please share them in the comments. I will try to find the etymology of them for all of us.

Happy Halloween

“In the face of all the horror, the small-minded stupidity, the endless bloody wars, and inevitable death, people have gone on and on constructing things of beauty.”

– Kieran Egan. Teaching as Story Telling. The Althouse Press: London, 1986 pg 109

Have a safe and Happy Halloween Everyone!

Kids Aren’t China Dolls

I don’t know why some parents treat their children like they are precious and breakable items that need to be constantly looking their best.

It’s okay for children to get muddy. It’s alright if they come home with a grass stain. Bumps and bruises are part of childhood. A little scratch or bruise is not a big deal. In fact, these things are pretty much an essential part of anyone’s childhood.

Children need to take risks and try new things. They need to try a jump on their bike or attempt to ride a skateboard. They need to try rolling down a hill one day. They need to explore the world around them, interact with it, and learn all sorts of things in the process. Without these things, kids lose out on what life is all about.

I know parents only want to protect their children. No one wants to see a kid fall down and cry. But the important thing to remember is that the crying, bruise, or scratch doesn’t last long. It heals.

But if you teach a kid that they shouldn’t try something because they might get hurt, that lesson will stay with them. They will always be afraid to try things. And life is about trying, falling down, and trying again. Everyone need to learn this lesson. And childhood is the best thing to do it.

So let your kids explore. Let them get dirty. Don’t freak out over a little bruise, cut, or scratch. Children are not nearly as fragile as we might think them to be. They are not collectible toys that need to just be put on a shelf and admired.

I leave you with some lyrics from Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You.” This song speaks some great truths about this topic. Check out the video on YouTube. There is also a great duet version of this song that I had never seen before with Reba. Check them both out. I love this song. Both versions.

“Because of you
I never stray too far from the sidewalk
Because of you
I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt.
Because of you
I find it hard to trust not only me but everyone around me
Because of you
I am afraid.”

– Kelly Clarkson “Because of You” from the album “Breakaway.”

Dragons Can Be Defeated

“The important thing about any story where you fight a dragon is not that you’re telling people that dragons are real. But that you’re telling people that dragons can be defeated. And that is a huge, true thing. And something that should never be forgotten.”
– Neil Gaiman, writer Beowulf from the DVD bonus feature “Beasts of Burden”

I thought I’d go back to the Commonplace Tuesday feature I used to run on this blog today. I really like this quote. It shows us the great power of metaphor.

If you love quotations as much as I do, then please stop by Thoughtful Cacophony to see my collection. I post up a different quote every weekday. On Tuesdays I post an quote that I have collected from the television or movies.

This is today’s post on my sister blog. I hope by posting it here as well that I have not broken any blogging protocols. I just really like this quote. And the movie really surprised me. I watched it on DVD this weekend. It was good.

Never Think

As you know, I like to collect quotations. Often when I am reading, I stop at a passage that speaks to me and underline it. If it’s a library book, I keep a paper bookmark where I can write down something short and simple so that when I finish the book, I can go back and record the quote in my computer Commonplace Book file.

I have been sharing my collection daily over at Thoughtful Cacophony. I hope you’ve had a chance to visit my sister blog. It’s coming along nicely.

Over the past few weeks, I have been toggling back and forth between a novel and a couple works of non-fiction. One of the books was a collection of essays from a variety of authors. The book was entitled Constructing a Life Philosophy.

This what my paper bookmark looked like after I had finished reading

pg 43 “Life’s Purpose” quote
pg 181 3rd P. “Never Think…” – blog about running w/o music
pg 205 2nd P. “I would like to say that man should live for loving, for understanding, and for creating.”
pg 206 2nd P. “True Love…”
pg 209 1st & Last P

I find that I can make little notes like this as I read and it doesn’t take away from my reading. I used to just read a book without pausing to take any notes and then I tried to go back and find a thought that stuck with me. I’d often lose it or be unable to find it again with just a cursory search. I would then have to reread the entire book or just move on. Often I did the latter and never recorded that tidbit of wisdom.

I like this system I have developed. I get to enjoy a book and take notes as I go. When I am done with it, I then comb through the book and collect my favourite passages. Sometimes these even inspire a blog post. The first passage I took from this book has already inspired a post and the second passage made me immediately think of another one. You can see my thought process there, and tomorrow you will see that blog post, “Never Think Pt 2.” Stay tuned.

The Promotion of Human Welfare

I read this great essay and within it was this quotation,

“…it would be far more socially beneficial to induce men to accept the promotion of human welfare on earth as their major purpose in life.”

