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Greetings,

 

As I drove in this morning there was more bad news about the global economy …. markets around the world dropped more overnight and our market was indicating yet another drop this morning.  The word everyone keeps using is fear.  I can tell you I have had my anxious moments these past weeks as trillions of dollars have evaporated from accounts of real people …. your 401K and mine.  I won’t give financial advice but I will offer some spiritual advice. 

 

The more that fear is gripping you the more you need to talk to someone that went through the great depression.  Millions of real people made it through the great depression and we will make it through our current economic hardship … or whatever history will call this market fluctuation.  In the last number of days I have talked with folks whose families lived through the great depression and they survived.  We will survive too. 

 

No doubt real people will have serious and real problems.  And the Christian community will do what it has done since Jesus first fed the 5000.  We will look out on our neighbor in need and have compassion.  We will do what Jesus taught us to do …. love and care for each other! 

 

All will be well!  We still, even with incredible financial losses, are blessed beyond measure.  But what about the anxious feeling that is real and in my gut?  Try this exercise.  St. Paul give some wonderful advice to center the soul …. it is a mantra of sorts found in the letter to the Philippians.  As you repeat this mantra it will help with your Being.  Pray with me.  Center yourself with me.    

 

Be . . . .

Anxious in Nothing
Prayerful in Everything
Thankful in Anything.

 

Or here is how I say it in prayer form:

 

Let me Be ….

Anxious in Nothing
Prayerful in Everything
Thankful in Anything

 

Print this out or put this on a 3X5 card and tape it up where you can see it and pray it everyday …. 20, 50, 100 times a day.  Pray it until that anxiety begins to fade and the Spirit of God fills you up once again. 

 

Another way to help is to be in church this Sunday Be with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Be with those that love you.  They need your presence and you need theirs.  When we see those we love everything always seems better.  See you in your pew this Sunday!  

 

Peace, Pastor Monte  

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It is 11:35pm on a Wednesday night and I am finally winding down after a full, productive day. After thinking through all I have accomplished I feel like I have competed with my cousin, Dana, who seems to cram four days into one.

This was my Wednesday:

6:00am     Woke up on my own; began reading my daily newsletters from BeliefNet and theatre groups

6:30am     Cleaned living room ceiling fan, mirrors, dishes

7:00am     Dusted living room, study and bedroom; washed dishes

7:30am     Berry green tea, Cheerios (heart healthy); put chicken thighs on to boil; folded two baskets of laundry

8:00am     At desk writing on Wright Bros’ musical, while watching a DVD on Wrights

11:30am   Deboned chicken; made salad; watched a Netflix DVD on Anthony Robbins

12:30pm   Reorganized the closet in my study, brought down a book case from Jose’s room for my study; reorganized some of my book cases in my study

1:00pm     Took a nap

1:30pm     Afternoon Emails and newsletters

2:30pm     Started spaghetti and sauce; showered & dressed

2:45pm    Finished spaghetti; cleaned the bathroom

3:15pm    Talked to Jose

3:30pm    Began teaching

4:00pm    Had an unscheduled break – watched OPRAH…

Today’s show was on ways to save money during this economic crises. One family described how they cut down their electric bill from $150 per month to $50 each month by unplugging unnecessary items. Hmm… good idea. During this break I reconfigured the living room so that the entertainment unit and all but the torch lamps are on a timer from 2:30pm-8:30pm each day. I may change this so that I just unplug it so that it is off on the weekends, too.

5:00pm    Resumed teaching

8:30pm    Finished last student; grabbed some spaghetti while chatting with Jose just home from work

9:00pm    Began reconfiguring my study’s electrical items; only computer remains plugged in 24/7 and monitor is turned off when not in use (generally do this); Jose and I redid the basement and kitchen

10:00pm  Jose and I sat and talked in the study; his girlfriend called and he chatted with her while I redid the electric items in my bedroom

11:00pm  Jose took care of electrics in his room; I finished some late nite items with business, washed more dishes and cleaned the counters

And the day is done… I feel invigorated, and slightly tired; however, the mind is still going strong. Flyer is snuggled next to me on the passenger side of the bed, and Logan is on my legs while I type on my laptop which is situated on a hospital table. I had to turn up the television volume to hear Letterman’s Top Ten because Flyer is snoring loudly.

Tomorrow, Thursday, is an exceptionally busy day:

  • I will connect with my co-writers
  • hopefully accomplish a good deal of writing
  • start teaching at 1:00pm-6:00pm (my shortest day)
  • run some errands
  • relax until Jose returns home from marching band around 9:30pm

We spend most of our evenings chatting, not even watching television. It is a wonderful relationship, and we enjoy one another’s company tremendously.

Today is the 100th birthday of my hero in directing, Joshua Logan.

Joshua Lockwood Logan III (October 5, 1908July 12, 1988) was an American stage and film director and writer.

Logan was born in Texarkana, Texas. His father died when Logan was only three, and his mother remarried six years later. He was reared in Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish and the largest city in north Louisiana. He attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, where his stepfather served on the staff. At school, he experienced his first drama class and felt at home. After his high school graduation he attended Princeton University.

At Princeton, he was involved with the intercollegiate summer stock company, known as the University Players, with fellow student James Stewart and also non-student Henry Fonda. In fact, James Stewart was an architect major when Logan recruited him for a bit part in a production he was directing. Stewart became hooked on acting and the two remained life time friends. During his senior year he served as president of the Princeton Triangle Club. Before his graduation he won a scholarship to study in Moscow with Constantin Stanislavsky, and Logan left school without a diploma.

Logan began his Broadway career as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He then spent time in London, where he “stag[ed] two productions … and direct[ed] a touring revival of Camille“. He also worked as an assistant stage manager. After a short time in Hollywood, Logan directed On Borrowed Time on Broadway. The play ran for a year, but his first major success came in 1938, when he directed I Married an Angel. Over the next few years he directed Knickerbocker Holiday, Morning’s at Seven, Charlie’s Aunt, and By Jupiter.

In 1942 Logan was drafted by the US Army. During his service in World War II, he acted as a public-relations and intelligence officer. When the war concluded he was discharged as a captain, and returned to Broadway. He married his second wife, actress Nedda Harrigan (daughter of Ned Harrigan), in 1945; Logan’s previous marriage, to actress Barbara O’Neil, who is most remembered as Scarlett O’Hara’s mother in GONE WITH THE WIND, a colleague of his at the University Players in the 1930s, had ended in divorce.

After the war, Logan directed the Broadway productions Annie Get Your Gun, John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, South Pacific, and Fanny. He shared the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for co-writing South Pacific. The show also earned him a Tony Award for Best Director. Despite his contributions to the musical, in their review the New York Times originally omitted his name as co-author, and the Pulitzer Prize committee initially awarded the prize to only Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although the mistakes were corrected, in his autobiography Logan wrote “I knew then why people fight so hard to have their names in proper type. It’s not just ego or ‘the principle of the thing,’ it’s possibly another job or a better salary. It’s reassurance. My name had been so minimized that I lived through years of having people praise ‘South Pacific’ in my presence without knowing I had had anything to do with.”

Logan cowrote, coproduced, and directed the 1952 musical Wish You Were Here. After the show was not initially successful, Logan quickly wrote 54 new pages of material, and by the ninth performance the show looked new. In its fourth week of release, the show sold out, and continued to offer sell-out performance for the next two years.

When director John Ford became sick, Logan reluctantly returned to Hollywood to complete the filming of Mister Roberts (1955). Logan’s other hit films included Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Sayonara (1957), and South Pacific (1958). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Directing for Picnic and Sayonara.

His later Broadway musicals All-American (1962) and Mr. President (1962) and the films of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (1967), and Paint Your Wagon (1969) were less acclaimed. Logan’s 1976 autobiography Josh: My Up-and-Down, In-and-Out Life talks frankly about his bipolar disorder. He appeared with his wife in the 1977 nightclub revue Musical Moments, featuring Logan’s most popular Broadway numbers. He published Movie Stars, Real People, and Me in 1978. From 1983-1986, he taught theater at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He was also responsible for bringing Carol Channing to Broadway in Lend an Ear!.

At his best, Logan’s direction was distinguished by a deep insight into character and a remarkable fluidity, the latter especially evident in his staging of often cumbersome musicals. He was sometimes criticized in his later shows and films, however, for too heavy a touch. Autobiography: Josh: My Up and Down, In and Out Life, 1976.

Logan died in 1988 in New York of supranuclear palsy.

JOSHUA LOGAN’S OBITUARY…

Published: July 13, 1988

Joshua L. Logan, the director of some of Broadway’s most enduring and prestigious hits, among them ”South Pacific,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and ”Mister Roberts,” died yesterday afternoon at his Manhattan home. He was 79 years old and had suffered for many years from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease.

Joshua L. Logan, the director of some of Broadway’s most enduring and prestigious hits, among them ”South Pacific,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and ”Mister Roberts,” died yesterday afternoon at his Manhattan home. He was 79 years old and had suffered for many years from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease.

Mr. Logan frequently served as co-author and producer or co-producer as well as director of plays. He was also that uncommon phenomenon, the theater director who was also successful in films – with such hits as ”Sayonara” and ”Paint Your Wagon.”

While he attempted the classics only once, with ”The Wisteria Trees” – his own version of Chekhov’s ”Cherry Orchard” – and did not seek out innovative or avant-garde drama, he was a consummate theatrical craftsman, possessing great emotional force that he was able to transmit to the actors he directed.

His long string of successes really began with the musical ”I Married an Angel” (1938) and included ”Knickerbocker Holiday” with Walter Huston the same year, ”Annie Get Your Gun” (1946), ”Picnic” (1953), ”Fanny” (1954), ”The World of Suzie Wong” (1958) and the movie of ”Camelot” (1967). Some Failures, Too

He did have his failures, notably ”Miss Moffat,” a musical version of ”The Corn Is Green,” starring Bette Davis. It closed in Philadelphia before reaching New York, when Miss Davis withdrew from the cast. Another was ”Rip van Winkle,” a 1976 musical for which he wrote both book and lyrics as well as provided the direction. It closed before its New York opening. ”Ensign Pulver,” a 1964 film, was not a success, nor was ”Look to the Lilies,” in 1970.

Mr. Logan was notable for his candor in discussing manic depression, the mental illness in which manic elation alternates with profound depression. He had the condition for many years before it was discovered that it could be controlled by the drug lithium carbonate.

It had been rumored for years that Mr. Logan’s ups and downs of mood were occasionally excessive, and that he required hospitalization for extended periods, which in fact he did on two occasions.

After January 1969, when he learned of lithium and began taking it as a preventive, Mr. Logan decided, he wrote in ”Movie Stars, Real People, and Me,” that he would talk about it. Telling What He Knew ”I had been ignorant all my life about such things,” he said, ”at least I could tell others so they would never be as ignorant as I was.”

He took part in medical seminars, appeared on television and talked and wrote about his illness. But he also made it clear that he felt its manic phase contributed to his creativity: ”Without my illness, active or dormant, I’m sure I would have lived only half of the life I’ve lived and that would be as unexciting as a safe and sane Fourth of July. I would have missed the sharpest, the rarest and, yes, the sweetest moments of my existence.”

Joshua Lockwood Logan was born Oct. 5, 1908, in Texarkana, Tex. His father died when he was 3 years old; six years later, his mother married an Army officer who was later on the staff of the Culver (Ind.) Military Academy.

It was when he was 8 years old that Joshua saw his first professional play, ”Everywoman,” in Shreveport, La. It was, he wrote in his autobiography, ”Josh,” a case of ”love at first sight.” It was during his five years at Culver, Mr. Logan wrote, that he entered his first dramatics class and ”felt my life swerve and suddenly steady itself.” Studied With Stanislavsky.

He chose to go to Princeton because of its Triangle Club show that toured the country, and he entered the university in 1927. The previous year, he recalled, he saw his first Broadway play, ”What Price Glory?”

TRIVIA…

  • Won seven Tony Awards:
  • two in 1948 for “Mister Roberts,” with collaborator Thomas Heggen as Best Authors and as writers of the Best Play winner
  • four in 1950 for “South Pacific,” as Best Director, Best Authors (Musical) with Oscar Hammerstein II, Best Producers (Musical) wirh Richard Rodgers, Hammerstein and Leland Hayward, and as writers, along with Rodgers and Hammerstein, of the Best Musical winner
  • and one in 1953, as Best Director for William Inge‘s “Picnic.”
  • He was also Tony-nominated on two other occasions:
  • in 1959, as co-producer of Best Play nominee “Epitaph for George Dillon,”
  • in 1962 as Best Director (Musical) for “All American.”

In 1908, Wilbur Wright, demonstrating the Wright flying machine for the French government, captured the attention, and imagination of the entire world. Wilbur, along with his brother, Orville, who was preparing for the United States’ demonstration at Fort Myer in Virginia (outsideWashington, DC), had released man’s bonds with earth five years before. Taunted by skepticism, as well as fear of rivals seizing their design, the brothers stopped flying for three years.

Now, in 1908, it was time to prove to the world that man could fly. And in doing so, the brothers, along with their sister, Katharine, became the Twentieth Century’s first international celebrities.

One hundred years later, in Beijing, China, the United States has another international celebrity – Michael Phelps.

I have watched, with great interest, enthusiasm, and awe how this young man has broken records, and ties, to become an international icon.

To me, Wilbur, Orville, and Michael are so much more than heroes and legends – they are examples re-claiming, even shouting, the age old mantra that each of us is capable of great things. We do not need Kitty Hawk or Beijingto fulfill our dreams. What we do need is faith, determination, passion, desire, guts, vision, and perseverance.

“Lord, give me the ingredients to fly as high as the Wrights, and as fast as Phelps. Amen.”


Looking At What We Don’t Want To See

It is one of life’s great paradoxes that the things we don’t want to look at in ourselves are the very things we need to look at in order to know ourselves better and to become more fully who we are. The feelings that make us want to run away are buried treasure full of energy and inspiration if we are willing to look. These feelings come in many forms, from strange images or snippets of information to recurring dreams and feelings that rise up seemingly without a reason. Whatever shape they come in, and no matter how scary they seem, these messengers bring the information we need in order to grow.

When we are tired of pushing something down, or trying to run away from it, a good first step is to write down what we think we are avoiding. Often this turns out to be only the surface of the issue or a symbol of something else. Expressing ourselves fully on paper is a safe way to begin exploring the murky territory of the unconscious. The coolness of the intellect can give us the distance we need to read what we have written and feel less afraid of it. It helps if we remember that no matter how dark or negative our thoughts or feelings may be, these are energies shared by all humanity. We are not alone in the dark, and all the gurus and teachers we admire had to go through their own unprocessed emotional territory in order to come out the other side brighter and wiser. This can give us the courage we need to open the treasure chest of what we have been avoiding.

Within the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to look at, there are emotions that need to be felt. Unfelt emotions are stuck energy, and when we leave emotions unprocessed, we deprive ourselves of access to that energy. When we feel strong enough, we can begin the process of feeling those emotions, on our own or with guidance from a spiritual counselor. It is through this work that the buried treasure of energy and inspiration will pour forth from our hearts, giving us the courage to look at all the parts of ourselves with insight and compassion.


Being Gentle With Ourselves

During those times when our lives are filled with what seems to be constant change and growth, it is important to remember that we need to be gentle with ourselves. Since it can be easy to use our energy to keep up with the momentum of our lives, we may not be aware of the fact that we are much more likely to run ourselves down. When things seem to be moving quickly, it is especially essential that we make a point to slow down and be gentle with ourselves.

It might be difficult to notice what is happening to us for we may be so caught up in the whirlwind of our lives that we lose sight of the direction in which things are heading. Being gentle with ourselves doesn’t mean that we don’t accomplish things. Instead it means that we honor ourselves on an ongoing basis and take care of the needs of our bodies.

This means different things to different people. For instance, it could mean having a session with a healer; taking a remedy, herbs, or vitamins; or getting extra sleep. Putting our energy into ourselves in this way helps create space for a more positive, loving, and accepting view of our lives. By setting the intention to do so, we will be more cognizant of our energy levels on a daily basis and more able to replenish them as needed.

The more we are able to treat our bodies with gentleness, the more tenderness and compassion we will call forth into our lives. Learning to understand and pay attention to what our self needs will in turn allow us to fill our lives with unlimited loving and healing energy and to truly take care of the things that mean the most to us.


Technology As Distraction

We are often lured by the promise of new technologies to make our lives easier and help connect us to others. While they do so in many ways, they also present each of us with opportunities to make new choices about how we spend our time and invest our energy. Most gadgets are generally meant to improve the quality of our lives, but it is when we spend too much time with them that they actually do the opposite. By always using our portable emailers, cell phones, video games, and surfing the Internet, we actually become less connected and more distracted. By becoming aware of these tendencies, we harness the power to overcome them and make better choices for ourselves and our families.

Once we decide to consciously put our gadgets to work for us, we become masters of our time. We can give our full attention to whatever we are doing and not let phone conversations and other distractions take the place of human contact. Each of us has the ability to consciously choose to be more present in our lives. We can decide at any time to leave our gadgets behind and become aware of the sights and sounds around us in order to expand our awareness and be fully present in our bodies and our surroundings.

When we use our discernment about how we invest our personal energy, we can be sure that we choose only the best for ourselves and those we love. Our gadgets can be useful tools for our journey in the material world, but we must not forget that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and that means interacting with people on a personal level. Choices that enliven us and help us feel connected to our world and our loved ones always deserve our full attention and presence of mind, body, and spirit.

Take Action

There is a popular misconception that we might be able to just wish our dreams into being. Maybe on some other level of consciousness this is the case, but here on earth what we need to do is take action in our lives. Vision is an important companion to our efforts, but it can’t accomplish anything all by itself. When we focus on what we want and ask for what we want, we are initiating a conversation with the universe. Our desires, passionately defined and expressed, bring about valuable and relevant opportunities, which we then respond to by either taking or leaving them.

Many of us are afraid to step out into the world and make things happen, and so we hang back, dreaming and waiting and watching. There are times in life when this is the right thing to do, but this phase of inaction must eventually give way to its opposite if we are to build our dreams into a reality. This can be really scary, and we may fail and struggle, but that’s okay because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Waiting for everything to be perfect before we act, or waiting for what we want to be handed to us, leaves us waiting forever. No one expects us to be perfect, so the best thing we can do for ourselves is to get out there and take action on our dreams.

One of the hardest parts about having a vision is that when we test it in the laboratory of life, it often comes out looking completely different than what we had in mind or, worse, it doesn’t come out at all. If you read the life stories of people who have brought their dreams into reality, you will hear many stories about this experience. But you will also hear about hard work, taking action, perseverance, and, finally, the successful birthing of a dream.


Disarming The Know-It-All

Most of us have encountered a person in our lives who can accurately be referred to as a know-it-all. This person seems to know everything about anything that gets brought up and tends to dominate the conversation. They don’t take well to being questioned, and they have a hard time ever admitting that they were wrong.

Being around a know-it-all is inevitably tiring because there is no shared energy between the two of you. Rather, you become an audience member to this person’s need to be the center of attention. Attention and respect are probably the two things this person most longs for, and at some point in their lives, they learned that knowing it all was the way to get those needs met. Over time, they have become stuck in this pattern, regardless of the fact that it is no longer working. They may feel afraid of the experience of listening, being receptive, or learning something new, because it’s so unfamiliar.

On the one hand, when we see the childlike need underneath the know-it-all’s mask of confidence, we feel compassion for the person, and we may tolerate their one-sided approach to conversation out of a desire not to hurt their feelings. On the other hand, we may be feeling drained and tempted to avoid this person altogether. In the middle of these two possible ways of feeling, we may actually like this person and wish for a closer relationship. If we come from a place of kindness, we might attempt to bridge the gap that this person’s habitual way of relating creates. Simply expressing a desire to be closer may open their heart, and give you a chance to ask for what you need in the relationship—a chance to contribute.


Food Allergies

In this day and age we know so much more about our relationship to food than our predecessors, and the way we eat and think about food has become almost unrecognizable to our grandparents’ generation. One example of this is our awareness of food allergies, a condition that has recently entered the collective consciousness. Most of us know someone who is allergic to such commonplace foods as wheat and dairy, and we may even be prone to such an allergy. Understanding how our bodies react to food, and making the necessary adjustments in our diet, can have a profound effect on our whole energy system, and can be the key to shifting our mind into a state of greater clarity.

When we are continuously exposed to a food that gives us an allergic reaction, we feel lethargic, foggy-headed, or as if we always have a low-grade sinus infection. Other symptoms can include nausea, digestive difficulties, skin problems, and difficulty breathing. Many of us have been fighting these symptoms our whole lives without realizing that getting relief could be as simple as cutting a particular food out of our diet. When we do, we feel as if we are waking up out of a fog, and our whole system, cleared of substances that work against it, benefits. Many people see skin improvements, they sleep better, have more energy, and feel able to think more clearly. When we feel less than well, testing ourselves, or getting tested by someone else, for food allergies may be a good place to start.

If you know how to do kinesiology, or if you work with a pendulum or have access to clear signals from an inner guide, you can test yourself. If these modes of gaining information are unfamiliar or uncomfortable, you can get tested through a doctor of your choice. However we go about it, exploring our relationship to the foods we eat can be the first step to a more optimal state of health, well-being, and clarity of mind.


Together On Earth

Seeing an image of the planet Earth taken from space inspires awe in many of us, since we can clearly see the connectedness of all of us who live upon this planet. We have created imaginary boundaries, sectioning ourselves into countries and states, forgetting that in reality we are all living together, breathing the same air, drinking from the same water, eating food grown from the same earth. We share everything on this planet, whether we are conscious of it or not, with other people, and those people are our brothers and sisters. Keeping a photograph or painting of the planet Earth in a prominent place in our homes can be a positive way to remember our interconnectedness.

Meditating on the fact that any sense of separation we have from one another is truly an illusion, we will naturally begin to make more conscious choices in our daily lives. The simple act of preparing food, or determining how to dispose of our refuse, can be done with the consciousness that whatever we do will affect all our brothers and sisters, no matter how far away they live, as well as the planet herself. When we foster this kind of awareness in ourselves out of a feeling of awe, it becomes easier to be conscious than to fall back into old habits of thinking of ourselves as separate.

When we contemplate the earth in her wholeness, we attune ourselves to the truth of the bigger picture, which is the Earth, and all of us, every one of us, living on her body. We are connected to one another in the most intimate way, because we literally share our living space. As more people become aware of the reality of our interdependency, things will shift in a positive direction, and much of the discord that we see now will give way to a more cooperative, loving conscious. This is happening already, so as our consciousness grows, we can join with the many other minds working to live in the spirit of togetherness.

When I’m feeling down, I like to whistle. It makes the neighbor’s dog run to the end of his chain and gag himself.

A penny saved is obviously the result of a government oversight.

The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends.

The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a new replacement for it.

He who hesitates is probably doing the right thing.

Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are ‘ XL.’

If you think there is some good in everybody, you obviously haven’t met ‘everybody’.

If you can smile when things go wrong, you must have someone else in mind to blame.

The sole purpose of a child’s middle name is so that he can tell when he’s ‘really’ in trouble.

There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.

Did you ever notice: When you put the 2 words ‘The’ and ‘IRS’ together it spells ‘Theirs.’

