For the first time in my life, I feel as though I have enough. It’s a very strange feeling. I have enough things. I have enough love. I have enough attention. I have enough. I don’t think I feel as though I lack anything, but that can’t be completely true it appears. There must have been some low-grade dissatisfaction that gurgled underneath my conscious surface.
This new, complete sense of abundance and fulfillment begs the question, why do I feel this way? Is it because all my dreams have come true? Not really. I still would love to go to Italy for a month. I’d love to have time to finish writing my books. Having a huge family reunion is still on my list. If I won the nearly-$300 million in MegaMillions, I wouldn’t complain. So, I still have goals and wishes toward which I work. It must be something else.
Is my life perfect? I suppose one might say it’s perfect for me, but it is far from perfect. There remains suffering in my family and in the families of my friends. My heart is in pain for them and for me as well. Our global family has not found complete peace. No, life is not ideal at all.
So, what is it? What could bring this feeling to my doorstep? I think I know.
Over the years I’ve been taught to say, “Thank you,” for everything I receive. My parents reminded me that no one owes me anything, and every gift I accept is given voluntarily and lovingly. I am not entitled to anything just because I’m James. This is a lesson I’ve tried to incorporate at the deepest level, even to the point that I am grateful for heartache because I know it will move me toward greater compassion for others.
The answer to the reason for my happiness is gratitude. I am grateful for everyone and everything in my life. My brothers and sisters with whom I walk this planet have taken my hand with generosity of spirit and union. Of course I’m grateful for them. The material gifts I’ve received are there so that I may better serve others. I try to keep that foremost in my mind. I am in service first. Serving others inspires gratitude on my part for the opportunity to share in their lives. As I think about it, this is the foundation of my faith: recognizing and being grateful for the gifts offered because they all come from the same place; that omnipresent spirit that transcends our life here on Earth. Call it God, Jehovah, Allah, Divine Spirit, Grandfather, or just Love. It’s all the same to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions of my own piety or grandeur. I’m just another schmuck trudging through my life just like everyone else. We’re doing the best we can with what we have. I just happen to remember today that I am very fortunate to have the people and things around me that I do. So to our Great Spirit and to my family and friends, I offer my most sincere and humble gratitude.
Thank you with the entirety of my spirit, heart, and mind.
As we continue having debates regarding rights, freedoms, and full citizenship for people in same-gender relationships, we may want to conserve our energy and make our discussions more efficient and accurately reflective of every type of relationship.
As I watched Current TV, the channel developed by former vice-president Al Gore, and Illinois senator, Al Franken (D), I heard a woman say that these debates, especially those going toward the U.S. Supreme Court, are made more challenging because the word sex is involved. The word to which she was referring was, “Homosexuality.”
If it’s really an issue, why not use a different word? The Latin word, “homo,” means, “same.” “Hetero,” mean “different.” The Latin root, “amor,” means, “love.”
Homoamorous means two people of the same gender love one another.
Heteroamorous means two people of different genders love one another.
So, why not change the word. It’s not as though we’re using ancient or sacred words to describe our relationships. “Homosexuality” was coined on May 6, 1869 by Karoly Maria Benkert, a 19th Century Hungarian physician, who first broke with traditional thinking when he suggested that people are born homosexual and that it is unchangeable. With that belief as his guide, he fought the Prussian legal code against homosexuality that he described as having “repressive laws and harsh punishments (Conrad and Angel, 2004).”
One would suspect that Dr. Benkert would appreciate this change in lexicon so that we change our focus in this debate from sex to love. John and Frank are not two people in sex. They are two people in love. Deborah and Sheila are not two women who spend their lives sexing each other, they are two women loving each other. This is especially true because homosexuality has been demedicalized in so many ways.
If we’re going to have to have this debate in the first place, let’s speak accurately about the people involved. We are homoamorous people. We are two people of one gender who are in love. Those in opposite gender relationships are heteroamorous.
How complicated can that be? If I were to approach someone and ask them if they’d like a slice of bread, their first question is likely, “What kind is it?” As a people, we love clarity. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are simply not clear enough terms for the breadth of our relationship. Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are clear winners when it comes to describing the relationships with which I am most familiar.
Sexuality is an important, if not a terribly time consuming part of most marriage relationships. It helps motivate our interest in a particular person whose gender is consistent with what we prefer; however, that, too, is not always the case.
