Regaining Balance!

Last week, I wrote a piece on Whitney Houston after seeing the new documentary about her private life.  This week, I focus on her dearly beloved cousin, Dionne Warwick who has been serenading us for the past several decades.

I went on You Tube last night and listened to the hauntingly beautiful theme from the movie Valley of the Dolls.  It had been playing in my head and when I found it, I was pleasantly reminded that it had been sung by Dionne Warwick in 1968.

The movie had a strong impact on those of my generation and the lives of these three women still speaks volumes today.  It reveals what happens when each of them get caught up in the game as they look for success and love along the way.

Some get the material gains but lose their souls while stampeding on others as they race to the top (Patty Duke).  Some are overwhelmed and crushed by life’s circumstances because it all proves to be simply too much (Sharon Tate).  And some are fortunate enough to walk away though battered and bruised by the storms of life (Barbara Parkins).

When feeling like you are continually waking up in a scene from the movie Groundhog Day, listen to this theme song.  Those feelings are timeless and there are ways of getting off of the merry-go round and regaining your balance and equilibrium.

Push play and listen to Dionne Warwick do what she can do like no other singer!

 

Lynn M.                                                           July 14, 2018

 

 

 

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An Artist’s Sacrifice: Whitney Houston

Whintey 18

I just saw the new documentary on Whitney Houston simply called Whitney.  At times I cried inside as I soaked up the new footage from her life.  It was done through participatory interviews of those who knew her best such as her mother Cissy Houston, her two brothers, hairstylist, aunt, personal assistants and various record producers.  It focuses more on who she was before she became a star and who she was when the world was not looking.

Nippy, as she was affectionately known, was a young girl from the inner city of Newark, New Jersey.  Her mother was often on the road singing backup for icons such as Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin. Dionne Warwick was her aunt so she had a tall order placed on her shoulders from birth.

The  movie begins with the interviewer speaking to Cissy Houston from a church pew where Whitney got her start. She stated that she taught Nippy to sing from her head, heart and gut.  Well, it worked. She and her brothers hated to see their mother hit the road and they were left behind to stay with other families.  Sometimes they were in good hands and sometimes they were not, as life goes.

This movie shares a well-tucked away secret about Whitney and her good friend Robyn. They met as young teens and became the best of friends and moved in together when Whitney was 18.  Their relationship was questionable and quite unacceptable for the image that others wanted Whitney to portray as a rising star.

Whitney was discovered and though Robyn stayed in her employ, her presence caused the disapproval of her family and her new handlers.  Yet, they were so close that Robyn was the only one who could get Nippy to behave and take off her shoes of rebellion.

Thus, the divided soul began to widen as Nippy had to become Whitney Houston who was this young, innocent fresh talent that was entering upon the world stage.  Nippy, the inner city girl with sass had to be silenced along her inner city jargon.  The new Whitney wore long gowns of grace and elegance and her love for Robyn had to be snuffed out as well.

Then, enters bad boy Bobby Brown on stage left.  As others said in the film, Bobby Brown was more like her than the world realized.  He was also an inner city kid and reminded her of her brothers.  He got to know the real Nippy and he made her laugh. With him, she could please the world and be married to a man with a family on the horizon.

The movie shows footage from her wedding day with Bobby Brown  He was crying because he probably could not believe that he had landed one of the world’s greatest talents.  But what I will not forget is how Robyn looked in her eyes while she was in her wedding gown.  It was as if she was saying, “Okay if this is what you want to do, I wish you the best.”

It was said that Bobby and Robyn would actually fight and vie for Nippy’s attention.  Bobby vowed to kill Robyn and bury her in his backyard.  Hence, the heart and chasm of  Nippy’s heart widened and the drugs poured in to numb the pain of trying to live up to others’ expectations.  Robyn finally left Whitney’s employ around 2000 and it was shortly afterwards when Whitney was seen looking skeletal in 2001.

We know what toil the world tours, the interviews and  the abusive marriage took on her.  But the pressure to maintain this image of someone who was so unlike the real Nippy proved to be too much.   If you look at any of Whitney’s interviews, you can hear the real Nippy from the inner city trying to break free.

