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. Melissa Rickard
    May 25, 2012 3:21 pm

    I’m 32 years old and can still remember so many of the things Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood taught me. Everytime I do the dishes I can remember the episode where I learned that if the dishes squeak that means they are clean. It truly was a wonderful show and I only hope that I can share those episodes with my children one day.

  2. Pitt Guy
    May 25, 2012 3:31 pm

    As a kid, I liked it when Mr. Rogers fed the fish. I ended up working in the fish department of a pet store when I was a teenager and I loved it! Mellow, tranquil fish. I love aquariums to this day and it all started because of Mr. Rogers.

  3. Amy
    May 25, 2012 3:34 pm

    First off, a nice memory related to this film. I was a kickstarter contributer and I mentioned to Benjamin that my mom had got me hooked on mister rogers, but now had early onset Alzheimer’s (it was relevant to the kickstarter spiff I had selected).

    He gave me a pre-release copy and I have very nice memories of sitting with my mom and holding her hand watching the film. It was very kind and MIster Rogers-like for a busy person like him to take the time to share his film with me before it was completely ready.

    My favorite Mister Rogers memory is not something I actually remember doing, but something my mom told me. I was probably 3 or so and was infuriated with Ms. Fairchilde’s antics and exclaimed “Oh that Lady Elaine!” I guess I thought she was a real (and annoying) person.

  4. oh please
    May 25, 2012 3:43 pm

    Feeding his fish! I loved it!

  5. Todd
    May 25, 2012 3:44 pm

    I was an adopted child and growing up I had terrible anxiety and panic attacks. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was a safe and comforting place for me to escape everyday after school at 3:30 on PBS. The jazz music opening was a signal to my brain that I could relax and listen to grest stories from a true friend. He was never condencending, always uplifting and very nuturing. I really grew to appreciate him after the birth of my beautiful daughter, and subsequently watching the show with her in her formative years. Fred Rogers taught people the importance of being kind to one another. The best childrens show ever.

  6. Amanda
    May 25, 2012 3:56 pm

    I’ve always remembered the crayon factory episode. As a little girl who loved to color, I thought it was so cool to see how they were made.

  7. Ramona Leiter
    May 25, 2012 3:58 pm

    Mister Rogers Neighborhood meant a lot to me growing up. He was like a favorite friend. I came to appreciate him much more in the past ten years since he died as I read about him and watched documentaries. Now he is more than the face who told me I was special. I realize his ministry to the world was telling all of us we were special and worth something. He did not do it for ratings. He did not do it just for the children in his televised audience. He did it for all of us.

    My favorite memories of the show were when Mister Rogers would go out back in his sandbox and when he would go out to visit different places…especially the marionette theater. And my favorite episodes were the opera ones. I loved the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Sweet, gentle, Daniel Striped Tiger was my favorite of the puppets. I loved picturing myself going into each of the places the puppets lived (much like picturing life inside of Oscar the Grouch’s trash can).

    Mister Rogers was one of a kind. But we need more people to be like him. I try every day to be a better neighbor. Thank you Mister Rogers.

  8. Linda
    May 25, 2012 4:21 pm

    My favorite memory is of my little boys sitting on the floor watching Mister Rogers on TV. I am expecting my first grandchild and wish I could share Mister Rogers with this new precious little child.

  9. Michelle S.
    May 25, 2012 4:23 pm

    My favorite, favorite thing about any episode was waiting for the trolley to come out through the wall!

  10. Drea
    May 25, 2012 5:28 pm

    I don’t have a favorite memory or episode, all I can say is that I simply loved Mister Rogers (and still do).

  11. Peggy
    May 25, 2012 6:00 pm

    Ever notice how he’d zip his sweater up, then down just a little? Not important, just a quirk, but I always liked that. If I find myself doing it when I put on a jacket or hoodie, I think of good old Mister Rogers.

  12. Steelertom
    May 25, 2012 6:28 pm

    I just remember the shoe & sewater changing, and how a kind warm & safe place it all was. Drank it all in. We all could be better humans because of his show.

