Blame Mister Rogers … and a giveaway.

Things I’ve been contemplating since I pulled back on my blogging here at That’s Church:

1. Is it possible to truly cancel a birthday? I’d like to neuralyze that date out of my entire family’s brains if possible because mine is hereby canceled on account of all I want for my birthday is the opportunity to kick Father Time in his saggy sack of nuts. I’m sick of how fast time is going. I’m sick of notching ever higher on my children’s growth charts. Flattening their hair with gel and a comb and telling them to slouch before measuring just isn’t working anymore. They’re on to me. I’m considering cutting their milk supply. I assume calcium helps kids grow or what were all those “… I’m drinking milk and before you know it I’ll be turning the heads of your friends, and I won’t even acknowledge you’re my brother!” commercials for when we were growing up?

2. If Oreck could harness the power of Nate McLouth’s suck, they could probably invent a vacuum capable of sucking up an entire newspaper.

3. I’d like to punch this Dan guy in the throat. If he’s your professor, punch him in the throat for me. I’ll bail you out.

4. I should probably get therapy for violence. But I’m afraid it will dilute my pigeon hate.

5. What would Mister Rogers do?

I meant it when I told you that watching the Mister Rogers & Me documentary changed how I look at my life. In fact, watching it, learning about who Fred was and what he believed in and the impact he had on people’s lives is one of the things that helped me make the decision to pull back from this site a bit — to take some time to figure out how my time writing could be best spent. Is it on this site picking nits in a shallow way, or is there a more meaningful, deeper story in me?

Not that I don’t love picking nits and that I won’t continue to pick certain nits that deserve to have their nits picked, Dr. Suess. If a nitpick could pick nits, how much nits should a nitpick pick if a nitpick could, is the question though.

It was MTV producer Benjamin Wagner’s look at his friend Fred Rogers that really made me look at myself and I tell you that so if you want to blame someone, you can go find Mister Rogers’ grave and give it a good long what for.

I had the great fortune of interviewing Benjamin Wagner for my Pittsburgh Magazine blog and I wanted to encourage you to take a look at it so that you can learn what you didn’t know about Fred Rogers. That he was once overweight. Bullied. Sad. Different. And how that made him into the Mister Rogers we knew and how it affected how he treated people — every single one the same. Every single one the most important person on the Earth.

And learn how in his seventies he struck up an unlikely friendship with then 30-year-old Benjamin Wagner.

Here are the questions I asked Benjamin:

1. That first time you went to Mister Rogers’ cottage in Nantucket, you brought your guitar with you. Why?
2. As each interview progressed, I noticed that every person said similar things about Mister Rogers. Common themes seemed to come out in each one. Deepness. Simplicity. Bringing the inner person to the outside. Goodness. It’s okay to be who you are. Being present in the moment, etc. As you were conducting the interviews, did you notice that too, and if so, what did that mean to you?  
3. I never realized how many deep and absolutely profound things Mister Rogers said in his life. Other than the “deep and simple” quote, what’s your favorite thing Mister Rogers ever said?
4. Did you relate at all to Mister Rogers using music as a child to soothe the hurts of his life? Crying through his fingers, I think is how it was put.
5. While filming this documentary, did you learn anything about Mister Rogers that you didn’t already know?

Have a read!

If you want to watch the documentary, you can buy it on DVD or iTunes or you can win a Benjamin Wagner- signed copy of the DVD right now! 

To enter, just leave a comment and so you have something to say, tell me what you remember most about Mister Rogers — a fond memory, a certain episode, meeting Mister McFeely, the terrifying Lady Elaine Fairchilde — anything.

My favorite memory is simply anything he did in his kitchen. I cannot explain the appeal, but the way he comported himself in there whether he was decorating a cake for “YOU!” or showing us different sizes of batteries, it was a comforting place where his soft, slow words taught so much and held so much weight.  Contrast that with my kitchen which regularly is a place of confusion, chaos, silent profanity, flour clouds and intervallic screaming smoke alarms.

One comment per valid email address! You have until next Friday, June 1 at noon to enter at which time will pick the lucky winner and I’ll put that DVD in the mail and maybe I’ll throw another surprise in the envelope for you. I promise no baked goods.

Good luck!


  1. JenEngland
    May 29, 2012 12:01 pm

    I loved the “how it’s made” segments. I still remember the one where he visits a crayon factory. I also loved the Neighborhood of Make Believe segments. Honestly, even as an adult when my kids were little it was a show I enjoyed watching with them. But my favorite memory was meeting Mr. Rogers at a book signing at the Pitt bookstore in 1995. My son was 3 and we waited in line FOR EVER. It was supposed to be a 2 hour event, but the line was so long and Mr. Rogers took time to say hello and ask everyone’s name and he stayed until the line was gone. He was so generous with his time and attention it not only made my son feel special but it made me feel special too. Love that man.

  2. carol
    May 29, 2012 12:41 pm

    I loved the Neighborhood of Make Believe. The whole show was good though, and simpler, slower, better than so much that our kids are watching now.

