DEAD POETS SOCIETY came out 31 years ago, several years into my teaching career, and Robin Williams’ John Keating had a terrific impact on my career and on my life.
Seize the day.
John Keating had great passion for teaching and demonstrated his passion in different ways. He was not cut from a mold. Keating made every day an adventure, taking his students on incredible, mind-opening journeys.
At some point, or around a particular age, we seem to stop embracing adventures and take shorter journeys. If that works, super. But what about each day’s opportunity to splash around in the life’s energizing, soothing pool?
“Make it a great day” is my version of John Keating’s remind to “seize the day.”
My Grandpa Leroy and Grandma Donna took me to Indianapolis for special outings, several times a year. Our visits always included interesting sites or entertainments, as well as neat places to eat.
One particular visit was to an art exhibit that was passing through.
There was one abstract painting that, at age eight, I promptly dismissed. My grandmother gently urged, “let’s look at it from this side.” We moved to one side. “Move over here to look at it and let’s see if there’s something new to see.”
We spent several minutes looking at the painting and I kept finding new things. As a teacher and as a stage director, I walk all sides of the stage and auditorium seating.
No entertainer made me laugh more than Robin Williams. He was not only the “funniest mind in the West” but clearly one of the most intelligent minds on so many levels. I still watch video clips of his interviews because they are so damned cheery.
While Mr. Williams was making certain the word was laughing and happy, there seemed to be no amount of laughter to treat his depression. He was secretly imprisoned with several physical restraints that would continue to diminish his abilities over time, continuing to shackle him to even greater depths of depression and anxiety.
Since March 2020, countless members of the performing arts world have been shackled by the imprisoning pandemic. Many friends and former students have altered career paths while others have found measured, safe ways to continue creating.
It’s been absolute hell. It appears that this hell is to continue a bit longer.
Man… how we could use Robin Williams’ invaluable humor and insightful gift at looking at things differently.
But, I always believe that when someone passes on, they leave a legacy, something from which to continue learning and to continue growing.
We must be a Robin Williams sharing thoughts, insisting on laughter, and always looking at things a different way.
I’m quite comfortable on the deck with a slight breeze moving about with heavy grey skies shrouding The Miami Valley.
Since The Boys are “on holiday” in The Cotswolds, our weekly morning chat did not commence with them and Dave’s parents in Boston. I missed our enriching discussion most often filled with bunches of laughs and thorough enjoyment in one another’s company.
On with the day. Teaching begins at 1:00 PM, ending at 10:30 PM.
I was raised in an optimistic home and Mother always insisted we stick to our optimism no matter how severe the blow. Mother demonstrated confidence often masking the weight she carried at times.
This has been a week of “some not so good news comes in threes,” challenging my optimism.
Two family friends moved beyond this life and a friend, as dear as a brother, has been diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer.
Until earlier this week, I’d never known a day that Jack Barnes was not a part of my world, somehow. I don’t ever remember meeting him as he knew my family long before I was born.
Jack and Judy Barnes have three children: Kevin, who was a year ahead of me in school; Scott, a fellow high school drum-major, trumpeter, and thespian; Anne, another marching band member with my sister, a high school girlfriend of my brother, and who offered a beautiful, tender tribute to Mother at her funeral.
I rarely saw any of the Barnes trio without seeing Jack and Judy Barnes present, not only to cheer on their children, but everyone else’s kid, as well. After moving to Ohio, I often saw Jack and Judy upon returns to Elwood for events or when we were out to eat.
Over the past several years, I’ve remained in touch with Mr. & Mrs. Barnes through Anne who has been a true angel in every way to aide her parents’ declining health. The photos with her dad are priceless as she coaxed that familiar smile and chuckle.
Mr. Barnes was kind-hearted and an all-embracing gentleman that knew no stranger and always warmed the world around him, and beyond, simply be being Jack Barnes.
Thank you, Mr. Barnes, for being a part of my life.
May, 1984, I was on a 747 flying over the Atlantic Ocean with fellow members of The Ball State University Singers (show choir), en route to Greece, when I mentioned to my seat mate, Monty Kuskye, that I needed to purchase something special for my mother whose birthday was in April. He asked my mother’s age and I said, “thirty nine.”
The lady in front of us rose from her seat and said, “Thirty nine?? Ugh. I’m officially old enough to be the mom of a college student.”
A kindly looking gentleman peeked through the seats and said, “Don’t worry about my wife; she won’t ‘mother’ any of you on this trip. She’s just as young as all of you.”
And that was how I met Jan and Rod Richard.
Jan was a 1964 charter member of The Ball State University Singers and joined the ensemble on the overseas trips. She’s still the heart of the group with her generosity and devotion.
Rod and Jan’s hotel rooms were often near mine and I got to know Rod who I found charming and fascinating.