Aging: Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.

The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

Some people try to turn back their life’s odometers. Not me, I want people to know ‘why’ I look this way. I’ve traveled a long, long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.

When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think of Algebra.

You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is such a nice change from being young.

Ah, being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable.

First you forget names, then you forget faces. Then you forget to pull up your zipper. It’s even worse when you forget to pull it down.

Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today, it’s called golf.

 


Creating A Nightly Ritual

At the end of the day, as the sweet, dark stillness of night beckons us to lay down our bones and rest, we find ourselves at a clear transition point: Behind us lies the previous day and all that has come before; ahead of us, dawn heralds the unfolding of all that is yet to be. While many of us have morning rituals that connect us with our center and help us to set intentions, we may want to explore the magic and power of nighttime ritual as well. It holds for us a beautiful chance for self-appreciation and blessing. Before you go to bed each night, you can send gratitude, compassion, and healing to the being you have been up until this moment. And you can send lightness and love into the future for the one you are in the process of becoming.

Though simple, this action honors the journey you have taken thus far, while opening you to the wonderful possibilities still ahead. When you consciously engage with your own evolution this way, you may find that your sleep gets sweeter, filling your night with a deeper sense of trust and relaxation. As you rest, you can surrender to these peaceful hours, knowing that the road behind you has been seen and acknowledged with respect and kindness, while the path ahead now holds your own benevolence and well wishes.

This bedtime ritual empowers you as the only one who can determine the meaning of your own past and the hopefulness of your future. By setting this special time aside each night, you can begin to orient yourself on your path of growing. It allows you to let the past have its place, to trust that the future is taken care of, and to simply rest yourself in the graceful arms of the present moment.

For the past several months, or so, I have been experiencing a feeling – as John Adams called it in the musical 1776 – “discontentment.” As I was writing a good friend earlier this afternoon, I feel like all these major musical theatre characters singing about the excitement festering within.

Here are some examples:

Tony in WEST SIDE STORY:

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It’ll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don’t be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

Jekyll in JEKYLL & HYDE:

This is the moment!
This is the day,
When I send all my doubts and demons
On their way!

Every endeavor,
I have made – ever –
Is coming into play,
Is here and now – today!

This is the moment,
This is the time,
When the momentum and the moment
Are in rhyme!

Give me this moment –
This precious chance –
I’ll gather up my past
And make some sense at last!

This is the moment,
When all I’ve done –
All the dreaming,
Scheming and screaming,
Become one!

This is the day –
See it sparkle and shine,
When all I’ve lived for
Becomes mine!

For all these years,
I’ve faced the world alone,
And now the time has come
To prove to them
I’ve made it on my own!

This is the moment –
My final test –
Destiny beckoned,
I never reckoned,
Second Best!

I won’t look down,
I must not fall!
This is the moment,
The sweetest moment of them all!

This is the moment!
Damn all the odds!
This day, or never,
I’ll sit forever
With the gods!

When I look back,
I will always recall,
Moment for moment,
This was the moment,
The greatest moment
Of them all!

Something is festering inside – a burning desire to be doing something else. The past month I have had some strange “reminders” about the Mary Todd Lincoln musical… why? Who knows…

I am so ready for this next great adventure – whatever it is. The signs continue to herald that the time is near. Perhaps it is already here and I am not recognizing it… maybe there is nothing to recognize. Maybe I am supposed to just dig in and work…


Permission To Be Real

Most of us are familiar with the idea of keeping it real and have an intuitive sense about what that means. People who keep it real don’t hide behind a mask to keep themselves safe from their fear of how they might be perceived. They don’t present a false self in order to appear more perfect, more powerful, or more independent. People who keep it real present themselves as they truly are, the good parts and the parts most of us would rather hide, sharing their full selves with the people who are lucky enough to know them.

Being real in this way is not an easy thing to do as we live in a culture that often shows us images of physical and material perfection. As a result, we all want to look younger, thinner, wealthier, and more successful. We are rewarded externally when we succeed at this masquerade, but people who are real remind us that, internally, we suffer. Whenever we feel that who we are is not enough and that we need to be bigger, better, or more exciting, we send a message to ourselves that we are not enough. Meanwhile, people who are not trying to be something more than they are walk into a room and bring a feeling of ease, humor, and warmth with them. They acknowledge their wrinkles and laugh at their personal eccentricities without putting themselves down.

People like this inspire us to let go of our own defenses and relax for a moment in the truth of who we really are. In their presence, we feel safe enough to take off our masks and experience the freedom of not hiding behind a barrier. Those of us who were lucky enough to have a parent who was able to keep it real may find it easier to be that way ourselves. The rest of us may have to work a little harder to let go of our pretenses and share the beauty and humor of our real selves. Our reward for taking such a risk is that as we do, we will attract and inspire others, giving them the permission to be real too.

Motivational Quotes

Experience aboard a tall ship inspires a vision that transcends into motivation that has the power to overcome ALL barriers.

People who have a vision control their destiny and lifestyle. For people without a vision, their destiny and lifestyle is controlled by others.

Today’s teenagers are being academically stuffed while being motivationally starved.

Priorities
There are three priorities, CHEAP, QUICK and GOOD. You can have any two.
A good job quick — won’t be cheap.
A quick job cheap — won’t be good.
A good job cheap — won’t be quick.
Note: A single priority increases efficiency. At the other end, if all three elements have equal priority the results are reversed, low quality, high cost, and difficult to finish. This is the result of rotating priorities, which means, no one knows what the goal is. Priority of the moment depends on current mood.

What is Your Leadership Style?
High Efficiency
Do it.
Do it then tell me what you did.
Tell me what you are going to do and do it.
Tell me what you want to do and wait for a decision.
Don’t do anything without my approval.
Don’t do anything until I tell you.
Low Efficiency

“Leadership is constantly changing, and survivors learn to change with it.”

“Yesterday, natural resources defined power. Today, knowledge is power. Yesterday, leaders commanded and controlled. Today, leaders empower and coach. Yesterday, leaders were warriors. Today, they are facilitators. Yesterday, managers directed. Today, managers delegate. Yesterday, supervisors flourished. Today, supervisors vanish.” — Dr. Denis Waitley, The Toastmaster, December 2000.

Seven Rules of Motivation
#1 Set a major goal, but follow a path. The path has mini goals that go in many directions. When you learn to succeed at mini goals, you will be motivated to challenge grand goals.
#2 Finish what you start. A half finished project is of no use to anyone. Quitting is a habit. Develop the habit of finishing self-motivated projects.
#3 Socialize with others of similar interest. Mutual support is motivating. We will develop the attitudes of our five best friends. If they are losers, we will be a looser. If they are winners, we will be a winner. To be a cowboy we must associate with cowboys.
#4 Learn how to learn. Dependency on others for knowledge is a slow, time consuming processes. Man has the ability to learn without instructors. In fact, when we learn the art of self-education we will find, if not create, opportunity to find success beyond our wildest dreams.
#5 Harmonize natural talent with interest that motivates. Natural talent creates motivation, motivation creates persistence and persistence gets the job done.
#6 Increase knowledge of subjects that inspires. The more we know about a subject, the more we want to learn about it. A self-propelled upward spiral develops.
#7 Take risk. Failure and bouncing back are elements of motivation. Failure is a learning tool. No one has ever succeeded at anything worthwhile without a string of failures.

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” ~ Foster C. McClellan

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny. When we walk to the edge of all the light we have, and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on… or we will be taught to fly.” ~ Frank Outlaw

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” ~ Helen Keller

“Are you disappointed, discouraged and discontented with your present level of success? Are you secretly dissatisfied with your present status? Do you want to become a better and more beautiful person than you are today? Would you like to be able to really learn how to be proud of yourself and still not lose genuine humility? Then start dreaming! Its possible! You can become the person you have always wanted to be!” ~ Robert H. Schuller

“Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision.” ~ Muhammad Ali

“Become a Possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities—always see them, for they’re always there.”
~ Norman Vincent Peale

 

 

There is an undercurrent of energy thrumming through the Universe. Like the wind or a whisper, we can sometimes hear it and often feel it. Most of the time, we sense this energy unconsciously without any tangible proof it is really there. Thoughts, emotions, and the life force in all living things are forms of this kind of energy. So are creativity, growth, and change. The impressions, images, and vague premonitions we get about people and situations are other examples of formless energy. When you enter a space and feel an “intangible tension” in the air that gives you a sense of foreboding in your gut, what you are likely experiencing is energy.
 
Energy cannot be destroyed, but it can be transformed or transferred from one person, thing, or source to another. Though energy is formless, it does take form and shape in the way it flows and resides within all things: a grain of sand, a bird, a stone, and an ocean wave. Living things radiate complex vibrations while nonliving things’ vibrations are simpler. Energy is a magnifier that can attract like energies while repelling disparate ones. Many of our reactions to people and circumstances are based on unconscious reactions to their energies. We may even intuitively tune into the energy of a situation we are facing when making a decision about how to proceed. With careful practice and meditation, we can learn to sense the energy within other living things and ourselves. We can also become more attuned to how we are impacted by different kinds of energy. For instance, being around too many energies can leave one person feeling edgy or excited, while another person will feel tired and drained.
 
While some people feel that energy can be controlled, others see it is as the unknowable force that moves through all things. The combined energy in all things plays a hand in birth, death, growth, movement, and stillness. Practitioners of Aikido believe that all living beings share a common energy source that is our life force. Whatever your beliefs, it is worthwhile to explore the roles energy plays in your life so you can understand it more fully.

 

Not Everybody Will Like You

It is not necessarily a pleasant experience, but there will be times in our lives when we come across people who do not like us. As we know, like attracts like, so usually when they don’t like us it is because they are not like us. Rather than taking it personally, we can let them be who they are, accepting that each of us is allowed to have different perspectives and opinions. When we give others that freedom, we claim it for ourselves as well, releasing ourselves from the need for their approval so we can devote our energy toward more rewarding pursuits.

While approval from others is a nice feeling, when we come to depend on it we may lose our way on our own path. There are those who will not like us no matter what we do, but that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with us. Each of us has our own filters built from our experiences over time. They may see in us something that is merely a projection of their understanding, but we have no control over the interpretations of others. The best we can do is to hope that the role we play in the script of their lives is helpful to them, and follow our own inner guidance with integrity.

As we reap the benefits of walking our perfect paths, we grow to appreciate the feeling of fully being ourselves. The need to have everyone like us will be replaced by the exhilaration of discovering that we are attracting like-minded individuals into our lives—people who like us because they understand and appreciate the truth of who we are. We free ourselves from trying to twist into shapes that will fit the spaces provided by others’ limited understanding and gain a new sense of freedom, allowing us to expand into becoming exactly who we’re meant to be. And in doing what we know to be right for us, we show others that they can do it too. Cocreating our lives with the universe and its energy of pure potential, we transcend limitations and empower ourselves to shine our unique light, fully and freely.

Feeling Jealous

Jealousy is one of the toughest feelings we come up against in our lives. There is not much worse than this aching sense that somehow life has been unfair to us, while amply rewarding someone else. It’s even worse if that someone else is present in our daily lives, making it difficult for us to get the space we need to feel and heal our pain. We may be jealous of a sibling, a dear friend, or even famous personalities. We may even face the challenge of feeling jealous of our spouse, our child, or one of our parents. Whatever the case, we can normalize our experience by understanding that, as painful as it is, jealousy is a common human feeling.

Nevertheless, it is important that we not revel in our jealousy for too long, feeding it with inner talk or gossip with others. If we do, we run the risk of losing ourselves to its negative power. Jealousy has something good to offer us, though, and that is information about our own heart’s desire. When we are jealous of certain people, we want what they have, and if we are to be conscious, we must acknowledge that. In this way, we discover what we want for ourselves, which is the first step to getting it. It may be a certain kind of relationship or a career. Whatever it is, it is possible that we could create it for ourselves, in our own lives, if we are able to honor our own desires.

Of course, there are times when we cannot heal our jealousy in this way, and then the lesson may be about acceptance and the understanding that our path is different from the paths of those around us. It may be hard to see now, but perhaps it will eventually be clear why our life has taken its particular path. In the end, the best cure for jealousy is the recognition that the life we have is full of its own meaning and beauty, utterly unique to us—a gift that could never be found in the life of another.

People In Need

When we see a person in need, we may want to give them something as a way of helping them, but if we give without taking the time to see who they really are, honoring that most of all, our gift is nowhere near as powerful as it could be. We may want to give a homeless person a sandwich, for example, but if we give it without also taking a moment to look the person in the eye, making authentic contact, we rob them of the experience of being human.

Being in a position of need leaves a lot of people feeling vulnerable and full of self-doubt. The greatest gift we can give is to meet people in need without judgment and with the awareness that we are not superior to them simply because we are not currently in their position. If we take the long view, we can see that we all began life in need of a lot of care and attention, and many of us end life in the same way. Giving and receiving are companion energies that take turns throughout our lives, and we all get a chance to be on both sides of the exchange from time to time.

It’s important to be aware of our own tendency to give from a desire to feel good about ourselves, rather than from an acknowledgement of our connection to all people. Letting go of our self-importance allows us to see that, regardless of appearances, we are all givers and receivers. When we are in the position of the giver, we honor those we are helping when we remember the many people who have helped us. Then we can look the person we are helping in the eye, aware that we are making contact with a human being who is our equal.

Peggy Barbour Straughen (born Margaret Ann Barbour), 70, of Washington Township passed away unexpectedly at Miami Valley Hospital on Tuesday, July 22, 2008. Born in Chambersburg, PA on August 21, 1937, Peggy entered nursing school in Harrisburg where she met her husband, Bill (William Joseph) Straughen. Married in 1958, they had recently celebrated their 50th anniversary withtheir children and grandchildren. Peggy was active in many ways at Normandy United Methodist Church, where she was a member for 40 years. Over her life, she sang in the choir, taught Sunday school and was a lay leader. She had a deep and abiding faith. Peggy was very active right up until her death; quilting, genealogy and playing bridge were her favorite interests. Peggy loved her swim lunch bunch and enjoyed their company often. She enjoyed traveling to see family and friends, from a high-school friend in California to family in Pennsylvania and Florida.

 

Darin’s tribute….

This morning, many dear friends of mine, and parishioners of Normandy United Methodist Church bid farewell to an extraordinary lady, Peggy Straughen. I don’t believe I could say that Peggy was larger than life because she WAS life! She personified how I wish I could live my own life.

The service was absolutely beautiful. In the narthex were photographs of Peggy and her family, a slide show played on the large screen in the sanctuary, and the altar was adorned with quilts made by Peggy’s own hands.

The ministers, David & Elizabeth Brown, are still fairly new, and they are both remarkable, invigorating speakers. Despite the fact I have now witnessed them presiding over two funerals, I marvel at their spirit, their passion for their ministry at Normandy, and their love and devotion to this congregation. They are indeed, a true blessing for this congregation.

The music was beautiful, and the personal tributes delightful, insightful, and moving.

So… how do I say a few words about Peggy? Woa! Say a few words? Trying to say a few words about Peggy would be like trying to fill a bath tub with the ocean.

I sat in the Normandy sanctuary this morning, just like every one else sitting in the packed church…

shocked….

saddened…

and with a feeling there is now a hideous void in our world as we have known it.

While I describe this brilliant lady, it would be appropriate that my writing should take on a quality of haunting strings from something like Samuel Barber’s ADAGIO FOR STRINGS.

But come on… this is for Peggy…

She was not a symphony dripping with melancholy… Peggy’s life was more like a big marching band! Peggy emulated the liveliness, strength, excitement, bounce, thrill, passion, and drive of a John Phillip Sousa march!

For those who knew Peggy, answer the following statements with True or False…

  • Peggy had a big heart.
  • Peggy loved her family dearly and fiercely.
  • Peggy had a big, hearty laugh.
  • You always knew where you stood with Peggy.
  • When you asked Peggy, “How are you doing?” More often than not, she told you what neat things her children and grandchildren were doing.
  • Peggy had a hug that was the grip of a grisly.
  • Peggy loved all her friends.
  • Peggy loved her God, loved Normandy church and its people.

Do you notice all these statements were TRUE?

Well, so was Peggy.

It was 12 years ago I met Peggy when I first arrived at Normandy as the director of music. Following my first rehearsal, Peggy charged right up to me, passing the other choir members who were coming forward to welcome me.

Peggy wanted to let me know that she was the choir’s librarian and if I needed anything, please let her know. While I greeted other choir members, Peggy waited patiently, chatting, laughing, smiling… now, keep in mind – Peggy never did anything with half-hearted effort. Her laughter was big… her smiles were huge (but oh, so warm and inviting)… the sparkle in her eyes was tremendous…

Once the last choir member had left, Peggy walked me to the music office, and began my tutorial of how “her” music library worked. When Peggy was instructing, she was never demeaning, or bossy. As someone said this morning, Peggy had high expectations of her self, and encouraged others to be accountable for their own expectations. Although Peggy’s comments to me could have appeared critical, she was simply treating me like one of her own children – she wanted me to be the best I could, and should be.

Peggy gave me my marching orders for the music library, and I commented that once summer began I would take the time to go through the files – there was a ton of music to explore.

The following week I arrived for choir rehearsal and Peggy was waiting for me. She walked me to the music office and with words that were both business like, but with an air of girlish excitement, she pointed to two large storage tubs on my desk.

Peggy took the time to pull one copy of choir music from each file folder. Each copy was placed in the tub, in order of the file cabinets, and each drawer was labeled in the tubs so that I would know exactly where to search for the folders of music!

This was brilliant, and I hugged Peggy, thanking her for all her work.

Peggy told me, “There’s no sense in you wasting your time going through the drawers. You can take these tubs home and go through them at your leisure. Besides, we’ve run off a lot of choir directors and I can tell you’re a keeper.”

And with that, Peggy was out the door, greeting other choir members.

Later that fall, on a late stormy night, I was working in the music office. I heard the front door of the Grant House open, and slam shut. The footsteps came directly to my office. There stood Peggy, rain water dripping off her rain coat, her glasses speckled with water droplets, and her hair damp.

I saw your car in the circle and the light on.  Are you OK?”

I assured Peggy I was fine and that I was just finishing up some work.

Peggy quickly assessed the project at hand, and before I knew it, her coat was draped over the chair and without invitation, she was working along side me – chatting and laughing. But before leaving for home, she gave me a hug and said, “This was fun. Thank you for letting me join you.”

When I was preparing to travel with my brother and his students to Washington, DC, I was telling the choir at rehearsal that the year before our buses drove through this beautiful Pennsylvanian town enroute to Gettysburg just as the sun was rising over the hills.

Peggy leaned forward, grinning, and asked, “Do you remember the name of that town?”

“Yes,” I said. “Chambersburg.”

The rest of the choir must have already known what Peggy squealed out with pride, and excitement. “I’m from Chambersburg!”

After rehearsal, Peggy told me about the town, and I believe her mother was still living at that time. I know she loved visiting her beloved home town.

When I returned from the trip, I handed Peggy three or four photos I had taken of Chambersburg as we were passing through. Peggy was so touched that I would not only remember, but take photos for her.

This morning, my successor as music director told the gathered loved ones how Peggy never held back on “making corrections” in rehearsals. In one rehearsal, Peggy corrected me on something – politely, but with her, “Let’s get this correct” gaze.

When we agreed on the item, Ron Thie, one of the most hilarious, lovable men I have ever known, asked Peggy, “Is there anything you need to fix with the basses, Peggy?”

The room became silent, not knowing how Peggy would react. I think I was even standing a little taller. Peggy turned in her chair, looked directly at Ron and said, “Well, since you asked…”

Peggy led the choir in explosive laughter!

Another time I forgot to cue the altos on a cut-off. This cut-off had been one of my instructions, and we had even rehearsed it. Well, during this one rehearsal, I forgot that cut-off. When I stopped the choir for notes, Peggy’s hand shot into the air.

“Are you going to cue that cut-off or not? There’s no sense in us all looking up at that point if you aren’t going to give us that cut-off.”

Be assured, that cut-off was not forgotten!

One day, I decided to spruce up my office, and discovered an artificial floral arrangement across the hallway in a closet. I set it on the file cabinets in my office. Peggy saw it just before the choir’s next rehearsal, and asked, “Did you get permission to use that arrangement?”

I look dumbfounded.

Just be sure you check with someone before you use things. People here at Normandy are kind of funny about their areas in the church.”

I asked Peggy, “Who should I ask?”

She smiled, laughed, and said, “Me, of course.”

One parishioner this morning said she and Peggy would have contests on who knew their hymns. The lady said, “As I proudly started to sing the first verse to prove I knew a hymn, Peggy would start singing the second verse.”

One of my first Sundays at Normandy, I was seated on the angle of the first row, and I noticed Peggy kept looking at me during the hymns. After service she strolled up to me and said, “I am proud of you. You didn’t crack open your hymnal for any of the hymns.”

Truth be known, I often get the first verse of a hymn, but move my mouth throughout the remainder of the hymn.

Peggy gave hugs that could weaken a quarterback. I once joked that after my first Peggy-hug, I had to go to the ER with four cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, and smashed vertebrae. Peggy never squeezed the life out of you, she squeezed her love into you.

 

 

So here I am on a Saturday night, writing about a woman that obviously touched my life in a big way… in a great, and loving way.

I hope that each of us will continue to use many of Peggy’s wonderful attributes as a guide for our own lives.

Just like Peggy…

…keep working hard and with tremendous devotion and a big passion.

….keep serving others with deep love and a big passion.

…keep loving others with sincerity and a big passion.

….and when you see someone who needs a hug, give them a Peggy Straughen hug and let them know you truly love them.

God bless you, Peggy, and thank you for touching my life… for hugging my life in a big way!

 

Joel OsteenKarl Taro Greenfeld of Portfolio.com examines the money-making machine that is Houston’s Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church 

Last year, Lakewood generated $76 million in revenue, which amounts to just over $1,600 for every member of its congregation. Its take includes $44 million donated directly by congregants, who are asked to give 10 percent of their gross income; $10 million in product sales and sermon tapes; and $13 million brought in through direct-mail solicitations, up from about $6 million two years ago. The church’s greatest expense is the TV airtime it buys: $22 million last year to broadcast the show in more than 100 markets, a 10 percent annual increase in spending that is easy to justify. “Cutting back on airtime would be like saying we won’t be sending any trucks to deliver our product,” [Osteen brother-in-law Kevin] Comes says [Comes is Lakewood’s chief operating officer]. An additional $13 million goes to administrative costs and salaries, and $9 million a year is spent on facilities and maintenance. [.  .  .]

Being backstage at a Joel Osteen worship event is remarkably similar to being at an N.B.A. game or a rock concert. Beefy security guards tell you where you can and can’t go. Crew members chow down on a buffet laid out by a local caterer and bark into walkie-talkies between bites. At some point, black Town Cars head down the long, curving driveway into the belly of the arena and drop off the pastors and performers, who retreat into private suites.

The night is a celebration of music, state-of-the-art visual effects, and, of course, Christ. Lakewood spends a great deal of money attracting top gospel and Christian talent, and music minister Cindy Cruse-Ratcliff leads a team of Grammy Award winners, including gospel singer Israel Houghton. It’s a thumping occasion, with people dancing in the aisles and even the security guards singing along to “Come Just as You Are” and “We Have Overcome.” Osteen’s entire family is in the act. His mother, wife, and children often play parts in the service.

