I’m an idealist and I must always be

idealistI’m an idealist.  I’m afraid I must be.  For, smack dab in the middle of idealism, there is hope, firmly rooted.

If I say I am committed to pursuing a life centered in love, and since love hopes in all things, then I must continue in the hope that the truest essence of Humanity is found in loving one’s neighbor as one loves one’s self.

We don’t see many examples of this notion in the media on a daily basis. We see images of violence, we hear stories of greed and depravity, and we watch “reality shows” that denigrate and leave little room for hope in our future.

As an artist, part of what I believe I am charged to do in “holding a mirror up to nature” is to show things as they are. But I cannot leave it there. I believe the arts must also, in addition to showing things as they are, give our imaginations a chance to dream about and hope in what could be.

I want to share this video with you. It is a beautiful story that gives me hope in the possibility of what could be and what already is. After I watched it for the first time, I wondered how this story might play out in my own life. What “reality show” could I star in where this type of plot would unfold in its own way?

So, I give you some remarkable story telling. Enjoy!

Plantar Fasciitis? … You must be “defeeted”!

runningfeetI’ve been a runner for a few years now, and nothing smells like poop more than Plantar Fasciitis!  I hate it!  There is no other injury that drags down my training more than this pain in the foot!

I have found something, though, that works wonders, and I wanted to share it with you here.  If you’ve been struggling with this problem, stretching, rolling the bottom of your foot with a golf ball, and plain old resting all work very well to get you on the road to recovery.

But, in order to actually stay on the road while you’re in the midst of a training program for a race, you might want to try taping with this specific type of tape.  It’s called kinesiology tape.

My particular brand of tape is called Rock Tape.  I recommend it, but I would use another brand, too.  I’m not picky about the name.

The trick, though, is the proper application of the tape.  In order for it to be effective, you have to put it on correctly.

This video is a great guide!  Have a look and, if you’re feeling it, tape up and get back out there.  The world awaits!

I’m A Fan Fridays! One word: Dave

Too_Much_JohnsonIf you don’t know me, it won’t take you too long to realize that I’m a huuuuge Dave Matthews fan!  Here’s a great version of a tune that resonates today more than ever.  From Farm Aid, 2003– it’s

Too Much!

Enjoy!!

The person you need is the Bishop of D______.

bishopofDToday is a very significant day for us Americans; there is no question.  We remember the thousands who lost their lives in the terrible attacks twelve years ago, as well we should.  We remember their families and we mourn with them.

If we care to, we might also remember the tens of thousands who lost their lives as a result of the terrible years of war that followed and still trouble us to this day.

“On which side?” you might ask?

“Does it matter?” I might reply.

I’m so tired of war.  I’m so tired of the sadness.  I’m tired of the necessity of yearly memorial services for those who were so tragically taken from us.  I say necessity because they must go on, the memorials.  We must remember.

I’m just so tired of hate.

I was living in Oklahoma City when the bombing happened.  I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was getting ready for my first day of work on a brand new musical in Philadelphia on this day, twelve years ago.  It’s crystal clear in my mind.

Don’t worry.  I’ll never forget where I was on two of the worst days of my life.

But I have not given up on hope.  I have not stopped believing in what I know Humanity is capable of.  I must continue to insist that love will have the final say!

lesmiz

In 1848, Victor Hugo began work on a novel in which he created a character that also refused to give up on humanity.  In his enormous work, Les Miserables (clearly better known today in musical form), Hugo devotes a not so small portion of the beginning of the story to the remarkable, Bishop of Digne.

The Bishop is my favorite character in the story and I’ve been thinking a lot about him, recently.  He is a Roman Catholic priest, but his life is lived out in a manner that has nothing at all to do with his religion.  What I mean is, it is his actions that define him, not a set of beliefs he claims to espouse.

The practice of his life was to hold others above himself, to live as the embodiment of Christ.  You might say, WWJD was his code before it was cool.

Here’s how the narrator describes the Bishop’s philosophy of life:

“There are men who toil at extracting gold; he toiled at the extraction of pity. Universal misery was his mine. The sadness, which reigned everywhere, was but an excuse for unfailing kindness. Love each other; he declared this to be complete, desired nothing further, and that was the whole of his doctrine.”