  13. hoosierburgher
    May 25, 2012 6:33 pm

    There are SO many things that I remember best about Mr. Rogers. One of my favorites being a time when I was in High School. I was in the band, and was chosen to do some kind of “interning” work with the PSO. We had to travel to WQED offices, and were given a tour. I remember the basement being the best part of the tour, simply because that is where they kept X the Owl’s tree and Daniel Striped Tiger’s clock. I loved Daniel Striped Tiger the most, and was beside myself! Then, the man himself just kind of popped out from behind a door! Mr. Rogers spoke with us about how music was such an important part of his life, and how he was so happy to see so many young people with a passion for it as well. I will NEVER forget this very special moment!

    I also LOVED the video about how stamps were made. The little colored dog ones!

  14. patty
    May 25, 2012 6:39 pm

    I remember the excitement of getting to go on a tour of the studio at WQED. plus, I still sing F-R-I-E-N-D (just to myself) whenever I need to spell “friend”

  15. MN
    May 25, 2012 6:54 pm

    I have always loved reading…did not watch that much TV growing up (thanks to my parents) and have raised my three children to appreciate books as well. The thing that made Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood stand out from other shows was the quiet, calm, soothing way he did everything and the relatively slow and non-flashy presentation of the whole production. It was like an island of tranquility compared with everything else on TV bombarding your senses with noise, garish colors and frenetic pacing. Our children need more things like Mr. Rogers and absolutely less of everything else on television now!

  16. Trish
    May 25, 2012 7:34 pm

    The first conscious memory I have of watching TV was watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, I was three. I loved everything–his soft, gentle voice, the train, Mr. McFeeley, feeding the fish, King Friday, Lady Elaine, his donning of the Sacred Cardigan and Sneakers. But my all time favorite was Daniel Striped Tiger. I loved Daniel so much that my parents bought me a stuffed cat that looked very much like DST for Xmas when I was four and I loved it so much I literally wore it out. I still remember being fourteen and sobbing when I had to throw out the heap of stuffing and cloth that no longer bore resemblance to a cat. A couple of days before Mr. Rogers died my husband and I adopted a gray striped tabby kitten, but we couldn’t think of a name for him. When I heard that Mr. Rogers had died I told my husband “the baby is Daniel Striped Tiger.” We call him Tiger, but he perks up and purrs when we call him by his full name.

  17. Becky Willis
    May 25, 2012 7:45 pm

    I loved watching him go behind the scenes of the penguin exhibit, definitely my favorite episode.

  18. Amanda
    May 25, 2012 8:01 pm

    I loved Mr Rogers as a child growing up, but I think I love him even more now as an adult. I remember many of the same things as the others that have posted – changing his shoes and sweater, feeding the fish and the trolly and puppets. My favorite memory has to be when he encouraged the kids to make music with the everyday things that they found at home. My mother was not pleased with me “making music” with pots and pans even though I told her Mr Rogers had said it was ok!

  19. Kristy
    May 25, 2012 9:19 pm

    What I most remember about Mr. Rogers is his entrance. It was solid, consistent…every time he walked in the door, I knew what was happening. I knew he’d sing while changing shoes, and putting on the famous cardigan sweater. I knew it would be an invitation, and it was soothing, and I could sit across the couch from him and feel a bit more at peace with myself and my day. I needed that consistency and routine. He was so gracious and smart to realize that was needed every day, especially with children. I am so thankful for his presence in my childhood. I know it sounds a little ridiculous, but I am.

  20. Lisa
    May 25, 2012 9:19 pm

    I loved his opening and closing songs…and the trolley.and Daniel in the neighborhood of make believe. When I was 9 I was sticks nd out of school for 6 weeks. I watched mr. Rogers every day even though I was “too old”. In fact, every time I was sick through high school…I watched him whenever possible.

  21. Shannonsharpe
    May 25, 2012 10:56 pm

    I remember the crayola factory the most and then last year at the Children’s Museum, my nephew went into his “closet” and put on his shoes and sweater and came out with them on!!

  22. ErinPatricia
    May 25, 2012 11:18 pm

    The Crayon factory, I loved and adored that bit.

