Category Archives: Friendship


ImageEmotional boundaries can be tough to define.  On the one hand, we want to welcome people into our lives and keep them there.  On the other hand, we want to make sure our hearts and bodies do not become damaged by another person’s presence. To accomplish this balancing act, we create boundaries.

Sometimes, these boundaries are so loose, they don’t prevent much more than someone drowning us in a pool.  Others have parameters that are so stringent, no one has access to the person’s vulnerability.  Both of these places can be very lonely for very different reasons.  The former creates loneliness because often, we are so ashamed that we will not discuss the situation with others.  The latter is lonely because we push everyone away who wants to get close.

Boundaries are a necessity, though.  Some view the production of boundaries as an ego-based activity.  I do not happen to believe it is.  I believe that these boundaries are a healthy way of building an emotional home in which to live.

“I welcome you to speak freely to me,” means there are a lot of windows from which light can bathe the room.

“I will only discuss things with you that are spoken respectfully,” means that orderliness in the home is vital to healthy living.

“I will not tolerate physical violence,” means that no one may approach your home with a wrecking ball.

“All people in my home will be respected… always… no matter how deeply you disagree with them,”  means that your home is a safe and healthy place to be for those who value those qualities, and a place from which others must leave if they do not choose to live according to these rules.

Arguments and disagreements are understandable.  Even anger has its place; however, one must always remember that love comes first.  One must love one’s self enough to act according to one’s highest expectation of himself, and one must love the other enough to not lose control over his words or actions.

Boundaries are healthy if not too loose or too stringent.  The best tool to determine how they work is to evaluate whether one is lonely or feels overwhelmed by the presence of another.  If one feels appropriate levels of both freedom and responsibility, joy and challenges, strength and growth, then one is in a marvelous place.

Rindy’s CD Release Event

Although this may not be the most opportune time, I must mark this moment with a personal observation at the culmination of two years worth of work as it approaches.  This coming Saturday, August 20, 2011, at 7:00 PM, at the stage in Fairytale Town, the curtain will rise, if only metaphorically, on the release of a CD that was created with love, hard work, and many tears.  Rindy Sumners was a beautiful, talented young woman; a talented singer-songwriter so full of music that in a five year period, she composed more than 150 full and partial pieces of music.  On Saturday, 36 tracks of her music will be available for sale to the public in the self-titled CD, “Rindy.”

It is unfathomable that she has been gone for nearly two years following the car accident that claimed her life.  I admit, preparing for this day has helped to distract me from my grief in a small way.  My husband, David, and I have been essentially glued to the hip of her parents, Rick and Sandy Sumners, to make sure this event is everything they want it to be.  Their focus solely has been on what Rindy would have wanted.  Being who she was, she was very clear about that.

The music in the CD is glorious.  Her soaring voice, her intricate harmonies, her dynamics lyrics, and her moving melodies are compelling, even beyond my imagination.  I watched her grow up from a bubbly eighth grader with blue hair to a world-conscious young woman, commenting through her music on every facet of her life.  One thing that people who knew her can attest is that Rindy never lied.  She didn’t know how. Her music is a testament to that fact.  The truth she tells in her storylines is intense and direct.  I love that about her.

Life will never be the same without Rindy’s vibrant presence on this planet, but my one comfort is that I will now be able to slip her CD in my car stereo or computer and hear her voice, her laughter, and her spirit.  This event is a powerful moment for everyone.  For me, as her teacher for five years, her mentor-teacher for one year, her friend, and someone as whom she dressed up on switch day at school, this is an intimate, difficult, wonderful day that approaches.  Words allude me as I try to explain the dichotomy of the heights of joy I feel that her dream is coming true as I experience the deep sadness that still exists at her physical absence.