  3. Karen
    May 29, 2012 1:03 pm

    I loved Daniel Striped Tiger. He was so sweet.

  4. Denise
    May 29, 2012 1:44 pm

    My favorite part was the Neighborhood of Make Believe. I thought the trolley was cool!

  5. Stefanie
    May 29, 2012 1:47 pm

    My favorite memories about Mr. Rogers was all the trips he took to the different places and showed you how things worked. I was just talking to my husband last night about the trip to the crayon factory. We were trying to explain to our kindergarten daughter all about him – she remembered who he was from She didn’t realize he was a real person. Sad.

  6. Suz
    May 29, 2012 2:02 pm

    As a kid, I felt that Mr. Rogers was taking the time to explain and actually telling the truth to me about life and about feelings, as opposed to other authoritative adults who didn’t take the time to explain or were just bull-bleeping or placating me.

    However, my favorite Mr. Rogers moment came from his lifetime achievement award at the Emmys, when during his acceptance speech he asked the audience to take 30 seconds to think about the people in their lives who have helped them to get to this point. (and you know how those awards shows are about time). The camera panned to the audience to show a lot of misty-eyed Hollywood types over 30 seconds of dead air. God bless you, Fred.

  7. Liselle Konig
    May 29, 2012 2:13 pm

    One of my favorite Mr. Rogers memories is the day I got to see the set of the Neighborhood of Make Believe at WQED a few years ago. I walked around that studio with tears in my eyes. One of my dreams upon moving to Pittsburgh was to somehow meet Mr. Rogers. And that never happened. But that day at WQED they gave away copies of the Pittsburgh Magazine that came out right after he died. I read each and every story in there that told about other people’s memories of Mr. Rogers. And I cried through the whole thing. We need more people like him who make people feel better about themselves.

  8. Terri
    May 29, 2012 3:24 pm

    The crayon making episode.

  9. rickh
    May 29, 2012 3:25 pm

    Seeing the trolley and feeding the fish.

  10. Kathy
    May 29, 2012 7:49 pm

    My favorite memory is when I worked a pledge day at WQED. I was able to see the Land of Make Believe and the Trolley. The best thing was meeting Mr. Rodgers himself. I was 18 but still absolutely thrilled to meet him. All I could muster was a hello and so nice to meet you but it is a memory I will never forget

  11. KristenB
    May 29, 2012 9:45 pm

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I liked Lady Elaine! I loved how she called everyone “Toots” (I secretly still get a kick out of it when I ride the trolley into the Neighborhood of Make Believe at Idlewild with my kids!) I also loved…”boomerang, toomerang, soomerang!”

  12. Joe
    May 30, 2012 7:29 am

    “Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow” – Miss Kitty

  13. Beatrice
    May 30, 2012 9:01 am

    There was an episode that featured Lynn Swann (I think it was Lynn Swann) attending a ballet class to improve his flexibility on the field. It was cool to see such a macho guy do something so graceful and take is seriously.

  14. Dan
    May 30, 2012 3:15 pm

    I toured the studio and met Mister Rogers when I was a kid

  15. aimee
    May 30, 2012 4:06 pm

    My favorite memories are of the children he opened the door/world for.

  16. Burghthing
    May 30, 2012 5:04 pm

    While not my “favorite” moment, certainly the moment that had the most impact on me was reading that he had passed away. My wife had suddenly passed away less than a year before him, and I was too busy trying to raise our 4 year old daughter to grieve properly. But when I read about him passing I sat down and cried like a baby. Just the thought still brings tears to my eyes. Mr Rogers always said it was OK to cry, and I’ll always thank him for that.

  17. Kelly
    May 30, 2012 6:45 pm

    It’s great to see so many nice tributes, and be reminded of so many great moments! I also loved the crayon episode, as well as the sand table. I remember all of the routines of the show as being very soothing.

    When I was in college, I ran to catch up with Mr. McFeely as he was leaving Idlewild. He was extremely kind and did not seem to mind taking a few minutes of his day to chat, or the fact that I had just hoofed it across the park to catch up with him.

  18. Sean
    May 31, 2012 12:26 am

    Mr. McFeely visited my kindergarten class, and I also saw him at a screening of the Pittsburgh movie, A Tale of Two Cities a few years ago. I don’t think he’s ever changed.

  19. Paula
    May 31, 2012 12:29 pm

    The Land of Make Believe comes to mind for me first. The train leaving his living room and entering another time and place was so much fun to me. The characters, where they lived, the songs they sang are vivid in my memory. Visiting Idlewild Park recently with my children and taking them through the Land of Make Believe was so wonderful and watching their eyes and faces light up as they saw all the characters. My own make believe grandfather was Mr. Rogers. Both of my grandfathers had passed away before I was born and I always thought if I had a grandfather, I’d hope he’d be just like Mr. Rogers. Thank you for bringing this documentary the attention it deserves.