That is beautiful!

Think about it for one moment. Imagine what would happen if everyone looked out for one another. Imagine what the world would be like if we all took on this challenge personally.

It doesn’t take much to do either. Next time someone is following you into the mall, hold open the door for that person. Simple things can mean a lot. It doesn’t have to be a large task to help someone out.

Scouts Canada has a saying that all its members should, “Do a good turn daily.” This means that they should do something nice for someone everyday. I think this is a rule we all should live by. I often look for ways to help people out. And I don’t expect anything in return.

This quotation continues,

“Moreover, men can achieve far greater and more immediate personal satisfaction from success in their effort to promote human welfare in this world than from any other effort to achieve bliss in the next world. And the observation of visible success is bound to strengthen any purpose.”

Think about it. Try to do something today to promote human welfare. It will make you feel good and it will do a lot for the world.

quotation from Burnham P. Beckwith, American Atheist, March 1986. as is appeared in Richard Robinson, Life Has No Purpose – We Create It from Constructing a Life Philosophy. 2002 Greenhaven Press.

Commonplace Weekdays

Tuesdays used to be the day where I would share one of my quotations from my commonplace book. I’ve collected over 300 quotations on all sorts of interesting topics. I’ve enjoyed sharing them here with you.

My commonplace book has grown and continues to grow. It actually demanded its own blog and as such, I have spun off my Commonplace Tuesday’s feature into Thoughtful Cacophony. I think I already have enough quotations to keep this new blog running well for two years.

Head on over there this week to read some great quotes from R. Crumb, Soul Asylum, Everwood, Paulo Coelho, and an anonymous Graffiti artist. I hope you will enjoy it.

Announcing Thoughtful Cacophony

Commonplace Book Tuesdays has now been spun off into its own blog. I have wanted to do this for some time now. The best thing about it is that I will be able to effectively share my extensive collection of quotations. I will organize the entries by theme, topic, author, and any other label I deem appropriate.

I will be doing weekly features on this new blog as well. Motivational Mondays will focus on quotations that are inspirational. This will help start off the week on a good note. Tube Tuesdays will showcase wisdom pulled from television shows and movies. What!?! Wednesdays will highlight song lyrics that have made me pause and admire excellent songwriting. Thursdays and Fridays will be open for me to post anything from my extensive collection that I wish to share.

I am not sure whether I should continue this feature here as well. My online commonplace book can go places where I wouldn’t be able to here. I am really looking forward to this new format of my commonplace book. I hope that you will head on over to check out Thoughtful Cacophony.

I will probably keep up this feature for a few weeks to help promote this new blog. I could also pick my favourite quotation from the week and post it here on Tuesdays to keep this feature alive and well here. Let me know what you think. And if you have any great quotes that you would like to share, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Blog Entries on Google

I shocked myself today as I did some research online. I was trying to see if there were any websites that were dedicated to quotes from rap songs. I was researching my idea about publishing my commonplace book in a blog.

I have wanted to find a good way to organize the quotations I have collected for quite some time now. I thought that a new blog would be the perfect vehicle for this endeavor. I could post up all of the entries in my commonplace book and they could be organized easily by theme, author, genre, and any other appropriate tag by putting labels on the posts.

My commonplace book now has 300 entries in it. If I post at the same pace as I do on this blog, I would have enough entries to last just over a year. I thought that a good way to add to my collection would be to add some of my favourite rap song lyrics. So I typed “rap commonplace book” into the Google search engine and got my post “Hip Hop in Final Jeopardy.” This really shocked me. I have searched by my name before and got a hit but I have never found a blog entry of mine by doing a regular search. It was so cool to see this happen.

I have started my new blog but won’t be regularly posting until the New Year. I want to run regular features on it like I do here in this blog. I will probably have a specific weekday to shed light on hip-hop. I am still working out exactly how I will post up entries. I want this to be a great collection that I can share with you.

Since a commonplace book is a personal collection of striking passages from any source, I thought it appropriate to title this new blog, Thoughtful Cacophony. It is a collection of thoughts and it fits ties in nicely with the title of this blog.

Please head on over to Thoughtful Cacophony and let me know what you think.

Commonplace Book # 13

“But it must be said from the outset that a disease is never a mere loss or excess – that there is always a reaction, on the part of the affected organism or individual, to restore, to replace, to compensate for and to preserve its identity, however strange the means may be . . . “ – Sacks, Oliver. The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Other Clinical Tales. Summit: New York, 1985. pg 6

Compensation is an amazing thing. Science is often unable to explain how people manage to recover from certain conditions. I have read accounts about the brain that are absolutely fascinating.