There is one really memorable scene where Whitney is having a monologue with herself saying that Nippy cannot find Whitney or that Whitney can find Nippy.  It made me think of  the book called Divided Soul about Marvin GayeI thought of all of the artists who have changed their names and taken on some false persona to satisfy someone else’s  creation.  Think about Marilyn Monroe who was once Norma Jean.

As in all falsity,  it all comes crashing down and those who loved these stars while they were riding high quickly turn and become their worst critics. During this movie, it was revealed that Whitney would go and visit Michael Jackson when she was feeling overwhelmed.  They would sit for hours and not say a word because it was a wordless understanding of the demands of being a megastar.

I looked at her last interview with Oprah after seeing the movie and she said that on some days, she just wanted to put on some jeans and be herself.  But the world would have none of that. Some even referred to her as a national treasure as though she was not an individual with personal dreams and dilemmas.

This documentary delves into the inside of a woman’s soul who fought the good fight as she graciously shared her gift with the world.  Her mother told her in this film that “God had laid His hands on her.”  She gave what she had and I am thankful for Kevin McDonald’s approach to her life.  We know of her accomplishments, but this film shows all that Nippy sacrificed to belt out those iron-clad lungs that gave us all goosebumps.

Push play and listen to one of Whitney’s last songs as she cleaves to her faith and sings I Look to You!

 

 

Lynn M.                                                                            July 7, 2018

 

 

 

Rock On!

keep-calm-and-rock-on-5694When you are ready to make a change towards something more positive, you have to get your feet moving and become like the little penguin, Happy Feet. Take small steps and rehearse the verse “Precept upon precept; line upon line; here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:13).

Snails may move slowly but they are thorough and effective. They keep it going like the tortoise in Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare. Those who run at an amped-up pace like the hare usually deplete themselves.

They are too exhausted to be around for those important things. They may have seen a lot of things as they moved at a breakneck speed, but did they truly experience them? Was every moment truly savored or were they wondering, “What’s next?”

Slow down and smell the roses but keep moving both gently and succinctly. There are ways to let the universe know that you are ready for something new.  Try moving a few pieces of furniture or fixtures around in your home and create a bit of feng shui.

It has been said that the movement of 27 items immediately brings new energy, new auras and new points of view.  Wayne Dyer stated, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

While living in this society that demands instant gratification, it is crucial to take the time to become quiet. Listen to that still small voice.  As you become aware of new things, jot them down. Stay open and formulate new plans of action.  Then, glide forward effortlessly like a sailboat on a sunny day and rock on!

Lynn M.                                                          June 30, 2018

 

In the Stillness!

breahe When life is shaking you up and down like a salt or pepper shaker, just stop. Go inside to the center of your power like the eye of a hurricane while things on the outer are being tossed in circles.

Give thanks that you are a witness and not a victim.  If you are able to see or observe it from a distance, then you have a chance to walk away from the shuffle.  Yes, it may cause some discomfort but change is like that because as the adage goes, “No pain, no gain.”

Realize that you are being shaken from your foundation and the old beliefs and thoughts that no longer serve you must go. They have no place in the new and evolving you that is growing and stretching.  New and beautiful islands are formed from unsettling and scary volcano eruptions because Mother Nature knows what she is doing.  Similarly, the oyster’s inner agitation produces that priceless pearl.

So, in the midst of mighty change whether on the world stage or within your own soul, first find a safe space.  Create a breathing room, a reflective spot or a scenic corner where you can find solace for a short time while the outer things continually spin around and around.

Let the storms of life pass over as you become still.  Breathe deeply.  Become centered and take time to remember who you are when nobody is looking or demanding your attention. Reflect on times gone by as you acknowledge and bless them.  It took every nuance and event to shape who you are today. Now, pause.  Salute the new and wonder-filled you that is determined to push right on through!

Lynn M.                                                                                         June 23, 2018

Staying in the Know!