But it’s Osteen himself we have come to see. He wins the crowd over with wholesome jokes and inspires with his sweet-voiced message. The sermon today is based on the notion of “hitting the DELETE button when you have those negative thoughts.” He urges us to banish that voice telling us, “I’ll never get that great job. I’ll never meet that special someone. I’ll never get married.” Hit the delete button, he urges, and reprogram your mind. “Just one inferior thought can keep you off balance and away from your God-given destiny.”

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) — Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist whose “last lecture” about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book, died Friday. He was 47.

Pausch

Randy Pausch emphasized the joy of life in his “last lecture,” originally given in September 2007.

Pausch died at his home in Virginia, university spokeswoman Anne Watzman said. Pausch and his family moved there last fall to be closer to his wife’s relatives.

Pausch was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in September 2006. His popular last lecture at Carnegie Mellon in September 2007 garnered international attention and was viewed by millions on the Internet.

In it, Pausch celebrated living the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on impending death.

“The lecture was for my kids, but if others are finding value in it, that is wonderful,” Pausch wrote on his Web site. “But rest assured; I’m hardly unique.”

The book “The Last Lecture,” written with Jeffrey Zaslow, leaped to the top of the nonfiction best-seller lists after its publication in April and remains there this week. Pausch said he dictated the book to Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal writer, by cell phone. The book deal was reported to be worth more than $6 million.

At Carnegie Mellon, he was a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design, and was recognized as a pioneer of virtual reality research. On campus, he became known for his flamboyance and showmanship as a teacher and mentor.

The speech last fall was part of a series Carnegie Mellon called “The Last Lecture,” where professors were asked to think about what matters to them most and give a hypothetical final talk. The name of the lecture series was changed to “Journeys” before Pausch spoke, something he joked about in his lecture.

“I thought, damn, I finally nailed the venue and they renamed it,” he said.

He told the packed auditorium he fulfilled almost all his childhood dreams — being in zero gravity, writing an article in the World Book Encyclopedia and working with the Walt Disney Co.

The one that eluded him? Playing in the National Football League.

“If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you,” Pausch said.

He then joked about his quirky hobby of winning stuffed animals at amusement parks — another of his childhood dreams — and how his mother introduced him to people to keep him humble: “This is my son, he’s a doctor, but not the kind that helps people.”

Pausch said he was embarrassed and flattered by the popularity of his message. Millions viewed the complete or abridged version of the lecture, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” online.

Pausch lobbied Congress for more federal funding for pancreatic cancer research and appeared on “Oprah” and other TV shows. In what he called “a truly magical experience,” he was even invited to appear as an extra in the new “Star Trek” movie.

He had one line of dialogue, got to keep his costume and donated his $217.06 paycheck to charity.

Pausch blogged regularly about his medical treatment. On Feb. 15, exactly six months after he was told he had three to six months of healthy living left, Pausch posted a photo of himself to show he was “still alive & healthy.”

“I rode my bike today; the cumulative effects of the chemotherapy are hurting my stamina some, but I bet I can still run a quarter mile faster than most Americans,” he wrote.

Pausch gave one more lecture after his Carnegie Mellon appearance — in November at the University of Virginia, where he had taught from 1988 to 1997.

Pausch often emphasized the need to have fun.

“I mean I don’t know how to not have fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there’s no other way to play it,” he said in his Carnegie Mellon lecture. “You just have to decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eeyore. I think I’m clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us.”

Born in 1960, Pausch received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.

He co-founded Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, a master’s program for bringing artists and engineers together. The university named a footbridge in his honor. He also created an animation-based teaching program for high school and college students to have fun while learning computer programming.

In February, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences in California announced the creation of the Dr. Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund for university students who pursue careers in game design, development and production.

He and his wife, Jai, had three children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe.

“Somehow I can’t believe there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C’s. They are Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, and Constancy and the greatest of these is Confidence. When you believe a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”

This is the second time I have seen this documentary, and it is one of my favorites: WALT: THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH. I just feel happy when I watch this documentary as it is delightful, uplifting and inspiring as any Disney movie.

The neat thing is, it was produced by his eldest grandson, Walter Elias Disney Miller, and his younger grandson, Christopher Disney Miller.  These two artists have also had their hand in many different motion picture projects… neat stuff!

Quotes by Walt Disney…

“We are not trying to entertain the critics. I’ll take my chances with the public.”

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. And one thing it takes to accomplish something is courage.”

“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.”

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

“Laughter is America’s most important export.”

“Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children’s approach to life. They’re people who don’t give a hang what the Joneses do. You see them at Disneyland every time you go there. They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought – sometimes it isn’t much, either.”

“The era we are living in today is a dream of coming true.”

“There is more treasure n books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island and at the bottom of the Spanish Main … and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.”

“Or heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.”
  

“I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”       

“Mickey Mouse is, to me, a symbol of independence. He was a means to an end.”

“To all that come to this happy place: welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America… with hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.”

Saying Thank You

We may have become accustomed to asking for help from the unseen world—whether from angels, guides, or ancestral spirits—but sometimes we may forget to close our connection afterwards with a thank you. When we connect to these energies for assistance, it is much like a phone connection. Forgetting to close the conversation with a proper “goodbye” is like not hanging up. While that line is still connected, others can have trouble getting through, while in the meantime, batteries are being drained. Saying “thank you” is a way of releasing our concerns into trusted hands and getting out of the way so that the universe’s divine order can work on our behalf.

As spiritual beings, we may talk about “staying connected,” but our connection needs to be with our source. We can plug in and recharge, but we run on batteries in between, and every connection we make utilizes some of our personal power. Even being surrounded by people that energize us has its limits, and at some point we will feel ready to go off on our own to do what is ours to do. Instead of trying to be constantly connected, we can turn to these beings for help in a way that is more like placing an order. We contact them, ask for what we need, and then say thank you and goodbye.

Beings of light don’t require our gratitude; it is an energetic acknowledgement of trust and release that benefits us. When we bring ourselves to a sense of being grateful, we affirm that what we have asked is already done. Then we can move forward with confidence to do the things we are meant to do, while knowing that all will be well.

Enjoying Life

Life, in all of its fullness, is happening right now. While our thoughts are sometimes elsewhere, beautiful opportunities and moments are being passed over and lost to the flow of time. And though we cannot possibly fully experience each leaf that falls to the ground, sometimes we get so attached to reaching our goals that we don’t pay attention to the wonder all around us. When we do that, we live in a world that exists only in our heads, while we miss life itself. There is so much to be enjoyed and appreciated that we need to remember to pay attention to the present moment, because it is the only space in which we can experience being alive.We learn from our past, but dwelling on it keeps us from being fully present to life in the moment. We create our lives with our thoughts, but focusing so firmly on our imagined future keeps us from co-creating with the universe, so we might never allow ourselves to live our dreams as they manifest. It’s possible to be so happy and comfortable in our inner worlds that we lose touch with the business of life. We may enjoy spending large portions of time in meditation, or focused on our thoughts.

Life must be attended to, and if we are wise, we can enjoy it at the same time. We can awaken ourselves to the moment we are living right now by taking a deep breath and simply looking around. In doing so, we refocus our attention to our location in the real world. Then we can learn to appreciate the process of working toward our goals as much as their attainment. Balancing ourselves between the present moment and eternity, we can experience and enjoy the full range of reality available to us as spiritual beings living on earth.

Showing Up For Life

The way we walk into a room says a lot about the way we live our lives. When we walk into a room curious about what’s happening, willing to engage, and perceiving ourselves as an active participant with something to offer, then we have really shown up to the party. When we walk into a room with our eyes down, or nervously smiling, we are holding ourselves back for one reason or another. We may be hurting inside and in need of healing, or we may lack the confidence required to really be present in the room. Still, just noticing that we’re not really showing up, and having a vision of what it will look and feel like when we do, can give us the inspiration we need to recover ourselves.Even if we are suffering, we can show up to that experience ready to fully engage in it and learn what it has to offer. When we show up for our life, we are actively participating in being a happy person, achieving our goals, and generally living the life our soul really wants. If we need healing, we begin the process of seeking out those who can help us heal. If we need experience, we find the places and opportunities that can give us the experience we need in order to do the work we want to do in the world. Whatever we need, we look for it, and when we find it, we engage in the process of letting ourselves have it. When we do this kind of work, we become lively, confident, and passionate individuals.

There is almost nothing better in the world than the feeling of showing up for our own lives. When we can do this, we become people that are more alive and who have the ability to make things happen in our lives and the lives of the people around us. We walk through the world with the knowledge that we have a lot to offer and the desire to share it.

 


A relationship, in the truest sense of the word, means relating to another. Usually when we say that we relate to someone, it is because we’ve found common ground. But part of relating is finding ways to make ideas that seem different come together. So often when we choose relationships, we try to fit another person into our predetermined ideal. When they don’t fit perfectly, we may try to make them over, creating our own vision from the raw material they’ve brought. But unless someone asks for guidance and direction, entering into a relationship with someone we want to change is dishonest. Then our relationship becomes with someone we’ve imagined, and anytime our partner steps outside of that imaginary projection, we will be disappointed. An honest relationship is one in which we accept each other as whole individuals, and find a way to share our life experiences together. Then, whenever we want, we can choose as a couple to give the relationship a makeover by renewing the ! way we interact.By wanting to give another person a makeover, we are basically saying we don’t accept them for who they are. If we take a moment to imagine the roles reversed, we can get a sense of how it would feel if our beloved only committed to us because they thought we were, or would become, someone else entirely. In such an environment, we are not relating to each other from a real place, and we are keeping ourselves from being able to learn and grow from the different viewpoints that our partners offer.

If we feel that a change is needed in our relationship, the only makeover that we truly have the power to make is on ourselves. By accepting our partners for exactly who they are—the ideal and the not-so-ideal—we will create an energetic shift in our relationships, and we may find ourselves really appreciating our partners for the first time. Working from within, we determine how we relate to the people and the world around us, and when we can accept it and embrace it all, without conditions, we make every act of relating a positive one.

 

 

 


Fill Yourself from the Inside Out

Life presents us with many opportunities to gain mastery in tending our own energy fields. At times we may want to protect ourselves by using energy shields of color, light or angelic presence. Or in order to become more grounded, we may run energy down through our feet or first chakra, rooting ourselves to the earth. Sometimes it’s appropriate to play openly with others in an expansive, flowing state; and at other times, we may want to limit our availability to a chosen few. In certain public environments such as graduation ceremonies, work conventions, or even weddings, it may be important to remain open-hearted and able to connect, while still preventing our individual systems from depletion or overwhelm. In these situations, rather than putting a barrier between ourselves and the world around us, we can fill our energy fields from the inside out. In doing this, we become so filled with our own personal energy that no room is left for outside influences or discordant energy to enter in and affect us.
When you need to connect with people on a one-to-one basis, separate from the bustling environment around you, here is a visualization technique you might try. You can start in the morning and repeat any time as needed. Begin by taking a few moments to breathe deeply and relax. When you are calm and present, envision a ball of light in your solar plexus area just above your belly button. Allow it to build there, growing stronger and stronger. Eventually, allow the light to expand throughout the rest of your body until it fills your entire physical and energetic field.

By filling yourself with your own energy in this way, you become fortified with your own power. You retain access to all of your intuitive and mental abilities. And, you are able to act from a loving space in the midst of any situation.

 


Living A Day In Grace

Grace is always with us. It flows like a river through our lives, artfully reminding us that there is magic and power beyond what our eyes can see. At times we catch its subtle beauty, like during chance meetings, near misses, and insights that seem to come from nowhere. Other times we experience grace in all its powerful surety such as when a job or relationship comes to an end. Though we may forget that this is grace at work too, it is indeed influencing our lives, helping us to move forward and take the next step. Grace exists in all situations, in every moment, yet all too often we may overlook its presence.

Imagine how it would feel to live an entire day in grace, to fully appreciate that your day is unfolding in absolute perfection. Whereas usually you might miss the magic in ordinary events and interactions, on this day you would recognize them all as little miracles. Perhaps you could begin with your first deep breaths in the morning, becoming aware that there is an abundant supply of air for you to breathe. Your lungs know just how to carry oxygen to your blood, and your blood knows where to carry it from there. This is grace at work. You might appreciate the brilliant sunshine, the warm summertime rain, or the possibilities for learning that greet you at every turn. You might notice the ease with which you do your job or laugh with a close friend. These things are also grace. Even laying your head down at the end of this day and resting in the stillness of night is grace.

With each opportunity you give yourself to enjoy this current of benevolence, you may discover a deeper peace. Your faith may strengthen and your heart may open. You might begin to wonder if struggle is really all that necessary after all. By living this one day in grace, you might open the door to many more.

 


Today is an anniversary for two of my heroes… one died, and one was born….

JOSHUA LOGAN – (October 5, 1908July 12, 1988) was an American stage and film director and writer.

Broadway

Logan began his Broadway career as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He then spent time in London, where he “stag[ed] two productions … and direct[ed] a touring revival of Camille“. He also worked as an assistant stage manager. After a short time in Hollywood, Logan directed On Borrowed Time on Broadway. The play ran for a year, but his first major success came in 1938, when he directed I Married an Angel. Over the next few years he directed Knickerbocker Holiday, Morning’s at Seven, Charlie’s Aunt, and By Jupiter.

In 1942 Logan was drafted by the US Army. During his service in World War II, he acted as a public-relations and intelligence officer. When the war concluded he was discharged as a captain, and returned to Broadway. He married his second wife, actress Nedda Harrigan, in 1945; Logan’s previous marriage, to actress Barbara O’Neil, a colleague of his at the University Players in the 1930s, had ended in divorce.

After the war, Logan directed the Broadway productions Annie Get Your Gun, John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, South Pacific, and Fanny. He shared the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for co-writing South Pacific. The show also earned him a Tony Award for Best Director. Despite his contributions to the musical, in their review the New York Times originally omitted his name as co-author, and the Pulitzer Prize committee initially awarded the prize to only Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although the mistakes were corrected, in his autobiography Logan wrote “I knew then why people fight so hard to have their names in proper type. It’s not just ego or ‘the principle of the thing,’ it’s possibly another job or a better salary. It’s reassurance. My name had been so minimized that I lived through years of having people praise ‘South Pacific’ in my presence without knowing I had had anything to do with.”

Logan cowrote, coproduced, and directed the 1952 musical Wish You Were Here. After the show was not initially successful, Logan quickly wrote 54 new pages of material, and by the ninth performance the show looked new. In its fourth week of release, the show sold out, and continued to offer sell-out performance for the next two years.

Hollywood

When director John Ford became sick, Logan reluctantly returned to Hollywood to complete the filming of Mister Roberts (1955). Logan’s other hit films included Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Sayonara (1957), and South Pacific (1958). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Directing for Picnic and Sayonara.

His later Broadway musicals All-American (1962) and Mr. President (1962) and the films of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (1967), and Paint Your Wagon (1969) were less acclaimed. Logan’s 1976 autobiography Josh: My Up-and-Down, In-and-Out Life talks frankly about his bipolar disorder. He appeared with his wife in the 1977 nightclub revue Musical Moments, featuring Logan’s most popular Broadway numbers. He published Movie Stars, Real People, and Me in 1978. From 1983-1986, he taught theater at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He was also responsible for bringing Carol Channing to Broadway in Lend an Ear!.

Logan died in 1988 in New York of supranuclear palsy.

OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II – (July 12, 1895August 23, 1960) was an American writer, producer, and (usually uncredited) director of musicals for almost forty years. He was twice awarded an Oscar for “Best Original Song“, and much of his work has been admitted into the unofficial Great American Songbook.

Rodgers and Hammerstein

Hammerstein’s most successful and sustained collaboration, however, came in 1943 when he teamed up with Richard Rodgers to write a musical adaptation of the play Green Grow the Lilacs. Rodgers’ first partner, Lorenz Hart, was originally going to join in the collaboration but was too deeply entrenched in alcoholism to be of any use. The result of the new Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration was Oklahoma!, a show which revolutionized the American musical theatre by tightly integrating all the aspects of musical theater, with the songs and dances arising out of the plot and characters. It also began a partnership which would produce such classic Broadway musicals as Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me & Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music as well as the musical film State Fair (and its stage adaptation of the same name) and the television musical Cinderella, all of which were featured in the revue A Grand Night for Singing. Hammerstein also produced the book and lyrics for Carmen Jones, an adaptation of Georges Bizet‘s opera Carmen with an all-black cast.

Oscar Hammerstein II is today considered one of the most important figures in the history of American musical theater. He was probably the best “book writer” in Broadway history – he made the story, not the songs or the stars, central to the musical, and brought it to full maturity as an art form. His reputation for being “sentimental”, is based largely on the movie versions of the musicals, especially The Sound of Music, in which a song sung by those in favor of pacification with the Nazis, No Way to Stop It, was cut. As recent revivals of Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Carousel, and The King and I in London and New York show, Hammerstein was one of the more tough-minded and socially conscious American musical theater artists. Oscar Hammerstein believed in love; he did not believe that it would always end happily.

Death and honors

Hammerstein is the only person named Oscar ever to win an Oscar (Academy Award). He won two Oscars for best original song—in 1941 for “The Last Time I Saw Paris” in the film Lady Be Good, and in 1945 for “It Might As Well Be Spring” in State Fair. In 1950, the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein received The Hundred Year Association of New York‘s Gold Medal Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York.”

Hammerstein died of stomach cancer in his home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania at the age of 65, shortly after the opening of The Sound of Music on Broadway, thus ending one of the most remarkable collaborations in the history of the American musical theatre. The final song he wrote was “Edelweiss” which was added during rehearsals near the end of the second act. To this day, many think it is an Austrian folk song. Sadly, he never lived to see The Sound of Music made into the 1965 film adaptation which became internationally loved, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and became perhaps his most well-known legacy.

Universally mourned, with the lights of Times Square and London’s West End being dimmed in recognition of his contribution to the musical, he was cremated at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, and later buried at Southwark Cathedral, England. He was survived by his second wife Dorothy Blanchard Jacobson and his three children, William and Alice by first wife Myra Finn and James by Jacobson.

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) — A Las Vegas man who devised a calendar that features shirtless Mormon missionaries is facing a disciplinary hearing and possible excommunication because of the project.

The "Men on a Mission" calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries.

The “Men on a Mission” calendar featuring shirtless Mormon missionaries.

A lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Chad Hardy was summoned by letter to a Sunday meeting with a council of elders to discuss his “conduct unbecoming a member of the church.”

A copy of the letter from Frank E. Davie, the senior leader over a group of Mormon congregations in the Las Vegas area, was provided to The Associated Press. It was sent early this week, days before the 2009 version of the “Men on a Mission” calendar went to press, Hardy said in a telephone interview.

A takeoff on calendars of firefighters and returned U.S. servicemen, Hardy’s project debuted with a 2008 calendar featuring 12 returned church missionaries in mostly modest poses, minus their trademark white shirts, ties and black plastic name badges. It has sold nearly 10,000 copies.

“You see more in a JCPenney catalog,” said Hardy, 31, who once worked for Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and now has his own entertainment company. “I just feel like my right to free speech is being violated.”

The calendar was designed to shake up Mormon stereotypes, Hardy said. The pages include photos of the men dressed in standard missionary garb. In biographical sketches each missionary talks about his beliefs.

“It’s not tearing anybody down,” Hardy said. “I wondered what would happen if we took that perfect Disneyland image that the church spends millions of dollars cultivating each year and shook it up a little bit.”

Davie on Friday confirmed sending the letter and the plans for the meeting. He said the calendar was the primary concern.

“I prefer not to say anything else about it,” he said. “There is more involved, and he and I will have our meeting.”

The outcome of a council meeting could include excommunication, probation “or exoneration,” Davie said.

A returned missionary himself, Hardy acknowledged he has not been an active member of the church since 2002. He said he’s never been contacted by anyone from the church encouraging his return to the fold and he suspects the current inquiry was driven by the church’s Salt Lake City headquarters.

“I’m still a good Mormon boy in many ways,” said Hardy, who says he bears no animosity toward Latter-day Saints, but never felt he fit in. “I still want to hold onto my heritage.”

Blog entries on the social networking sites MySpace and Facebook show a range of reactions to Hardy’s work. Some find it offensive and say it degrades the church by displaying missionaries as sex symbols, and that it contradicts church teachings about modest dress for all members.

Others praise the effort for rattling perceptions that Mormons are “stuffy.” Some who identified themselves as younger Mormons said the calendar might make it easier for their non-Mormon friends to consider exploring the faith.

“It has created an interfaith dialogue,” Hardy said. “People of all faiths have logged on and shared what they believe. They’re talking about what’s really important, not how bad it is that you took your shirt off.”

Some of the missionaries in the calendar, many of whom were recruited by Hardy’s friends at church events, have been asked by their church leaders about the project, but none has faced disciplinary action, Hardy said.

“The biggest concern was, whether this was an attack on the church, and when they determined it wasn’t, it was no big deal,” said model Jonathan Martin, a 25-year-old Utah Valley University student who was contacted by a church elder in May. “When you don something outside of the norm, it doesn’t matter what group of people you’re in, it’s going to unsettle them.”

Martin said he was told the inquiry was being made after a letter was sent to his church leader by higher-ups in Salt Lake City.

The Mormon church takes disciplinary action when leaders believe a person’s behavior or actions are openly incompatible with the faith’s teachings and could damage the church.

Church spokeswoman Kim Farah declined to comment on Hardy’s specific situation, but said that “any church discipline is the result of actions not beliefs.” Decisions are made at the local level and are based on individual circumstances and merits, she said.

“Because the fundamental purpose of church discipline has always been to help members, rather than simply punish, disciplinary councils are considered a necessary step in repentance on the way back to full harmony and fellowship in the church,” she said.

Members have been excommunicated for reasons including criminal activity and scholarly works of history or theology that contradicted church claims.

An excommunicated person would be removed from official church rolls, although he or she would still be welcome at church services. Excommunicated members are prohibited from receiving the sacrament and can’t perform church callings such as teaching or preaching during meetings. They also cannot enter church temples.

The 2009 calendar — which drew 100 inquiries from interested missionaries — will be released in September.

A few weeks ago, I posted a video of one of my favorite show choir performances. It was North Central High School (Indianapolis) show choir’s “Like A Prayer.” I am not a Madonna fan, but I love the exciting rhythm and melody of that particular song. When I first saw this show choir perform this number, costumed in monk’s robes with fantastic choreography by a Ball State University Singers’ friend, Brent Holland, I was thrilled. I found it to be very creative, energetic, and fun.

So, I posted the video on here.

A day or so later I received a comment from a lady whom I do not even know. She blasted the video out of the water – it was sacrilegious. Had the message come from a family member or friend, I may have let it slide, but since this was an unknown, uninvited individual, in my typical, sharp tongued response, I responded. The following day she wrote, “I hope you burn in hell.”

Well, I guess she will only know her wish has come true once she checks me off the list when I arrive.

Last week, while walking through Chicago, we were waiting on a corner stop light to change, and a car cut in front of another car, upsetting the driver who was cut off. The woman who was cut off began screaming obscenities out her window, flipping off the offender, and as she pulled away on the back of her car was the metallic “fish symbol” and a bumper sticker that read, “God is my co-pilot.” There was also another bumper sticker with the name and address of what I am assuming was where she attended church. In the back seat, were three children, one in an infant seat.