My favourite superhero is Daredevil. He is a blind man whose only super power is that the rest of his senses are all heightened. He can actually “see” all around himself in a sort of built in radar. His powers were the result of accidentally being dosed with radioactive chemicals. However, my favourite storyline in the comics dealt with him losing his powers. His trainer and confidant told him that it was never the radiation that endowed him with powers. He said that everyone had this ability but had forgotten how to use it.

It is possible that we don’t really know how to use our minds and bodies to their fullest potential. That is why they can act on our behalf to compensate when need be. It is a fascinating topic, definitely worth more exploration.

Commonplace Book # 12

“Luria thought a science of this kind would be best introduced by a story – a detailed case-history.” – Sacks, Oliver. The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, and Other Clinical Tales. Summit: New York, 1985. pg 5

I always thought that the humanities had a lot to say about the nature of reality. I have always been an admirer of good stories. I love literature. I loved studying books in class and writing essays. I don’t know a lot of people who actually like writing essays in university but I loved it. It was actually a bit of a loss when I no longer had to write them. I found that I missed it.

Analyzing stories was something that I had done for almost my entire school career. But now that I had my degree, I no longer needed to do this. It didn’t seem to sit right with me. That was when I realized that story is everywhere. It isn’t just in books. Everything tells a story, even science. This quotation helped me to finally understand what science is, and it started my collection of story quotables. There will be a lot more to follow.

Commonplace Book # 11

“Is it logical that two people can disagree and that both can be right? It’s not logical; it’s psychological. And it’s very real. And unless we value the differences in our perceptions, unless we value each other and give credence to the possibility that we’re both right, that life is not always a dichotomous either/or, that there are always third alternatives, we will never be able to transcend the limits of conditioning.” – Barton, Bruce. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Calendar.

Most scenarios that we can think of have a winner and a loser. Games and sports obviously are that dichotomous. However, this is not always the case. My father taught me that is isn’t whether you win or lose but how you play the game. This advice has served me well. For instance, I can play chess with my brother and lose every single game. Yet, just having the opportunity to play with him and share this time makes it special. So, even when he whips my sorry little butt, I don’t lose.

Commonplace Book # 10

“Much of our satisfaction in life depends on our skills in connecting with other people – skills of dialogue we might call them.” – Bonnycastle, Stephen. In Search of Authority pg 23

Connecting with people is a skill? Does that mean that we can learn how to do it better? I think it does. This quotation is brilliant because it opens up a whole new way of thinking. If dialogue is a skill, that means we can develop it. Any good skill comes with practice and effort. How many of us actually try to get better at dialogue?

I know that it took me a long time to learn how to listen to people. I still don’t do it very well. I am often too caught up in my own thoughts to truly listen. I sometime am thinking of what I want to say instead of actually listening to the other person. I sometimes monopolize the conversation. I sometimes come across as authoritative. I know that these things actually cut me off from connecting with other people.

The other interesting thing about this entry in my commonplace book is the author’s use of the word satisfaction. I know that happiness often comes down to family and friends. In this life, I don’t think there are two more important things. Yet he says that happiness comes from how we connect with other people. Which leads me to ask, what makes a friend a friend? Is it the way that we connect with them? Is that related to dialogue or is there a lot more going on? I don’t know. But in the meantime, I can be more aware of my skills in this area and try to improve them. After all, it couldn’t hurt.

Meaning From and In Books

“Reading books and writing books makes life more meaningful.”

So said Elizabeth Hay as she accepted the Giller Prize for Canadian Literature last night. In a great speech, she congratulated everyone who made the short list for the award. She then went on to congratulate everyone who had written a book this year. I immediately threw my hands up in the air as if her comment was meant solely for me. After all, I did write a book this year.

I wrote a second book as well. I have given the story lots of distance and am now ready to look at it again with fresh eyes. I will sit down and read the entire novel in one sitting this weekend as I start the editing and rewriting stage.

There is quite a sense of accomplishment that you get when you complete a story. I am new to the craft of story writing but I am enjoying it immensely. I have always loved reading and constantly have a book or two on the go sitting on my nightstand. I get a lot from reading and writing.

I have not read any of Elizabeth Hay’s work but her words struck a chord with me last night. Meaning can be found in both the reading and writing of books. I am adding this quotation to my commonplace book. Congratulations on your prize! and thank you for honouring the craft and all writers.