Spanish in 100 DaysEach summer, I take on a project that is new, eclectic and memorable.  Summers are very special to those of us who live in the chilly Midwest.  We have to make the most of this all too brief season.  Outside of getting out to soak up some sun, it’s a great time to learn something new! 

This year I have chosen to learn or shall I say become proficient in speaking Spanish.  Educators that cannot speak Spanish are beginning to feel the effects as our school districts make way for its new little ducklings.  That would be the Spanish-speaking children who in turn need bilingual educators.

In an effort to stay on the cutting edge, I have enrolled in a Spanish class again.  A few years back, I took a two-day workshop called Spanish for Educators. Thank goodness, I kept my detailed notes and teaching tools.  I also pulled out my Spanish-English Dictionary along with a book called Spanish in 100 Days that I had packed away.  I am pooling my former efforts along with the new teaching program because it is truly time to take this venture seriously.

I took French at many different points in my life, but I still cannot converse in French. C’est dommage.  But now as I am writing and learning Spanish words, voila!  It all makes sense because I understand feminine and masculine nouns, pronouns and articles from my years of studying French.

As in life, each experience prepares us for the next thing coming down the pike.  Both are Romantic languages.  Yet, I feel a little guilty when I sound out an s as I pronounce Spanish words because in French, that is a huge no-no!

During this uninterrupted stretch in my life, I plan to hunker down and focus.  When I see my young Spanish-speaking students in the fall, I will be able to say more than hola or adois.  Hopefully, I will feel confident enough to use what I have learned and try to converse with them.  Oh, the joys of staying the know!

Lynn M.                                                           June 16, 2018

Our Souls at Night: Book to Film

Our Souls at night-bookIsn’t nice when a writer leaves a screenwriter some material that he or she can mold and make come to life?  Well, the late Kent Haruf did just that when he wrote Our Souls at Night.  I happened to pick it up from the New Books Shelf at the public library.

The plot is unique where a widow knocks on her neighbor’s door who is a widower and asks him to do something quite unusual.  She, Addie Moore, asks him to come over and spend the nights with her. She admits that the nights are the hardest for her and she simply wants to talk.

Louis Waters, a former high school teacher, is taken aback and quietly contemplates her offer.  They both have been alone for years and ultimately each feels that there is little to lose. So, on the next night, he travels through the alley with his pajamas and a toothbrush in a paperback. He knocks on her back door and thus, the story unfolds.

In the small town where they live, tongues start wagging but they are in their seventies and they are quite oblivious to what others think about their actions. They proceed and share many intimate details of their lives.

She talks about the tragic loss of her young daughter who was hit by a car.  Both her husband and son basically shut down and their marriage suffered along with the loss of any intimacy.  He, on the other hand, had an affair with a school teacher which almost ruined his marriage and did indeed destroy the other woman’s marriage.

Both Addie and Louis continue their new routine and at one point, they decide to make a public showing.  As others gawk, they walk down a main street arm in arm.  Just as they are reveling in their new-found friendship, the unthinkable happens.

Addie’s son calls and says that his wife has abandoned the family and that his finances are in shambles.  He asks her to take in her seven-year old grandson Jamie for the summer. This leaves Louis wondering how and if he will fit into the new scenario.

Fortunately, Jamie is in need of a lot of comfort, so the three of them have a number of experiences that help them bond.  He accepts and gets used to Louis coming over at night; they play catch ball; they go on a hike in the mountains and Louis gets him a dog as a reassuring companion.

And then, crash.  Gene, Addie’s son comes to her house outraged that she is allowing Louis to stay over around his son and things get pretty salty.  It was a prime example of how some people cannot run their own lives, but they still feel the need to control others.

As I was reading the book, I met a woman who saw the cover and told me that Our Souls at Night had been made into a movie.  To my astonishment, not only was it a movie, it starred Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.  Who knew?  I was excited and knew that I had to compare the two after finishing the book.

