Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Talk! Talk! Talk!

Being off of work this week, I see the growing trend for 2011. Just as Oprah is leaving her talk-show after all these years, the "panel" talk-show is taking over the airwaves. Now this is nothing new - The View has been doing it for years and there was even a male version of that show that didn't quite take off, but there seems to be a boom of them now. The Talk has taken on CBS (with a different collection of female views.) Chelsea Handler does it to start her show, but only to have comics sitting around talking about current events. Bill Maher has done it for years on his show to discuss politics. (Even Oprah did it on her Friday live shows.) But now, even the 30 minute entertainment shows are giving us panels to talk over each other...I mean give their opinions. Chit-Chat took over Extra (to let us know they have an online version we can check out) and The Insider has different people sitting around a table to discuss a topic for about 15 seconds at a clip. (It's hard enough to let one person report during that time, try having five different opinions wanting to be heard.) 
I do look for this to continue into the new year and I suppose Barbara Walters should feel honored to be copied, but I wonder if it's producers not wanting to take the chance on a single person or if the public is really calling for this. It seems to add to the overall attention span of our country. We need multiple stimulation and how better to get that on a talk show than by having people scream over each other to get their point of view across? I long for the day when Donahue could do an entire hour on his own and hold our attention. But in an era where many of us get our news in under 30 seconds from an online source, I suppose going from one loud voice to another to be contrary just for the sake of ratings is the sensory overload of 2011.   

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Snow Can Go

New Jersey backyard
My age is starting to show. I'm not as forgiving as I used to be. I don't enjoy the loud booming of music from cars that I pass on the road. And most importantly - my bones can't take the cold. Now you would think someone with as much padding around their bones as the namesake of this blog would always be warm (and I do run hot when inside my warm house), but I just can't take the bitterness outside. I've lived in the North now for 23 years and with each winter, I turn to my other half and beg to migrate south. We talk about it, we dream of other places - but we've yet to make that huge move. Now I know that if I were somewhere in the South, I'm certain I would complain about the hot summers, but with the wind chill in single digits this morning - that sounds like heaven. I noticed as this ' After Christmas Blizzard' they were calling for started to become a reality yesterday that my mood changed drastically. And I became...well...sort of nutty. Call it seasonal mood swings or whatever you will. All I know is that while others could see the beauty of God putting a white blanket over everything (and yes - for a split second, I saw it), I was thinking about the feeling of being trapped by that cloak. The thought of shoveling it all out. The cold that pierces your body while you have to be out in it and the amount of time it takes to warm back up. And how hard it is for this fat man to breathe in the layers of clothes and strenuous work of shoveling. Perhaps I should see it as an opportunity to use the winter months to shed the 60 pounds I need to lose. But I'm sure if I did, winter would still be the time of the year that I'd love to visit at a log cabin someplace, but not live in. 
Happy digging out Tri-State and New England. Those that live here have been used to the ritual for years.   

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Looking Back

I know it's time to be having parties and enjoying the holidays, but I can't help but use it as a time of reflection too. Eight years ago this past weekend, my father passed away from heart disease at an early age. I think of how much has gone on in our lives since then...and how much he's missed. I have a brother serve a tour of duty in Iraq and get married during that time, a mother who has moved into a new home - done some traveling even after two knee surgeries and continues to work daily, a sister who raised two girls through their teenage years beautifully and who has followed her own dreams of constantly performing - and I have had several changes in those 8 years as well.  
           In '06 I completely switched careers.  In '08 I got married and started down the path of fiction writing after years of writing musicals and managed to get about 12 stories/poems published.  Every day I look in the mirror I see my father. Yes, I have my mom's grandfather's nose - but I see my dad in how my hair wants to part, the amount of chins I have managed to get, and the small dark spots that pop up around my neck (thanks, Dad!) :-)  I know how proud he would be of all of us if he were here today. 
           Instead of looking at what I constantly have NOT achieved (which I am so good at doing) - this season I want to think about all that I have accomplished and how much more is left for me to do. Time for me to be more positive in my endeavors and take time to enjoy each victory that happens. I challenge you all to do the same and have a very Merry Christmas with your family and friends!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Christmas Star