  23. bucdaddy
    May 26, 2012 12:55 am

    No baked goods?

    Count me out.

    Oh, wait … too late.

    I like this one:

  24. Allie K.
    May 26, 2012 12:58 am

    The crayon episode! Still love finding out how things are made. :C)

  25. Andrea
    May 26, 2012 8:04 am

    I loved watching it with my kids!

  26. Bojack
    May 26, 2012 8:31 am

    First male I saw pitting on an apron for cooking!
    I asked my Mom for one! :-)

  27. Deanne
    May 26, 2012 9:51 am

    When I was little, I loved EVERYTHING about MIster Roger’s Neighborhood. Like others have posted, I found his calm manner very comforting.

  28. ZuskasMama
    May 26, 2012 10:35 am

    Hi Ginny, Thanks for posting about such a great man! I loved watching Mr. Rodgers growing up. Two stories for you.

    My M-I-L tells of how my husband always needed to have her nearby when he was little. The only time she could get away and do the grocery shopping was the 1/2 hour when Mr. Rodgers was on. He would sit and watch the show and it was the only time he perfectly content to not have her around. (Thank goodness he grew out of that!)

    My own favorite Mr. Rodgers memory is, while in college @ Pitt, assisting with a fundraising event at WQED. We walked into a room and saw all of the Land of Make-Believe! I was so excited to see X-The Owl’s tree! Even better, a few days after the event, I received an autographed picture from Fred Rodgers, thanking me for volunteering. Still something I treasure.

    – and THANK YOU Mr. Rodgers. The pleasure was all mine.

  29. Tammy
    May 26, 2012 11:15 am

    I am 47 and remember Mr Rogers from when I was 3 or 4, so I was likely the first cluster of kids he influenced. I have a clear memory of going downstairs in our 60s sllit level house and mom calling to me that I could find it on channel 8 “What does an 8 look like?” “it looks like a snow man”…what a sweet memory..I wish I had more memories of her like that but booze got in the way.

    I think it is an honor to him to use his story as a reason to reflect on what you want your mark on the world to be. I redirected myself in the second phase of my career and on my 40th birthday was offered a job that I would use to affect change and help those who most needed me.

    I would love the DVD, so I hope I win. I tried to catch the show on PBS but my cable (with thousands of channels of crap) didnt show it.

  30. Enjoying Life
    May 26, 2012 6:23 pm

    My favorite memory is how much my older brother, Mike wanted to be like Mr. Rodgers. I have a picture of Mike (from 2nd grade) with his hair parted and wearing his red cardigan. That picture always makes me smile when I run across it. I always think of Henrietta Pussy Cat when I am on South Braddock Ave in Regent Square and pass Henrietta Street. Mr. Rodgers had such a genuine and nurturing presence about him. It was special that he was able to touch so many of us through our TVs daily. It’s a shame that our youngsters do not get to experience Mr. Rodgers as we had in our days. We all need a little bit of MR. Rodgers in our lives!!

  31. Tyler
    May 27, 2012 6:23 pm

    I loved it when Mr. McFeely would stop by!!

  32. Shannon
    May 27, 2012 8:59 pm

    I remember him changing his shoes and sweater every single time. :)

  33. T
    May 27, 2012 9:25 pm

    Every time I think of Mr. Rogers, I think of how he would walk through his house and throw on his cardigan, zip it all the way up, and then unzip it, just a little. Every time. It was so cute!

  34. LeeInIrwin
    May 27, 2012 10:01 pm

    I remember when he won the lifetime achievement award from the daytime Emmys and they played the clip of Mister Rogers with Jeff Erlanger from 1980 – Jeff is a physically disabled boy in a wheelchair – they sang ‘it’s you I like” – and when the clip was over, the now adult Jeff came onstage – and Mister Rogers, foregoing all decorum, ran up on stage to hug him…… Niagara Falls, Frankie Angel…….

    And I liked when he fed his fish during the show….I miss him…

  35. Craig
    May 28, 2012 11:11 am

    Simple and Deep. Way to go.