So where does one begin to comment on such an observation?

Well, my first thought was, “If God is your co-pilot, was he crawling under the dash from embarrassment?” After all, she had strung together a line of profanity that would have made the nastiest sailor blush.

Oh, and why is it only people can “cuss like a sailor”? I have known several air force friends here in Dayton who cuss, but we never say, “he cusses like an air force captain!” Or if you ever knew my neighbor in Elwood (Nick), who, with a pipe clenched between his teeth could mutter a string to make George Carlin (RIP) proud…

Last Tuesday, my good friend, Christi, and I were chatting after her children’s lessons. I met Christi and her family when I was director of music at Normandy United Methodist Church in 1996. Christi was not in the music program itself, but I directed her husband and children in several shows.

Christi is not at all about making physical impressions, but you can believe she will make an inspiring impression.

Christi would never go on to someone’s blog and write rude, distasteful comments concerning something with which she disagreed. In fact, she would find something positive to say.

I have many friends of many religious faiths – Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Latter Day Saints, Christian Science, and Baha’i. I have several wonderful friends who belong to no religious order, yet they possess all the wonderful qualities of those who do practice organized religion.

Tuesday evening, we were discussing how some individuals claim Christianity, but yet, are some of the most cruel hearted, and vicious people out there. Christi said, rather matter of fact, but with a degree of true sadness, “Sometimes, Christians can be some of the meanest people…”

I have seen this over and over.

I once was director of music at a church where the pastoral staff was involved in inappropriate behaviors of all natures – sexual affairs, lying, manipulative, shifting of funds, and other pathetic behaviors that were far from Christ-like behaviors – or appropriate behaviors in general. Yet, church councils, and a majority of the parishioners simply turned their heads to the inappropriate behaviors.

I can remember growing up in church and observing people during church. Since our family frequently joined other church families for various gatherings, I also observed an entirely different side – one that was disturbing.

At age 12, I chose not to join the Methodist church through confirmation. One Sunday morning, we arrived at church later than usual, and the congregation was in an uproar. The evening before, Carol Burnette and Company had an episode with “Eunice & Mamma” and our congregation believed Ms. Burnette’s program was making fun of religion. We had watched it, and I remember my grandmother stating she saw nothing wrong with the episode. The gentleman in front of us said that his family would never watch the Carol Burnette Show ever again. I turned and asked if we could still watch the program, and the gentleman turned and commanded, “You better not!”

Hmmm…

I sat there, stewing. I was furious that someone else told me I could not do something. Mother, and my grandparents – who were a also a tremendous influence in my life – not only provided, but encouraged me to adopt a strong sense of studying my options, or choices. Never would they have said, “You cannot watch Carol Burnette!” Never did they say, “You should not listen to your 8-Track tape of Jesus Christ, Superstar or Godspell.” And when I played the roles of Jesus and Joseph, I don’t believe anyone was offended, and in some ways, those productions could be considered blasphemous.

When it came time to go to confirmation that night, my grandfather, who could have gotten very sour over my decision to not continue with confirmation, asked why. I explained my reasons. Rather than getting all pissy, as he could so easily do, he smiled and said, “I understand completely. I only ask this – if you never ever decide to join a church as a member, or even attend church, I do hope you will always walk with God.”

And 32 years later, I am still walking with God. I cannot buy into any particular doctrine, especially when certain religions believe their way is the only way. In college, I heard campus ministers claim, over and over, that if you did not believe in Christ you would burn in hell. I never heard any of my Buddhist, or Jewish friends say, “If you don’t believe in our God, you will be consumed by the flames of hell.”

About two years ago, I was asked to give a sermon on Lincoln since that particular Sunday fell on President Lincoln’s birthday. The whole point was, “Was Lincoln a Christian?” In all the evidence on Lincoln, it is generally believed he did not buy into any particular religion, and stated that he would join the church with the words carved over the altar, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, heart, soul and strength.” My final conclusion was that Lincoln “may not have been a technical Christian,” as indicated by his wife, but rather, “Lincoln was most certainly Christ-like.” (And I am still grateful to my friend, Jeff Carter for guiding me to that conclusion!)

Disciple means “to teach.” A derivative is “discipline.” We discuss this in the pre-adoptive training classes when I teach the discipline unit. When I think of Christ, I think of this tremendous human being who brought light into the dark lives of many. Where the Old Testament seemed to promote so many “don’t’s” – Christ was all about the “do’s” in life – do love one another, do love God, do help one another, do help those less fortunate…”  If there were any “dont’s” in his message it was “don’t discriminate.”

Christi punched this particular item around last Tuesday. Christ did not discriminate. The fellow loved everyone. He dined with those who were ostracized by political or religious establishments, he touched those others abandoned, and there did not seem to be any one not worthy of receiving his love and attention. Christ was not mean. Even when persecuted, he was still loving and forgiving.

We attended one church, and although I do not buy into the doctrine, I do love the familiar hymns, the sense of community, and the values that help support what I teach my own sons. My youngest son is at the age where some teenagers question – which is fine. In our house, if you question something, you must seek answers, or research your question. You must support your reasons for questioning. However, we both agreed that we wanted to take a sabbatical from organized religion. He belongs to a wonderful youth group that is all about spirituality, not doctrine, and he is expressly interested in this component – as am I.

Our decision happened to fall when we were incredibly busy with percussion ensemble season, show choir contests, and my own illness. For a while, people from church would send emails stating they missed us. Then the emails changed to “where are you?” There are a few who will send messages, or jokes, but for the most part, we have been written off. One person, with whom I continued to send jokes, responded a few weeks ago with “since you cannot come to church please don’t send me any future emails.”

Hmmm….

I did not entertain that email as “mean,” but it did open up some other avenues for thought. It seemed to touch upon a sense of possessiveness I had not really observed before, but now looking back, all the churches with which I have been involved have had an air of possessiveness. The goal seems to be on building membership, tithing and apportionment’s for the denominational hierarchy, and claiming lost sheep in the name of Christ. When my childhood church was irked over Carol Burnette, there was even a possessive mind set of controlling what we watched on television. When in college, I received a letter from my home church stating I should sign a petition and avoid seeing The Last Temptation of Christ. When I did not respond, I received a telephone call in my dorm room – from the same person who told me I was not to watch Carol Burnette! For those who know me well, imagine my reaction!

I saw The Last Temptation of Christ. What is more, I saw it with the pastor of the Lutheran Church where I was director of music! He and I both agreed it was art, and that should a person be shaken in their faith from seeing the movie, their faith may not have been on the right track.

Later when I saw the gentleman from church, I told him of my experience watching the movie I was to boycott… he shook his head and walked away. Nearly twenty years later, he was still avoiding me at my grandfather’s funeral.

I had one Christian friend who admonished me because I allow my son to watch Family Guy!

Hell, I watch it, too. This same friend loves The Simpsons – though milder than Family Guy, it still contains some eye openers. I assured my friend that before I watched Family Guy, I never missed a program with Jimmy Swaggart… she had nothing else to say.  Of course, this same person indicated I could not be a good Christian because I supported Hilary Clinton for the Democratic candidate for president.

I don’t consider this particular person “mean,” just misguided by her religious instruction – but not her faith.

I also had a friend shame me because I like Rosie O’Donnell. I was coached that I should not like her because she is Lesbian, and because she is so outspoken.

Lesbian? Wasn’t Danny Thomas one? [insert chuckle, here].

And outspoken?

A lot of people are… Rev. Jesse Jackson is outspoken – and wasn’t he a bit un-Christian this week with his comments about Obama??? Isn’t JJ a Christian? Rev. Al Sharpton is outspoken. But this friend could not believe I supported Rosie!

Well, Rosie adopts kids, I adopt kids. Rosie is big with adoption, I am big with adoption. Rosie does a lot of great things that do not receive press recognition. Good for her! Now, this friend who does not like Rosie is always certain her works for the hungry/homeless, her contributions at church, her contributions at her children’s school always receives recognition. In programs for Victoria, Schuster Center, or other area arts related products, her name is always listed as a contributer. Rosie receives recognition, too, but there are a number of things she does that go unnoticed.

Bravo!

Besides… who I prefer as politicians, or celebrities is still my choice, and well, my business.

What I shared with Christi the other evening was my growing concern for this “shoot to kill” attitude with some Christians. If a person is not Christian, they are often considered “evil.” In this current election, religion played way too much a part of the concerns. I truly do not care the denomination to which a politician belongs. Throughout our history, we have had a variety of denominations living in the White House, or serving in other arenas in our government. And I am sure we have had leaders claiming a denomination without even practicing.

In 1960, my great-grandfather changed his political affiliation because the Democratic party nominated a Catholic! Was my great-grandfather mean? Hell no! Virgil Barmes was one of the most loving, adorable people in the world. During the Depression, he worked for a granary that was owned by a Catholic, and the owner was firing non-Catholics to hire fellow Catholics.

For me, what is important is that the individual has some sort of spiritual base, or center. Many are hopping on the band wagon regarding Obama’s current or past religious affiliations. If it was true that he did not use a Christian Bible while being sworn in, why does it matter? When a person is being sworn in to political office, they are taking an oath to uphold our constitution – federal, state, county, community.

Besides, how many politicians have placed their hand on The Bible, and turned out to be some of the biggest liars and crooks in public office?

There was one Republican candidate I really liked – Mit Romney, I believe – who was a member of The Latter Day Saints (Mormons). I cannot begin to tell you how many friends commented on his religious affiliation. When I asked about his politics, very few could tell me any more about him. They were so focused on the fact that he was Mormon! I found this more disturbing than sad.

Christi’s comment just seemed to hang with me these past few days, and I simply jotted down some of my thoughts, experiences and observations. I am sure my comments on this page will be crucified by some as blasphemous, condemning me to hell, etc.. That’s fine. But I bet I will be able to tell to which faith they belong!

I believe, even more, in my theory of “The God Wheel.” I always think of a bicycle wheel… God is the hub and God is directly connected to use via the spokes. However, we are connected to one another by the rim which also connects us all back to the God source! Before some swing a cross, I am not saying we are God, but I do believe – my personal belief – that we are all a part of God and God is a part of us – an interconnectedness!

God isn’t my co-pilot. God drives through me.

I am sure if the lady who was so alarmed by my video posting of the show choir reads this post, she will have a priest perform an exorcism!


Checks And Balances

Most of us have probably come across the universal wisdom that the people who irritate us the most are expressing qualities that we ourselves have. This is why family members can be so vexing for so many of us—we see ourselves in them, and vice versa. This isn’t always true, of course, but when it is, it’s a real opportunity for growth if we can acknowledge it, because it is infinitely easier to change ourselves than it is to try to change another person, which is never a good idea. For example, if we have a coworker who engages in some kind of negative behavior, like complaining or trying to control everything, we can look and see if we ourselves carry those traits.

We may have to look to other situations in our lives to see it, because we behave differently in different environments. Perhaps we don’t complain at work, because our coworker overdoes it, but maybe we do it with our friends. Maybe we aren’t controlling at the office, but we’re used to being in control at home, and this is why we feel so irritated not to be in control at work. Even if we look and find that we are not engaging in the same behavior that we see as negative in others, we can still learn from what we are seeing in this person. The truth is, human nature is universal, and we share many of the same tendencies. What we see in others can always help us to understand ourselves more deeply.

Having the ability to see something in another person, and automatically bring this observation back to ourselves, is like having a built-in system of checks and balances that enables us to be continually engaged in self-exploration and behavior change. When we see behavior we don’t like, we can make a concerted effort to weed it out of ourselves, and when we see behavior we do like, we can let it inspire us to engage in imitation. Through this process, we read our environment and let it influence us to bring out the best in ourselves.


When We Don’t Take Action

Life is sculpted on a moment-to-moment basis. Every one of the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and the actions we take contributes to the complex quality and character of the universe’s unfolding. It simply is not possible to be alive without making an impact on the world that surrounds us. Every action taken affects the whole as greatly as every action not taken. And when it comes to making the world a better place, what we choose not to do can be just as important as what we choose to do.

For example, when we neglect to recycle, speak up, vote, or help somebody in immediate need, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to be an agent for positive change. Instead, we are enabling a particular course to continue unchallenged, picking up speed even at it goes along. By holding the belief that our actions don’t make much of a difference, we may find that we often tend to forego opportunities for involvement. Alternatively, if we see ourselves as important participants in an ever-evolving world, we may feel more inspired to contribute our unique perspective and gifts to a situation.

It is wise to be somewhat selective about how and where we are using our energy in order to keep ourselves from becoming scattered. Not every cause or action is appropriate for every person. When a situation catches our attention, however, and speaks to our heart, it is important that we honor our impulse to help and take the action that feels right for us. It may be offering a kind word to a friend, giving resources to people in need, or just taking responsibility for our own behavior. By doing what we can, when we can, we add positive energy to our world. And sometimes, it may be our one contribution that makes all the difference.


Prayer And Meditation

Prayer and meditation are similar practices in that they both offer us a connection to the divine, but they also differ from one another in significant ways. Put simply, prayer is when we ask the universe for something, and meditation is when we listen. When we pray, we use language to express our innermost thoughts and feelings to a higher power. Sometimes, we plumb the depths within ourselves and allow whatever comes to the surface to flow out in our prayer. At other times, we pray words that were written by someone else but that express what we want to say. Prayer is reaching out to the universe with questions, pleas for help, gratitude, and praise.

Meditation, on the other hand, has a silent quality that honors the art of receptivity. When we meditate, we cease movement and allow the activity of our minds and hearts to go on without us in a sense. Eventually, we fall into a deep silence, a place that underlies all the noise and fray of daily human existence. In this place, it becomes possible for us to hear the universe as it speaks for itself, responds to our questions, or sits with us in its silent way.

Both prayer and meditation are indispensable tools for navigating our relationship with the universe and with ourselves. They are also natural complements to one another, and one makes way for the other just as the crest of a wave gives way to its hollow. If we tend to do only one or the other, prayer or meditation, we may find that we are out of balance, and we might benefit from exploring the missing form of communication. There are times when we need to reach out and express ourselves, fully exorcising our insides, and times when we are empty, ready to rest in quiet receiving. When we allow ourselves to do both, we begin to have a true conversation with the universe.

By Joe Lanane

ELWOOD — Becoming an Olympic athlete requires years of dedication and training, and 15-year-old Mary Beth Dunnichay of Elwood is no exception. After six years of strenuous effort, she will officially realize her dream in Beijing this August as a member of the United States Diving Team.

The call from her coach came at approximately 11 a.m. Monday, about an hour later than the final decision was anticipated. Mary Beth’s mother, Marian Dunnichay, said her daughter was in good spirits leading up to the announcement despite the elongated response time, but the enormity of the situation is yet to fully take effect.

“We knew we did everything we could,” Mary Beth said regarding last week’s Olympic Team Selection Camp in Knoxville, Tenn., where she helped seal her fate as a member of the synchronized women’s platform diving duo. “It’s amazing — still hard to believe.”

Mary Beth and partner Haley Ishimatsu rallied from down 23 points heading into Friday’s fourth and final round of competition to capture an 11-point advantage over the next pair.

Her brother, Caleb, dives at the collegiate level at the University of Notre Dame after recently transferring from Auburn University. In superstitious fashion, he waited outside the facility in Knoxville before finding out his sister’s 346.98 score on Friday.

“I knew (she made the Olympics team) when they told me the score — that score was huge,” Caleb said. “They could win a medal if they do that again.”

The win capped two years’ worth of success for her and Ishimatsu, both of whom have also competed internationally together at the World Championships in Australia two years ago and at the World Cup in Beijing last March.

Their efforts helped ensure an Olympic spot for the U.S. team in the event, and ultimately helped land Mary Beth and Ishimatsu as the two divers to fill that void. Despite the excitement of the situation, Mary Beth said she is careful to not settle for simply making the summer games.

“It’s always been what we’ve been working for, but it’s not over yet,” Mary Beth said, insisting the challenge has just begun. “We have to go back and start to train even harder because to get a medal at the Olympics is going to take a lot.”

Still, Mary Beth said her family has always been supportive regardless of her success. Even before the official announcement, she was greeted upon her return from Tennessee on Friday with fireworks outside her house.

“The whole neighborhood was waiting in the driveway when (Mary Beth) pulled in,” Marian Dunnichay said before putting the accomplishment in perspective. “It’s hard to believe she can’t drive a car yet, but she’s going to go to the Olympics.”

The celebration culminated years of effort from not only Mary Beth, but also for the family and friends who have helped her along the way. Her sister, Danielle, attends IUPUI and frequently housed Mary Beth at her Indianapolis apartment between practices. Also, her brother Jacob serves as one of her strongest support beams at home as he prepares to enter his senior year at Elwood High School.

“She’s really been wanting it forever, and all the drives down (to Indianapolis) and staying at my apartment have really paid off,” Danielle said. “I used to go over and watch her in between classes and go pick her up … but we’re real close and I wouldn’t miss a meet for anything.”

Mary Beth’s father, Ned, said Marian has been instrumental to his youngest daughter’s success while he’s running the Dunnichay Funeral Home in Elwood. He is also Madison County coroner.

“Since I’m trying to work and take care of the business, I rely on my wife to take care of a lot,” Ned said. “We have a good family nucleus, and we all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Mary Beth will travel to Pasadena, Calif., on July 23 for the final national competition — which is still undetermined if she will compete — before departing for Beijing on July 30. The Olympics synchronized women’s platform diving competition is expected to take place Aug. 12.

Road to the Olympics timeline:

July 9-22: Daily training resumes in Indianapolis

July 23: Depart for U.S. Nationals in Pasadena, Calif.

July 28: Travel to San Jose, Calif., for Olympics processing

July 30: Depart for Beijing, China

Aug. 8: Summer Olympics opening ceremony

Aug. 10-23: U.S. Diving competition commences

Aug. 24: Closing ceremonies

By Joe Lanane
ELWOOD — There is only one moment in town history that Elwood resident Dave Berkemeier can liken to Mary Beth Dunnichay’s Olympics entry announced on Monday. Overall, he said, this marks the most historic point for the community since Wendell Willkie announced on Aug. 17, 1940, in his hometown of Elwood, that he would accept the Republican presidential nomination.

“This has to be up there with that,” Berkemeier said, calling this a “red-banner year for Elwood” after Dunnichay’s success and the high school’s recent 2A state runner-up performance in baseball. “Just thinking about (having an Elwood resident in the Olympics) gives me goose bumps.”

While Willkie eventually lost to two-term incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt later that year, Elwood residents hope for a more favorable outcome for Dunnichay.

Regardless of outcome, however, Elwood Mayor Merrill Taylor said there is a great deal of town pride to be had for the 15-year-old standout who still calls him “Papa.”

“I remember when Mary Beth was just a baby, and she’s just been something kind of special ever since she was born,” Taylor said. “For her to mature into the young lady she is and go on into the type of fame she’s going to have in her life, Elwood needs to be very, very, very proud of this young lady.”

It did not take long for word to spread throughout the 9,700 residents of Elwood.

Friendly’s Restaurant, 2115 Main St., has been the breakfast getaway every Sunday for Mary Beth and the Dunnichay family after church services. Megan Coubert, server at Friendly’s for 12 years, said she has seen Dunnichay grow up before her very eyes each week.

“We’ve been telling everybody that comes in (about the news) — everyone’s really excited,” Coubert said. “The whole town pulled behind the baseball team, and I imagine the same will happen for (Dunnichay).”

The Olympics fever is already catching on in Elwood, as banners, yard signs and even hula hoops in the form of the Olympics rings have graced the community. Berkemeier said he also hopes to have the window of his Edward Jones Investments’ office painted with red, white and blue before too long.

“We need to tell everyone 1,000 miles outside of here on each side that she’s from Elwood,” Berkemeier said.

By ED HAMILTON
Call-Leader Sports Editor
Oh baby! Their baby is going to the Olympics.

Like expectant parents, Ned and Marian Dunnichay waited and waited, then waited some more, this morning to learn if their youngest child, 15-year-old Mary Beth, had been selected for the United States Olympic Diving Team.

“Yes, it is like having a baby, only worse,” Marian said while awaiting an email from USA Diving officials. “With a baby, you’re sure of the outcome, a boy or a girl.”
They learned the outcome shortly after 11 this morning when the email arrived just as Mary Beth received a call from her coach, John Wingfield.
Even Wingfield, also chosen as the head coach of the U.S. team for the Beijing Olympics, teased her for a moment before sharing the good news.
“He called me and he said, ‘Have you heard anything yet?’,” said Mary Beth.
“I said, ‘Not yet, but I’ve been sitting by the computer.’
“So he said, “OK, well I’ll send you the email that I got.’
“He just sounded normal, and I was like, ‘Well, is it bad or good; give me a hint.
“And he goes, ‘Well, what do you want me to say?’
“And I was like, ‘Uh oh…’
“And then he just said, ‘You’re an Olympian,’ and I started crying.”
Her family members and friends heard her cry in the hallway outside the office where they were awaiting the news, and not knowing if they were tears of joy or disappointment, rushed to her side.
At that moment, older brother Caleb and her father saw the email on the computer screen.
“There it is. There it is,” said Ned. “She made it; she made the team.”
Dunnichay and fellow 15-year-old Haley Ishimatsu will represent the U.S. as the women’s 10-meter platform synchronized team in Beijing.
The Olympics run from Aug. 8-24. The diving competition will be from Aug. 10-23.
Dunnichay and Ishimatsu will compete Saturday, Aug. 12, probably in front of 30 or more family members and friends who are making plans to join her in Beijing.
Mary Beth is the first Olympian from Elwood, and quite possibly from all of Madison County.
“I got chills, lots of chills when I saw that (email),” said her father.
“We’re crying, we’re laughing, everything,” said her mother. “Mary Beth has put in so much hard work, sacrificed the nights when she couldn’t go do stuff with her friends, having to get up early for practice, and miss (her brother’s) ballgames. She’s had to sacrifice so many things.
Everyone of them was worth it, said the 5-foot Olympian, who won’t turn 16 until Feb. 25, 2009.
“This is just awesome,” Mary Beth said after drying the tears. “But it was so stressful waiting for that (email and call) this morning.
“My mom wanted me to get up early and come (to the Dunnichay Funeral Home) early, but I didn’t want to get here too early and just have to sit around and wait. I wanted to sleep in to the last minute possible.”
She got there shortly before 10 a.m., because that’s when the family expected the email to arrive.
At about 10:15, they got in touch by phone with Wingfield, who told them the announcement wouldn’t come until 11.
Some of the family went out for breakfast, then returned to wait some more.
“When they pushed it back, it meant just a longer wait,” said Mary Beth. Something akin to her and Ishimatsu standing on the platform for 45 minutes last Wednesday while computer problems delayed the competition at selection camp in Knoxville, Tenn.
That’s the night the Olympians went 1-2 against their top competition for the Beijing spots, Laura Wilkinson and Jessica Livingston.
But in Friday’s final competition, Dunnichay and Ishimatsu hit their five dives for an all-time best of 346.98, beating Wilkinson and Livingston’s 335.34.
That 2-2 deadlock after four lists left it up to the selectors to decide the Olympic synchro team.
“We knew it could have gone the other way (the decision),” said Mary Beth. “The first day, they won the two out of the three, so we had one more chance on Friday.
“We had one more chance to prove that we not only could dive under pressure, but that we deserved our spot. And we went in there and stayed calm and confident and we proved to everyone, I guess.”
The family didn’t have any doubts, but they were doing everything they could to avoid jinxing the outcome until this morning.
“For everything my family has been through with me, taking me to practice everyday, going to my competitions, just always being there, it’s finally paying off. Like I said, it’s just awesome.”
She gets today and Tuesday off, then it’s back in the pool Wednesday at the IU Natatorium.
Before the Olympics, the divers may compete in the U.S. Nationals July 22-27 in Pasadena, Calif.
“We haven’t talked about that yet, so I don’t know yet,” said Dunnichay.
She does know where she and her family and friends will be tonight at 7. On an Elwood fire truck for a parade through town, starting at the high school.
City officials are encouraging residents to gather at the high school before 7 to form a caravan behind the fire truck, or for residents to line Anderson Street to the south edge of the city to celebrate with the Dunnichays, whose baby is going to the Olympics.