I love Rindy.  As it is for everyone who worked so hard on these events, every little bit of effort I’ve expended on her memorial service, RindyFest 2009!, and this CD project, has been offered with that truth cemented in my heart and spirit.  After months as production assistant, press officer, support person, and friend, it becomes necessary to be just James for only a moment, to have the human experience of working on a project that, once upon a time, seemed as though would be very different, indeed; but, that’s not what is and today, I must rise to the occasion, and what an thrilling occasion it is!  I hope we will see a huge number of people attend to celebrate the release of Rindy’s music into the world!  I know with all my heart that everyone who hears this music will be enthralled.  I know it!

Coming and Going

Students are funny little animals.  They burrow into your heart for a while and then, when they are ready, they scamper out into the world to make their way on their own. 

The best part is, though, sometimes they return to visit. 

Since beginning my classroom teaching, I’ve been blessed to have students who have been with me since seventh grade, graduated, gone to college, and moved onto their own careers.  They’ve gotten married, had children, and still, with everything else going on with their lives, they’ve chosen to return to check in on me and to let me know how they’re doing. 

I recently closed a show with a former student who is within a month of graduating.  When he first came into my class in seventh grade, he was a scrawny little kid with big eyes, more energy than an electric company is allowed to store, and a vivacity that is unmatched. 

For his senior project, he decided to do a benefit for the Sacramento Ballet.  He pulled together a gaggle of singers-dancers-actors to create a revue.  His cast was phenomenal. 

Every senior in his program is supposed to have a mentor in his process.  Originally, Alex Stewart, my former student, had chosen a very talented young man with whom to work.  For reasons not clearly understood, this fellow had to attend to his own family business out of town, leaving Alex to find another person to fill that role for him. 

Although I had stopped teaching at his school, he decided to call me to ask if I would mentor him and music direct the show.  I was between shows and I knew some of the cast he had selected, so I was more than willing to donate a bit of time to Alex and toward a worthy cause. 

Over the six or more weeks I worked with this terrific team, I had the best time and the show was a huge success.  Everyone was thrilled, particularly the Executive and Artistic Director of the ballet company, Ron Cunningham.  Because of Alex’s work and focus and the determination and talent of his cast,  his outstanding show brought in, in ticket sales, concessions, and matching funds, nearly $6,000 in profit to the beneficiary organization.

Alex is 18 years old.

The show, “At the Ballet: A Musical Revue,” was sold out both nights and the reviews were clear raves from every front.

This was an important time for me because I got to work with a very talent former student and his equally matched cast, and also got to be a part of a worthwhile cause.  What more can a fellow ask?

My little animal returned to the burrow for a time and warmed my heart once again.  Now, he’s focusing on returning to the outside world, ready to take on the theatrical world by storm… and he will!

Starving People Like Glenn Beck

I was reading an article written by Jim Wallis in the Huffington Post, who was discussing comments made by Glenn Beck about social justice.

Communities standing together

In every tradition and village, there is a supportive pattern of community in which our neighbors will come to our aid when times get tough for us.  We’ve all see it a hundred times.  Apparently, Glenn Beck believes we should be sure to limit our care for others in fear that we will slip into a Socialist / Communist / Marxist slide where there will be a mass redistribution of wealth.  He says, as well, that everyone is misinterpreting the Bible to support this horrific slippery slope.

Mr. Beck’s comments made me think of a mongrel dog I once saw.  This dog had been running the streets of my hometown for, seemingly, a long time, and because he was mean, no one wanted to be near him.  Soon, he became horribly thin and clearly was about to die.

One brave soul bought some dog food and put it outside his fence for this mangy animal.  As the dog was eating, if the kind man stepped anywhere near the food, the dog would growl and bare his teeth, threatening the kind man.   The dog did not want to lose one morsel of his food.  I’m certain he would have mauled anyone who attempted to take it away from him.

Under Mr. Beck’s fine suits and tanned appearance, is a snarling dog who is starving, fighting to keep his food.  This tragic character has donned the costume of a wealthy man who is simply concerned for those wealthy people around him who, by all rights, should maintain what they have certainly earned.  Sadly, I would doubt that it is anyone other than Mr. Beck himself whom he is trying to protect.