  36. Elizabeth Perry
    May 28, 2012 12:10 pm

    From Mister Rogers I learned to pay better attention to small moments.

  37. mike
    May 28, 2012 2:34 pm

    I always loved when Mr. McFeeley would bring a movie to watch on Picture Picture.

  38. J.
    May 28, 2012 3:29 pm

    Mr. Rogers was tall and lean, and wore terrific plaid pants like my grandpa. They also had the same hair. I nly wish the simplicity of his neighborhood was enough for this young generation we are currently raising…

  39. Amber
    May 29, 2012 12:04 am

    I loved to feed his fish.

  40. Gina
    May 29, 2012 8:25 am

    When I was 5, my parents signed me up for the Mr. Rogers fan club. Every month or so, I would get a read along record and book, and a matching poster that was about a different feeling. The one I remember the most clearly was about being afraid. I am going to have to search my parents’ house and see if we still have them.

  41. Flemette
    May 29, 2012 8:44 am

    Mr. Rogers was one of my favorite shows as a child. I loved Daniel Striped Tiger and how timid and loving he was. Such a joy now that my son loves Mr. Rogers as well. Singing “You can never go down the drain” helped him not be afraid in the tub. Mr. Rogers makes you feel loved, even after he’s gone. What a blessing.

  42. Mandi
    May 29, 2012 9:49 am

    I remember thinking that Mr Rogers was always talking directly to me. He had that quiet, soothing way that just made you smile. One of my fondest memories in high school was volunteering at the telethons and getting to see the set pieces… the castle, tree and clock. AND Mr Rogers’ shoes!

  43. MissChris
    May 29, 2012 9:50 am

    He made you feel special. When he said that there was no one else in the world quite like you, he meant it. And you believed him.

  44. Amber
    May 29, 2012 9:58 am

    My favorite part was when the trolley would show up and take us to the land of make believe. And I still love Mr Rogers, because he liked me just for being me!

  45. Aimee
    May 29, 2012 10:34 am

    I love Mr. Rogers because he loved me. I knew it when he spoke to me through the television. I knew it when as a young adult I got to meet him. I was driving the trolley in Idelwild and Mr. Rogers, McFeely and their families came for a tour. He took the time to meet each of us who worked the land of Make Believe for him. What an honor to get to drive that trolley for him.

    Thank you for bringing him back to me. I am so excited to see that Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood will be on PBS this fall to help teach some of the lessons Mr. Rogers taught me to my children. That, is special.

  46. Judy
    May 29, 2012 10:46 am

    How could I possibly pick a favorite Mr. Rodgers memory? Reading through everyone’s posts of how he was so calm, soothing, and respectful of us when we were kids brings back memories of him keeping me company every afternoon. I loved it when he would sing. I had a record of his greatest hits and knew every word and loved to sing along… “I like to take my time, I mean I really hate to hurry. I like to take my time and do it right.”

  47. Julie
    May 29, 2012 11:05 am

    Like several other posts I’ve read, I loved when he fed the fish and the traffic light that hung near the aquarium. I also loved when they went to the land of make believe and my favorite character there was the owl.

  48. Kate
    May 29, 2012 11:15 am

    I loved the sweaters he wore. Something about them was comforting. Seemed like everything he did was comforting and non-threatening and normal. Feeding the fish and working in the kitchen, its hard to name just one.

  49. Joel
    May 29, 2012 11:23 am

    The revolutionary recipe when Mr. Rogers taught me that I could wrap a slice of American Cheese around a Banana. Seriously…that completely changed the way I snacked for the better part of a year.

  50. Emily
    May 29, 2012 11:28 am

    Thank you for this post! I had the opportunity to interview the staff at Family Communications, Inc., a few years ago — David “Mr. McFeely” Newell, Bill Isler, Hedda Sherrapan — all lovely and dedicated people who preserve and carry on the legacy and lessons of Mister Rogers. My favorite memory is not from the show itself but the summers my grandmother and mom took me to the Neighborhood of Make Believe at Idlewild Park.

    Anyone remember the breakdancing episode? The best.