14 August 2013

You Are a Child of God

The day was Friday, August 11, 1988. My 20th birthday.

My dad, then the Vice President of Sales for a local book manufacturer, needed to get a sheaf of important documents to one of his sales representatives in Milwaukee. He offered to pay me to drive his cherry red Fiero halfway, about an hour and a half to just outside Fond du Lac to make the drop. What could be better than to get paid to drive a sportscar, blaring the radio on a hot summer day and getting paid to do it?

I pulled into the Hardee's parking lot a few minutes early. I had never really met this sales rep before, but I knew that not only did he work with my dad as the best sales man they had, but he also was a partner in a business they had taken over earlier that year. SPAN Publishing was formed from three friends who saw an opportunity.

A few minutes later a little red Miata roared into the gravel parking lot erupting in a cloud of dust. The door opened and out came Erv, cigarette dangling precariously from the big smile on his lips. He bounded up to me and greeted me like I was an old friend.

Erv was carrying a small box with an explosion of curly ribbon on top. Looking out over the top of his glasses, he handed it to me saying that he heard it was a special day for me. Inside was a mug from Hallmark.

This mug had the following quote on it

"Don't listen to those
who would give you reasons
why you can't succeed.
You're a child of God,
and with credentials like that,
you can do anything." 
~Linda Lee Elrod

Then with a wink, he a shared a bit of advice.

"Never let anyone make you work on your birthday!"

And as quickly as he roared into my life, Erv was gone in a flash of red tail lights, driving back the way he came.

Our first encounter was brief, but Erv came to be a wonderful part of my life over time.

I have spent the last 25 years taking to heart both of these pearls of wisdom.

Eventually, I came to work for SPAN Publishing, even though for years I worked here off and on since it was in my house (a whole different story!), a place I still work going on 17 years next month. I have tried to remain steadfast in not working on my birthday since receiving that gift 25 years ago. It hasn't always worked out that way, but when it does, it is a marvelous gift and it always brings Erv to my mind with a smile for this gift of wisdom.

As an owner of the company I work for, Erv was larger than life. His presence, while few and far between, was always met with enthusiasm. You just couldn't help but be charmed by Erv and his wacky stories and boundless energy. He had an ability to see potential in any situation. And he had undying love for his granddaughter Elise and his daughter April. They were clearly his greatest joy.

Every story that involves Erv was hysterical. Like the time when he set an upholstered chair on fire in a swanky Toronto restaurant while on a trade show trip with our staff. You should have seen his reaction when we had them add it as a line item to the bill...'One chair....$268'! There was the time when he nearly fell into a ravine while looking for his golf ball, cigarette hanging from his lips as he drove zig-zags over the course. Luckily, one our my colleagues jumped out and propped up the golf cart before he even realized how close he was to falling into the ditch. Or all the times when he would get stopped for speeding and he would pull out a copy of the public safety directory we publish as a 'gift' for the arresting officer. These stories are legend around our office and always make me smile.

The last few years brought fewer and fewer visits from Erv. He battled some health conditions that come with age and some that were not so expected. That new reality brought the inevitable permanent parking of his beloved car. Of course, Erv found ways to sneak laps around the parking lot, much to his daughter's chagrine.

I found out last week that Erv had suffered a stroke and a nasty fall. It was pretty bad and it didn't look like he would make it more than a few days. There was no time to go and say our goodbyes before, but several of my colleagues traveled down to Milwaukee to share stories and wishes with the family at the visitation on Friday. I am very glad that I went. I got to tell the story of the birthday mug to his daughter and granddaughter almost exactly 25 years to the day that it happened. I think it brought them some comfort and they were not surprised by the gesture in the least.

A few things I learned from Erv...
...go after what you want in life and trust that all will fall into place.
...surround yourself by those that love you and love them back the best you can.
...see opportunities and potential in everything and seek to make meaningful connections.
...always leave a place better than you found it.
...be generous with your time, talent and treasures.
...laugh a little every day.

And while I only took a half day off on Monday for my birthday, it was to oversee the cleaning of all the carpets and mattresses in my house - a gift to me - so I hope that Erv would approve!

Happy Birthday from me to you!

As I have been thinking about Erv, his message for my life, and my beloved birthday mug (so surprised that I still had it after all these years!), I was inspired by the last line:

 'You are a child of God & with credentials like that you can do anything!'

I knew that I needed to make art with that sentiment. So I created a Story Bead tube with this message. Soon I will be offering these in my Etsy Shop, but as a belated birthday gift from me to you, I would like to give away two of them. 