On the return flight from Greece, I had my fellow travelers write in my trip journal. Rod wrote the most touching and still, much treasured note:
Through the remainder of the 1980s I saw Rod numerous times at campus events, running into him unexpectedly throughout Muncie, or fondly remembering a lovely evening at Jan and Rod’s home where we dined with friends and enjoyed wonderful conversations.
Rod battled Parkinson’s Disease and passed away yesterday with Jan by his side.
Thank you, Rod, for being a part of my life.
This afternoon delivererd a shocking blow when I learned that a very dear friend has Stage 4 throat cancer.
Upon learning the news, I sat in numbing stillness not knowing what to do nor how to react. This news affects so many folks who’ve become my bonus family.
After a few text messages with his wife, I was calmed by her/their own optimism, that I must admit had crumbled.
This has been a dramatic week both personally and on a national scope. However, while friends are grieving the loss of the loved ones, they’re also celebrating two wonderful lives lived and beloved by so many.
And, my dear Ohio family has reminded me that we move onward, making the most of every moment.
I shout the phrase, daily, but I often need to be reminded to “make it a great day.”
Even with a healthy breeze, it honestly does not feel like 55-degrees at 8:30 AM as the sun is sharing its brilliance.
This is my longest day and the one with the least amount of breaks. It’s my grab-‘n-go day with food and bathroom breaks.
My briefly vacationed cardinals are back and I’m relieved to know they’ve not abandoned The Haasienda.
When I was ready for bed last night, Chief, who’s battled arthritis in his hips until a new treatment, was once again up on my pillows. My old boy slept beside me most the night, sometimes punching or kicking me with his large paws, but loving his snuggle time. Harrigan and Bailey were furious having to sleep in the other bed!
It’s time to prep for my first online class. Some great students with terrific personalities and incredible minds.
The 55-degree weather doesn’t seem all too cold and the overhead umbrella of bright blue is refreshing as I eat my lunch on the deck.
I finished teaching my on-line classes at 2:00 PM and will shortly begin lessons at 3:00 PM until 10:15 PM.
The pooches are swarming me as I eat.
My Monday lunch consists of a salad and some sliced celery, green peppers, and carrots to dip into the family’s legendary cauliflower dip or brown dip or whatever my brother nicknamed it. Thanks to Nicole, I have some wonderful green bell peppers to use for dipping.
The early afternoon is peaceful. The swishing Shroyer Road traffic is the only violation of having complete silence, which is certainly not an issue.
It’s 2:45 PM and time to prep for the next seven hours of teaching.
It’s only 62-degrees but the fierce sun has warmed us a bit, allowing some non-bundled up time.
From beneath the deck, the aroma of Downy fabric softener wafts up through the boards as some towels dry.
The clouds are particularly beautiful this afternoon, theatrically displaying the light and the shade as brilliantly lit white clouds exchange places with darker clouds. I love their high up production.
Out front, I looked at the large star on the front of the house. The original paint has peeled, nearly all gone. I always loved the contrast of the slight beige against the brick.
Now, the rusted metal on display blends in with the bricks sheltering the Cape Cod frame. I rather prefer seeing the raised edges of the crispy beige remnants that cling mightily against the strong winds that often blaze their course from all directions.
Strength. Courage. Toughness.
After trying minutes of writing, the overhead stage has already changed scenes, entirely, and the upcoming scenes appear to be just as dramatic and beautiful.
This summer, I watched my two Colorado private students in their summer musicals via You Tube Live and I’ve also watched several streamed productions.
Tonight, I’m watching a live-streamed production of playwright Clifford Odets’ 1935 drama, WAITING FOR LEFTY, produced by Ohio Northern University Theatre Department.
We’re nearly thirty minutes into the production and it’s moving along smoothly with the actors separately performing under safety precautions. I’m wholly impressed with these college students tackling this new way of sharing the arts.
My former voice student, Marisha Osowski, an ONU second year musical theatre major is portraying Florence. The Quartet, my four pooches who adore Marisha, got all excited when they heard her voice. It was so cool!
I’m cheering harder and louder for these troopers. They’re still making theatre, but in an entirely new format and in a way they probably never imagined.
Live-streamed theatre is not the way so many of us would like to present our artistry; however, it’s vital that theatre and the performing arts continue to be shared. We’ve got this and we’re doing it.
What we do for love…
WAITING FOR LEFTY. Friday, October 2 @ 7:30 PM. Saturday, October 3 @ 7:30 PM
I use this phrase daily and even several times throughout the day to remind myself that I have the choice, and ultimately, the control of how I elect to run my day.
I’ve had folks tell me it doesn’t work for them.
It’s highly unlikely to work if the attitude is already against the the process an forecasting the negative results.