I tripped across this new site from a Google Alert on the Wright Brothers… some really neat stuff on this site.

http://www.dreammanifesto.com/

From the site…

Your Thoughts Are The Blueprint of What You Experience in Life
Some call this the law of attraction; others call it the matrix. In quantum physics it is called the collapse of a superposition. It is the moment when you have a thought or you make a decision! Movies like “What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?” and “The Secret” finally bringing this knowledge into the mainstream.

Creating reality with your thoughts is a fundamental ability of your consciousness. You are born with it, however it is not part of our education yet. Statistics on rich and successful people show that simply shifting their thinking was the major key responsible in changing their lives.

Manifesting your dreams does not depend on your education, on your ethnicity or heritage, and in no way is it determined by your environment. It is only the result of how and what you think!

For more information, check out this page:

http://www.dreammanifesto.com/wizard/

One of my favorite artists is Hoosier gal, Sandi Patty. I grew up in not only the Heart Of Hoosierland (Elwood, Indiana) but the Heart of Gaitherland. Although I was exposed heavily to the music of Bill & Gloria Gaither, I was raised on the endearing hymns, many of which were connected to my Methodist roots by the Wesleys, John & Charles.

Here are several of my favorite hymns, performed by Sandi Patty:

How Great Thou Art

Crown Him With Many Crowns & All Hail The Power Of Jesus\’ Name

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

I cannot remember how, or why this melody has been my favorite. It is one of my all time favorite melodies. It was based on an old Welsh hymn, “Hyfrydol” and is known by several titles, one of which is, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

In an arrangement by Mack Wilberg, words by Charles Wesley:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down;
fix in us thy humble dwelling;
all thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation;
enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe thy loving Spirit
into every troubled breast!
Let us all in thee inherit;
let us find the promised rest.
Take away the love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
end of faith, as its beginning,
set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.

Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
till in heaven we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.

I was browsing through the blog of my good friend, Jeffrey Carter, and listened to a recording of COME, THOU FONT, OF EVERY BLESSING. Jeff conducted the Ball State Concert Choir. Here is Jeff’s comments, and the link to the recording.

We closed my last concert with Concert Choir eight months later with Mack Wilberg’s arrangement of Come, thou fount of every blessing. If one can listen past the dyspeptic brass playing, this is great stuff. The men’s sound in the second verse is particularly thrilling, I think.

Come, Thou Font, Of Every Blessing

I have been to Oberlin College twice. In 2002, I traveled through Oberlin on my return trip from visiting the Glenn Curtiss Aviation Museum in Hammonsport, New York. I tried to locate the fountatin dedicated to Katharine Wright Haskell; however, no one seemed to know where it was.

This past March, I drove to Baldwin-Wallace College to watch a premiere of a drama by Jack Winget. En route, I stopped through Oberlin, having researched the fountain’s location. Most of it was covered, but the cherub was clearly visible.

I just received this link to the following article from Betty Gabrielli… neat article about the memorial fountain.

Seventy-six years ago, a marble fountain crowned by a small boy playing with a dolphin first graced the plaza fronting Allen Memorial Art Museum. The bronze figure, a replica of the original by the 15th-century Florentine artist Andrea del Verrocchio, was a small, delicate sculpture, an angel lifting into the air on wings.

The fountain is a kind of love letter to Katharine Wright, the sister and “third member” of the powered-flight team of Wilbur and Orville Wright, from her husband, journalist Henry “Harry” Haskell.

At Oberlin, Katharine was a member of the Class of 1898. Harry, who was two years ahead of her, tutored her in math. They remained friends after graduating, and during the next 30 years, Katharine not only went on to support her brothers, Wilbur and Orville, but she also became the second woman ever elected to the Oberlin’s Board of Trustees. During that time, Harry married and became a journalist, winning two Pulitzer Prizes and eventually editing the Kansas City Star.

In the 1920s, with Harry now a widower, they began a courtship, largely by letters. In 1926, despite the adamant opposition of Orville, who had been Katharine’s constant companion for 14 years after Wilbur’s death, Katharine and Harry married. “They were two Victorian people caught up in a passion that neither understood,” says Harry’s grandson, Harry Haskell. “They were swept off their feet by each other.” But their happiness was short lived. In 1929, while preparing for a European trip, Katharine caught a cold that turned into pneumonia. She died on March 3 at the age of 54.

In 1931, as a tribute to Katharine, a bereft Harry sent 25 crates of hand-cut Italian marble to Oberlin to be assembled as a fountain and inscribed with the words: “To Katharine Wright Haskell 1874-1929.” Installed near the Allen Memorial Art Museum, the fountain quickly became a campus favorite, attracting visitors, students, and bridal parties, but over the years the structure began to deteriorate, and the water flow eventually ceased

That has recently changed. Thanks to the generosity of many donors, including friends and family members, particularly the late Katharine Wright Chaffee ’44 and the Wright Family Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, the fountain has been restored to full working condition by internationally recognized Fairplay Stonecarvers of Oberlin.  

To celebrate its restoration, a public program will be held Friday, September 28 at 1:30 p.m. on the lawn of the art museum, located at 87 North Main Street in Oberlin. Among the speakers will be Judith Haskell Zernich ’72, granddaughter of Henry J. Haskell; Marianne Hudec, grandniece of Wilbur, Orville, and Katharine Wright; James P. Howard, director of principal gifts at Oberlin; Stephanie Wiles, John G.W. Cowles Director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum; and sculptor Nicholas G. Fairplay.

In the event of inclement weather, the program will take place in the museum.

Media Contact:  Betty Gabrielli

Kenneth Jones Playbill On-Line Thu Jul 3, 9:44 AM ET

She was a founding member of Chicago Musical Theatre Works (CMTW), a collective of Windy City musical writers who sought to establish Chicago as a place where musicals were developed. The group’s efforts included public readings of new works. Recently, an offshoot group would meet for critique sessions of their dawning works.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Ms. McKenny was born in Dayton, OH, in 1951, where she attended Alter High School and was a co-founder of Summer Youth Theatre Company (SYTCO). At Northwestern, she earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Oral Interpretation. She liked to say that she majored in “reading aloud,” friends said.

While at Northwestern she wrote her first play, Chautauqua, seen at the university, in a local professional production and at other colleges. At the time of her death she had just completed her first draft of a play about the Greek goddess Psyche.

For 30 years, she collaborated on industrials, plays, musicals and other projects with writing partner and fellow Northwestern University grad Doug Frew, who is now executor of her writing. They shared book and lyric credits and worked with various composers over the years.

For three seasons, Ms. McKenny, Frew and David Roe wrote for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

McKenny and Frew’s musical about George Sand, Becoming George, with composer Linda Eisenstein, was chosen for the Pages to Stages development program at the Kennedy Center and premiered in spring 2006 at Metro Stage in Alexandria, VA.

Their musical 90 North, written with composer Daniel Sticco, won ASCAP’s 1997 Outstanding New Musical Award, was nominated for the Sammy Cahn Lyricist Award, and helped launch ASCAP’s “In the Works” new musicals program at the Kennedy Center in 2000 with artistic director Stephen Schwartz.

Her other works include Lady Lovelace’s Objection (with Doug Frew) and a 1920s Chicago-set play, Towertown, completed in 2007.

With Frew and Andrew Hansen, she won the After Dark Award and was nominated for the Joseph Jefferson Award for incidental music and lyrics in She Stoops to Conquer at Northlight Theatre.

In addition to narrative musical theatre works, she wrote standalone songs with many composers, and her songs were sought by Chicago cabaret performers, including Kat Taylor.

In a note that was distributed to members of the group Chicago Cabaret Professionals, Taylor reflected on Ms. McKenny: “She was a writer a story teller, a lyricist, a playwright, songwriter, freelance corporate communications writer, voice over performer, oral interpreter, producer, director, a networking business woman, an organizer extraordinaire with a work ethic astounding to behold. She was the glue that held her many friends and acquaintances together, a true and loyal friend, a loving sister and the best aunt. She was and is an inspiration. And we will miss her.”

Cheri Coons, a Chicago lyricist and librettist, told Playbill.com, “Patti was driven by the idea that, in her words, ‘It takes a village to raise a curtain.’ She was the driving force behind Chicago Musical Theatre Works, and lived to see her dream realized of the first Disney ASCAP Workshop in Chicago, largely because of the efforts of CMTW. She was a true connecter a committed community-builder, a magical writer, and an inspirational friend.”

Ms. McKenny was a co-founder of Studiomedia recording studio, a member of Chautauqua Preservation Society, a member of the Dramatists Guild, and an active member of Chicago Women in Publishing.

She is survived by her brother Don McKenny and his wife Diane, her nieces Trish and Molly and nephew Sam, and a countless extended family of friends across the country. Her parents Donald and Martha McKenny predeceased her.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.

Orville, Katharine & Wilbur Wright. 1909

It was August 1999 that I was on the tale-end of a three week vacation when I ended up on the Outer Banks.  The previous weeks I had been to:

  • Niagara Falls
  • through the Adirondacks
  • Stowe, Vermont to visit with the surviving von Trapp children
  • down through Manchester, Vermont to visit Robert Todd Lincoln’s beautiful estate, Hildene
  • Hyde Park to visit FDR’s home
  • Manhattan to visit friends and race taxi cab drivers (um… no joke)
  • Long Island to visit Teddy Roosevelt’s home and Montauk Lighthouse (I also sat and chatted with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her daughter, Tatiana
  • Assateague Island – because in 4th grade Mrs. Lane had read us The Mystery of Assateague Island
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel
  • Jolliffe Road & Methodist Church
  • and down to the Outer Banks – one of my sanctuaries
    • Currituck Lighthouse
    • Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
    • Ocracoke Island

I drove by Wright Memorial, but gave it little thought. Big deal. When Mother and Dad came to Dayton, we went to the Air Force Museum. Dad loved it. I was bored.

As I drove past the huge pylon on top of the hill from which they flew, I glanced, but continued on. As I passed it again, I decided to at least get closer – after all, I was now a Daytonian. What would others think of me if they discovered I had not paid homage to the Miami Valley’s most popular brothers?

That following September, I was roller blading through Centerville’s Stubbs Park. As I sat on a rock resting, I watched a little sparrow flitting about the parking lot, nibbling at food dropped from some event.

“How did that little fellow get his body up into the air, and maneuver to another location?”

I had never really considered this… well, I had never really cared.

I looked up to see a huge plane jetting across the horizon, heading for Dayton International Airport.

“How does that big thing get into the air?”

My eyes went back and forth between the sparrow and the plane… and then… from somewhere came the voices of two young boys. I looked around.

I was alone… or was I?

Again, the voices began – and after a few minutes it was clear I was listening to a conversation between Wilbur and Orville Wright.

But why? And furthermore, why me?

And then it was clear: a musical!

The following day I was in the book store of the Air Force Museum, purchasing books on the Wright Brothers. When I research projects, I always buy books as I like to make notes and have them at my disposal 24/7.

Wilbur Wright

It has been almost nine years since I began researching the Wright Brothers, and their remarkable sister, Katharine. In January 2000, I set down in my own handwriting the first few scenes. Within a year, I had the book completed. The Wrights had become an obsession, and I scoured Dayton for every piece of information.

One day I tripped into The Kettering-Moraine Museum, and was met by the director, Melba Hunt. A fascinating, somewhat eccentric lady that knew her Wright history. In the museum, I was introduced to many relics belonging to the Wright family. A year later, after a friendship had developed, I was invited behind the velvet ropes…

  • I touched the quilt made by Susan Wright, the mother
  • I held Bishop Milton Wright’s spectacles
  • I glanced through the family Bible with all the notes pertaining to births, marriages and deaths
  • I held several of Bishop’s canes
  • I touched Orville’s bed
  • I sat at Katharine’s desk
  • Melba handed me a jacket to hold while digging through a closet; the white dinner jacket, covered in a clear plastic cleaning bag had a note: “Orville Wright wore this jacket to a dinner at the White House with Franklin Roosevelt, 1942.” I reached up under the plastic and held the jacket’s sleeve
  • and then, Melba handed me a little box which I opened… I pulled out two relics – a sliver of wood and a swatch of material from the very first Wright flying machine that flew at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903. The one that hangs in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum has been completely restored, and most of the wing covering is now at the Dayton Air Force Museum.

What a great day!

In 2003, two wonderful ladies joined me as my co-writers: Gail Whipple, my lyricist, and Leslie Merry, my composer. These two have been the most marvelous colaborators, and I cannot say enough for what they’ve brought to this project.

Orville Wright

So, here we are in June 2008. It has been a long haul. In the mean time I have continued to teach, raised two sons, shared my home with five foster sons, endured countless trials with all these boys, performed in several shows and major concerts, directed ten shows, worked with show choirs, traveled, buried two grandparents, welcomed two new nephews, and countless other moments in life – joyful and trying.

The past three weeks, my youngest son has been with my brother and his family in Indiana, and I have tackled one of the most amazing experiences withthis project. I completely isolated myself, with the exception of two ball games for the Lockhartfamily, and a movie night with Sophie Lockhart. I would teach all day, Mondays through Wednesdays, and then work until 2:00am. Thursdays through Sundays were spent working in the yard, spring cleaning, and writing. No matter what errand was at hand, the Wright project consumed me as I battled so many moments where I just could not budge anything.

Katharine Wright

Finally, something clicked earlier this week, and everything began falling into place. The past few days have been intense, exhilarating and fulfilling. I completely rearranged the outline, deleted a few characters (gulp), cut one of my favorite scenes, and strenghtened the musical for what may be the final rewrite.

Over the past nine years, I have become so fond of Wilbur and Orville Wright, and their sister, Katharine. What an interesting family, an inspiring family. One of my favorite places to visit is Woodland Cemetery and the Wright Family plot containing the remains of Bishop and Susan Wright, Wilbur, Katharine and Orville, and the remains of twins born between Wilbur and Orville, Ida and Otis (they died shortly after birth). There were two other brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin, both older than Wilbur.

Katharine entertaining crowned heads of Europe, 1909.

Katharine is the most fascinating. She graduated from Oberlin College in Northern Ohio, and taught Latin and Greek at Steele High School in Dayton. Katharine was the only Wright child to graduate from high school. In fact, neither Wilbur or Orville graduated from high school.

 In September 1908 (nearly one hundred years ago), Orville was injured in a crash while demonstrating a flyer for the United States Army. Katharine left her teaching position to nurse him, never returning to her career. Instead, she served as her brothers’ social secretary, and accompanied them throughout Europe, charming kings, queens, princes and other notable figures. Spains’ King Alphonso said she was the “ideal American woman.”

Katharine & Wilbur – Katharine’s first flight – note the modesty cord on her skirt.

One day, Wilbur took Katharine on her first flight. Her voluminous skirts were tied with a “modesty cord.” With the flight completed, she scooted away from the plane, the modesty cord still in place. Katharine’s playful moment had surpassed her charm and wit. A fashion designer from Paris’ House of Paquin captured the moment – thus was born, the Hobble Skirt!

Wilbur died in 1912, and Orville was devastated. He did not possess Wilbur’s understanding with business, and especially, the ability to tackle the endless court battles protecting their patent. Katharine was at his side. They retired to a beautiful home, Hawthorn Hill, in Oakwood (less than a mile from where I live).

Katharine Wright Haskell

In 1925, Katharine fell in love with Harry Haskell, a fellow graduate of Oberlin. Harry and his wife, Isabelle, were both great friends of Katharine, and had Harry asked her, Katharine would have married him. In 1923, Isabelle died from cancer. Katharine, always the true friend, sent endless letters and gifts to Harry, now the editor for The Kansas City Star. Within a few years, they had fallen in love.

However, Katharine was terrified to tell Orville of her engagement. Orville imagined this unspoken, unwritten pact that they would always remain together. Finally, Katharine and Harry told Orville, and he exploded, refusing to speak to Katharine. 

On Nov. 20, 1926, Katharine, 52, and Harry, 54, were married in the Oberlin home of friends. Katharine moved with Harry to his home in Kansas City. She told friends that her new life as a wife was a fairy tale come true.

The Wright sister would never see her brother again – until he came to her bedside the day before she died.

Orville Wright lived until 1948, but Katharine and Harry Haskell had just two years and three months together. Despite a bad cold, Katharine was planning a trip abroad with Harry in the winter of 1929. It had been 20 years since Katharine’s first trip to Europe, when she had flown in her brothers’ magical flying machine and met King Edward VII of England, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and King Alfonso XIII of Spain.

A couple of weeks before Katharine and Harry were to board a ship for their trip abroad, her cold turned into pneumonia. The death watch began. Harry asked his wife if she wanted to see Orville.

 

Orville arrived on a Saturday. Harry asked Katharine if she recognized her brother.

“Yes, of course,” she whispered. She died on Sunday, March 3, 1929. She was 54.

Katharine Wright had been revered by kings and presidents. She had been to the White House – walked right up to Presidents William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge, and shook their hands boldly. Like the royals in France, the presidents were charmed.

Katharine Wright might be just a footnote to history, but author Richard Maurer said she was far more than a footnote to the lives and achievements of her brothers.

“You can take the airplane out of the lives of the Wright brothers, and they would have been pretty insignificant and uninteresting people,” Maurer said. “That’s not true of Katharine. She did not let the airplane define her.”

If the life of the Wrights were a movie, Maurer said, the sister would be the star:

“Katharine has a bit part, but she’s the character you remember. In the story of the Wrights, she gets the Academy Award for the best supporting actress. Katharine Wright steals the show.”

 

In March 1929, Orville received word that Katharine was dying from pneumonia. He was finally convinced to visit her, arriving the day before she died. Katharine was 53. Orville requested her body be returned to Dayton where she now rests between Wilbur and Orville – a fitting place for the sister who gave so much of her self to the brothers who taught the world how to fly.

Orville Wright. 1945

In 1948, Orville suffered a heart attack and died. That following December, the original Kitty Hawk Flyer was installed in the Smithsonian following a thirty-three year battle which finally resulted with the institution’s recognition that the Wrights were indeed, the first to fly.

So, my journey with the Wright family is nearing an end. There will be additional re-writes, eventual rehearsals and performances, but my intimate work with the Wrights will be over. Once a director steps in, it is much like sending your child off to school for the first time… the acorn can not be closed once the oak begins to grow.

I have several projects on deck, crying to be written:

  • The Mink Story
  • finishing Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • King Edwards VIII & Wallace Simpson
  • a musical on the ghosts of five first ladies, The Sorority
  • and so many more…

But in the meantime, I am enjoying this time with the Wrights… they have been wonderful companions these past nine years.

 

Footnote: Katharine’s husband, Henry “Harry” Haskell, went on to marry a third time, outliving his third wife. Harry received three Pulitzer Prizes for his editorials – one of which warned the world about the new German chancellor, Adolph Hitler.

 A snowball at the top of a mountain has the potential to become huge, just by rolling down the mountain and gathering more snow. In a short time, this tiny snowball can become a force to be reckoned with. We humans are like this when it comes to exchanging energy and vision, and no matter how few people are involved at the beginning, there is the potential for massive change. As consciousness seekers, we are in the midst of this process, and it is amazing to see people we thought might never come around, waking up to their truth. Each time we see this, we can count ourselves blessed to be living at a time when the awareness of humanity seems to be at a tipping point, as more and more individuals open their minds and change their ways.

For some people, this revolves around an awareness of the environment, for others it is a spiritual awakening, and for many it is both. A great change in consciousness is sweeping through us all, as we recognize that things are not what they have seemed to be, that there is more to our lives than meets the eye. Many of us have the awareness and the energy at this time to break through old, outmoded ways of seeing things and to move into a new way of being in the world, and it is essential that we do so. The beauty of living at this time is that even small actions have a powerful ripple effect, and the reverberations of what we do have the power to reach and open many minds.

It is as if a scale is about to tip in favor of higher consciousness, and each one of us has the power to bring humanity closer to that point with the smallest of actions. Each time we move in the direction of our dreams and visions, we can visualize another small pebble dropping into the pond, or another gold weight on the scale, rippling and tipping our way to universal awakening.

 

Donna Mae Clary-Barmes  (May 8, 1924 – June 27, 1992)

Donna Mae Clary. 1940

Today marks the anniversary of the passing of my maternal grandmother. One of the dearest, wittiest and most remarkable souls I have ever known.

Grandma Donna was the second child of John William Garrett Clary and Mary Belle Jones – Clary, both of Madison County, Indiana. Grandma Donna grew up in Boone Township, Madison County, Indiana near Summitville from where she graduated in 1940. She had an older brother, Ronald Monroe, who was killed from a fall from a horse at age 15 in 1936, and a younger sister, Joyce Ann Clary – Riser. Joyce currently lives in Alexandria, Indiana. My grandparents resided in Elwood, Indiana until 1973 when they took up residence near Lapel, Indiana in the home built by my great-grandfather (Virgil Barmes), grandfather, and great-uncle (Danny Joe Barmes).

In 1943, Donna married Leroy Barmes (1921-2004), and together they raised three children: Diana (1945), Ronald Dean (1952-1987), and Tommy Kent (1954). They were members of the Trinity Evangelical United Brethren Church of Elwood, Indiana and later Ford Street United Methodist church.

FOUR GENERATIONS: Mary Belle Clary, Darin, Diana, Donna. 1964

My grandmother was terribly witty, and loved a practical joke. Her smile and laughter were infectious, and her tenderness and understanding deep. As a small child, I was so fortunate to spend each day with her. Only 40 years old when I was born, she was still raising two sons at home who were 12 and 10. So, in many ways, she seemed like a second mother, and my uncles were more like older brothers. It was a unique situation in which to grow up, and one I shall always treasure. Not many grandchildren remember their grandparents’ 50th birthdays!

In 1978, Grandma was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia. The doctor said she would die withthe disease, not from it. The remaining years were filled with many family events that she never missed. Grandma and Grandpa were at every one of my band contests, and at least 90% of my college events. When I was doing the role of Joseph in JOSEPH & THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT, Grandma loved my long hair and curls, and would often sit in church withher hand on the back of the pew so she could play withmy curls. Following one of the performances as Joseph later on, she and I posed for a photograph with me wearing my technicolor dreamcoat- what is not seen in the photo is her hand around my back playing with the curls.

