Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Leeza" Show Photos

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I was going through a box of old photos and found these. Can you guess which stories from this blog these photos are affiliated with? I had completely forgotten I had these because otherwise I would have posted them on the blog along with the stories I wrote several months ago.

Who is that lady in black with "salt and pepper" hair? Can you guess?

If your response was: "Hey, that's Mrs. Jordan, your fifth grade teacher who you surprised on the "Leeza" show!", that means you've read the now-famous stories about the impact she made on my life so many years ago. To refresh your memory of one of them, go here here.

The young girl standing next to Leeza is the daughter of Mrs. Jordan who accompanied her on the flight to Hollywood. Her job was not only to keep her company but to keep her mother guessing why she was coming out to the show. After it was over, the three of us (Mrs. Jordan, her daughter and I) went out to dinner at Universal Studios and caught up on 30 years worth of stuff. We had a great time. She sent me a thank you card in the mail, which I still have. That was in 1998. Mrs. Jordan is now enjoying retirement. We still keep in touch by email.

If you're new to this blog and have no clue who this special lady is and what she did to cause such a powerful ripple effect in a little deaf boy's life, then may I suggest you grab your favorite beverage and carve out a few minutes of your time for storytime reading? If you happen to be a documentary filmmaker or know someone who is, wouldn't it be cool if the stories you're about to read was turned into a documentary for PBS or Discovery Channel or even PAX Television? Yeah! How cool would that be? Here they are:

1. Adversity in Elementary School
2. Three Words
3. The Bully
4. Leeza Show

P.S. FYI, I now have a keynote speech called "That's Right Stephen!" about the impact Mrs. Jordan made with those three words uttered so many years ago in fifth grade. You can read the description of that speech here.
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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Create a Lasting Memory for Someone Else - Part III of III

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(Continued from Part II)

Several years later, I went to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York; a liberal arts establishment just over a hundred miles away, separating us for the first time. It was hard at first but we eventually got used to it.

In my senior year, I went home for the winter break and greeted my father at the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak station as I normally did in between semesters. Throwing my suitcase in the back of the dark blue Ford pick-up truck, I hopped in the front with my Dad at the wheel. As we were pulling away from the station, I could tell something wasn't quite right. He was acting strange, glancing over at me but not saying anything.

Sensing the need to break the silence, I peppered him with the usual questions that I always asked after coming home from college:

"What's new?"

"How's Mom?"

"What's Dawn up to?"

"How's Champ?"

Well my golly, that last question did it.

Taking a deep breath and placing his right hand over mine, he said, "We didn't want to tell you this while you were taking your final exams, but we had to put Champ to sleep last week. There were big tumors all over her body. The vet said she couldn't be operated on. Stephen, we lost her and it hurts to tell you this. I'm very sorry."

He was biting hard on his lower lip to stop the tide of emotions from overtaking him.

While Dad struggled mightily to maintain his composure, I was too shocked to cry. I wanted to know what happened at the vet and pressed for more details.

"Dad, please tell me what happened at the vet. I want to know."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes Dad. Go on, tell me," I said, bracing myself. My father was known to be a great storyteller and could paint a very vivid image for anyone who was listening. I knew what he was about to tell me would forever burn into my memory.

With a heavy heart he said, "When we got there, I lifted Champ and laid her on top of the cold metal table that she always hated and tried to soothe her. She looked up at me with sad, knowing eyes. It was as if she knew her time was up. I bent over to hug and kiss her and then I had to leave. It was too much for me Stephen."

I fell silent the rest of the way home, trying to process this very vivid image. We somehow expect our pets to be immortal. I never expected my childhood buddy to die - not now, not ever.

When we got back to the house, I went looking for her, expecting her to bound out of the living room with her tail whipping back and forth. Then it hit me. She was not there. From that point on, I walked around like a zombie, not quite believing it. As soon as my head hit the pillows later that night, it triggered a torrent of emotions, racking my entire body for the longest time.

Despite the pain of losing her, I was given one of the greatest gifts my parents could ever have bestowed upon me as a little boy. It gave me a chance to prove that I was fully capable of caring and training for a dog. Not only that, but Champ ended up being there every step of the way and kept me company whenever parents of other children didn't want their child hanging around me (they were afraid my deafness would rub off on them - how utterly absurd was that!?). Her tongue swept over my face to lick away the tears that came from time to time. She jumped on me whenever she sensed I was triumphant over something, which happened more often than not. And finally, we were practically joined at the hips for she followed me around everywhere I went.

What more could a little boy ask for? Click here for a photo of me when I first got her. I was holding Champ with my sisters and neighborhood kids surrounding me.

Thank you Mom and Dad for the memories.

Food for thought: Think for a moment how much of a gift it would be if you helped someone else make their dreams come true. Consider the wonderful ripple effect it would have on that person's life -- imagine how many warm memories your gift would provide!
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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Create a Lasting Memory for Someone Else - Part II of III

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(Continued from Part I)

I turned around and slowly closed the gate but was stopped by one of the kids from the other family. He was gently resisting my efforts to close it. Apparently, everyone else wanted to come in the yard too.

What for?