Is it unthinkable that two people can have a relationship that is purely emotional in form, without sex, who continue to love one another nonetheless? Ask many people who are of a certain age.
Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are not only options for the terms homosexuality and heterosexuality, they might even be the preferred forms given their more emotionally inclusive qualities.
My mother used to say, when trying to get the direct truth out of me, “Jim, call a spade a spade.” Although I never played bridge, from which this term comes, I knew what she meant. Name something as it is. I now get that message all the more clearly.
2010, Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/homosexuality/
Conrad, P., & Angell, A. (2004). HOMOSEXUALITY AND REMEDICALIZATION. Society, 41(5), 32-39. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
Kelly Clarkson. Ruben Studdard. Fantasia Barrino. Carrie Underwood. Taylor Hicks. Jordin Sparks. David Cook. Kris Allen. These are the winners of the last nine seasons of American Idol.
Unless one has been living in an alternate universe, everyone in the United States of America has heard of American Idol, the television show where people between 16 and 29 vie for a recording contract, automobile, and a variety of other prizes and cash. They sing their little hearts out every week until, finally, one person is selected as that season’s American Idol.
Clarkson, Barrino, and Underwood are the only three winners who have become actual stars. Others contestants, including Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, and Adam Lambert have moved forward in their careers in huge ways; however, the other winners have had moderate to little success along the way.
All this is to say, here we are again. Next week we will see another person crowned as Season 10’s American Idol. The two contestants are Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox. Both are unique and powerful personalities… sort of.
As a vocal director and music instructor, I would like to take a minute to look at each of them as performers and to address their vocal qualities.
Lee DeWyze is an enigma. He seems to have very little self-confidence; yet, there is something I intuitively sense about his ability to manipulate the public with his humble persona. DeWyze never seems to find a comfort zone with his music. It’s almost as though he is afraid we will discover his vocal skills really aren’t that good. His gravely voice clearly will not last beyond two or three more years. He will most likely develop nodes on his vocal cords and require surgery. His inability to stabilize his pitches without sounding like sandpaper on metal makes very little sense for him to win. This is not the end of the story, though.
Crystal Bowersox is a powerhouse, internally and vocally. She has an understanding of her craft that belie her 24 years on this planet. Her self-assured defiance of some of the judges recommendations have served her well. She continues to make the right choices week after week. The clarity of her sound and her understanding of her vocal instrument ensures many years of successful singing ahead of her.
Most importantly, she seems to know exactly who she is as a person. She makes no excuses for her methodical analysis of what is happening around her. She is a thoughtful person focused on growth, manifesting her art, and taking care of her family.
With regard to her presentation, it cannot be understated how important pulling her look together is going to be on a global stage. She must get her teeth repaired and if she is going to continue to maintain her hair in dreadlocks, she should use more colorful elements, such as scarves and jewelry to create a more finished look. This, however, is just dressing because her art is where her strength is. Let there be no misunderstanding – she is an artist. Lee DeWyze – not so much.
The likelihood is that Lee will win American Idol. He is being perceived as a smoldering sex symbol in the mold of James Dean of yesteryear, and it is this alone that is moving him toward winning this competition. If all is right in the Universe, however, Crystal will win. She deserves to be on top.
In this case, I can only hope my view into my crystal ball is wrong and Crystal will win. I know I’m going to vote next week.
For blogs brought directly to you, go to http://alphainventions.com/
According to a recent report from NBC affilliate, KCRA 3 in Sacramento, California, Governor Schwarzenegger has once again carved into the lives of the poor, the young, the infirmed, and those least able to bear the edge of his economic scalpel.
Programs like Cal-WORKS, which is the work-for-welfare program, mental health services, foster parent programs, and other necessary departments are being slashed to accommodate the $20 billion shortfall. According to the report, this budget reduction will affect 1.4 million people in the third largest state in the union. With a total population of 38,292,687 California citizens, that means that over 3.5% of the people in the Golden State are going to have to decide what to do in response to this situation.
One must wonder whether the highest paid administrators in state government are taking cuts in their pay, or if there is going to be a reduction in any of their benefits.
The lame duck governor has also indicated that a budget will not be signed that is not accompanied by budget and pension reforms. That is akin to saying that we must have better architectural plans for a barn that is currently burning. I’m certain that in Governor Schwarzenegger’s mind he is trying to avoid future issues of this type; however, as is spoken in the vernacular, he is “a day late and a dollar short.”