June 12th, 1992, I received an urgent telephone call from Dad telling me Grandma had collapsed at the dinner table the night before. She was rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis where she was placed on life support. After exploratory surgery it was discovered she had colon cancer and there was no hope. Finally, the evening of June 26th, Mother made the painful decision to have the life support removed the following morning.

At 9:00am the following morning, the family gathered around Grandma’s bed. Once the life support was disconnected, we joined hands and recited the Lord’s Prayer. The attending nurse cautioned us that it could drag on for an hour or so. By 1:00pm, her heart was still beating strong. The family had a consultation with the doctor, and we agreed that he would increase her morphine drip, and remove her from the ventilator.

At 2:00pm, we gathered around her bed, the blood pressure began a sad, consistent decrease. At 2:15pm, I leaned over to say, “I love you. I’ll see you later… and remember, my first Tony Award is for you.” I then heard my cousin, Debbie, say, “She’s gone.”

Thus ended the life of one of the most beautiful people I have known in this life.

When I returned to Dayton that night, I went to my room and for some reason my eyes went to a table that contained several nick-knacks. On this table was an emerald frame and clock, gifts from my grandmother. The clock’s hands were stopped at 2:15. I had only replaced the battery the week before. The same battery remains in the clock, and the hands have not been changed in sixteen years.

However, today at 2:15pm, when I sit at the piano as I do each year to play Grandma’s favorite song, “Red River Valley,” I am going to replace the battery and set the clock moving again. I did this recently with a gold pocket watch given me by my Uncle Ron. When Uncle Ron was killed in June 1987, I never rewound the watch again. However, June 8th, 2008, I passed this watch on to my newest nephew and godson, Frederick Lee Haas, and before placing it in the bag, I rewound it. The watch was ticking away when I received it from my uncle, and it just seemed appropriate that it should be running when it was passed on to my own nephew.

I will always miss her, especially during those treasured family moments which she would have loved. But as I grow older, I realize, more and more, that so much of my grandmother (as well as my grandfather, and other beloved family and friends) is still with me. Now, it is up to me to carry on the torch, to strengthen the foundation, and to create even more wonderful memories for my son, my nephews and all those from this younger generation.

In some way, resetting the clock is a sense of moving on… but not forgetting.

 

This is what my writing area looks like on the back deck. I generally “hit the deck” around 7:00am, setting up my work area, checking Email, and attending to other business while listening to THE TODAY SHOW from the small television on a shelf behind me.

The umbrella, purchased for the Outer Banks’ beaches last summer, has made a wonderful table umbrella, and also serves me in organization – I must have an organized area. Sometimes, I have 4-8 papers or items clipped to the umbrella which functions as a Lazy Susan. The base which holds the umbrella is filled with sand from the beach directly across the road from where the Wright Brothers first flew in 1903, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.

Flyer, the dog, and Logan, the cat, are always nearby. Logan generally rests on one of the deck rails so she can survey anything that walks, crawls or flies through the yard. Flyer always chooses to be near the door should I decide to move inside for any reason – she will seldom let me out of her sight. Now, when Logan spies something and goes into pounce-mode, Flyer stealthily moves to the steps to join Logan in her reconnaissance mission… and if it is worth it, they will both jump into the yard for the merry chase.

Today the humidity is already beginning to rise, and by Noon I will probably move inside and remain through the thundestorms we are expected to receive.

So this is my space when not teaching. It is a lovely, relaxing setting, and I could not be happier. A space in which to write, and spending time with my friends, Wilbur, Orville and Katharine Wright.

 

 

Over the past month or so, I have watched all three series of the movie based on John Jakes’ novels, NORTH AND SOUTH… ahhh…

The writing, the directing, the cinematography, the costuming, the set design, and THE MUSIC… as if all this is not enough, the assembled cast is one of the most talented ever assembled for any one movie…

  • Jimmy Stewart
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Patrick Swayzee
  • James Read
  • Leslie-Ann Downs
  • Jean Simmons
  • Kirstie Alley
  • Teri Garber (Luke & Larua)
  • Genie Francis
  • Wendy Kilbourne (married to James Read)
  • David Carradine
  • Inga Swenson (from BENSON)
  • Morgan Fairchild
  • Robert Mitchum
  • Hal Holbrook (ahh… the best!)
  • Robert Guilluame (BENSON)
  • Johnny Cash (too good!)
  • Gene Kelly
  • David Ogden Stiers
  • Wendy Fulton
  • Jonathan Frakes
  • Mary Crosby (Bing’s daughter)
  • Lloyd Bridges
  • Olivia De  Havilland (Melanie in GONE WITH THE WIND)
  • Wayne Newton
  • Forrest Whitaker
  • Jerry Biggs
  • Cathy Lee Crosby
  • Cliff DeYoung
  • Mariette Hartley
  • Peter O’Toole
  • Brandon Smith
  • Rip Torn
  • Robert Wagner
  • Billy Dee Williams
  • Gregory Zaragoza
  • Kyle Chandler (EARLY EDITION, KING KONG, GREY’S ANATOMY, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS)
  • Philip Casnoff

And these are only the ones I recognize! What a tremendous cast, and a great movie.

I was in college when the movie came out, and I remember watching it in its entirety. The music, however, moved me more than anything… I can remember going to the piano and playing it. Here is a clip from the opening credits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh9LW_19wb8

From IMB:

1842, a special summer day at the huge plantation of Mont Royal. A South Carolinian young man, Orry Maine, leaves his rich home for West Point Academy. On his way northwards, in very strange circumstances, he meets two people who will play a decisive role in his life: beautiful lady Madeleine Fabray whom Orryhelps and with whom he falls in love and a “Yankee” George Hazard by whom Orry is helped and who is also on his way to West Point Academy. From that time, Orry and George are best friends and help each other at every moment, they fight for the USA in the Mexican War at Churubusco where George saves Orry’s life. A few years later, the friendship of Orry and George spread to the friendship of their families, the Maines from South Carolina and the Hazards from Pennsylvania. Yet, the love of Orry’s life, Madeleine gets married to Justin LaMotte, a rich cruel owner of nearby plantation in South Carolina. Their love cannot be fulfilled and they only meet in secret. Years pass by and the relations between north and south are not that calm as in the past. Northern abolitionists demand the end of slavery while the south demands secession and separation from the “damn Yankees.” Although George and Orry badly want peace between north and south, there is no escape from the inescapable fate. April, the 12th, 1861 and the attack on the northern fortress Fort Sumter done by the southerners means the beginning of war. These who fought together at Churubusco will have to fight against each other. Friends will have to become enemies. Will war be stronger than peace of mind? May the storm and noise of canons, rifles and bullets destroy honor, respect and true friendship? Written by Marcin Kukuczka

Based on John Jakes best selling novel this is the story of the friendship between two boys – George Hazard and Orry Main – that meet at West Point. George is from a wealthy Pennsylvania steel family and Orry is from a Southern plantation where his family keep slaves. In the years leading up to the Civil War their friendship is tested as their families interact and hostilities between the North and South increase. Notes: In the book Orry loses an arm during the Mexican war where he and George fight together but the in the TV version his injury is re-written as a limp. Written by Susan Southall {stobchatay@aol.com}

This sweeping, star-studded epic about two powerful families before and during the Civil War is based on John Jakes’ popular novels. The show tells the saga of the Hazards of Pennsylvania and the Mains of South Carolina and their loves, hatreds, jealousies, and robust rivalry. Book II opens in 1861 and continues the families story against the dramatic backdrop of the war. The carefully filmed battle scenes are sure to please Civil War buffs. Written by Anonymous

Two teenage boys; Orry Main from South Carolina and George Hazard from Pennsylvania, meet on their ways to military academy in West Point. Very soon, they become the best friends ever. In the Academy they spend lots of time together and together make the biggest enemy; ElkanahBent. After graduation, they go for a war with Mexico, where Orry gets hurt really bad, but is saved by George. When they return homes, they don’t give up on their friendship – their families spend summer together, their siblings falls in love, they become business-partners etc. But the situation in the country is not getting better, also not all the family members and neighbours like the idea of people from North and South being friends. In December 1860, South Carolina leaves Union. The war is much closer then it has ever been. It starts at a spring, 1861. George and Orry must fight against each other …

 

Yesterday afternoon I just happened to turn on the television as television journalist, Tom Brokaw, was breaking the news of Tim Russert’s sudden death.

This morning, I feel as though I have lost a favorite uncle. There is an emptiness, that great sense of loss. Every Sunday morning, I would call Mother, and then hang up as the musical intro for MEET THE PRESS began. I didn’t care who was a guest, or what the topic – I watched the program to listen to “Uncle Tim.”

I can honestly say I learned more about poliitics, and feel as though I am a better American from what I learned from Tim. I have always loved politics, and Tim encouraged me to love the art of political science even more. The greatest thing I learned, and still practice, is investigate both sides of the issue.

My Sunday mornings, except for my telephone calls with Mother, and THE HOUR OF POWER, will be terribly empty with Uncle Tim. I believe Tim Russert was one of the greatest Americans of this era.

The two hour special edition of THE TODAY SHOW this Saturday morning, hosted by Matt Laurer, and a host of his colleagues and even the vice-president, was a tremendous tribute. The closing shot was of Tim’s empty chair on the set of MEET THE PRESS.

(CNN) — Tim Russert, who became one of America’s leading political journalists as the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” died Friday, the network said. He was 58.

Tim Russert established himself as the face of NBC’s political journalism as host of “Meet the Press.”

The network said the award-winning journalist collapsed at work Friday. He was taken to Washington’s Sibley Memorial Hospital, where he died, the hospital confirmed.

Colleague and former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw broke the news on the network Friday shortly after 3:40 p.m.

Russert had just returned from a family vacation in Italy with his wife, journalist Maureen Orth, and son, Luke, to celebrate his graduation from Boston College, Brokaw said.

“I think I can invoke personal privilege and say this news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice,” Brokaw said Friday.

“He will be missed as he was loved — greatly.”

Friends and colleagues remembered Russert on Friday not only as one of the country’s most respected and influential political journalists, but also as a friend, a devout Catholic and an avid sports fan, especially when it came to his home team, the Buffalo Bills.

“I just loved the guy. He had this enthusiasm about all of the things that life brings to you,” said James Carville, who often attended Washington National games with Russert. “My wife and I are in a complete state of utter shock.”

Russert was born May 7, 1950, in Buffalo, New York. His parents were Timothy John Russert Sr., or “Big Russ,” a newspaper truck driver and sanitation worker, and Elizabeth Russert.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown ordered that all flags on city property be lowered immediately to half-staff in Russert’s honor.

He was a graduate of Canisius High School, John Carroll University and the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He was a member of the bar in New York and the District of Columbia, according to a biography on CNBC.com.

Before joining NBC, Russert served as press secretary for former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and as chief of staff to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Russert joined the network in 1984 and quickly established himself as the face of the network’s political coverage, eventually becoming senior vice president and Washington bureau chief of NBC news.

His career at NBC was marked by a number of milestones. In 1985, Russert supervised live broadcasts of the “Today” show from Rome, Italy, negotiating an appearance by Pope John Paul II — a first for American television.

His rise to prominence coincided with his success as the best-selling author of two books, 2004’s “Big Russ and Me” and 2006’s “Wisdom of Our Fathers,” which documented his journey from blue-collar beginnings to law school to Washington powerhouse.

The memoirs, both of which were New York Times best sellers, transformed the award-winning journalist into the son of Big Russ, a Buffalo Bills fanatic, and finally, a husband and father.

Tim was a true child of Buffalo and the blue-collar roots from which he was raised,” Brokaw said Friday. “For all his success, he was always in touch with the ethos of that community.”

Russert credited his upbringing with helping him keep his ego in check as he became the man who interviewed presidents and important politicians of the day.

“If you come from Buffalo, everything else is easy. Walking backwards to school, for a mile in the snow, grounds you for life,” Russert told the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz in 2004. “Plus, if you have a family the way I do, it’s a daily reality check.”

Russert, who also served as a political analyst for cable network MSNBC, took the helm of “Meet the Press” in 1991, turning the long-running Sunday-morning interview program into the most-watched show of its kind in the United States.

During his 17-year run as the host of “Meet the Press,” the longest of any host in the show’s 60-year history, Russert earned the respect and admiration of many journalists and politicians.

“He was an institution in both news and politics for more than two decades. Tim was a tough and hardworking newsman. He was always well-informed and thorough in his interviews. And he was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it,” President Bush said Friday.

His professionalism earned him many accolades. The Washingtonian Magazine once dubbed Russert the best and most influential journalist in Washington, describing “Meet the Press” as “the most interesting and important hour on television.”

In 2008, TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Brokaw described Russert as a political junkie who threw himself into his work during this year’s presidential contest.

“This was one of the most important years of Tim’s life for many reasons,” Brokaw said. “He loved this political campaign. He worked himself to the point of exhaustion many weeks.”

He was also the recipient of numerous awards for his work, including an Emmy in 2005 for his coverage of the funeral of President Ronald Reagan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite author, and presidential personality passed away today.

I am sad….

 CHICAGO (Reuters) – Margaret Truman Daniel, the only child of former president and famously proud father Harry Truman who became a author of popular murder mysteries, died on Tuesday at age 83, the Truman Library said.

Daniel, a long-time New York resident, died in a care facility in Chicago from complications from an infection contracted recently, said library director Michael Devine.

After living for decades in the same New York apartment, she moved to Chicago to be closer to the eldest of her four sons, Clifton, Devine said in a telephone interview from the Independence, Missouri, library.

Margaret Truman did not let being the president’s daughter keep her from pursuing first a singing career and then one as a mystery writer that took off after her father’s death in 1972.

It was her singing and his fatherly protection that ignited President Truman‘s well-known temper, leading him to write one of the most famous presidential letters in history.

After Washington Post music critic Paul Hume panned one of her vocal recitals — “Miss Truman cannot sing very well” — Truman responded from the White House that the review was “poppycock” and the critic was a “frustrated old man” who was “off the beam.”

“Some day I hope to meet you,” the president wrote Hume, ignoring the fact the critic had called his daughter “extremely attractive.” “When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

Margaret Truman continued her musical career for several more years, and became a radio and television host.

Later she turned to writing books. First they were books about her family and life in the White House but beginning in 1980 she established her own genre, Washington-based mystery novels.

The titles of these 19 novels, many still in print, all included a famous landmark in the U.S. capital such as “Murder in the White House,” “Murder in the Supreme Court” and later, when a political scandal had made it one of the most well-known buildings in the country, “Murder at the Watergate.” “Murder on K Street” was published last year.

“The reviewers praised her descriptions of the Washington social scene, and the places she described were dead-on,” Devine said. “She bumped somebody off in just about every public building in Washington.”

MOVE TO WASHINGTON

Margaret Truman was born February 17, 1924, in Independence, Missouri, and moved to Washington a decade later when her father was elected to the Senate.

By the time she graduated from George Washington University in 1946, her father had become president and he delivered the commencement address and handed her diploma.

She took her first voice lesson when she was 16 and made her concert debut singing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on a nationwide radio hookup in 1947.

Her singing career continued for the next decade with numerous concerts, including one at Carnegie Hall in New York, and appearances on television shows like Ed Sullivan‘s “Toast of the Town” program.

In 1955, she substituted for Edward R. Murrow on his popular “Person to Person” show and interviewed her parents after they had moved out of the White House. She became a radio program host, interviewing prominent writers on a feature called “Authors in the News.”

In 1956, she married Clifton Daniel, who in the 1960s would become managing editor of The New York Times. He died in 2000, the same year their son William was killed in a New York traffic accident — dealing her a double blow, Devine said.

She was an avid supporter of presidential libraries, including her father’s, in partnership with other children of former presidents.

She is survived by three sons and five grandchildren.

MODENA, Italy (Reuters) – Legendary Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who brought opera to the masses, died on Thursday after a battle with cancer. He was 71.

“The great tenor Luciano Pavarotti died today at 5 a.m. (11 p.m. Wednesday EDT) at his home in Modena,” his manager Terri Robson said in a statement. “The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life.

Although his health had been seriously failing for a year, the death of the genial, bearded tenor known as “Big Luciano” saddened everyone from stars, impresarios and critics of ‘bel canto’ to fans who could barely afford tickets.

“There were tenors and then there was Pavarotti,” said Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli.

While past opera greats often locked themselves in a gilded, elitist world, television viewers around the world heard Pavarotti sing with pop stars like Sting and Bono in his famous “Pavarotti and Friends” benefits for the needy.

“He was one of those rare artists who affected the lives of people across the globe in all walks of life,” London‘s Royal Opera House at Covent Garden said in a statement.

“Through his countless broadcasts, recordings and concerts he introduced the extraordinary power of opera to people who perhaps would never have encountered opera and classical singing. In doing so, he enriched their lives. That will be his legacy,” said Covent Garden.

Already famous in the opera world, he rocketed to planetary superstardom when he, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras sang at Rome‘s Caracalla Baths during the 1990 soccer World Cup in Italy.

Sales of opera albums shot up after the concert and the aria “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot, which has the famous victory line “At dawn I will win,” became as much a feature of soccer fever as the usual stadium chants.

ROOTS IN THE PROVINCES

Born in 1935, his father was a baker who liked to sing and his mother worked in a cigar factory. The people of Modena, a provincial town in northeast Italy, mourned a man who remained attached to his hometown even as a superstar.

Venusta Nascetti, a 71-year-old who used to serve Pavarotti coffee in a local bar when he was a teenager, remembered him as being “full of joy, he had a happy spirit.”

“He always loved us just like we loved him,” the frail old woman, wearing dark glasses to hide her emotion, told reporters outside Pavarotti’s house where she went to pay her respects.

The tenor’s funeral will take place in Modena on Saturday.

Pavarotti shot to fame with a stand-in appearance at Covent Garden in 1963 and soon had critics gushing. His big break came thanks to another Italian opera great, Giuseppe di Stefano, who dropped out of a London performance of “La Boheme” in 1963.

Covent Garden had lined up “this large young man” as a possible stand-in — and a star was born.

In 1972 he famously hit nine high C’s in a row in “Daughter of the Regiment” at New York‘s Metropolitan Opera, which he referred to as “my home.”

His last public singing performance was at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin in February 2006.

FINAL ACT

In July last year, Pavarotti underwent surgery in New York for pancreatic cancer and retreated to his villa in Modena. He had to cancel his first planned public reappearance a few months later.

Pavarotti was taken to a hospital in Modena last month and treated for more than two weeks. He was released on August 25, and spent his final hours at home with family and friends nearby, the statement said.

“He remained optimistic and confident that he would overcome the disease and had been determined to return to the stage to complete his Worldwide Farewell Tour,” his manager said.

Robson said that up until just weeks before his death, Pavarotti devoted several hours a day to teaching pupils at his summer villa in Pesaro, on Italy‘s Adriatic Coast. Pavarotti launched an academy for young singers in Modena two years ago.

“He was also planning to complete a recording of sacred songs and unveil the next phase of the Pavarotti International Voice Competition,” the statement said.

Although Pavarotti began singing in a church choir aged nine his passion was soccer and he wanted to go professional. But his mother convinced him to be a teacher, which he did for two years until realizing his vocation and starting singing lessons.

In 2003, Pavarotti married Nicoletta Mantovani, an assistant 34 years his junior and younger than his three daughters, after an acrimonious divorce from Adua, his wife of 37 years.

As Nicoletta was bearing twins, the pregnancy ran into complications and their son Riccardo was stillborn.

He is survived by Nicoletta, their four-year-old daughter, Alice, as well as three daughters from Pavarotti’s first marriage.

Though stone structures have been a dominant element of human history, few have done as much to bridge the gap between the physical and spiritual realms as the Native American medicine wheel. Wholly non-intrusive, these simple configurations of stone blend into their environments, becoming objects of ritual, meditative, and ceremonial importance to those who perceive their deeper meaning. An outer ring is linked to the center of the medicine wheel by spokes that echo the four sacred directions (north, south, east, and west) and their corresponding colors (white, red, yellow, and black).

Creating our own medicine wheel can be just as profound an experience as visiting the site of an ancient wheel, for the mere presence of it changes our relationship to the universe, opening us to new depths of insight.
No matter what the configuration, the wheel represents the circular path of being. It illustrates the journey of all Mother Nature’s children, encompassing cycles of life, death, and that which lies beyond. When we walk the outer edges of a medicine wheel, sleep in its spokes, or lay our hands upon the center cairn, our inner vision is enhanced. We recognize ourselves as a vital part of a larger whole—a product of the universe as well as a force acting upon it. Peering through the lens of the medicine wheel, the harmony that unites disparate elements of the universe reveals itself to us. Each living entity will visit every spoke of the wheel in its lifetime, honoring the sacred directions and colors. However different we may be, there is no reason we cannot find peaceful concordance in our similarities.

Whether your goal is to internalize the wisdom of the self, nature, society, or soul, the transformative energy of the medicine wheel will help you attune yourself to the interconnectivity of all reality. It can consequently serve as a powerful communication tool for groups in need of channels of understanding, for the universality of the wheel’s significance facilitates bonding without asking disparate peoples to sacrifice their individuality. Your energy and that of those who accompany you will mingle with the universal flow at the focal point of the medicine wheel, reminding you that all beings are equal, and all are fated to travel round the great loop of existence until the end of time.

The creative power of the universe is infinite. A single molecule’s destiny is as important as the consequences of the largest supernova. Human potential is subject to this power, but because we are sentient beings, each of us is permitted to choose whether we will struggle against it or work in tandem with it. When we give voice to our desires through focused meditation or solicit the help of spirit guides, we draw upon the universe’s creative power to achieve certain ends. However, because our words are not all the universe hears, the response we receive may surprise us. The discourse we establish through our appeals is a blend of speech, thought, intention, and subconscious reflection. When we ask the universe for something, the unspoken message is that what we want does not exist, and the universe accepts this as truth. Conversely, we manifest completeness through affirmations in which we declare our desires as if we have already obtained them.

When we affirm that we are fulfilled instead of articulating deficiencies, we are asserting that contentment is a natural and necessary element of human existence. Our essence is an expression of fulfillment—the universe wants to satisfy our needs and desires. When we describe our realities in positive terms, we are not denying the challenges inherent in existence. We choose not to focus on lack or dissatisfaction because we understand that the energy of our thoughts will determine the response we receive to our entreaties. Ask yourself how you would feel if your wishes were granted, and then allow yourself to internalize that emotional state. Try to create a picture of satisfaction so vivid that its reality is unquestionable and tell the universe that your vision is fact. At the close of your appeal, express your gratitude, as it is your acknowledgment of the truth of your fulfillment that will set the creative power of the universe into motion.

Working in perfect unison with the creative power of the universe will empower you to manifest spiritual realities in your material existence. As you affirm the beauty, peace, and goodness that already exist within in your life, your capacity to sense and understand their influence will become increasingly sophisticated. To meet your needs and achieve your desires, you need then only banish all thoughts of emptiness so that the energy of completeness can attract fullness into your being.