Angry, emotionally ugly little men like Mr. Beck will suffer with his spiritual poverty for his whole life.  He will bite the hands that feed him and protect what he feels is his.  It’s really very sad. 

There are those in the media and at their kitchen tables who look on Mr. Beck with utter disdain.  I suggest we should look on him with compassion for experiencing what must be going on inside of him, including poverty, loneliness, ignorance, and a deep-rooted fear of everything and everyone around him. 

Glenn Beck

His piteous disability is probably not even his fault.  All he knows is to protect that injured child inside. 

So, I for one, will remember Mr. Beck in my prayers and hope for his healing and growth into a healthy, adult human being.  There is nothing any of us can do to stop him from speaking and writing so ignorantly.  Those rights are guaranteed in our Constitution. 

There is nothing we can do to prevent him from reinjuring himself by pouring his vitriol all over his own spirit time and time again, for certainly his spew cannot affect anyone other than himself.  We can only love him compassionately and hope that through our sense of social justice, he will finally find joy and peace.

God bless you, Mr. Beck.  Like all of us, you need it.


Alpha Inventions Ranking

Friendships of a Lifetime


Two New Guinea men holding hands. Irving Penn 1970/1979

There is an ancient intimacy in the air these days and, ironically, it is borne from the most contemporary aspect of our lives – technology. 

As I was sitting next door with some of our newest friends, I was remembering that recently, I’ve gotten in touch with some of my oldest friends.  This year, I’ve come in contact with people with whom I’ve had no contact in over forty years.   The truth is, my entire life is coming together into one whole being.   It’s a powerful thing to witness and experience; and I’m not alone.

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, e-mail,, and so many other on-line venues have opened doors I thought were forever closed.  How is it possible that in this day and age, we are now able to join hands with people from around the globe and those who have populated our personal history while simply sitting in our home office? 

What does it mean that the Universe has conspired to bring everyone we’ve ever known together, some of whom have been vitally important in our lives? 

Here’s what I think:

The world truly is getting smaller.  It’s a cliché, but at this point, it’s nonetheless true. 

holding-hands2We have created a system through which we are responding to our call for deep intimacy.  We have seemingly lost so much in our lives, we are trying to reconnect with those who meant so much to us.

We are manifesting unity in its greatest sense.  We have chosen a path toward joining hands in the most inclusive and expansive manner.   The internet is providing us the tools by which we are able to manage these connections in a valuable, meaningful, and tangible way. 

We are acknowledging our fear of being alone.  We have spent so many nights in our homes wishing there was someone closer with whom we can talk that we forced ourselves to figure out an alternative.   We began that process of staying closer when we began to write our thoughts on stone and paper.  We continued our gains in that direction as we developed the telephonic medium.  We sent out our newest town criers on the television.  Now, we have become more direct through our instant messages and e-mails. 

Holding-HandsWe want a friend.  In years gone by, we flourished as we lived with Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Susan and Uncle Dan, Mom and Dad, and all our brothers, sisters, and cousins.  Our children knew who they were because they knew who their family members were.  We didn’t live thousands of miles away, risking the loss of our sensory memories about those we loved the most. This continuing need transcends culture, country, or class.   We are begging for that reunion with our past in this high-speed, digital way. 

We may now be able to admit our need for one another with gratitude, rather than embarrassment.   In this epoch of independence and self-sufficiency, we are valiantly trying to reach out our hands shamelessly to someone we love, or at least, loved once upon a time.  I hope this is a direction we continue to pursue.  It certainly seems to be.

Let us all take a deep breath and take the risk.  Let us say to those we miss, “I love you, and I miss you, and I want to see if we can rekindle our friendship.” 

add%20to%20friends-130x130The truth, my precious friends, is that this is exactly what we’re doing when we press, “Add to Friends.”

Unity is not just a concept.  It is a need, like air, water, and food.   Breathe in the love.  Sate yourself from the refreshing well of joy.  Feast at the huge table of friendship that is always prepared for us when we are ready by those who have loved us, as it often turns out, all along.