It was less than a year ago, we were discussing the the fact that the governor was flexing his muscles in areas that were not a top priority for the majority of Californians.
Programs such as research grants, expansion of prisons and universities, secondary transportation activities that are not being supplemented by the federal government, and parks and recreation should be cut long before programs that support children and the ill.
There should be three rules of thumb by which the governor reviews the budget:
1. Does this item support our children in any way?
2. Does this item support physical and mental health care for the largest number of people?
3. Does this item promote employment in the state?
Anything else should be eligble for reduction.
The ironic thing is that after all these years contending with Governor Schwarenegger, we’re finally realizing that he doesn’t meet any of these criteria.
Hey! that gives me an idea!
For great websites presented directly to you, go to: http://alphainventions.com/
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!
When one looks at the three top-runners for the NBA Rookie of the Year, it’s all about perspective. We can look at their raw statistics comparatively, of course, and get a good idea about what they’ve actually done. The real test, however, is answered only by asking, “What have they done within their environment.” In other words, what have they added to the teams on which they play?
Of the organizations on which the big three, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, and Brandon Jennings, play, only the Milwaukee Bucks are in the playoffs, and then in sixth place in the conference. That tells you that it’s not about their teams. It’s the men themselves whom we have to evaluate.
Tyreke Evans, 20, from the Sacramento Kings, has claimed the number one slot statistically in the areas of points per game, assists, steals, and blocks, and second only to Jason Thompson in defensive rebounds among his teammates. Admittedly, he tops the list in turnovers, as well, but this may come from the sloppiness that shows in the fast and furious game he plays.
Overall, Evans has added a dynamic to the team that was sorely needed. There has been talk about the challenges to the chemistry of the team as Kevin Martin was traded, and the fact that Evans seems to have a lot to learn about team play, but he is, after all, a rookie. Certainly, he has got to learn to make those three point shots more consistently, as well.
His greatest strength is that he is absolutely fearless. Height, weight, experience, celebrity – none of these matter to Tyreke. As a rookie, one might expect a little awe when playing the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neill, or Steve Nash; but there is none of that. When Tyreke takes the floor, he is there for business… always.
As an asset to the team, Evans has been golden. For the fans, he has been a real shot in the arm, as have been Carl Landry and Omri Casspi. Since last year, this team has improved for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the excellent coaching leadership of Paul Westphal. Westphal has been able to assess each of the players’ strengths in ways that every coach, since Rick Adelman left the Kings, has been unable to do.
The Kings are moving forward, if only slowly, partially because of Tyreke Evans. All these reasons should make a difference in the voting.
The Golden State Warriors are nearly equivalent to the Sacramento Kings in the win-loss category, and they are both in the Western Division, so they have had the same teams against which to play. With that in mind, when it comes to Stephen Curry, 22, he has the top team stats in only one category, which is assists. Although Curry is playing 36 minutes per game on average, he is still achieving second place status to players like Anthony Morrow and Corey Maggette.
This well-heeled, handsome young man has a well-earned reputation for graciousness and amiability amongst his teammates and fans; however, amongst the three top-ranked possible rookies, Curry has the top percentage of field goals, three point shots and free throws; however, Darren Collison from the New Orleans Hornets, has better numbers with both field goals and free throws. All the charm in the world will not change that fact.
Brandon Jennings, 20, of the Milwaukee Bucks is a good player, especially for a rookie, but he doesn’t come close to Curry and Evans in achievement or consistency. He was having a great year in the beginning, but when his shooting began to dwindle, his numbers plummeted.
With regard to how he fares by comparison to his teammates, he does fairly well; however, one must remember that after the top slot in the Eastern Conference, the other teams are overshadowed when evaluated side-by-side with the Western Conference. It’s like comparing the best baller in a high school of 200 and someone who catches the top spot in a school of 2,000. Again, it’s all about perspective.
It is in the area of consistency where Evans has to take the lead. Since being drafted last year, Evans has made his presence known. He has been a leader and pivotal concern for coaches throughout the league. Even after his injury, he made his way back to being the force with which others team must reckon.
Add to this the fact that Evans has achieved a statistic that only three other people have ever done in their rookie year, the elusive 20-5-5. He joins Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and Lebron James in this illustrious category. Who can deny that this sets him head-and-shoulders above the other possible nominees.
The day will soon be here that the award recipient will be announced. With his ability to make plays, play aggressively, consistently enhance his team, and his strong statistics, all the things we look for in our freshman players, this year, it’s Tyreke Evans for 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year!
