What does it mean to be rich? By most standards, being rich means that a person has an abundance of things like houses, cars, boats, planes and access to loads of cash. Yet, as recently seen in the media, an abundance of things do not necessarily bring those lasting treasures such as joy, contentment and peace.
Some have traveled the world over yet they still have a continual need to keep grasping at the straws. They still want more like an insolent child who screams to get his or her way. They continue to spend their assets and use their resources to get or do more, failing to realize that oftentimes, less truly is more.
Paul wrote about Christ and said, “though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.” (II Corinthians 8:9) And how did he become rich in his poverty? The poor often have an increased wisdom and understanding. They know what it feels like to be in pain so in turn they are able to share compassion with others.
The poor have walked in meekness and humility after they realized that they could not force change. They have learned to wait until the tide changes, as it surely will. During their wait, they have grown in patience. Like an astute farmer, they have become attuned to nature and its timings.
Yes, the poor are well-seasoned in long-suffering yet unconsciously they have become richer as their inner peace expands beyond measure. In a quiet, yet watchful grace, the poor become witnesses to the passing of the material things as they cling to their faith and a more spiritual assuredness.
Ultimately, hope floats to the top and sure enough others reach out to them. They want to garner a few moments in the presence of the poor to feel their richness of spirit though it is often a mystique. The humble poor are often well-loved because they have successfully found those real treasures of life blanketed around their inner joy!
My first encounter with the whole concept of mail-order brides was when I saw Glenn Close and Christopher Walken in the movie Sarah, Plain and Tall. I didn’t know about this piece of Amercan history. I later picked up the book by Patricia MacLachlan to get an added perspective from the original writer.
Just think of the risks taken by both the man ordering the bride and the brave woman who traveled during the stagecoach days to meet a total stranger. In this piece, they both agreed to keep their vows and often life in the West was so challenging that they rarely had time to really get to know each other.
Remembering the gruffness of Christopher Walken, one would wonder if love was ever a part of the deal. Gwen Close was busy learning the harshness of the Western plains and raising his children. What a life! Yet when Close was almost lost in a storm, I believe he realized how much he valued and treasured her presence.
Recently, I visited my local library and picked up a book called Beneath the Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer. I was drawn to its cover and did not realize that it was about mail-order brides until I started reading the book.
It is 1888 in Spiveyville, Kansas. Over sixteen men have paid a fee for a mail-order bride and are waiting for their arrival from Newton, Massachusetts. However, when they go to meet the stagecoach, only two women get out. They are the owner, Helena Bingham and her assistant, Abigail Grant.
The men are shocked and dismayed and even more so when they discover the plans of these Eastern women. The men must take a variety of classes in etiquette so that they will know how to treat a lady. Of course, they are outraged, but with the Sherriff’s protection of the women, the prairie men soon comply and go along.
Needless to say, there are a few bumps in the road and the women’s stay is unexpectedly lengthened. The women have to put their airs and hoity-toity ways on the back burner as they are forced to dig in and find ways to survive prairie life.
The men soften some too and the classes get underway, until the unthinkable happens. Helena Bingham, the owner of the matchmaking business, disappears. Everyone puts their aside their warring ways and aid in the search for her.
Will Helena Bingham be found alive? Will the men complete their classes on etiquette? And most importantly, will their brides that they have paid for arrive from the East? Get this book and watch the sparks fly up and see where they land!
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!
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 Gaye. I 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!
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