The first step to getting what you want in life is knowing what you want. This may sound obvious, but a surprising number of us are going through life without really coming to terms with the truth of what we want. There are many reasons for this, and they range from parental influences that curb our imaginations to external factors that curb our ability to take action. We may feel that getting too caught up in exploring our deepest desires is wasted energy when it seems we want things beyond our grasp. This is a very practical attitude and has its benefits, but it can be safely balanced with a more imaginative and unlimited approach to the question of what we want.

Perhaps you are 40 years old and find within yourself a desire to be a ballet dancer. You see the impracticality and seeming impossibility of this idea, so you reject it without exploring it. But perhaps you should allow yourself to feel this desire and perhaps even take a dance class. Allowing yourself to participate in ballet in small ways may provide inspiration that leads you in a new direction in life. And time spent doing what you want to do is never wasted because it generates energy that can fuel the rest of your life.

You can begin to uncover and discover what you want by doing a simple, timed writing exercise. Set your timer for 15 minutes and write without stopping, starting every sentence with the words “I want.” Writing without stopping for a set period of time enables your inner voice to override your inner censor and helps to unearth buried dreams. It also creates a feeling of relief in the mind, heart, and body. This exercise can also be practiced orally, alone or in the company of a friend. You might try doing this exercise every morning for a week, looking back at the end of the week to see what has come up. Sometimes the simple act of expressing a want actually releases it, while other yearnings retain their energy, asking us to pay attention. When we pay attention to what we want, we are that much closer to getting it.

What do you think?

A person who is said to possess greatness stands apart from others in some way, usually by the size or originality of their vision and their ability to manifest that vision. And yet those who recognize that greatness, whether they display it themselves or not, also have greatness within them; otherwise, they could not see it in another. In many ways, the achievements of one person always belong to many people for we accomplish nothing alone in this world. People who display greatness rely upon others who are able to see as they do, to listen, encourage, and support. Without those people who recognize greatness and move in to support it, even the greatest ideas, works of art, and political movements would remain unborn.

We are all moved by greatness when we see it, and although the experience is to some degree subjective, we know the feeling of it. When we encounter it, it is as if something in us stirs, awakens, and comes forth to meet what was inside us all along. When we respond to someone else’s greatness, we feed our own. We may feel called to dedicate ourselves to their vision, or we may be inspired to follow a path we forge ourselves. Either way, we cannot lose when we recognize that the greatness we see in others belongs also to us. Our recognition of this is a call to action that, if heeded, will inspire others to see in us the greatness they also possess. This creates a chain reaction of greatness unfolding itself endlessly into the future.

Ultimately, greatness is simply the best of what humanity has to offer. Greatness does what has not been done before and inspires the same courage that it requires. When we see it in others, we know it, and when we trust its presence in ourselves, we embody it.

Sometimes the best guardian angels are the ones you meet in the most surprising circumstances.

By Therese Borchard

Our lives are guided by natural rhythms that are particular to each of us and cannot be altered by force of will alone. Life itself is a journey made up of processes and events that manifest before us only to be swept away when time marches on. Whether we envision ourselves creating a career, building a family, or developing the self, we instinctively know when the time has come for us to realize our dreams because all that is involved comes together harmoniously. When the time is right, the passage of destiny cannot be blocked. Yet as desperate as we are to touch these beautiful futures we have imagined, we cannot grow if we are not fully present in the evolutionary experience. The present can be challenging, uncomfortable, and tedious, but life unfolds as it will, and the universe will wait patiently as we make our way into the unknown.

The fate that awaits us is not dependent on our pace, which was preordained before we ever appeared in human guise. Therefore there is no reason to rush through life to reach those pinnacles of development associated with the paths we have chosen. Enjoying and fully experiencing the journey of life is as important as achieving goals and reaching milestones. There are lessons we can learn during those moments that seem immaterial or insignificant that we cannot learn at any other time. Appreciating these takes patience, however, because human beings tend to focus on the fulfillment of expectations rather than the simple joys of being.

Like many people, you have no doubt longed for a device that would give you the power to fast forward through certain periods of your existence. Yet haste is by its very nature vastly more stressful than serene fortitude. When you feel yourself growing impatient because the pace of your development is deceptively slow, remember that everything that will occur in your life will occur in its own time. Quelling your urge to rush will enable you to witness yourself learning, changing, and becoming stronger. There is so much to see and do in between the events and processes that we deem definitive. If you are patient enough to take pleasure in your existence’s unfolding, the journey from one pinnacle to the next will seem to take no time at all.

We have all faced moments in our lives when the pressure mounts beyond what we feel we can handle, and we find ourselves thinking that we do not have the strength to carry on. Sometimes we have just gotten through a major obstacle or illness only to find another one waiting for us the moment we finally catch our breath. Sometimes we endure one loss after another, wondering when we will get a break from life’s travails. It does not seem fair or right that life should demand more of us when we feel we have given all we can, but sometimes this is the way life works.

When we look back on our lives, we see that we have survived many trials and surmounted many obstacles, often to our own amazement. In each of those instances, we had to break through our ideas about how much we can handle and go deeper into our hidden reserves. The thought that we do not have the strength to handle what is before us can be likened to the hard surface of a frozen lake. It appears to be an impenetrable fact, but when we break through it, we find that a deep well of energy and inspiration was trapped beneath that icy barrier the whole time. Sometimes we break through by cutting a hole into our resistance with our willpower, and sometimes we melt the ice with compassion for our predicament and ourselves. Either way, each time we break through, we reach a new understanding of the strength we store within ourselves.

When we find ourselves up against that frozen barrier of thinking we cannot handle our situation, we may find that the kindest choice is to love ourselves and our resistance too. We can simply accept that we are overwhelmed, exhausted, and stretched, and we can offer ourselves loving kindness and compassion. If we can extend to ourselves the unconditional warmth of a mother’s love, before we know it, the ice will begin to break.

Yesterday, I watched some video clips of Mrs. Johnson’s memorial service, and interment service. I realized I had tears in my eyes. My first First Lady is now a part of those eternal ages that have claimed the likes of so many like her. People like Lady Bird Johnson, Beverly Sills, and so many others like them are the folks from whom I reassure myself that I am on the right track: I am a good person, I try my best, I love my God and my fellow man, and I am contributing something to this world in the great attempt to make my own individual contribution something that counts.

While a majority of my country men follow, in the news and tabloids, the lives of the likes of Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears, the Royals, etc., I choose to follow, and appreciate the lives of the truly great who will live on for many generations.

While our country was engaged in hideous turmoil of the late 1960’s, Mrs. Johnson taught us how to wade through the ugliness to build a world in technicolor beauty.

 

The daughters of President & Mrs. Johnson

MRS. JOHNSON LAID TO REST

STONEWALL, Texas — Lady Bird Johnson arrived at her final resting place beneath a canopy of oak trees Sunday, beside the late President Lyndon Baines Johnson at the family’s ranch in the Texas Hill Country.

Relatives and close friends of the Johnsons said a final goodbye to the former first lady near the banks of the Pedernales River.

Grandson Lyndon Nugent said Johnson made all her grandchildren feel special, whether she was taking them on hiking and camping trips or, especially in her later years, quietly visiting with them at the LBJ Ranch.

His mother, Luci Baines Johnson, reminded her children for more than three decades that it was important to spend as much time as possible with their grandmother, whom they called “Nini,” because “she might not be here tomorrow,” Nugent said.

“Sadly, tomorrow has arrived,” he said.

Johnson, who died Wednesday at 94, was remembered as an astute businesswoman, a woman who worked to preserve nature and the devoted wife of a president.

“I’m not sure why she was so preoccupied with this, but she always seemed to be wondering if she had done enough for the world, regardless of her own condition,” Nugent said.

Along with Nugent’s remembrance, prayers and “Amazing Grace” completed the brief service, held in the Johnson family cemetery where the late president and more than 30 other extended family members are buried.

Lyndon Johnson, who died in 1973, was president from 1963-69. Once he left office, he and Lady Bird Johnson retired to the ranch and Austin.

Earlier in the day, thousands of admirers, many clutching bundles of the wildflowers she loved, lined streets in Austin and roads in the Hill Country as Lady Bird Johnson’s body was taken from the state capital to the LBJ Ranch, about 70 miles west of Austin.

Members of the crowd applauded and cheered as the procession passed through downtown Austin, and a few women blew kisses.

Outside Austin, people gathered along highways and in little towns, many holding American flags, some clutching wildflowers and some holding umbrellas against the hot sun.

Wildflowers and a sign reading “Thank You Lady Bird” adorned a tractor. Another sign read “God Bless a Great Woman.”

More people lined the streets of Johnson City, President Johnson’s boyhood home, and the main street was lined with little Texas and American flags stuck in flower pots.

In Austin, retiree Kate Hill handed out sunflowers from her garden to people waiting for the procession. Hill said Johnson’s work inspired her to convert her grassy lawn into an expanse of wildflowers and other native plants, and she wanted to thank the former first lady for the beauty.

“It’s the passing of an era,” said Sarah Macias, 48, who works for the city’s parks department and came to watch with her husband and a co-worker.

Three days of ceremonies had started Friday with family prayer services and a public visitation at the LBJ Library and Museum. More than 11,500 people paid their respects over nearly 22 hours.

About 1,800 people, including family, friends and presidents, attended a two-hour funeral Saturday at Riverbend Centre overlooking the Hill Country. People attended included former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, first lady Laura Bush and former first ladies Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

 

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I was born in the fall of 1964.  A month later, Lyndon Johnson was elected president in his own right, and one of the most brilliant woman in American history was to remain in the White House as First Lady for another four years.

 Lady Bird Johnson was MY first First Lady, and I have always adored her. Friends called to share the news, and friends and family immediately sent Emails relating her passing….

 

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) — Lady Bird Johnson, who was first lady during the 1960s and in her later years became an advocate for beautifying public landscapes, died Wednesday, family spokesman Tom Johnson said. She was 94.

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Lady Bird Johnson’s real name was Claudia.

She was the widow of Lyndon Baines Johnson, sworn in as the nation’s 36th president on November 22, 1963, just hours after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Lady Bird Johnson was briefly hospitalized last month with a low-grade fever. She was released and returned to her Austin home on June 28. After suffering a stroke in 2002 that limited her ability to speak, she communicated chiefly by writing.

Upon news of her death, Texas Gov. Rick Perry ordered flags in the state to be flown at half-staff.

“Lady Bird Johnson embodied all that is beautiful and good about the great state of Texas,” Perry said. “She inspired generations of Americans with her graceful strength, unwavering commitment to family and keen sense of social justice.”

The former first lady was born Claudia Alta Taylor in 1912 in Karnack, Texas, a small town near the Louisiana line. She got her unusual nickname while still a toddler from her nurse, who proclaimed the child was as “purty as a lady bird.”

Lady Bird attended St. Mary’s Episcopal School for Girls, a junior college near Dallas and then transferred to the University of Texas at Austin. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history in 1933, then stayed an extra year to earn a journalism degree.

She hoped to become a newspaper reporter, but those plans changed after she met a 26-year-old congressional aide named Lyndon Baines Johnson.

They married in 1934 after a whirlwind courtship and soon moved to Washington.

Early on, Lady Bird Johnson proved herself to be the quintessential political wife. In 1937 she used part of an inheritance to fund her husband’s first bid for public office and campaigned with him to win a congressional seat.

She used more of her mother’s money and Johnson’s connections to purchase a faltering Austin radio station in 1942 for $17,500. She turned it around and later used the station as a base for a multimillion-dollar communications company based in Austin.

After three failed pregnancies, she gave birth to the Johnsons’ first daughter, Lynda Bird, in 1944, followed by Luci Baines three years later.

Lyndon Johnson rose quickly in politics, becoming the youngest Senate majority leader.

In 1960, Johnson set his sights on the presidency but lost the Democratic nomination to Kennedy. A day later, he agreed to become Kennedy’s running mate.

Lady Bird Johnson traveled more than 35,000 miles during that campaign.

After one of the closest presidential elections in U.S. history, Johnson was sworn in as vice president on January 20, 1961.

With Kennedy’s assassination, Johnson became the 36th president.

As the Johnsons moved into the White House, Lady Bird Johnson “went around and went to all of the staff that was remaining in their jobs, told them how happy she was to have them there,” said Leticia Baldridge, Jacqueline Kennedy’s former social secretary.

“She needed their help. She needed their support. And, of course, they all just immediately turned from supporting the Kennedys to supporting the Johnsons. That’s what the staff does in the White House.”

In the landslide election of 1964, Lyndon Johnson won victories in the Northeast, West and Southwest. Of the eight Southern states that many had expected to vote for Republican Barry Goldwater, six went for LBJ — in part, it was said, because of the first lady’s efforts.

During her husband’s one term as president, Lady Bird Johnson worked tirelessly for the beautification of America, promoting the Highway Beautification Act, which sought to limit billboards. She was also a strong advocate for the Head Start program.

In 1982, she founded the National Wildflower Research Center outside of Austin. The center was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1998. Its mission is the research and preservation of native plants throughout the United States.

Public and private memorial services are planned, but details have not yet been released, the Austin American-Statesman reported. Events are likely to include a public viewing at the LBJ Library on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, followed by a funeral in Austin and burial next to her husband at the LBJ Ranch 35 miles west of Austin, the paper reported.

I woke this morning, preparing to leave for the Outer Banks, to find that Beverly Sills had passed away. I remember seeing her on Johnny Carson, and due to these appearances, I began enjoying opera as a young boy and teenager. I was fortunate to meet Ms. Sills in the mid-1990’s, and she was as charming, warm, and beautiful in person as she was on stage and screen.

Opera star Beverly Sills dies at 78

 

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NEW YORK (AP) — Beverly Sills, the Brooklyn-born opera diva who was a global icon of can-do American culture with her dazzling voice, bubbly personality and management moxie in the arts world, died Monday of cancer, her manager said. She was 78.

Sills

Beverly Sills has been a noted opera singer and arts administrator.

It had been revealed just last month that Sills was gravely ill with inoperable lung cancer. Sills, who never smoked, died about 9 p.m. Monday at her Manhattan home with her family and doctor at her side, said her manager, Edgar Vincent.

Beyond the music world, Sills gained fans worldwide with a style that matched her childhood nickname, Bubbles. The relaxed, red-haired diva appeared frequently on “The Tonight Show,” “The Muppet Show” and in televised performances with her friend Carol Burnett.

Together, they did a show from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera called “Sills and Burnett at the Met,” singing rip-roaring duets with funny one-liners thrown in.

Long after the public stopped hearing her sing in 1980, Sills’ rich, infectious laughter filled the nation’s living rooms as she hosted live TV broadcasts. As recently as last season, she conducted backstage interviews for the Metropolitan Opera’s high-definition movie theater performances.

Sills first gained fame with a high-octane career that helped put Americans on the international map of opera stars.

Born Belle Miriam Silverman in Brooklyn, she quickly became Bubbles, an endearment coined by the doctor who delivered her, noting that she was born blowing a bubble of spit from her little mouth.

Fast-forward to 1947, when the same mouth produced vocal glory for her operatic stage debut in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a bit role in Bizet’s “Carmen.” Sills became a star with the New York City Opera, where she first performed in 1955 in Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Die Fledermaus.” She was acclaimed for performances in such operas as Douglas Moore’s “The Ballad of Baby Doe,” Massenet’s “Manon” and Handel’s “Giulio Cesare,” and the roles of three Tudor queens in works by Gaetano Donizetti.

Her 1958 appearances as Baby Doe would become among her best known, in a tale of a silver-mine millionaire who leaves his wife for Baby Doe and eventually dies penniless.

“I loved the role,” Sills wrote in her 1976 autobiography. “I read everything that had ever been written about her. … I absorbed her so completely in those five weeks of studying the opera that I knew her inside and out. I was Baby Doe.”

Sills’ face once graced the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines as an American who had conquered the classical music world, even abroad — at the time a rarity.

But as a child star, she was not above singing radio commercials with lyrics such as: “Rinso White, Rinso Bright, happy little washday song.”

It was not until late in her career that she achieved the pinnacle, appearing at the Met, the nation’s premier opera house.

Her debut on that stage didn’t come until 1975, years after she became famous. In her memoir, she said longtime Met general manager Rudolf Bing “had a thing about American singers, especially those who had not been trained abroad: He did not think very much of them.”

Sills’ Met debut, arranged after Bing retired, was in “The Siege of Corinth,” and she recalled that “I was welcomed at the Met like a long-lost child.” (She also recalled having a couple of friendly encounters with Bing and found he “could not have been more charming.”)

Described by former Mayor Ed Koch as “an empire unto herself,” Sills sat on several corporate boards, including those of Macy’s and American Express.

Sills retired from the stage in 1980 at age 51 after a three-decade singing career and began a new life as an executive and leader of New York’s performing arts community. First, she became general director of the New York City Opera.

Under her stewardship, the City Opera, known as the “people’s opera company,” became the first in the nation to use English supertitles, translating operas for the audience by projecting lyrics onto a screen above the stage. The Met followed, later adopting its titles on the back of audience seats.

In 1994, Sills became chairwoman of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She was the first woman and first former artist in that position.

After leading the nation’s largest arts complex through eight boom years and launching a redevelopment project, she retired in 2002, saying she wanted “to smell the flowers a little bit.”

After six months, she was back.

“So I smelled the roses and developed an allergy,” she joked as she accepted a position as chairwoman of the Met. “I need new mountains to climb, which is why roses don’t appeal to me.”

In a 2000 interview, she said, “It was never part of my plan to retire as a prima donna. I never thought the day I stopped singing would be the day I stopped working.”

Sills was a master fundraiser, tapping her vast network of friends and colleagues for money that bolstered not only Lincoln Center but also non-artistic causes such as the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the March of Dimes, a job she called “one of the most rewarding in my life.”

The word around New York was that if anyone needed to raise several million dollars in one night, they could turn to Sills, whose name drew donors in droves.

She also lent her name and voice to the Multiple Sclerosis Society; her daughter, Muffy, has MS and was born deaf.

At a 2005 Manhattan benefit for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Sills told an audience that included her daughter: “One of the things that separates the two-legged creatures from the four-legged ones is compassion.”

Added the host for that evening, Barbara Walters: “She can go from doing a duet with Placido Domingo to doing a duet with a Muppet.”

Sills’ compassion extended to her autistic son and to her husband, who lived with her at their home as his Alzheimer’s disease progressed.

Still, through harrowing personal times, she never lost her own sense of humor, accompanied by a billowing ripple of laughter that was all the more warming because it was born not of frivolity but of a survivor’s grit.

She spoke like she sang — with bravado. The words poured out of her like a force of nature, sprinkled with good-natured gossip and insights, cheeky jokes and probing questions.

She balanced the challenges of her private life with the joy of singing, stepping onstage and transforming herself into characters that made her forget her troubles.

Stage fright was foreign to her. Before curtain time, she would make phone calls or munch on an apple, then sweep on to deliver her roles with exuberance.

A coloratura soprano, Sills was for years the prima donna of the New York City Opera, achieving stardom with critically acclaimed performances in Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” among dozens of roles.

She is credited with reviving musical styles that had gathered dust, such as the Three Queens — the trio of heroines of Gaetano Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena,” “Maria Stuarda” and “Roberto Devereaux” — in which she starred as Elizabeth, a role she called her greatest artistic achievement.

Onstage, her style stressed the theatrical portrayal of the character, as well as the music.

“Opera is music AND drama,” she wrote in her 1976 memoir, “Bubbles: A Self-Portrait.” “I’m prepared to sacrifice the beautiful note for the meaningful sound any time. … I can make a pretty tone as well as anyone, but there are times when the drama of a scene demands the opposite of a pretty sound.”

As chairwoman of the Met, she was instrumental in proposing Peter Gelb, now general manager, for that position, a move that brought a new leader who injected a dose of new moves that pushed up attendance and ticket sales.

Citing personal reasons, Sills bowed out as Metropolitan Opera chairwoman in January 2005, saying, “I know that I have achieved what I set out to do.” At the time, she had recently suffered a fall and was using a wheelchair.

In 2006, she presided over the inaugural Beverly Sills Artist Award at the Met, given to baritone Nathan Gunn.

Sills grew up in a “typical middle-class American Jewish family,” as she put it. She was first exposed to opera by listening to her mother’s record collection.

She began taking weekly voice, dance and elocution lessons as a young child and at age 4 appeared on a local radio show called “Uncle Bob’s Rainbow Hour.”

When she was 7, her name was changed to Beverly Sills — a friend of her mother’s thought it was a more suitable stage name — and she began 34 years of study with vocal coach Estelle Liebling.

After an audition arranged by Liebling, the young Sills won first place in the “Major Bowes Amateur Hour” and became a regular member of its “Capitol Family Hour show.” As a teenager, Sills made two repertory tours and finished high school by correspondence course at Manhattan’s Professional Children’s School.

Primped up in big bows and crisp pink dresses by her mother, she set off to sing on the radio, at ladies’ luncheons and at bar mitzvahs. At 16, billed as “the youngest prima donna in captivity,” she joined the touring J.J. Shubert operetta company, starring in Gilbert and Sullivan productions.

Her opera debut came in 1947, in the role of Frasquita in “Carmen” with the Philadelphia Civic Opera. For several years, Sills sang opera when she could, touring twice with the Wagner Company, while performing in the Catskills and at a Manhattan after-hours club.

She sang briefly with the San Francisco Opera Company, making her debut there in 1953 in a secondary role in Boito’s “Mefistofele.” In 1954, she sang the role of Verdi’s Aida in Salt Lake City before joining the New York City Opera in 1955.

In 1956, Sills married Peter Greenough, a journalist who later quit the news business to manage the family’s affairs as his wife’s career flourished. He died in 2006.

After a whirlwind of performances in the early 1960s, Sills hit her stride as Cleopatra in Handel’s “Julius Caesar” in 1966, when the New York City Opera officially opened its new home at Lincoln Center.

“When the performance was over, I knew that something extraordinary had taken place,” Sills wrote. “I knew that I had sung as I had never sung before, and I needed no newspapers the next day to reassure me.”

Abroad, Sills sang at such famed opera houses as La Scala and Teatro San Carlo in Italy, London’s Royal Opera at Covent Garden and the Berlin Opera.

 

This photo was flashed across the television news last night, and on the front page of the Dayton Daily News. He was one of the several thousand sons, brothers, grandsons, nephews, cousins, neighbors, students, and friends, whose life was cut short due to the tyranical leadership of those villains who have been mis-leading this country in a war that should have never been considered….

 My thoughts and prayers go out to Marine Cpl. Derek C. Dixon’s family and friends…

“Well, every man has a religion; has something in heaven or earth which he will give up everything else for—something which absorbs him—which may be regarded by others as being useless—yet it is his dream, it is his lodestar, it is his master. That, whatever it is, seized upon me, made me its servant, slave—induced me to set aside the other ambitions—a trail of glory in the heavens, which I followed, followed with a full heart. . . . When once I am convinced, I never let go . . .”            Walt Whitman

This chapter presents six principles that are important to observe as we seek an inspired life—they’re a blueprint to refer to as we reconstruct a life in-Spirit. I’m listing them in no particular order of importance because I believe that they’re equally essential.

