Let’s Do Better

On Friday, June 24, 2011, New York State joined five other states and Washington, D.C. by legalizing same-sex marriage.  Almost immediately the news spread across social networking sites.  Among those supporting the actions of the New York State senate were many celebrities including talk show hosts, actors, and musicians.  Many of their followers also joined in by responding to their posts.  Some applauded their position while others expressed their disagreement.  What was most disheartening, was not on which side a person was found, but rather the tone of the conversation.

For the record, I am against same-sex marriage.  This position is completely religious in nature.  I am not homophobic, nor do I hate homosexuals.  I do not feel that I am better than they, nor do I feel I have a monopoly on goodness.  I simply feel that marriage is a sacred institution ordained of God to be between a man and a woman.  Nevertheless, I know that all people do not agree with me and it does not make them my enemy just because we are not on the same page.

As I read some of the dialogue on this subject, I found it very disheartening.  Many that are opposed to same-sex marriage expressed their view by stating their loss of respect for the person on whose post they were commenting.  Some stated that they would no longer listen to or buy their music.  Others resorted to name calling by using words such  as “pervert”.  Some screamed their position by way of using all capitals.  All this was done in the name of Christianity.

Those representing their support of same-sex marriage were not any better.  Anyone who disagreed with them was a bigot living in the dark ages. Such disagreement also was cause to label them idiots who believe in God and the Bible.  The criticizers also saw their objectors as nothing but people filled with hate, even those who did not express their position in a disdainful manner.

Although I believe that both sides are completely out of line in their approach, wherein this dialogue is concerned I think that I am a little more disappointed in those who share my view on this issue.  Most who disagree with same-sex marriage do so because of their religious beliefs.  Because of this, I take the assumption that they believe in God and want to follow His commandments.  Although God may want us to take a stand on such issues, I personally believe He would want us to do so in a more compassionate manner.  Wouldn’t He want us to see that there is more to a person than just their homosexuality?  Wouldn’t he want us to also look for the good in a person?

The classically influenced pop singer, Josh Groban, was one musician who applauded New York for its recent vote.  Does God now want us to no longer listen to Josh’s beautiful music?  Does disagreement on an issue mean that we can no longer respect a person for his wonderful gifts and talents?  I also think of Ellen Degeneres.  She is hilarious.  She brings the gift of laughter to so many.  Although I do not know much about her, I assume that she is a good human being.  Can we not enjoy her quick wit and humor because she is a lesbian or does God really want us to determine a person’s worth based solely on her sexual orientation?  I am not speaking of supporting entertainment or media whose content promotes lifestyles with which one may disagree, but rather about looking for and enjoying the good in a fellow child of God.

Since I am in no position to speak for God, I guess these are questions that each person must answer for himself.  But, I believe that it is possible to stand firm in one’s beliefs while at the same time seeing the beauty and goodness in everyone.  I believe in God and strive to keep His commandments, but if people want to see only the bad in me and with what they disagree, I guarantee that they can and will find it.  I would rather them look for the good and therefore that is what I intend to do.  I will continue to listen to Josh Groban’s music and I will enjoy Ellen Degeneres’ humor on occasion. We do not have to be enemies in disagreement.  We can be examples of the believers.  We can be bearers of God’s love for all of His children.  In doing so, we will all find that we have helped make our world a better place.

Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4                                                                     [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]

Smiling Eyes

My life has not changed much since yesterday.  In fact, I do not believe that there are any visible changes, but there is a change nonetheless.  You see, today I am grateful.  Recently I have had a difficult time being grateful.  To be clear, I have not had a complete absence of gratitude, after all I do recognize many wonderful blessings which I enjoy.  For instance I have been grateful not only for my health, but for the health of my family members.  With yesterday having been Father’s Day, I had the opportunity to spend time with my family.  Just seven weeks ago my father lay in a hospital bed in Italy and we did not know when or if he would ever make it home.  Today he is healthy and has again started walking three miles a day.  Additionally, in this current economic crisis, I am extremely grateful for my husband’s income.  He is self-employed and although his industry has seen many recent changes, he has been able to continue to provide for our family.  It seems easy to be grateful for such things, but when life gets hard, sometimes it seems too overwhelming for gratitude.