This pandemic has taught me much.
I’ve learned to value more, the truly necessary elements in life we often take for granted or even ignore when gratitude should be the focus. It’s the little things that have become the bigger blessings to me while the once bigger items have depreciated.
It has also alerted me to much.
I’ve become more aware of people; those directly within my reach and those beyond. I’ve seen (and been a recipient of) so many reaching out to others with a servant’s loving, golden heart, yet, I’ve also observed the selfish and short-sightedness of those with plenty, inconvenienced.
We have the choice to change our vision. We can also choose to make a concerted effort to change our vision.
We have the choice to change our thinking. We can also choose to make a concerted effort to alter or completely reprocess our way of thinking.
We have the choice to reach out or we have the choice to remain self-serving. We can also choose to make a concerted effort to look beyond our own needs or mildly interrupted routine to remember those whose lives and routines have been demolished.
Choice and attitude are at the core of how we process the day. We have, both, the capability to choose and the power to concentrate our attitude within our very grasp.
The 67-degree morning is slightly overcast, but all the weather apps agree there is to finally be rain this afternoon which seems to back the heralding breeze of swishing leaves, tinkling wind chimes, and my previous day’s headache.
Send down the rain.
The grass has been brown for over a month and the rain that’s passed through the Miami Valley has barely dampened the dry earth. You can practically smell the crunchy dryness.
Send down the rain.
I love the smell of arriving rain with the anticipation of cleansing the stagnate air and relieving exhausted ground.
Sometimes, when we take a refreshing shower we can appreciate the how the earth, grass, plants, trees, and air feel when they’re touched by the sacred droplets of rain.
We need water. We need to drink and feel water. Water connects us to nature and if we raise a sail, we can connect to other lands and other people.
Send down the rain.
If the rain happens to dampen any outdoor plans, don’t let that stop you from making it a great day.
This last Sunday of September 2020 dawned bright and beautiful with a very comfortable 64°, though a tiny bit chillier with a more periodic forceful breeze causing the wind chimes and trees to spontaneously howl.
The seeds of self discontent and discomfort appear to be rapidly growing and spreading amongst folks who are otherwise more optimistic.
This morning, my friend, Jeff Carter, ever the fellow optimist, posted this meme.
I’ve literally had folks become upset with me because I won’t participate in their negativity for this new world we’ve come to know, throwing at us steady and frequent changes. It is sometimes difficult to appreciate their aggravation, however, I’ve rigidly stuck to my resolve to keep my glass, not just full, but overflowing to allow others to add to their cups if they were drained.
For those of us who are sculpted-in-marble optimists, it’s imperative we not allow the fear and frustration surrounding us to chip away at or erode us. I’m comfortable and confident in my Nellie Forbush cockeyed optimism as we wade into another wave of uncertainty.
Raise your glass. Whether it’s empty, half full, completely full, or overflowing, it’s still your glass of choices. Whatever the weight of its contents, hold it up and make it a great day.
It’s such a pleasant Saturday morning on the deck with all the pooches gathered nearby, taking in the slight breeze, comfortable temperature, a noisy cricket, a cicada chorus, a lot of morning traffic swooshing along Shroyer Road, and one damn crow trying its best to blend in with more pleasant sounds.
Today is the full-speed ahead into my 57th year as I now stand on the 56th.
This morning I’ve delighted myself reading kind thoughts and birthday wishes from so many family, friends, colleagues, students and former students. What a terrific start to my morning.
Whatever is on your schedule, today, start by insisting it will be a great day and then make it happen.
My nap extended longer than I wished but I feel more refreshed and am enjoying the beauty of some deck time with four delightful companions.
The 74-degree temperature is just right; there’s just enough breeze for comfort but with little disturbance to the wind chimes; the cottonwood fluffs occasionally drift past my writing area to remind me to not forget the beauty surrounding me.
Erma brought out Baby and placed her in the sun, along with the rest of The Quartet. “Erma, is Baby going to get too hot in the sun?”
Erma looked at me, then Baby. Erma wagged her tail, picked up Baby, and moved it into the shade.
Fifty six years ago, this morning, my 19 year old mother, experiencing her second day of contractions, refused to go to the hospital because she knew the time wasn’t right.
I always loved hearing Mother’s account of the days leading up to my birth, coupled with the commentaries from my grandparents. What always touched me most was the eagerness with which they reminisced those three days in September 1964.
What has impressed me, most, was how calm and in charge Mother remained during the overture of her first child’s debut. She ignored the encouragement of Dr. Ulrey, my two grandmothers, the neighbor lady, Kate Wolff, and others to go to the hospital.
“It’s not time. I’ll leave when I feel I must so I’m not wasting anyone’s time,” she countered.