Souls-movie

Afterwards, I was able to see a blurred version of the 2017 movie on You Tube which I observed closely. The script pretty much followed the book with a few exceptions.  In the book, Louis used a family of mice to entertain little Jamie but the movie chose an electric train set instead.  Also, the movie added a scene which included Louis’ adult daughter Holly.  And most importantly, it minimized the son’s aversion to their union and this made for a much lighter ending.

When I finished the book, I was a bit disturbed because Addie was so vulnerable and was being victimized by her controlling son.  He made her leave her house after she experienced a fall.  She was subjected to him and his yelling wife who had returned home.  Addie had to sneak and call Louis to talk and it made me think of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic ending.

However, the movie’s ending was more tolerable and it left me feeling hopeful.  Yes, she did move in with her son and grandson after having a fall, but in the movie, the wife did not return home. It seemed like a more peaceful living arrangement for the three of them.  And yes, she does call Louis but she does not sneak and it signals a happy continuation of their relationship.

Thank goodness for great writers and thank goodness for optimistic screenwriters who know the importance of leaving their viewers with a good feeling!

Lynn M.                                                         June 9, 2018

June Images!

Splat, splat, kids dash at this and that,
June sun. Free. Hair not in a plait.

Kids can laugh, swim, roam, dance and sing,
No more school bells go ding-a-ling.

Blue skies beacon us all outside,
Much time inside- taken in stride.

Vacation plans neatly unfold,
New stories waiting to be told!

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Lynn M.                                       June 8, 2018

Beam On!

beam

Have you ever felt like you’ve just scaled a mountain?  Or perhaps, you may feel as if you’ve been running like there is no tomorrow?  Either way, at some point, you have to stop and take a station break, so to speak.

And then, you turn and look back and when you see how far you have come, what you were able to do and how far you have moved forward, you simply say, “Wow!”  Then, you can Cash In, the title of a song by the great Phoebe Snow.

You can take all of the chips that you have gathered and as you count the stockpiles, you can hear the cash register ring cha-ching. There are monetary gains yes, but there are so many other assets.  There may be new friendships and associations formed or new skill sets added on as you unconsciously prepare for your next level.

Then you pause again and see that it’s time for a little self-indulgence.  You may not be where you want to be but when you really get still, you can express gratitude and sigh, “It is enough.  I have enough. I am enough.”

So you smile softly knowing that you shot your best shot.  You have let your light shine.   You then take the time to repair your mind, body and soul.  You know that yes, the battles of life have taken their tolls but the rewards are immeasurable.

You realize that every wrinkle was bought with a price along with all of the other changes that come from walking this earth over time.  W. Herbert Brewster, a Southern poet, wrote a poem called “Be Proud of Your Wounds and Scars.” Accepting life as it comes and presents itself, you just beam on quietly knowing that you gave it all you had!

 

Lynn M.                                                                                                             June 2, 2018

Waiting for Godot: A Play

Waitng for Godot

Waiting for Godot is a play that has haunted me over the years.  I first read it in college some years ago and there were times in my life when I too felt like I was waiting for Godot.  When I heard that the Shakespeare Theatre in Chicago was staging it, I felt that I had to see it.  I cannot ever recall hearing about its staging so I immediately bought a ticket.  And even more ideally, it was being shown in the day during the week. That made this enterprise that much more appealing.

Going to Navy Pier on the weekend is a feat in itself and certainly at this time of the year.  So a weekday trip to this busy landmark sounded like a win-win invitation.  The gods were on my side because the day proved to be bright, sunny and dry, a rare gem for the city of Chicago.  Everything fell into place and parking proved to be a breeze to match the picturesque day.

People in the audience were talking and I heard one gentleman say that Samuel Beckett, the playwright, was born in Ireland and later moved to Paris, France.  However, he kept a dual citizenship and Paris was where Waiting for Godot was first staged.  To add to the flavor of the day, the actors were from the Druid Theatre Company out of Dublin, Ireland. Their witticisms and Irish brogues helped set the tone for the play.

I re-read Godot the prior week to refresh my memory and possibly see why I never forgot this play.  It is basically about two men who are waiting by a tree for this mysterious Mr. Godot.  They think that he can save them from their uneventful lives but he never shows up.