Over the last few days, I have had reason to ponder the role of gratitude in my life.  In doing so, I have reflected back on a time about fifteen or sixteen years ago.  It was a time wherein I felt an abundance of gratitude.  My life was not much different than it is today.  I was not wealthy, definitely not famous, our home was smaller, and we did not live in as nice of a neighborhood.  Yet, I very vividly remember thinking, but more importantly feeling, that there was no one on this earth who was more blessed than me.  I wish it were possible for me to convey how deeply and often I felt this way.  I would kneel on my knees and pour out my heart to my Heavenly Father expressing my profound gratitude for what He had given me.  In doing so, my eyes would well with tears and my heart would pound deeply in my chest.  I knew it was impossible for me to adequately express how grateful I was and how utterly undeserving I felt of having been given so much.

What happened?  Maybe I expected life to be easy.  Maybe I got busy and forgot to pause to count my blessings.  Maybe I forgot that life is about growing and learning from all of life’s experiences, not only those that are pleasant.  Maybe I forgot about Katrina!

I first met Katrina exactly twenty-eight years ago.  She was only four years old and I was just newly married.  I was at the time teaching the five year old class at church.  During a group singing time, the four year old class sat right in front of ours.  Week after week Katrina would turn around in her seat, place her chin on her folded arms that rested on the back of her chair, and glare at me.  I would wink at her, stroke her hand, blow her a kiss, and pull silly faces all in an attempt to get a glimpse of Katrina’s smile.  But, Katrina would not smile.  This was new for me; I had never met a child I could not win over.  I think most of them saw me as just a large version of one of them.  Katrina, however, was different.  Why didn’t she like me?  I would come home from church and tell my husband how badly I felt that Katrina hated me, but nevertheless I would go back the following week and try again.

Eventually, when all of the children in Katrina’s class had turned five, they graduated to my class.  I still had not witnessed any noticeable success in winning Katrina’s love and therefore was surprised that each week she wanted to sit by me.  It was then that I learned more about her.  You see, Katrina had a form of muscular dystrophy which had affected the muscles in her face.  Katrina could not smile.  One particular week during singing time, we were singing a song about the importance of smiling.  Katrina tugged on my sleeve and I looked down at her expressionless face.  She said in a subdued tone, “But Sister Waters, I can’t smile.”  I immediately felt a sting in my heart, but I did not even hesitate for one second in the words I spoke to her.  I know without a doubt those words were given to me.  I said, “That’s all right Katrina.  You smile with your eyes!”  At that moment there was a sparkle in Katrina’s eyes.  It was so distinct it was as if it had been digitally enhanced like in some commercials we see.  Katrina put her arm through mine, cuddled up to me, and said, “Sister Waters, I love you!”  With a heart that felt as if it would burst, I returned, “I love you too, Katrina.”

I went home that day grateful for something for which I had never before been grateful.  I was grateful for the ability to smile.  I am sure had I ever thought about it I would have felt gratitude for this ability, but I had never thought about it.  It was something that I took for granted everyday of my life.  I began to think about all of those little things that just seem so ordinary–the ability to touch, smell, taste, hear, and see.  I was grateful for teeth to chew, knees and elbows that bent, a mind that can reason, and a heart that could feel.  I was grateful for grass, trees, flowers, and even the wind.  I was grateful for Katrina, who taught me how to be grateful for all those things I had previously taken for granted.  I have since wondered, as I watch those who endure tragedy and heartache in this life, if they agreed to that role in order to teach the rest of us gratitude and compassion.  Oh how my heart swells when I think about Katrina.

Some years ago I shared this story with my husband’s sister, Jenny.  As I told the story, I did not use Katrina’s name, but rather referred to her as a little girl.  When I reached the point of the story wherein I told Katrina that she smiled with her eyes, Jenny immediately interrupted to tell me of her son’s friend.  This friend had told my nephew that she smiled with her eyes.  Jenny added that her son had said, “And you know mom, she does.  She does smile with her eyes!”  Jenny went on to tell me that this girl, who was then about twenty-one, was named Katrina.  I think my heart skipped a beat when I heard her name.  I quickly asked questions to determine if it was the same girl.  It was!  I felt profound gratitude for the words that had been given to me years ago which Katrina still carried with her.  She probably does not even remember who spoke them to her, after all that was not important.  It was the words!  She knows that there is a way for her to convey her happiness, her smile with her eyes, and she is grateful.