In the meantime, she continued with her routine of cleaning the house, competing laundry and ironing, and preparing my nursery. My grandmother, Donna Barmes,who lived on the opposite corner of the block, was at her side as much as possible but she and Grandpa Leroy were only 40 and 42 and still had a twelve and ten year old son at home.
Mother didn’t leave for the hospital until after midnight the morning of September 25th, confident she still had plenty of time. And she did. I wasn’t born until 6:03 PM, Friday evening.
I hate to use the phrase Mother was “trusting her gut,” but Mother always maintained steady calmness and calculated decisions. She was not easily budged. Her biggest concern, always, was to not inconvenience others.
Too often, I feel we are apt to be too reactionary rather than calculated. It is important we know the facts, the calculations, and the right time to make a move.
It’s trusting your gut.
It’s knowing the right moment.
However, any time is the “right moment” when we decide to make it a great day.
This time, each September, I go through a tremendous barrage of feelings as summer departs, taking with it my much beloved deck time and moments of joy watching the dogs, listening to the cardinals and mourning doves, feeling the breezes, and dining outside.
September 22nd always feels like a kick in the gut; I’m not a fan of fall; however, three days later, it’s my birthday and I am restored to better humor.
I used to love Starburst candy and absolutely loved the pink, strawberry chews. In fact, I’ve discovered Starburst yogurt that is marvelously addictive.
A packet, or better yet, a bag of Starburst offers a variety of distinctive flavors and an array of bright colored wrappers.
I’ve always believed that variety is a necessity in my life. I love “variety” in nearly everything, except my precious deck time.
I don’t really have “favorites” and try to not use the phrase, “That’s my favorite…” I don’t even have a favorite genre of music.
As a baby, Mother kept a radio in my crib because infant guru, Dr. Spock, believed the sound of music would assist babies in not being so disturbed by other noises. She changed the radio station weekly and I was introduced to a variety of genres, a variety in music.
Mother followed the same practice with my sister who arrived eight and one half years later and she, too, has a broad taste in music.
However, when my baby brother was born, sixteen months later, Mother’s fuller hands didn’t have the time to change radio station and my brother’s taste in music was extremely narrow.
Lack of variety?
September 22nd, the commencement of nature’s buffet of color, weather, traditions, food, and clothing and a bag of Starburst with varied flavors and colors.
I grudgingly accept Autumn despite my inner-Eastman Kodak love for the colors but will take a bag of Starburst to enjoy the rapid change of tart vs. smooth tastes.
Appreciate variety because that will open up your opportunities and ease to make it a great day.
The past several mornings I’ve taken breakfast in my study due to the cooler morning temperatures despite the bright blue skies and singing birds.
I like lemons. I love lemonade.
The phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” has always made me chuckle because it seems the most obvious thing to do. But, why view lemons as something negative?
I actually researched the tart phrase:
Evan Morris over at The Word Detective, answering a similar query, has some helpful musings.
He argues “that despite all the good lemons have done, they’ve suffered from an image problem since the dawn of their cultivation—due primarily to their stinging acidity and tough skins.”
The word “lemon” comes to us from the Old French “limon,” which was derived from Arabic roots and served as a generic term for citrus fruit in general (which explains how the same root could also give us “lime”). The use of “lemon” to mean “disappointing result” or “something unwanted” is very old, reflecting the fact that, while useful in cooking, a lemon standing alone is just a lump of sourness with a tough skin to boot. In Shakespeare’s play Love’s Labours Lost (1598), for instance, one character proclaims, “The armipotent Mars, of lances the almighty, Gave Hector a gift …,” to which another puckishly suggests, “A lemon.”
In the mid-19th century, “lemon” was used as a colloquial term for a person of a “tart” disposition, as well as, more significantly for our purposes, slang for a “sucker” or “loser,” a dim person easily taken advantage of. It has been suggested that this latter use stems from the idea that it is easy to “suck or squeeze the juice out of” such a person (“I don’t know why it is, rich men’s sons are always the worst lemons in creation,” P.G. Wodehouse, 1931). By 1909, “lemon” was also firmly established in American slang as a term for “something worthless,” especially a broken or useless item fobbed off on an unsuspecting customer.
It’s likely that the current use of “lemon” to mean “something that doesn’t live up to its billing” or “a disappointing purchase” comes from a combination of “lemon” in the “sucker” sense (i.e., the buyer got “taken”) and the much older sense of “lemon” meaning “something undesirable.”
Times are frail with high tension. Some might say we’ve each been handed a bag of lemons.
If that’s the case, pull out the pitcher, fill it with water, squeeze those gifted lemons, add sugar, and start stirring like hell, and make the best lemonade, ever.
When the pitcher is empty, fill it back up with more lemonade.