Two years ago, I wrote this piece for the online magazine Rancor'd Type and it is still listed on the site Home & Holidays, but I wanted to share it again this season. We were asked to recall a Christmas memory and this one stuck with me for years.
So many people can recall their first Christmas pageant - re-enacting the nativity scene right in front of the entire church congregation.  Everyone vying to be the angel, one of the wise men or the true leads: Mary or Joseph.   I was only in second grade, but I knew I wanted a large role.  And God would forgive me for having used our plastic Mary & Joseph – you know, the ones that live on the front lawn through all of the Christmas season – for the previous holiday, Halloween.  Yes, a simple sheet over both of them and a rope made for amazing ghost hanging from the tree.  But here we were standing in front of the woman who had volunteered to direct the motley crew of children through the monumental task.  

As she passed out roles to all the children, starting with those whose parents were deacons or gave the most money to the church, I watched as the good parts all dwindled away: past the shepherds, the angels…and even the animals.  No, I was assigned to carry the star that would lead the wise men to our savior on his birth. 
Though my initial reaction was angst over losing out on a juicy character role, I soon came to realize the magnitude of importance that had been bestowed upon me.  The angel may be leading the shepherds to the baby, but I was the one leading the angel on her way!  I set out working with my parents on the most amazing star you had ever seen.  Rolls of aluminum foil were wrapped around and around a cardboard cutout that was then attached to a broom stick so that my star could ride high in the sky as I walked down that aisle of the church.   I would carry that star down the street to practice the length of the church to make sure my seven- year-old arms wouldn’t get tired.
Then came the big dress rehearsal where all the children were called in to rehearse together two nights before the program.  That was the moment my world came crashing down. Little did I know there were two other children assigned to carry the star and a bigger, three-pole-star had been created so that each of us had a stick to hang on to.  I was crushed. Not because I wasn’t alone, but because we would not get to use the star I had created with my parents.  They assured me this was better to carry it with two other boys so that we each could burden some of the load.  These boys weren't in the pageant to be serious. They were there to play.  I was placed on the middle pole and the two of them would let go of their stick, walk along the side of me…sometimes singing, and sometimes not.
This star outweighed my small foil star by pounds and pounds, but I struggled and made sure that star made it to the manger and that those wise men knew where they were going – even if my fellow star boys didn't seem to care if the gifts ever made it to Jesus.  You know, it was probably then when I realized that when I grew up I would want to be a director.  I wouldn't surprise my cast with last-minute added poles on a star and I would make sure everyone carried their own weight when on stage.   I do remember the feeling of pride I had from the church congregation applause as we walked the aisle and a spot light shined brightly on the top of our star.  And every time I now direct a show as an adult, I think back to that endless role of aluminum foil and wonder what kind of work my actors must be doing to create their own characters at home.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Driving the Internet

The "Superhighway"

It’s finally happened. A recent survey by Forrester Research, Inc. has shown that the past five years, the amount of time Americans spend on the internet has doubled and now ties with the television in actual hours spent doing both. While I’d love to get on a soap box and be able to say “what has happened to the old days when we actually did more physical activity” – I really can’t say that. Those that read this blog know the most activity I get is walking from my car to my office desk. Yes, as I child I would go outside and play in the yard with the neighborhood kids, but I also can name you just about every television show from the 70s, proving that I spent many an hour in front of the big box as well.  And now, as an adult – I am always on the internet. (I’m there now typing this blog.) I do my banking online. I do shopping. I interact with family and friends. I buy theatre and concert tickets. I get my news sent to me on my iPhone before I ever hear it on the evening television news. I research numerous topics for stories and books that I write. 