[NOT the new beads, but you get the idea ;-)]
I am ready to put the finishing touches on them, right now they are 'naked' without any color [the beads above will just give you an idea of what they will look like]. I haven't painted them yet, so YOU get to choose the colors. [I think they look best in a wash of 2-3 tones. Your choice.] You can choose silver or copper for the metal.

But here is the twist... if you win, you have to agree to do a little blog reveal with me in a few weeks, I propose, Friday, September 20th. I want to see how this message and this bead inspire you!

So, who is with me?

Just leave a comment on this post answering the following: 

If you are a Child of God and you can do anything,
what is that anything that you would want to do?

Be sure that you have an email so that I can contact you if you win! 

I will reveal the two random winners on Monday, August 19th.


rosebud101 said...

This was a wonderful story, Erin! Thank you for sharing!! Pick me!!!! Pick me!!! Pick me!!! :)

Beaditi said...

Happy Belated Birthday Erin !
As always, very inspiring and well written...

I aspire to help better the treatment of women in India (and my head is working on it...your latest jewelry line has been very very inspiring :)


Beverley Baird said...

Happy belated birthday! (same day as my Mom's - she would have been 84)
What a lovely story. What a sweet, special man to have known and learned from. Great philosophy to live by.

Children need to be reminded of that message - as a teacher I se so many who have low self-esteem and it limits their growth.

Alice said...

Oh goodness,I have tears in my eyes.

I'm so glad this wonderful, funloving man was a part of your life and I love that you learned so much from him. Heaven will never be the same when Erv Span gets there. Not sure they would let him smoke though.

I love that you put his words on your lovely tube beads and I would love to be a winner.

I am a child of God and I would like to help end childhood hunger in the U.S. It kills me that the richest country in the world has children that don't get three good meals a day!

Thank you for a wonderful post, and happy belated birthday!

Karin G said...

I love the story and the message!
I would encourage people to be creative in their own personal way, and express themselves.

EB Bead and Metal Works, LLC said...

Again happy birthday and I am glad you were able to take some of it to do something for you!

Thanks for sharing the story of Erv - he sounds like a wonderful man to be friends with!

I would love to do something more for our military veterans. I especially want to do something at my university for them - I would love to have a Veterans Culture Center as a place to gather for events or have the ROTC students to come over and meet with veterans and hear their stories. A place to collect all the stories of our veterans who are alums and share them with the next generation.

Thanks again for this awesome post!

Cheri said...

I loved your story and the poem has a lot of meaning for me and I have the perfect blog post I could write to go along with this bead.
Thank you for the opportunity, Cheri

Unknown said...

Erin, thanks for sharing your great story, words of wisdom, and the great quote on your mug. Even before I finished reading your post, I wanted to write down some of those words of wisdom for me to remember, and give me inspiration.
I would love to be one of your choices and I will make a firm commitment to create something wonderful on your reveal date.
To answer your question - I want to find a gallery/shop that would sell my jewelry designs (I have been working on this, no success yet). I made a commitment to myself to give back a portion of each sale to a charity that involves children and/or food donations to the needy.
'would love to win!
Chris whitedogjewelry

WindDancerStudios said...

He sounds like a most wonderful soul and his impact was large :) We should all be so fortunate.

Once upon a time I taught fourth grade art through the arts council. I taught all three of my children and all of their friends. My daughters dream is to open a store where she can also share her love of art with the local children. If I could do anything it would be to help her realize her dream, to share her passion with the kids.

Not so noble as ending hunger or helping vets but near and dear to my heart none the less.

Happy Birthday!

carol higgins said...

YES I am a child of God...and the peace of mind that comes with that knowledge is invaluable. Living with knowing that our Lord gave his only Son for ME is a huge responsibility but it also validates each and every day how much I am loved. I so sincerely want EVERYONE to have the peace, love and forgiveness that comes with knowing our Father in Heaven.

aneri_masi said...

I think Erv would have approved of where I work, they make us take the day off :)

And I am that very lucky child of God who does exactly everything she wants to do, and nothing that she doesn't :)

Unknown said...

Yes, I am a child of God. I do so love that story, thank you for sharing Erv with us. I wish I could have known him. There are many things I want to accomplish, I feel like I'm just getting started on this exciting journey God has for me. My husband and I have always had a connection with older folks, and I would like to help my daughter work with therapy animals to visit with them in retirement homes. Many elderly spend their last days in an empty, lonely environment. I'd like to change that for them.
Thank you for such a lovely opportunity!

Kari Asbury said...