The Bishop would not give up on Jean Valjean.  He would not give up on Humanity. He would not give up on love.

Love each other, eh?  It seems too simple.

I want to learn how to meet people where they are.  I want to learn to stop taking bad first impressions as the only impressions I’ll ever have of certain people.  I want to learn how to be more like the Bishop.

I want to learn how to love better because I’m tired of hate.

So grateful for such beautiful, beautiful words

I have been fascinated by this new translation of the Haggadah ever since I heard an interview with its translator, Nathan Englander, last year.

Here is one of the most beautiful passages—a prayer of gratitude.  I share it with you today, as I am reminded of how grateful I am for my life, my family, my work, and my friends.

haggadah

“Were our mouths filled with a singing like the sea,

And our tongues awash with song as waves countless,

And our lips lauding as the skies are wide,

And our eyes illumined like the sun and the moon,

And our hands spread out like the eagles of Heaven,

And our feet as fleet as fawns,

Still, we would not suffice in thanking you, Lord God of us and God of our fathers, in blessing your name for even one of a thousand, thousand from the thousands of thousands, and the tens of thousands of times you did good turns for our fathers and for us.”

 

Amen

I’m a fan Fridays!

leeMy youngest brother, Lee, is forty years old today.  That’s right…40!

The big 4 OHHHH…!!

Well, coincidentally, I happen to be a huge fan of him and his music, and, since it’s an “I’m a fan Friday”, I’m going to post one of his songs here for you to enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Lee!  I love you!

My wife is a knitter with a captial K

knitting-handsMy wife loves to knit.  She’s been doing it for about 10 years now.  She even reads knitting blogs!  Two, in particular, are her favorite– The Yarn Harlot and Mason Dixon Knitting. To be honest, it’s gotten to be a bit of an obsession.

She took a trip down to “South Jersey” to meet “The Yarn Harlot” herself a few years ago.  I wasn’t aloud to come.

“Oh, you wouldn’t want to come anyway!”

“Yes I would!  What are you talking about?  I like what you like!  I’m happy when you’re happy!” etc…

I’ve learned a thing or two in the 21 years we’ve been married.

“Well forget it.  This is MY THING!”

“Geeze. Well, alright… You know… have fun.  Call me?”

Anyway, my point is, my wife doesn’t just knit, she’s a “Knitter”.

I hear you asking it right now, “There’s a difference?”

Yes, Virginia, there sure as shootin is! It’s kind of cool, too, to be honest.

She’s great at a whole bunch of things, but she’s about a genius at this! She made this baby blanket for the daughter of our dearest friends and it’s absolutely amazing!  She was able to give something to a child and that child’s family that will be something they will cherish and hold dear for that child’s entire life.  What an impact!

For our daughter’s senior year in high school last year, she knitted this awesome bag.  Our daughter carried it the entire year!

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This year, in preparation to send said daughter off to college, she knitted this pillow of the school’s mascot.

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Awesome, yes?

She taught me how to knit a few years ago; basic stuff, of course.  A friend of ours from church had lung cancer, so I decided to knit him a scarf.  I finished it for him and gave it to him in the winter.  He died in the spring.  I cried a lot.

A few years back, my wife knitted a shawl for her dear friend who was also a Knitter and who also had cancer.  The woman loved the shawl and wore it often.  She died too.

I guess all we can really do in this life is try our best to make the moments we have count as best we can.  My wife is good at that.

I want to be like her.

 

I love what I get to do!

lovewhatyoudoCliché…

“If you do something you truly love, you’ll never work another day in your life.”

I complain about clichés, sometimes; mostly because I think we use them to generalize things that can’t really be generalized.  (I’m the guiltiest of all!)

Maybe I could try to be a little more specific…

“If you do something that puts to use your own, special and unique talents in a way that connects with other humans on the planet and contributes something positive to the world, you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Yeah, mine’s a bit more long-winded.  (I can get like that– making things more complicated than they have to be.)  But, I think it makes a difference here.  Doing something you love is awesome, who doesn’t like to do things they love, but what difference does it make?

Seeking out a living where your true talents are on display and people’s lives have the potential to be changed for the better because they encountered you is what we really need to be teaching our children.