While the survey shows the two in a tie, I’d probably have to say that I spend more hours on the internet than I do in front of the TV. Technology has truly changed our lives. I spent thirteen years in Corp America – in the IT department - creating computer applications to assist others in doing their jobs more thoroughly. I can recall my first computer and waiting for the dial-modem to connect. Now I get impatient if it takes more than 2 seconds for a page to load. And it’s hard to even think of a time before cell phones. 21 years ago today, my oldest niece was born and I was at a production of The Nutcracker in NYC. But there was no cell phone in my pocket on vibrate waiting for a call. I was going to an actual pay phone checking in to see if she had arrived and actually called Texas at intermission to talk to my sister. 

Our lives have changed so much over the past twenty years. It’s sometimes mind-boggling to think of how quickly it has all gone. Makes me think that watching Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and all those movies “set in the distant future” back when I was a child really wasn't that far a stretch.  Every day technology takes us one step closer to that reality. What we used to call the information superhighway is a very, very busy place that more and more of my generation is finding a place to cruise rather than getting in a car and going somewhere. (And at the gas prices today: who could afford the drive?)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Will a Unibrow Make YOU aware of your favorite Cause?

I am just as guilty as the next person (if we want to use the word guilty) of bringing attention to different causes in strange and unique ways. I changed my Facebook profile picture to a cartoon last week for child abuse awareness, I've worn red on Worlds AIDS day, I drive with an autism ribbon on my car, I've signed up on many anti-bullying websites - and yes, I even do the tried and true and give money to different organizations. There is literally a color, logo, or slogan for just about every organization, disease or campaign one could imagine. 

While some of the things out there can be categorized as silly/fun games (women's status lines on Facebook about where they like it for breast cancer awareness or their bra color) - others are genuinely smart marketing tools to bring attention and focus to any given cause that is near and dear to people's hearts.    
Last month I thought the mustache growing exercise for men was a cleaver way to raise awareness AND money for prostate cancer. But now, December has brought us one that screams someone has too much time on their hands. The unibrow for women.  They haven't even attached it to a cause - choose a cause they tell you! Just stop being feminine and grow that bush on your face.

While I applaud creativity of all kinds, sometimes I think people need to evaluate their reasons for doing something. Is it just to say "check out my great marketing skills" or is it really to give people insight into a cause they may know little about?  

Monday, December 6, 2010

Books As Children

I love to read writer's blogs: the trials and tribulations authors must endure to get something published. It makes me feel as if I'm not alone in this vast sea of the publishing world. People will ask the old question "do you write out of love or do you write to get published?" I always thought I had just had one story in me - a story that took me years to finish. My original goal was to simply publish that one on my own and call it a day. But an editor who worked on it told me in no uncertain terms to not self publish. He believed in the piece and still feels someone out there will not shy away from the subject matter.  

But after working on that story, another grew from my mind and another and another until I'm looking down at four different novels on the hard drive of my computer, collecting technical dust while they await finding that perfect person that will say "I must publish this!" Granted, only two of the four have seen the light of day and made their way out into the world, but I continue to work on the others while the first two children have left the nest in search of a home. And at times, story ideas will pop in my head that are right for a short story and I'll write those and send off to some magazine or literary place that publish such a thing. But it is the children - the four that speak in their own voice and have taken on personalities of their own that I still feel most proud. And like a parent, I can't choose one over another. They each speak to a different place in my life/my mind - and hold a dear place in my heart. 

I often wonder if/when I do get them published, will it all seem strange to me because the writing process on each will seem like a lifetime ago or will I feel a fresh renewed surge in their lives because people will start to see and critique my children. I guess I can't answer that question until the day arrives - and every day I say a little prayer that I'm getting that much closer to the day my kids will graduate.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

As the world sets this day aside to bring attention to the global epidemic of AIDS, I still think about how it continues to play a huge part in the lives of Americans living with HIV every day. Sometimes it seems as if the media and others have grown weary of the disease and choose to no longer report on those adults and children still fighting the disease and the scientist who are working to eradicate it. Each time I hear of someone else we have lost to the disease (yes, people are still dying from  it) I myself find it hard to believe it has been a part of the fabric of our lives for so long. But it's not over. Keep it vocal on more than just one day. 