My father’s favorite flowers were tulips. Every year he would dig up the three tiers of soil in our hillside front yard and plants hundreds of bulbs. His heart would never seem quite so full than when he was working toward that day when his tulip garden was resplendent in yellow and orange and red and white.
He did this into his sixties. He said he loved the colors and that each one reminded him of the warming season. I loved to see my father amonst his tulips. One of the hardest parts of his death was the untended yard the Spring after he was gone, overflowing with ivy and inattention.
I heard from a friend of my late brother’s recently. David and his friend, Zack, were really close growing up. Along with Brian and Nicky, and several others, David had a cadre of buddies with whom he hung out, got into trouble, and, I know, laughed constantly.
These young fellows would find their way around our mountain village in far-northern California on dirt bikes, skis, on foot, and by car, leaving their mark on every corner of this town of 2,400 people.
When David died in 2006, I thought these young people would be lost forever to me. I was saddened by that because it felt as though David’s memory would be diminished by the scattering to the wind of his friends.
Within the last year, I’ve heard from Brian, Nicky, and now Zack. They have sent photos and memories via electronic mail of their time together. They have each expressed a loving memory of my brother that has brought comfort and a sense of envelopment to me as the last remaining member of our four-person core family.
Today, I got a message from Zack informing me that he has a newborn baby. In the same way I felt upon the birth of my first grandchild in 1993, I felt a newness wash over me. It was intimate and poignant. With all the loss I’ve experienced in the last ten years, this moment brought me a sense of joyful future.
I sent my warmest wishes to Zack on his growing family. Part of those wishes, I think, were because he brought me some emotional tulips, like the ones my father grew. He showed me, once again, that Spring was here and new life was repeating its pattern.
It also reminded me of my recent visit to see my cousin, Joe, who was in the hospital with cancer. I had this amazing sense of healing and until today, I wasn’t sure why that was. Above his bed, on the top of his cabinet, was a vase full of white tulips… and hope.
Spring is all around me right now and I am, for the first time in many years, fully aware of its beauty and power. This has to be a good sign; a sign not unlike the first hint of excited green stalk poking through the recently cold soil over a tulip bulb.
Today was a remarkable day for me at the most personal level.
First, I performed music for the first time in a long, long time. A friend of mine called me two days ago in a panic and asked if I would play the piano for her mother-in-law’s funeral. As a friend and an ordained minister, it was impossible to say no to her. The truth is, with returning to college, assisting a former student of mine with his senior project, and auditions for a musical, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed at the thought of adding even one more, short-term project.
As with all things in my life, now that I’m on the other side of today, I couldn’t be happier to have had the experience. I sang and played piano better than I have for years. As the most critical person of my own skills, I was surprised to be happy with my music.
The most important part of the day was that I heard a homily by Monsignor Dan Madigan, the parish priest from St. Joseph’s Parish in Clarksburg, California, who officiated the funeral mass. His Irish brogue was soft and thoughtful. He spoke as though he was speaking to each person individually. With his history as a man of social justice, having founded the Sacramento Food Bank in the mid-1980’s, his words today had an especially profound effect on me.
During the homily, he discussed the fact that Jesus had once said that there were too many rules and that they burdened the every day people. He said that faith should be simple and a benefit to the people, not a heavy weight on their shoulders.
As he was speaking, I had to fight back the tears. Here was this Catholic priest, in his vestments, standing on an altar speaking about the need for a simple faith. It was so moving.
The church where the funeral was held was my former parish from 1976 to 2004. It was the parish that helped me decide to leave my Roman Catholic tradition.
In the early 1980’s, I had gone to confession, as was the weekly requirement at the time. I offered the truth of what my church said were my sins. I was a gay man who had slept with another man. The eldery, Italian priest proceeded to lambast me with horrific statements of how I was committing an abomination to God and that I would land in hell for my wicked ways.
On that day, I realized I could not be a part of a church that would talk with a parishoner in that way. I could no longer be told that I would go to hell for who I was. I had no choice but to leave the church I so dearly loved. Although I was correct in doing so, it has left a deep sadness in my heart all these years. I miss my church and my tradition.
As I watch women having children they cannot afford, religious clergy injuring children through their illness of pedophilia, and women being denied a rightful place as ministers in this enormous church, I know I made the right decision. I realize, too, that the elderly priest from so very long ago had no right to stand in such cruel judgement of my life when he certainly must have known people who had committed terrible atrocities, which is much different than one man loving another man.