I thought of the many times that I thought some other person could bail me out or fix some problem, only to be disappointed. Over and over, I learned that I had to paddle my own canoe.  Or, I discovered that my demigod was in worse shape than I was and could never deliver the goods anyway.

I digress.  In the play, Estragon (Gogo) and Vladimir are two homeless men in tattered clothes.  Their friendship is about all that they have to sustain them.  They contemplate suicide often as they see themselves as insignificant people.  Even a boy messenger who tells them that Mr. Godot is not coming does not remember meeting them from the day before when he came to deliver the same message.

They pass the time to lighten the day and the actors from the Druid Theatre Company chose to act out a few playful antics to add laughter to the otherwise pathos.  At times, they reminded me of a Laurel and Hardy duo as they used various shenanigans to entertain us.

Two other men, Pozzo and Lucky enter the scene by the tree and they bring their own brand of excitement.  Lucky is led by a long rope and is being whipped by Pozzo who is arrogant, abusive and self-righteous.  He is quite proud and thinks rather highly of himself and says that they are trespassing on his property.  He has a few perks like a cigar, meat and a special stool which indicate that he is a wealthy man.

Lucky, on the other hand, shockingly raises his head, after putting on his hat and delivers a long, somewhat nonsensical discourse on mankind. He represents a man who probably was once brilliant but has allowed life to beat him down into servitude.  His level of degradation even shocks Estragon and Vladimir.  They feel that they can at least stand upright and see that they are indeed quite dignified compared to Lucky.

Yet, the next day, these same two characters stumble into their area again and the high-minded Pozzo is now blind and unable to stand without assistance.  He has fallen as low as Lucky and it all happened so quickly which fits the old adage, “Up today, down tomorrow.”

The play ends with Estragon and Vladimir still waiting for Godot.   They vow to bring a rope to hang themselves but they doubt that the small tree can even support them. They continue to wait for Godot to save them or plan to find a way to end it all.

Though I looked up others’ analyses of the play, here is what I think Beckett was saying to us all.  It speaks volumes about the condition of man. Today, we still see those who feel as if their lives don’t matter and have lost all hope; those who sneer down their noses at others only to need their help in a short time and those who have been beaten down so low that they rarely lift their heads to enjoy the sun.  Yet, we know that it can all change rather quickly just as the new leaves appeared overnight on the tree.

As we left the theatre, we mentioned the difference in how the Americans and Irish pronounce Godot- the illusive Godot. This timeless play is a great conversation piece. I am happy to have had the opportunity to see it staged by a group of fine actors.  It was simply astounding on all levels!

Lynn M.                                                                   May 26, 2018

 

 

The Life of the Party: A Movie Review

Mother and Daughter

The Life of the Party starring Melissa McCarthy was a little wild and even a tad risqué but enjoyable.  In the movie, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) returns to college to finish out her last year some twenty years after leaving to get married.  Her husband abruptly asks for a divorce and she is blindsided.  But after brooding, she decides to join her daughter on the campus of her alma mater.

Her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) isn’t thrilled with the idea but after she gives her mom a makeover, Deanna begins to blend in and even becomes a valued part of the younger set.  Through a host of adventures such as partying, drinking, joining a sorority and even making out with a fraternity brother, she soon forgets her woes as she moves ahead to complete her Archaeology degree.

There were quite a few laughs and there were even some great scenes of revenge when Deanna encounters her ex-husband and his intended.  It was a good way to escape into another world and as I was driving home and reflecting on the movie, it dawned on me that there were quite a few similarities to my own life.

At the end of the film, I recalled that my mother and I had also attended college together.  She was a senior and I was a freshman.  I used to say, “Hi, Ma,” in the hallway.  And later, we taught on two of the same college campuses and marched as faculty together.

So, when Deanna and daughter were clothed in their graduation regalia, I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have had such an amazing experience.   During this month of honoring our mothers, I pause and recall the lines from a famous gospel song that say, “Precious memories.  Oh how they linger!”

Lynn M.                                                                                May 19, 2018