I have taken the time to think about Katrina and so many others who have shared this journey of life with me.  I am grateful for everyone of them who has influenced my life for good.  I recognize that each came into my life when I most needed them.  Some even came and added unwanted challenges, but I see now that even they taught me something that I needed to learn, something that made me a better person.  There have been times when it has been difficult to find the better person, times when I did not even know if I had been left such, but I have found that even at those times someone has been sent into my life to show me that there was a way to find that better person within me.  For each of them I am grateful!  Today I will not only speak those words of gratitude, I will show them.  How will I show my gratitude today?  It is very simple, I will smile…with my eyes!

Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4                                                                     [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]

“Closure and the Law of Relationships” (Book Review)

Although we may not have known to whom it should be attributed, we have all heard the quote by Francois de la Rochefoucauld which states, “The only thing constant in life is change.”  These changes are manifested in many forms.  They may appear as a change in residence, employment, death, and often in relationships.  I believe that change is difficult for most people, but in her book “Closure and the Law of Relationships”, Lissa Coffey shows us that we can welcome change and successfully navigate its effects.

Lissa Coffey

Lissa Coffey

As we each traverse through this life, we have the opportunity to experience many opportunities and relationships.  These relationships vary in both type and duration.  Lissa takes us through the process of the development of relationships and the growth that each can bring.  While doing so, she gives practical advice on how to enhance these opportunities and offers questions we should ask ourselves in evaluating our own contribution to the success of these experiences.  Lissa also focuses on the changing dynamics of relationships. She emphasizes how these relationships never really end, but only change.  Often it is in resisting this change that causes struggle and heartache, but Lissa shows how we can minimize or even eliminate this heartache by focusing on the joy and growth that can come through each of these opportunities.  Lissa shares personal intimate experiences that illustrate the success of her advice.  I found this book to be heartwarming and applicable to not only relationships, but in any change we may encounter.  I feel it is a must read for anyone who struggles with change and is looking for closure.  Lissa can indeed help one see how endings are really just new beginnings.

You can also see Lissa on her online interactive lifestyle magazine, CoffeyBuzz.com Click on anything you see and a thumbnail will appear to the right.  Click on the thumbnail and it will take you to the website featuring that item.  Try it out.  I think you will like it.

Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4                                                                     [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]

My Fair Charlie

I have a secret that only five hundred of my closest friends know.  Shhh!  I will tell you too.  I have an obsession with the ’90’s sitcom “The Nanny”.  Perhaps it takes a special kind of personality to fully appreciate its humor. I guess I have that personality because it can send me into uncontrollable laughter even when I am in a bad mood.  I find it hard to understand why everybody does not enjoy it as much as I do.  My children balk every time I say, “This reminds me of an episode of ‘The Nanny'”.  Perhaps that is because so many things remind me of “The Nanny”.  Since I could not within my family find those who share the same degree of appreciation that is so deserving of this show, I had to look elsewhere for a “support group” to help me properly bask in the joy this show has given me.

Luckily for me, one of the stars of “The Nanny”, Charles Shaughnessy [aka Maxwell Sheffield, Broadway producer; How do you like your eggs?  (The Nanny, Pen Pals, Episode 3.1)] has been successful at maintaining a community of online fans through Facebook.  We all have followed his personal fan page as well as his “Only Connect” blog page.  It is a community wherein we share our love not only for “The Nanny”, but for Charles Shaughnessy as well.  Now before you come to the conclusion that our admiration for him is based solely on his extraordinarily good looks, let me assure you that you would only be partly right.  We appreciate him for his character, his compassion, his generosity, as well as many other wonderful qualities.  As a group, we have come also to have a great appreciation for one another.  I think the friendship that is found amongst his followers is a tribute to the kind of people Mr. Shaughnessy attracts.

Perhaps it would be impossible for those who do not share this common bond to understand the thrill we all experienced a few months ago when Mr. Shaughnessy announced that he would be starring as Professor Henry Higgins in the musical “My Fair Lady” at the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, Massachusetts during the month of June.  For those who were able, we began to plan our summer around this event.  I am one of the lucky ones.  The opening week of the show coincided with my more-handsome-than-Mr. Shaughnessy husband and my 28th wedding anniversary.  So, we decided to celebrate our anniversary and my long over-due graduation from college by taking a week-long trip to the Boston area.  We arrived four long days before the day of our selected showing.  Sure there was plenty to keep us busy in the interim, but seeing “My Fair Lady” was definitely the main event.