Then, today, I am transported back to that same church where I was so hurt, and floating on the brogue of an elderly priest, I am healed from that hurt. Faith should be simple. It’s what I’ve believed for decades, and to hear it espoused here was truly miraculous.
I still cannot return to my home church as a devout Catholic, but at least now I know that the church has people in it who understand about true faith, and that it is different than structured beliefs.
Somehow, I am more at peace.
A man, standing at his mirror, visits his past and looks toward his future as 2010 approaches. His laundry list of landmarks include so many more entries than he could have ever imagined in his youth.
He has seen success as a singer, music director, stage director, and administrator. He has written volumes of poems, short stories, and other works. He has composed music that has been performed by seventy people at a time, to several hundred people in the audience. This man has danced. He has helped care for people in public health, assist in others’ healing through his spiritual work, and guided his beloved mother as she passed from this life. He’s helped people plan trips around the world, select the colors for their quilts, and learn how to breastfeed their babies, as well as eat well themselves. He has assisted both his father in the family pharmacy, as well as the Director of Public Health in the seventh largerst economy in the world.
He has been honored to teach hundreds of children and adults how to sing. He’s been on film, television, radio, and stage.
He has reared five children in the best way he could.
He has recognized that there is a God and that his faith in our Creator is justified.
As he looks into his mirror, he sees a man who, in his lifetime, has lost one great-great grandparent, one great-grandparent, six grandparents, three parents, one step-parent and three parents-in-law, a brother, a son, a grandson, several students, and his first true love. This reflected man has been married twice, once to a woman and once to a man. He’s only been divorced once and that was from his ex-wife.
He has seen all five of his living children taken to jail for various lengths of time, including thirty-two years to life.
Next year, he will have nearly doubled his weight from 128 pounds to 240 pound in the last twenty years. His hair will have gone from an elegant blue-black to a thinner dark brown with many grey strands dancing through his mane. The black rings under his eyes share the arc of the jowels under his jaw line. Stretch marks, varicose veins, and surgical scars all mark his body’s travel through time.
His list of medical challenges rival the list of major accomplishments in his life. He spends much of his time chatting with friends about the “good ol’ days.” His husband and he don’t say much to one another now, since they’ve spent about a quarter of their lives together.
Many of his favorite old time movie stars and singers are dead. Some of his family photographs are now over one hundred-years old.
This man, whose truth is shining in the glass on the wall, is now the eldest in his direct lineage. Patriarchy has overtaken his life.
Next year, the nintieth anniversary of his father’s birth will transpire. Next year, his youngest child will be thirty-years-old. Next year, his eldest grandchild will be eighteen-years-old. Next year, he will be fifty-one-years-old.
This scene would be fairly poignant if it weren’t about me.
The surprising part is that even with the abundance that I’ve seen in my life, I know I still have work to do. Even more shocking is that I still have energy to do it. I suppose I’m no different than anyone else on the planet, but the depth of life never ceases to amaze and sometimes confound me. Life’s intimacy envelopes me some days in a way that makes me feel profoundly cradled.
The little mirror into which I peer holds my entire countenance, but the breadth of my experience and hope for my future spills onto the walls, ceiling and floor, out the windows and doors, and into every corner in which I dwell. It is also reflected in the many mirrors I see in my family and friends.
And, thank God for that.
What is so wrong with a fifty-year-old man enjoying the movies, Wizard of Oz, Legally Blonde, Annie, or Like Water for Chocolate? Admittedly, these pictures are not standard fare for adult males of my age; however, are we so sure?
Of course, I like football, basketball, the History Channel, and ESPN, like any other guy, but there is more to me than those few facets.
We have to ask ourselves, “Is Biff secretly locking himself away, weeping over Elle Woods almost leaving Harvard? Is Dirk’s heart racing as Dorothy is trying to escape the Wicked Witch’s castle with her cohorts? Is Pete screaming at the t.v., ‘Leave her alone!’ as Annie dangles from the elevated draw bridge, threatened so menacingly by Rooster?”
I don’t know the answer, but, today I stand up as a culturally challenged man who declares out loud, “I love chick flicks, heel reels, or whatever else you want to call them!”
Who stands with me, men of America? (This is where the roar of applause by hundreds of thousands of manly men makes a dramatic crescendo in my head.)
God, I feel so free!