Shrugging my shoulders, I left the gate open and broke into a trot toward my father. When I got there, he was jabbing his finger at the ground. He was pointing at a mass of brownish muck. It took me a minute to realize what it was.

"It's poop," my father said, confirming my worst fears. "Go to the tool shed to get a shovel and scoop this up."

"But Dad," I pleaded, "where did this come from? The cats next door? Why do I have to clean up THEIR MESS?"

"Stephen, get the shovel and clean this up now!"

"Ok, ok, ok. FINE."

I stomped in a huff to the tool shed and emerged with a shovel twice my size. Then I glanced toward the house where everyone from the other family was still watching. Mom took a break from setting the dinner table to step outside with my little sister in tow. Even Bob and Bev from next door came over. Everyone was covering their mouths, giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls.

I didn't find any of this one bit funny. Just what in the world was going on?

Behind the fence, there were acres and acres of trees where I often hiked with my best friend, Tommy. That's where Dad told me to toss it - over the fence and way out of sight. If I threw it far back enough, it would eventually degenerate and fertilize the ground, or so he told me.

Well, that's exactly what I did. Whoooosh........

Putting the shovel away, Dad announced that it was time for dinner.

"Stephen go wash your hands for supper. Use the patio entrance to the house," he said.

The crowd of onlookers were still trying their hardest to contain themselves while I made my way past them.

Like every kid with enough imagination and smarts, I decided to take full advantage of the attention I was getting. Backing up several feet and springloading myself into position like a runner at the high school track meet, I ran at blinding speed and leapt onto the elevated patio, bypassing the concrete steps. Satisified, I turned and waved to my adoring fans like Superman.

Little did I know my life would forever change in the next few seconds.

About to slide the patio screen door open, a movement in the corner startled me. Jerking my head to the left, what I saw sent shock waves throughout my pint-sized body.

Nestled on a cozy blanket was the cutest German Shepherd puppy I had ever seen. She couldn't have been more than a few weeks old. Her jet black and tan body quivered even though it was summer. Kneeling down, I gently picked it up and cradled the puppy in my arms. Bringing her up to eye level, I quietly murmured that I would take very good care of her.

"Your name is Champ!" I declared.

In response she licked me all over as if she understood. The smell of puppy breath made me absolutely delirious with happiness.

I turned around to see everyone clapping and smiling. Mom and Dad were wiping away tears. My little sister, on the other hand, was throwing a fierce temper tandrum - she was not enjoying this one bit!

That night I babbled incessantly throughout dinner - no one could understand a word I was saying. It was just as well - I was in a world of my own, too giddy to notice.

The rest of my childhood flew by with Champ constantly at my side. Every night she slept soundly beside my bed and when I finally got a bike, she galloped happily alongside like a free moving spirit. She was housebroken in record time and put through my own custom-made obeidence training program. No one loved her more than me.

To be continued......
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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Create a Lasting Memory for Someone Else - Part I of III

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Not only did I have great dreams of becoming a pilot when I was a kid, but I also wanted a whole bunch of other stuff: a chemistry set, a puppy, a bike and a swimming pool.

Even at the age of 8, I was rather persistent with the desire to have it all. I was constantly trying to convince my parents that I was capable enough to take care of just about anything I asked for.

"Mom, if you and Dad bought me a chemistry set, I promise to clean up after each experiment."

"Don't worry about the poop Dad, I'll go outside everyday and scoop it up if you got me a dog."

"Hey, I'll even wash and wax my new bike at least once a week!"

"If we got a swimming pool, I'll vacuum it, I promise!"

Promises, promises, promises! Little tykes certainly know how to be ultimate salespeople, don't they? I wonder if Donald Trump was this persistent when he was a kid?

"But you're too young, Stephen," my mother would invariably say in response.

This went on for months. Despite her resistance, I could see I was gradually wearing her down because one day she finally said, "Well, maybe, I'll have to talk to your father about this." At that moment, I saw a faint glimmer of hope.

It happened during the summer of 1968, when we went on a camping trip to Lake George in upstate New York with another family that we were close friends with. On the third day, Mom and Dad suddenly announced they had to go back home for a rather "urgent matter," leaving both Dawn (my sister) and I in the care of the other family.

My father pulled me aside and said, "Your mother and I have to go somewhere for a few days. You and Dawn will be staying here with them. They'll be bringing you back home in a couple of days." He squeezed my shoulders and gave me a bear hug. Then they were gone in a flash.

I thought this was kind of odd but I didn't pay much attention because I was having too much fun playing with the other kids. The following day, Dawn and I were taken for a stroll about town with the "surrogate family." We were treated to a fabulous lunch of cotton candy, ice cream and huge salty pretzels. Then we went to the beach and made sand castles all day long. I had completely forgotten that Mom and Dad were not there with us!

It was with great reluctance when we had to pack up and return home at the end of the week. The drive took almost 2 hours before we arrived at my house.

As I was retrieving my duffle bag from the trunk of the car, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. It was the mother of the other family.

"Your Dad is calling you to the backyard; he wants to see you now." I looked up to see her kindly face smiling at me.