No child left behind?  Ok, great. So, why are we leaving so many behind?

Math and Science are extremely important, but how much are we leaving out when that becomes all that matters?  What kind of adults are we making out of our children?  Do they have a purpose?  Are they doing what they were born to do?

It’s not an easy thing to find that career “sweet spot” where you’re full on doing what you love all the time, and I know plenty of people who say, “We can’t always get what we want out of our lives.”

To them I say, “What is it, actually, that you want?”

I know what I want to do for a living: to connect with people in truly meaningful, and potentially life-altering ways when using my God-given talents to the best of my ability.

That’s what I want.  It doesn’t always show up the same way, nor is it an easy pursuit, but on the occasion when all cylinders are firing and the magic is happening, it feels just right.

It feels like this…

 

A Labor Day labor…who’s remotely ready?

mikaelaandme3It was late summer, 1994.  I had just closed an amazing run of “Grand Hotel” and was about to open as John Adams in a beautiful production of “1776” directed by my good friend, Erick Devine.

Malisa and I had been married for two years and things were moving ahead brilliantly, just like we had planned.  She was finishing up her undergraduate studies and I had one more year of graduate school.  Then it was off to New York City!  We weren’t even remotely ready for what happened next.

When Malisa showed me the test strip with the matching red plus signs, I just stood there.  So did she.  This was not in the plan right now.  In a few years, sure, but not now.  We weren’t ready.

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Cut to late summer, 2013…

I’m sitting on the beach in Delaware, looking down to the water and watching my now 18 year old daughter splash in the waves.  I want to get up, run down and hug her.  I want to pick her up and swing her around like I used to do when she was four.  She’s still small enough for me to do it, but I won’t; too embarrassing! (“You’re so weird!!”)

I’m trying not to pay any attention to the date.  If I do, I’ll realize that we’ll be dropping her off at camp (ok, college.  There, I said it!) in less than two weeks.  Of course I’d seen this day coming, but I wasn’t even remotely ready for what happened next.

mikaelaandme2

Cut to two days ago…

The university she’s attending is only an hour away; one hour, door to door.  It’s nothing to blubber about.  She’s ready.  She’s going to do amazing things in college and in her life.  I’m incredibly proud of the woman she’s become, and I have no reservations about her readiness to leave the nest.  It’s nothing to do with that.

Nobody tells you when you’re learning to change your firstborn’s diaper that one day, when the time comes to let her go, you’ll miss a dear friend.

At every stage of her life, there would be someone older than me who would see us together and would stop me and say, “This is THE greatest age!  It was my favorite age with our daughter!”  People would say that virtually every year.  I took that in and really tried to appreciate every stage of life as she was going through it.  Admittedly, not every stage was a favorite of mine, but that’s life, it’s always going to have its ups and downs

So it was, with all of those stages behind us, and a brand new stage right in front of us, that I gave her one last hug before getting into the car and watching her wave goodbye in the rear-view mirror.

There was nothing else to do but leave.  I’m just in the way, now.  I realized that it was what I was destined to do all those years ago.  My job was to get her to the stage she’s in right now and, truth be told, it’s my favorite.  But, I used to say that virtually every year.

I seem to remember someone once saying something along the lines of, “Just when your children get to the age where they’re actually interesting, it’s time for them to leave home.”

Well, my daughter has been more than interesting at every stage of her growing up with us, and she’s given me more treasures to store up in my heart than a man should be allowed.

I was ready when it was time for her to take her first steps and say her first word (which was “Daddy”, btw!).  I was ready when it was time for her to go off to kindergarten.  I was ready for middle school and high school.

I’m just not sure there was anything I could have done to be remotely ready for what happened next.

I’m a fan Fridays!

BG-Im-a-FanI’ve decided that on Fridays from now on, I’m going to post something from YouTube, or some other site, that I’m a fan of; something I think is awesome.  Most likely, it will have something to do with the performing arts, but don’t hold me to that.  Who knows what I might be moved by?  That’s what makes it awesome!

So, let’s start with this…

James Taylor and Yo Yo Ma playing a George Harrison piece of brilliance.  Anyone else a fan?  Enjoy