I wrote this poem a few years ago - but it still rings true today.  

One day.

One day of 365 to ponder
This deadly disease.
A disease that has grown
Over a twenty-five-year life span.
Many still dying an inhuman death,
While others live
With a daily reminder-
In the form of multi-colored pills.
Stigma severely secured to those
Who can afford the medication
As well as the numerous people
That do not have the money
To pay for this life support.
Labels attached to each person
Who fights the battle-
Secretly or out in the open.
Hatred has not subsided
For those who now call it
A “manageable disease.”
They still live with
Stares and misunderstanding.
One day.
One day of many in the lives of those
Living and dying.

Monday, November 22, 2010

History Can Be Closer Than You Think

People that know me know that I love to travel. Seeing different places, cultures – the history and stories that are trapped inside the architecture of buildings. Witnessing how different people live. The past two years I have traveled the Baltic Sea to Russia, The Mediterranean to Egypt and Israel and have been in awe over images I have seen. Trying to wrap my brain around dates of ancient cities buried beneath the soil because our country is so relatively new that I can’t comprehend such things. (I’ve always thought of history as traveling to Boston or Philadelphia.)

Well I owe the U.S. an apology because even if we don’t have the same amount of years, there is still plenty of beauty to be found across our country that God has supplied through nature. I think back to my travels down the Appalachians to Ashville, the beauty of Mackinac Island in Michigan and family trips as a child to Pikes Peak in Colorado. And yes, we even have history in the streets of New York as you look at old buildings and think back to how things were at the turn of the past century. 

This weekend, I thought of history as I walked through Ocean Grove and Asbury Park on the Jersey shore. I’ve always been a snob about the Jersey Shore (thinking it is the awful show that MTV has given us.) But the Grove offers rows of Victorian homes and the boardwalk has its own history of the numerous feet that have trod those boards – and once again, people are working to bring it back to life in Asbury. (The old carousel building is still wonderful to look at and I personally love that a theatre company is using it as a place to present live theatre where children once rode round and round on colorful carousel horses.) 

So it’s time I give America another try and do more travels within our own country. Yes, I traveled it back in my early twenties while on tour for a show - but I obviously didn't retain as much from that period as I should have. New Orleans next summer (where I’ve never been) and perhaps go to more places in the west as well. One shouldn’t write off their own backyard so quickly – and Jersey: please remind people that we do offer some nice spots in our state that having nothing to do with the stereotypes that are shown on television.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

National Un-Friend Day

Jimmy Kimmel is calling tomorrow NUD (National un-friend day) on facebook. It got me thinking about a letter I wrote last fall and submitted to a few papers: but never was picked up as I am no Jimmy Kimmel. I do, however,  include my year old letter as today's blog in honor of Mr. Kimmel. 

Open Letter to Facebook Friends:

Isn't the internet an amazing place? With a click of a button - we can reconnect with people we would never see without getting on a plane and flying to them. We can see photos of their children, what they look like after 20+ years and try and play catch up in a quick email -to bullet point those important events in our lives.  We can chat with family members miles and miles away or read what someone we might see on a regular basis is eating for dinner.  Facebook has become the social networking site for the “Thirty-Somethings” and older to try and recapture that favorite moment from high school or reach out to a broader group of friends that share our same interests.  

But that is one of the things we should remember. Just because we grew up on the same street or used to sit across from each other in the cafeteria in school doesn't necessarily mean we are the same people we were back then.  Times change and hopefully, so do people as we grow into the adults we have all become.  This also means there are greater chances that we have grown apart in our beliefs, values, and who we are as people.
I think it is time to take stock of what we have created on the world-wide-web and play clean up in our Facebook friends folders.  It shouldn't be about the quantity of names we can assemble in this virtual world.  It should be about the quality of people we chose to surround ourselves with.  To build us up when we are down.  Pick us up when we fall.  And yes, make a jab now & then to keep us grounded in who we are. 