Puzzled that he would want to see me about something so soon, I remember thinking, "He probably has a chore for me to do around the house. Damn it!" (You'd be surprised how many "bad" words deaf kids pick up!)

Throwing aside the duffle bag, I made my way around the side of the house for the backyard. It was enclosed by one of those coated chain wire fences with a large access gate. Pushing up the lever that secured the gate, I let it swing wide open. Then I saw my Dad standing several feet away, waiting for me.

I wonder what he wants?

To be continued..........
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Friday, October 20, 2006

Would the Real Parents Stand Up - Another Teacher Blog

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Lately I've been passionate about helping teachers around the world be heard because of the tremendous amount of adversity they face on their jobs.

Not long ago, I came upon Mr. McNamar's blog "The Daily Grind" who wrote an article called, "Would the Real Parents Please Stand Up......." It touched my heart and I think it will touch yours as well.

Please click here to see it.
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Monday, October 16, 2006

Newly Redesigned Speaking/Writing Website

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A quick news flash to inform you of my newly redesigned motivational speaking and writing website. You can see it at: www.sjhopson.com

If you like how my site looks and are want to have yours created/redesigned, you can contact Sandra Donaldson by looking at the bottom of each page of that site for her website address. She is very reliable, has integrity and is a great person to do business with.

The only thing we need to do at this point is to add some speaking videos showing me in a professional speaking capacity in front of an audience. This will give potential clients a chance to see me in action as a speaker.

Meanwhile, there is a video on that site showing what it's like to make an actual instrument approach in bad weather. You can watch it in the biography section under the link "Stephen's Flying Adventures." When you get there, you'll see a photo on the right side of that page that you can click on to play the Google Video.

Your comments, thoughts, ideas and/or suggestions, are all welcome. You can send me an email directly from that site or by going to the profile link on this blog and clicking on the email link there.

If you know of people who are in the decision-making position of hiring motivational speakers, please do pass the link above to them. It would be greatly appreciated!

Now that I have the speaking/writing website project out of the way, I can return my focus back to this blog. In fact, I will soon be posting a new story in the very near future that I think you'll enjoy. It is about the power of surprising someone (i.e. a young boy) with a very memorable gift.

Stay tuned!
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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Speak the Encouraging Word - by a California Teacher

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These days I've been busy canvassing blogs by school teachers around the world. While sorting through them, I was surprised to discover that a large majority of them blog anonymously in order to vent their frustrations that would otherwise go unheard because they would most certainly be fired should their identities be revealed for speaking the truth. What many of them have to say would make their local board of education for look bad....really, really bad.

Several of them were contacted via email, letting them know how much I enjoyed their heart wrenching experiences and given links to my own stories about Mrs. Jordan, my fifth grade teacher (see below). What I hope to do is remind them that they really do make a difference despite the difficulties they face on a daily basis (i.e. irate parents, apathetic students, tight budgets and bureaucrats who have "red tape" permanently tattooed across their foreheads, etc.)

On Friday of last week, I posted a link to a teacher's blog who wrote a gut wrenching account of the "stolen purple stapler." Today, I found another heartwarming story entitled "Speak the Encouraging Word" written by a "California Teacher." His article reminded me of what Mrs. Jordan did for me so many years ago. Please take a moment to read his article for it will remind you just how powerful words can be in another person's life, especially a young one.

If you've not read my fifth grade teacher stories, they are listed below for your convenience. You will want to read them in the following order to get the most impact:

1. Adversity in Elementary School
2. Three Words
3. The Bully at Blue Creek Elementary School
4. Leeza Show

Since my blog is about dealing with adversity and because I'm on a huge crusade to inspire teachers out there, I will continue to post teacher-related stories that touch me to the core. If you find similar emotionally provoking stories, please let me know and I'll post them here.

My goal is to remind teachers of why they became one in the first place. I want them to know that if they plant a powerful seed in a young person's life, there's no telling what can happen to them when they grow up.

After all, look at what happened when Mrs. Jordan first planted a seed in my mind with only three words and how I went on to become an award-winning stockbroker, motivational speaker, author and pilot. In fact, many of you saw how I became the world's first deaf instrument rated pilot earlier this year, a feat considered impossible by "so-called experts." Besides my mom and dad (who were major positive influencers in my life), Mrs. Jordan planted a powerful seed that caused an incredible ripple effect, enabling me to achieve the impossible later in life.

What could be more powerful then that?

Food for thought: Will you help me with my crusade to inspire teachers around the globe by giving them links to my teacher stories?
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Friday, October 06, 2006

The Purple Stapler - A Story by a Teacher from the Bronx

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The last few days I've been visiting blogs written for and by teachers across the nation. The more I read about their experiences, the more I learn just how much adversity they are experiencing on a daily basis. It's incredible, really. The things they have to put up with on their meager salaries!

Their challenges include but are not limited to: students who do not want to learn, increasing student to teacher ratios, unwieldy educational bureaucracies, insanely tight budgets (would you believe teachers are forced to buy supplies out of their own pockets?) and irate, controlling parents.

One especially poignant story involves a stolen purple stapler that belonged to a special education teacher from the Bronx, New York. I encourage you to visit her blog let her words tug at your heart.
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