Principle #1: Be Independent of the Good Opinion of Others
In order to live in-Spirit, we must adopt Arthur Miller’s trust that the Source is always working within us, or Walt Whitman’s belief that our ultimate calling “may be regarded by others as being useless—yet it is [our] dream, it is [our] lodestar.” In other words, inspiration must be our master, even though following it might disappoint others.
When inspiration makes its presence known, we must pay attention if our priority is to be who or what we were meant to be. William Shakespeare’s famous query, “To be or not to be: that is the question,” symbolizes the urgent choices that we have to make—that is, do we become what we came here to be, or do we ignore that calling? In this oft-quoted soliloquy, Hamlet delves deeper by wondering, “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, / And by opposing end them? . . .” Suffering the consequences of living according to someone else’s wishes doesn’t make any sense; rather, we need to oppose the external opinions that try to force us to be what we’re not intended to be.

There are many well-meaning people in our lives who have ideas about what we should or shouldn’t be doing . . . relatives tend to be specialists in this area! If we let them guide us with advice that isn’t congruent with our inner calling, we’ll suffer the anguish—the “slings and arrows”—of an uninspired life. Each of us can feel what we’re being called to be; when we pay attention, we can hear our own impatient voices coaxing us to pay attention and complete the assignments we brought with us from the world of Spirit. But when we allow the opinions and dictates of others to determine what we’re going to be, we lose sight of our objective to live an inspired life.
We need to determine for ourselves how much we’ve allowed others to decide issues such as what we do, where we live, with whom we live, and even how we’re treated. We must know that absolutely no one else truly knows and feels what we’re here to accomplish, so we must give ourselves permission to hear our inner guidance and ignore the pressure from others. Regardless of how absurd our inner calling might seem, it’s authentically ours and doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. The willingness to listen and act on our inspiration, independent of the opinions of others, is imperative.

Principle #2: Be Willing to Accept the Disapproval of Others
Logically following the last principle, this one notes that we’re going to incur the disfavor of many people when we follow our inclinations to be in-Spirit and live the life we came here to live. This isn’t a selfish or cynical attitude: When we begin to follow our ultimate calling, there will be a lot of resistance. In fact, the purpose of the “slings and arrows” sent our way is to get us to change our mind and be “reasonable,” which translates to “Do it my way!”
However, as we gain the strength to ignore the pressure to conform, resistance will diminish and ultimately change to respect. When we steadfastly refuse to think, act, and conform to the mandates of others, the pressure to do so loses its momentum. All we have to do is endure some initial disapproval such as dogmatic persuasion, anger, pouting, silence, and long-winded lectures . . . and then we’re on our way to inspiration rather than frustration.
Here’s a recent example of this from my own life. I elected to have most of the royalties and all of the advance payments for this book go to a scholarship fund, and there were people who tried to get me to “come to my senses” and not “throw my money away,” which was how they viewed my decision. I have an inner voice that is overwhelmingly powerful, and I trust in what truly inspires me. I’d known for many years that one day I’d endow a scholarship fund at my alma mater, for instance—the thought of young, financially challenged students having the opportunity that I’d received as a young military veteran inspires me more than I can relate to you here in these pages. So I was comfortable with, and able to ignore, the disapproval I encountered, giving responses such as, “I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it,” and “Don’t waste your time and mine attempting to convince me otherwise.” And sure enough, the resistance I met was converted to acceptance.
The people who receive the most approval in life are the ones who care the least about it—so technically, if we want the approval of others, we need to stop caring about it and turn our attention to becoming an inspired being of sharing. One little note of caution here: When we raise our children according to these principles, and they observe us living them on a daily basis, we’ll have to deal with their determination to respect their inner calling. For example, when my daughter Sommer was about 11 years old and I asked to see her report card, I was a bit taken aback by her response. “Why do you want to see it?” she asked.
When I said, “Well, I’m your father, and I think I should know how you’re doing in school,” she matter-of-factly replied, “But these are my grades, not yours, and if I thought you needed to see them, I would’ve shown them to you already.”
I assure you that she wasn’t being disrespectful; she simply had no need to share her grades with me. Since I knew that she was doing very well in school, I let it go—and let her be who she wanted to be.

Principle #3: Stay Detached from Outcomes
Inspiration doesn’t come from completing tasks or meeting goals; in fact, that’s the sure way to have it elude us. Returning to Spirit, you see, is an experience of living fully in the present moment. Our purpose in life isn’t to arrive at a destination where we find inspiration, just as the purpose of dancing isn’t to end up at a particular spot on the floor. The purpose of dancing—and of life—is to enjoy every moment and every step, regardless of where we are when the music ends.
Many of us are seduced into believing that having goals is necessary for a successful life, especially since we’ve been brainwashed by slogans such as “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’re there?” and “Not having a goal is more to be feared than not reaching a goal.” This kind of logic keeps us from feeling inspired because we live a life of striving while foregoing arriving.
A more rewarding spiritual truth is that there’s only now—and when this moment passes, it will be replaced by another one, ad infinitum. To use up our “present now” being consumed with a “future now” that will only turn into a “then” is the prescription for the absence of inspiration. Since there’s only now, learning to live in it and enjoy every present moment is the same as being in-Spirit, while being focused on an outcome to determine our level of happiness and success keeps us out of Spirit.
Yoga master Sri Swami Sivananda offered the only worthwhile goal I know of when he said that the goal of life is God-realization. Now here’s a goal I can live with! After all, this allows me to live in-Spirit every moment of my life, while simultaneously thinking ahead to the next God-realized moment (and the next). As the great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi once remarked, “There is no goal to be reached. There is nothing to be attained. You are the Self. You exist always.” Now this is real inspiration.
As I sit here writing, I don’t have a goal in mind, yet I trust that the book will be completed. I’ve seen it, even though I’m months away from the final product. I live in the bliss of creating right here, right now, and I relish these moments. I trust that the outcome will be handled by the same Source that inspires these words to appear seemingly out of nowhere. I’m here now—in peace, in love, and in awe—and my only goal is to stay in this consciousness and enjoy every moment, putting into practice what I agreed to when I was in-Spirit before becoming the particle that began this glorious journey.

Principle #4: Know That We Need Nothing/No Things to Be Inspired
We came into this world of boundaries from a formless energy field of Spirit. We arrived here with nothing/no things, we’ll make our exit with nothing/no things, and our purpose (God-realization) requires nothing/no things. We are all that we need to be inspired and living on purpose, and the things that continue to flow into our life are just symbols of the unlimited abundance of our Source. In other words, these things have no value in and of themselves because everything in the physical world is changing and will dissolve back to nothingness anyway.
The objective Universe is not made up of things—it’s made up of waves of motion that simulate the things we’re taught to believe are real. Once we accept that, from an infinite perspective, everything we see in nature isn’t really what it seems to be, we’re able to convert what we view with our eyes into a knowing about all things. Then we can recognize that the objects we believed we needed to feel inspired are nothing from Spirit’s perspective. This is what distinguishes the physical person from the spiritual person, the inspired person from the uninspired person.
We’re beings of Spirit, living from mind (rather than the body with all of its inherent restrictions), so if we communicate with God in the language of light and energy, we’ll see His tolerant amusement at our preoccupation with the illusion of possessions. We don’t need more of anything to become inspired; rather, we need to take our attention away from what we see and move into the miraculous world of Spirit, where joy and bliss await us.

Remember: We’re already connected to everything that we think is missing from our life. Below and above the ranges that our eyes and ears perceive, the entire activity of creation remains invisible and inaccessible—but when we shift from sensory searching to trusting what we know, we discover the folly of chasing after anything in order to feel inspired. All we need is a conscious realignment so that our thoughts begin to match up vibrationally with Spirit, which we know is a part of us already. And our state of inspiration is what allows for this realignment.
When we tune in to what we know rather than what we see, we immediately find that every thought of God is repeated throughout the Universe. We can watch as some things enter our life and others leave, all the while remaining in-Spirit, knowing that all of those things have nothing to do with our state of inspiration. We need nothing more to be inspired, since we’re connected to Spirit already. The ancient Persian poet Omar Khayyam offered us these words, which summarize this principle that we don’t need another thing to be inspired—it’s all right here, right now:

Forget the day that has been cut off
from thy existence;
disturb not thyself about tomorrow,
which has not yet come,
rest not upon that which is no more;
live happily one instant,
and throw not thy life to the winds.

Principle #5: “Don’t Die Wondering”
This principle is extremely important in working toward an inspired life because it motivates us to act—after all, we don’t want to be full of regrets because we failed to heed our ultimate calling. Attempting to do something, even if it doesn’t succeed, is inspiring because we don’t tend to regret what we do, we regret what we didn’t do. Even following a futile attempt, we’re inspired because we know that we gave it a shot. It’s wondering whether we should or shouldn’t try something that leaves us feeling stressed and incomplete.
When I’m playing a tennis match and being tentative in anticipation of losing a point, for example, I’ve created a situation in which I’ll wonder what kind of a game it would have been had I really gone for it. It’s in these moments that I remind myself, “Don’t die wondering.”
Inspiration has nothing to do with whether we win or lose; in fact, if we just play the game of life, we’ll have plenty of wins and losses, regardless of our talent level. If we fail to even try because of fear of rejection or doubt about our talent, we’re going to go through life wondering, and that’s what keeps us from finding and feeling inspiration.
Most of us, myself included, can remember the intensity of our first romantic attraction—just as we can recall what happened when we didn’t follow our inspiration. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if I’d been able to act on that strong inner call in high school, when I had an enormous crush on a beautiful girl named Janice Nelson. I wanted to ask her out, but I let my fear of being rejected keep me from taking the steps to act upon my inner desires. On several occasions I even dialed her phone number and hung up when she answered. I never overcame my foreboding thoughts and, in effect, was left to die wondering.
Many years later, I danced with Janice at our 30-year high school reunion and told her how I felt back then. I even confessed the way I’d hang up the phone because of my trepidation. Janice, to my everlasting delight—and chagrin—said, “I always had a crush on you. I would’ve loved to have gone out with you, and in fact I tried to leave you clues to call me. But you never did.” Ouch! That’s a perfect example of regretting what I didn’t do.

Goethe, writing in Faust, provides a poetic description of the two souls living within us: ne, a spirit that allows us to make the phone call and ask for the date regardless of the outcome, and the other that clings to the world of fear, and lives to die wondering:

Alas, two souls are living in my breast,
And one wants to separate itself from the other.
One holds fast to the world with earthy passion
And clings with twining tendrils:
The other lifts itself with forceful craving
To the very roof of heaven.

If we lift ourselves “with forceful craving to the very roof of heaven,” we’ll never die wondering.

Principle #6: Remember That Our Desires Won’t Arrive by Our Schedule
There’s an ancient aphorism that goes: “If you really want to make God laugh, tell God your plans.” In essence this means that all we desire will arrive in our life when and only when we’re aligned vibrationally with the energy of our Source. Our ego won’t be consulted or get to determine the schedule—creation reveals Its secrets when It’s good and ready. Our job is to take the focus off of the when and put it on being connected to our originating Spirit. Our job is to stop challenging and demanding responses from God, and instead be more like Him. Our job is to understand and accept that all of the things that show up in our life, which we often find contradictory or troublesome, are there because we’ve attracted them . . . and we need to have these obstacles in order to clear an opening for our true Spirit purpose to emerge. This may require a change in thinking patterns, which is something Tom Barber knows all too well.
Tom is the head golf pro at Griffith Park in Los Angeles and owns and operates the Tom Barber Golf Center in Southern California; his father, Jerry, was the PGA champion in 1961. Tom is a close friend whom I can talk to straight about virtually anything. For example, he once admitted to me that business had fallen off, and he was concerned about a deterioration in income due to fewer customers golfing in an economy on the downturn.
He’d gone on for about as long as I was willing to absorb this kind of energy when I finally said, “Tom, you’re approaching the whole issue from a perspective that almost guarantees that this financial headache will continue to grow. Try affirming: What I desire is on its way. It will arrive precisely on God’s timetable, not on mine. Everything that I’m experiencing now is disguised as a problem, but I know that it’s a blessing. What I desire is on its way, and it’s coming to me in amounts even greater that I can imagine. This is my vision, and I’ll hold on to it in a state of gratitude, no matter what.”
I received a letter from my friend about two months after our conversation, in which he wrote: “Thanks for the pep talk. Once I started to say that the business I’m seeking and the finances I need are on their way, everything started to turn around.” What happened is that Tom decided to align with the unrestricted abundance of Spirit energy.
As you can see from Tom’s example, rather than making demands of God to follow our schedule in order to feel inspired, we can let go, surrender, and remind ourselves that all is in Divine order. We’re much more successful when we allow inspiration to flow in on God’s terms than when we’re impatient and demanding. As always, our job in God-realization is to become more like God—that means surrendering to the timetable that’s always perfect, even when it seems to be full of errors.

Keep these six principles handy and access them anytime you find yourself lacking inspiration. Remember, too, that we’re called to this world of inspiration, which beckons us to “let go and let God,” as they say in the recovery movement. I also love this advice, which was tendered by one of my favorite teachers, Napoleon Hill: “If you can’t do great things, do small things in a great way. Don’t wait for great opportunities. Seize common, everyday ones and make them great.”

Some Suggestions for Putting the Ideas in This Chapter to Work for You
— Make a written commitment to be free of the pressures of people who try to dictate the course of your life, such as: I intend to listen to my own thoughts concerning my life. I’ll be receptive to advice, but I’ll do what my conscience dictates, even if I incur disapproval. By writing your intentions and having them readily available to refer to, you nurture the inspirational energy to follow through on your interests. The intention behind the words guides and reminds you to be steadfast about seeking your own inspiration. Don’t employ anger or aggression as ways of being independent of others’ opinions—you’re Spirit energy from a field of love, and you must be love in order to be in-Spirit.

— Small steps will activate matching vibrations to what you desire. So if you want to live close to nature, plan a visit to the place of your dreams and take the small steps to experience what it feels like. If you can’t or won’t do that, or if you aren’t ready to go yet, you can read books or rent movies in order to have the experience vicariously. But be alert to the vibrational energy of thought and action that you offer Spirit.
When my daughter Skye wanted to produce a CD of her own compositions, it seemed like a daunting task to write, perform, record, and arrange for all of the studio time and musicians. She continued to shy away from what inspired her, so I encouraged her to take a small step and write just one song. I gave her a suggestion for a title and gave her a deadline—and then I watched with joy and pride as she sat at her piano, engrossed in her inspiration, creating. One small step put her on the path of inspiration, as Napoleon Hill suggested.

— Instead of goals, make the commitment to live joyfully in the moment. Stop dreaming about the future and get back to the only thing any of us have: now. Decide to live fully in the present, withdrawing attention from past and future. Your desire for inspiration activates the world of Spirit from which you came. Your imagined future, the stuff of goals, is an unnecessary way of squandering the present moment. Be Here Now is more than a great book title by Ram Dass, it’s the essence of inspiration. Being in the now is the way to remove anxiety, stress, and even some illnesses.
As I sit here writing, I can daydream all I want about completing this book, but in reality, all I can really do (which is precisely what I am doing) is listen to my inner voice, offer a matching vibration to those inner pleadings, and feel the joy of allowing the thoughts to come through me onto the pages. The “goal” has been suspended in favor of being here now, living out what I’m being directed by my “Senior Partner” to do. The end result takes care of itself, particularly since I see the end result in my mind, and I use my present moments in harmony with that vision.

— Respect the silent and burning desire that’s within you—don’t scoff at it, and refuse to be critical or judgmental. Create a sacred space within your home, some private corner where you can have an altar for the symbolic residence of your inner vision. When you walk by this altar, offer a silent blessing and express gratitude for the presence of inspiration in your life. The altar can have photographs, magazine articles, artifacts, totems, crystals, jewelry, plaques . . . anything that reminds you of your own passions. As “silly”or “far-fetched” as this might appear, it’s nevertheless true that when you talk and live with daily reminders of Spirit, you become a vibrational match to your ultimate calling.
When I was much younger, many people ridiculed and disregarded my vision of being a writer and a performer, but I treated my inner vision with the veneration that the sacred deserves. Holding my inner knowing in high esteem during my teen years allowed me to undertake writing a novel, irrespective of what anyone around me expressed. When you trust in your inner vision, you’re trusting the same wisdom that created you.

— Make an affirmation that whatever brings passion, enthusiasm, and inspiration to you is on its way. Say it often: It is on its way, it will arrive on time, and it will arrive in greater amounts than I imagined. Then look for even the tiniest clue that will help you be a vibrational match with your affirmation. You’ll get what you think about, whether you want it or not!

***

The words of a man who was both a philosopher and a Roman emperor will close this chapter. Marcus Aurelius disdained thoughts of violence and refused to go to war; in fact, he presided over his empire with a philosophy of peace and respect for all of his fellow men. Below, he speaks of the things we’ve forgotten when we’re uninspired or not focused in-Spirit.

When thou art troubled about anything, thou hast forgotten this, that all things happen according to the universal nature; and forgotten this, that a man’s wrongful act is nothing to thee; and further thou hast forgotten this, that everything which happens, always happened so and will happen so, and now happens so everywhere; forgotten this too, how close is the kinship between a man and the whole human race, for it is a community, not of a little blood or seed, but of intelligence. And thou hast forgotten this too, that every man’s intelligence is a god, and is an efflux of the deity; and forgotten this, that nothing is a man’s own, but that his child and his body and his very soul came from the deity; forgotten this, that everything is opinion; and lastly thou hast forgotten that every man lives the present time only, and loses only this.

Use his words as an inventory of things to remember as you seek to find your way back to inspiration.

Leaders

Potential

Success

I have eleven graduating students this week, and all will be heading off to colleges in the fall. Nine of these eleven will one day be band and choir directors, and I am so very proud, and grateful, of the other two who are taking completely different career paths, but will still be involved in collegiate music.

Once the sentence is uttered, “I want to go into teaching…” I immediately begin stressing the importance of leadership.

Now, I have a new batch of leaders stepping up to the firing line – that last year before they too, reach up and switch their tassel from one side to the next, leaving behind one chapter so that they might embark on one of the most extraordinary journeys of their lives.

The one thing I stress is to always have a possitude – a positive attitude. Even when our leaders disappoint, we must remain optimistic, for there is a reason that our leaders sometimes will disappoint – they are human.

The Humanity Of Leaders

When we recognize someone as a leader, we often place our faith in that person to a degree that exceeds what is humanly possible. In other words, we expect them to be beyond fault and to not make mistakes. This, of course, is neither realistic nor fair. Just like us, these people are living human lives, and part of the deal is learning through experience and working out our individual karmas. There will always be missteps and things they would do differently given a second chance. If we are to be fair, we must grant our leaders the same forgiveness, compassion, and understanding that we grant our closest friends as they navigate the complex challenges of this human life.

Leaders are special people in that they have the ability to guide and represent large groups of people. In this calling, they agree, to some degree, to be responsible for the well-being of others. Because of this, we hold them up to a higher standard of behavior, and in some ways this is fair. However, we will only be disappointed and disillusioned time and time again if we expect them to be perfect. If they were perfect, they would not be here on earth. Perhaps the most we can expect of our leaders is that they make it a practice to acknowledge their shortcomings and learn from their experiences. Beyond this, when our leaders let us down, it is up to us to forgive and move on. Dwelling on disappointment and negativity creates more of the same.

People who choose to lead are often extraordinary individuals blessed with vision, energy, and charisma. It is their path to inspire, guide, and represent us, but it is not possible for them to never let us down. Leaders are on a path of growth just as we are. Perhaps this is something to remember when we have the opportunity to choose somebody in a leadership role, or perhaps you are ready to step into a role of leadership yourself.

From a website, Beliefnet, to which I subscribe for Daily Devotionals and other neat items:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2007/06/when-one-door-closes.html#comments

When One Door Closes…

Thanks to reader, Jean, who wrote the following message on my “The ‘We’ Pronoun” post:

My husband died suddenly, 3 days shy of our 15th wedding anniversary. I was 36, with children aged 9 and 13. Someone at the funeral told me it just gets longer in-between cries. I have passed this sentiment on to many in the passing 12 years. In the same breath, I normally add the quote “When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” For me, that “window” is a wonderful man who has taught me that I can move on without forgetting the joy of that first true love. The most affirming part of this tale, is that I met this wonderful man at church. God has blessed me with a new beginning, and is there to rejoice in it with me, as He was when I was in mourning.

The maxim, “Where one door shuts, another opens,” is quoted, most famously, in the 21st chapter of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes’s classic, “Don Quixote.”

And I pondered it today as I opened my mail.

There, on our kitchen counter (buried underneath the old apple cores, brown bananas and three days worth of mail), lay a letter from Boston College–thin, like the one I received 18 years ago that said something like this: “Your grades are good enough, and you’ve got the whole president-of-your-freshman-class thing going for you. But man, girlfriend, you forgot to eat your Wheaties the morning you took the SATs, because your scores truly suck. So, until some smarties decline our invitation to study amidst the academic stars, you get to sit your butt on the bench and wait.”

The thin envelope slightly crushed my 17-year-old heart because my (detailed) plan was to major in international business at BC. My dad and I visited the school in the fall of my junior year in high school, and I fell in love with its campus and its city.

Instead I landed at a college in the ugly city of South Bend, Indiana. And thank God I did.

Because within one week at Saint Mary’s College, my alma mater and spiritual mother ship, I was in therapy and had begun a deep search into my soul, trying to figure out who exactly I wanted to be, and what I needed to do to get there.

The exceptionally nurturing environment of this all-women’s college made it possible for me to begin my recovery from depression and addiction. There, in a setting where teachers and counselors cared enough to get involved in a student’s life–probing her with important questions, and listening patiently while she arrived at some answers–I found my true self, and learned bits of wisdom that have guided me to this day.

Much of who I am today was born in my four years there.

I discovered my inner theologian–a person who wasn’t satisfied with the neat and tidy answers printed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a curious scholar who was willing to go to great lengths to understand her faith (even if the holy trinity is a mystery, in the end)–and the writer, both of whom may have suffocated had I pursued international business (which fits me about as well as Martha Stewart’s apron) at a large college like BC.

Oprah told the 1997 graduating class of Wellesley college that failure is God’s way of saying “Excuse me, you’re moving in the wrong direction.”

As I reflect on some of my disappointments throughout life, I tend to agree with her. If I had landed the publishing job in New York that I so badly wanted, then I wouldn’t have met Eric (and had David and Katherine). My dad’s death, as hard as that was at the time, has, in a way, healed and united our family. My depression has certainly added a new depth and candor to my writing (and to my life), and has provided me a type of rebirth or new direction in each. And, most recently, my running injury has forced me to rediscover my love of swimming and biking.

In 1978 Oprah was demoted as an on-air anchorwoman in Baltimore because she got too emotional with the people she interviewed. She was given her own talk show as a way to finish out her contract. But there she found her true self.

“And so, I took what had been a mistake, what had been perceived as a failure with my career as an anchor woman in the news business and turned it into a talk show career that’s done OK for me!” she said.

Today’s letter from Boston College was thin. But it wasn’t a rejection. On the contrary, it was an invitation to participate as a panel speaker in a national symposium on marriage, hosted by BC’s The Church in the 21st Century Center.

I don’t think I can do it (my no-more-than-25-hours-of-childcare-a-week rule, plus I have little marriage advice other than to say if you treat your spouse with respect and sleep with him at least twice a week, everything seems to fall into place).

But it sure was nice to be asked, and to get my letter of acceptance–even though it was worded a little differently than I had expected.

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