For that reason, I invite those people who have “friend-ed” me to use this week to decide if I am the correct person to have on your list of friends and if not - by all means, de-friend me.  There is no harm: no foul.  I won't feel hurt or upset.  We shouldn't feel guilty about clicking on a link that cuts a tie to a past that just maybe...should have stayed in the past; even if it were fun to catch up with each other when we first came across each other’s name and face on that big blue screen.  Make the coming weekend the time to clean your own personal "virtual world" by removing those people who you believe should be removed.  And in another five years - you can send a simple email if you really want to find out where they are at that point in their lives.  

To quote a non Facebook-friend, "maybe the honeymoon of Facebook has finally worn off" - but I may just have to pick up the phone to find out what that friend is making for dinner tonight.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Amazon: A River of Self-Published Books

Many people are weighing in on the decisions made by Amazon this week and while I am utterly sickened by the content around the book in question – it has me thinking about other ramifications that could come out of this. There has been a long standing debate over self-published books in general: both novels and non-fiction. While the past five years has seen a growth spurt in self–published books (many of which run straight to Amazon’s digital services as they offer the best % of return for authors), there has always been a question about who is reviewing/editing/signing-off on these books. 

I read all the time and I’ve read both books published by large publishing houses and even some that are self-published that I can download to my kindle. And I’ve enjoyed (and sometimes detested) both sets. Just because an editor is behind something doesn’t always mean it’s going to be the best book to come around. But the fury over Amazon’s decision to place the right to ‘make a buck’ over the right to ‘make a moral decision’ will most likely turn people away from the self-published books that already had a stigma attached to them. (Even though not all publishing houses still employ full time editors to work with every author they bring through their doors.) 

I have submitted novels to several small publishing houses & most of which tell you what they will and will not print. (Pedophilia, bestiality, gratuitous sex scenes are just a few of the “not allowed” topics I've seen.) Getting a publisher is difficult at best. It all depends on what your writing, who your audience is, and if someone will be willing to pay for that book before a publisher can champion it. 

I’ll be curious to see what kind of changes this debacle will put in store for the hundreds of writers out there who actually write quite well, but are unable to get that break of a publishing house. Thanks to Mr. Greaves – the outlet they have formerly had may not be as available to them in the future. And if they are writing a fiction book or memoir that deals with gruesome details of an awful childhood – those authors may be thinking twice before sharing such incidents. I suppose it all remains to be seen how this will play out for struggling writers who actually have stories to share and not despicable ‘how-to’ novels on evading the law.  

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gotta Have Faith

I recently returned from Rome, Italy where I visited the Colosseum and stood where history could literally be felt in the rocks. As a Christian, I thought what it must have been like to be sent into that vast ring in the center of the structure to be killed because of one’s beliefs during the Reign of the Roman Empire.  To be feed – still alive - to a lion so they could pull your muscles away from your bones and die a slow painful death. Last year I traveled to Amsterdam and was able to walk through the very house where Anne Frank and her family hid for two long years while those around them were being persecuted simply because they were Jewish. 
And then to think how she almost made it through that horrible time, only to be discovered and led off to a concentration camp herself.   

I grew up in the South and really only knew Christians until I did a production of Fiddler on the Roof in 9th grade and met my first Jewish person. Once I moved to NYC, I took a religion course in college and began to study other people’s faiths.  People’s attitudes towards those that are different from them, based on their belief system began to baffled me. It demonstrates yet one more instance where we as humans are incapable of tolerance.

In the past ten years, we have heard the word ‘Muslim’ more and more and as a religion, it has grown as one of the largest three in America. As I watch our president journey to other countries and discuss Muslims (while he continues to dodge jabs about himself being a Muslim), it got my mind to thinking. How hard must it be for those who are simply trying to live by their faith to exist when there are extremist who bring shame upon all of them? I’ve never thought it was right to blame (persecute) a whole based on a subset: but we do it all the time.