Well the day finally arrived for us to take the journey from Boston to Beverly.  We had only been in Beverly for just a few minutes when we met Cassandra Marsh, the assistant musical director/rehearsal accompanist for the production.  She immediately began telling us of Charlie’s kindness and of his wonderful portrayal of Henry Higgins.  She even said, “You know sometimes when I see him from the side I actually think it is Rex Harrison! Charlie was made for this part.”  This only served to raise my already high expectations for Charlie’s performance.  Could he live up to them?

In front of the North Shore Music Theater

Soon we found ourselves in the beautiful North Shore Music Theater.  Having never seen a production in the round, I was curious as to how it would come off.  I can only say that it was absolutely “loverly”.  It was so enjoyable watching the creative methods of entering and exiting the stage.  The choreography utilized the stage in a way that optimized the viewing from every position in the theater while the performers did an exceptional job engaging the entire audience.

Charlie’s performance was outstanding.  In choosing the part of his performance which was most enjoyable, I am torn between the melodic tone of his voice during such songs as “I’m an Ordinary Man” and his emotional display of anger and frustration just prior to ‘Liza’s departing.  When Henry Higgins thought he had lost ‘Liza forever, Charlie portrayed the pain in such a way that one could easily feel the depth of his agony. Finally, he perfectly blended the melodic with the dramatic in his rendition of  “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”.

His co-star Lisa O’Hare, was equally as impressive. From the mispronunciation of her “oohs” and “aahs” through her transition into lady Eliza, she was a delight to behold.  Her exquisite voice and performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night” was one of the highlights of the day. She radiated beauty and sophistication as she engaged the audience with her piercing eyes.

From Peter Cormican as Colonol Pickering to the cast ensemble, the supporting cast was invaluable. They brought enthusiasm and merriment that added to the great success of the entertainment.  Hayden Tee as Freddy brought a beautiful tenor voice to “On the Street Where You Live” which was captivating.  Bill Dietrich as ‘Liza’s father brought jocularity that could be found in even his slightest movements.

Charlie signing @sillywabbit40's ERTTC's

The performance was a grand success and one which I hated to see end, but there was still something for which to look forward.  We wandered over to the performers exit and waited with another couple for only a few minutes before the actors began to exit.  As Peter Cormican was leaving we complimented him on his performance as Colonol Pickering.  He politely thanked us as he passed, but then came back and had a quite lengthy conversation with us.  He was a wonderful man and he also expressed his positive impression of Charlie.  He said that Charlie was so genuinely kind and way to modest.  I wondered, is there anyone who does not love Charlie.  As we continued to wait, Lisa O’Hare exited.  She asked if we were waiting for Charlie.  When we answered in the affirmative she volunteered to go in and tell him.  We were greatly surprised by her willingness to do this considering that she now had less than two hours before her next performance.  Soon Charlie arrived and unnecessarily apologized for keeping us waiting. He was charming and indulged us with his autograph and photo opportunities.  Much to Laura Catena’s delight, he even autographed  @sillywabbit40’s Extremely Random Tweets To Charlie and laughed while doing so.

Earlier in the day I had texted a friend “On my way to meet Charlie. Will he meet my expectations?”  I am happy to report that he not only met them, he exceeded them.  My only regret is this wonderful day had to end and that all of Charlie’s fans do not have the opportunity to see him perform in this most wonderful musical “My Fair Lady”!

My husband and me with the "creative genius"

Charlie has once been described as a “creative genius”.  His performance as Henry Higgins certainly justify this description, but for those of you who have not yet heard of his newest ventuOre, Charlie and his brother, David, have recently begun an interactive online lifestyle magazine featuring the delightful Lisa Coffey and the new hyperspot technology.  Check it out at Coffeybuzz.com and click on anything on the screen.  You will notice that once you click, a thumbnail of the item will appear to the right of the screen where you can click again and be taken to the website featuring that item.  This new technology might change the way you shop.  Charlie a “creative genius”?  I think so, but I admire him for his charm and great character, something of which the world could use a little more.  Thanks for a great performance Charlie, to you and the rest of the cast!

Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4                                                                     [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]