What a great story! So wonderful to have your life touched by such a great man! I'm not sure which thing I'd do the list is so long but I'd love to win, design and blog about one of your lovely beads. And the September 20 reveal is just 8 days before my birthday so how great would that be!

Carolyn said...


Happy belated birthday. Thanks for the chance to win a birthday gift from you to us. If chosen I would be available for a blog hop.

If you are a Child of God and you can do anything, what is that anything that you would want to do?

What a super question and how hard it is to answer. I love children and I think I would like to work towards having people available for any child to have someone to talk with. I don't know from experience but I have heard that all children benefit from having someone to listen to them and make them feel important. If we had this available what a change we could make in our society.


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, that story came at just the right time for me. I've been feeling very down with a career-related problem, and your mantra "you are a child of God, and with credentials like that, you can do anything" has made me feel so much brighter! Thank you for sharing this story, and your memories of Erv; he sounded like a fantastic man.

You know, it's a hard question you pose, because over the pond here in England it's kind of engrained on us to make the most of the lot we have. But I guess if I could do *anything*, I'd love to be a yoga teacher, and have my own studio, and just do yoga all day long.

Happy (belated) birthday Erin!

Kathie said...

I'm a believer that you are sent messages when you need to hear them... yet I am not very good at following up with them! I need to pay more attention to them. Thank you for sharing a message that obviously meant a lot to you. And I also found it remarkable that your Words of Wisdom about opportunities appeared on your blog as well. Definitely food for thought.
When I am in a funk I always crave doing something creative. I need to pay more attention to that, to bring out my creative side, and perhaps to have faith that I can make a living doing it. Sharing our creativity with others makes the world a brighter place. And since I am a child of God, I can do that! :-)

Nancy said...

That message is powerful and I will share it further.
If I don't win, I want to buy beads with that message.

Wendy D. said...

Hi Erin, happy birthday! I hope you're still celebrating.

Some people are larger than life -- and Erv was one of them. By being here he left the world a better place.

We are all Children of God, playmates in a great adventure of love. And that, I think, is enough.

Passionista Eclectica said...

I love human stories of people that make impacts on others lives, those mentors who teach us without knowing it!
I wish to endeavor to be one of those people who through their nature are born to impart wisdom and leave it there for someone to pick up and fly with it.

Tanya said...

Happy birthday! I love your story. It is alwys wonderful to hear people talk about loved ones. It makes me wish I had been able to know him as well. The quote is beautiful and your beads are so special.

Anonymous said...

Belated birthday wishes, Erin. Such a touching story and what a wonderful guy Erv was! I'm glad you are passing along his wisdom.
As a child of god, I would like to instill that thinking into as many chidren as possible. (Lee)

Lilik Kristiani said...

I love your story =)
Specially the wisdom "Never let anyone make you work on your birthday!" =D I recalled last year birthday of mine, I worked out like crazy for tax reports until midnight. I have marked my december calender on my birthday date with "HOLIDAY"

I badly want to win one of your beads, but it seem impossible cause I live in Indonesia. But it's ok for me to answer your twist *smile*
For now? What will I do with such credentials?
My concern and my worry is Arctic. Although I never visit that land, I always love to see the view although just through photos or TV channel such NatGeo or BBC. With the lately issue about arctic oil, I want to save Polar Bear habitat.

Unknown said...

What a sweet story! Sounds like he was a terrific guy.

If you are a Child of God and you can do anything,
what is that anything that you would want to do?

I would want to make some time to sell more of my jewelry. Most of it is just waiting to be worn :)

KayzKreationz said...

This was a great story. I always want to try to make more time to spend with my family, take care of them, encourage others, share what I've learned and of course try new things with my Stained Glass, mosaics and now jewelry making.

Gail Barnett said...

Isn't it wonderful when your life is touched by someone so special. You have wonderful memories!

Charis Designs said...

That's a wonderfully thought provoking question. As His daughter, I would love to be able to grow my jewelry to the point that it could be my only job. I want my jewelry to be more than just something to wear, I want it to touch hearts. Love that this is what your Simple Truths beads do :) Happy birthday! Christie

Karen Williams said...

Happy belated birthday from another Leo! Birthday's should be special - your own personal celebration in whatever manner you wish it to take.

Erv sounds like he was an amazing person to know.

And personally, with those credentials, my goal is to be a fearless explorer of my own life.

Coffeefreek53 said...

What a lovely idea for the beads. It is nice to have someone who lights up the office when they walk in.

It was so funny when I saw you worked for SPAN publishing, my office receives one of those "law enforcement" books!!


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