I wonder if I will ever live to see a time when those of different faiths allow room for each other. I sort of doubt it. Religious wars have been going on throughout time. It’s just a shame that no matter where you travel, someone is always quick to speak ill towards another groups faith. (I saw my own tour guides doing it while in Israel.) At least there, I was able to ponder some of the teachings of Jesus: those that all Christians should think about each day before we go casting stones.       

Monday, November 8, 2010

Free to Be

I applaud when someone wants to be an individual and not conform to society. This is not an easy thing for anyone to do – due to peer pressure, religious beliefs, etc. But when a child who has not fully been tainted by what others say is acceptable does it: WOW!  Recently a blog has been circulating on the internet about a mother who allowed her son to dress up on Halloween as a girl character from Scooby Doo – because it was the child’s favorite character. Naturally it started some sort of debate about gay issues, but I do not believe this has anything to do with homosexuality.

Children play dress up. That’s what they do. Parents (hopefully) encourage creativity and imagination. And kids will eventually grow out of this playtime (unless they go into the theatre, but that’s another story.) There have been books and movies written on the subject and few of them get into the gender confusion debate. The movie Bruno (released to DVD as The Dress Code) had a boy saying he got his power from his dress, much as the Pope does at the Vatican. (There are many religions where men continue to wear – what the normal eye would call a “dress.”)

Another mother has written a book celebrating the fact that her son was so different that he likes to play dress up – not showing fear and angst over the fact that he believes he is a ‘princess boy’ when he was told boys cannot be a princess.

My mother was in early childhood development for other thirty years  - and still works as a ‘foster grandparent’ in a kindergarten class every day. I grew up hearing what she witnessed in her classroom daily.  Little boys and little girls go play in the area of the room called ‘home living’ and will dress up like mom and dad.  And sometimes (heaven forbid) the little boys will pick up a doll and walk around with it. (Something they may very well be doing if they ever become fathers.) These are normal behaviors and it would be wonderful if adults could not get so worked up looking for a deeper meaning. 

Think back to the 70s when Marlo Thomas said it was okay to be who we wanted. Let kids be kids. Love them. Celebrate them. And let them be creative.  That child may end up being a designer, architect, actor, teacher or the CEO of a company one day. That’s the wonderful thing. You just don’t know what they’ll become. But stifling creativity at an early age will not allow their minds to roam free later in life when that very creativity may be what puts money in their bank and most importantly - brings them joy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writing in Fall

Each November, the has a "write a novel in a month" challenge. Last year, I took that challenge and won. (Winning doesn't constitute anything except that you actually wrote 50,000 words during the 30 days - but it's a confidence booster.) 

I used that as a starting point, continued with numerous edits through the winter and spring and my novel Patchwork of Me was born. That novel is now sitting in the hands of a few publishers trying to find a home. 

This is a great organization that not only encourages writers, but creates a network of people that authors can check in with so you don't feel that 'you are alone." Writing is such a lonely art form that it is very helpful to have others to turn to when you just need a pick-me-up. It's also a great way to challenge yourself to get your wheels moving. Recently, I hit a wall with my latest novel, but something happened when I returned from my vacation. Something about the fall air outside got my juices flowing in my brain and I'm happy to say I am back in full swing this week. My body clock may be off (causing me to wake at strange times in the night) - but those hours awake have been put to good use with listening to my characters drive my story along. 

To all those taking the challenge again this year: I say kudos to you! It's only early in the month and you can do it if you put your mind to it. Write! Write! Write!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

Today my mind is all about a certain boy that turned nine years old. He is just like any other child who gets to spend the day hearing the sounds of “happy birthday” shouted as he walks down the hall of his school. He will be opening presents and reveling in the knowledge that sweets will be a part of his birthday dinner as well. This nine year old is my godson – and I am so proud to see all that he has become. 

Several years ago, I wrote the following poem about him:  

Today my godson looked me in the eye. 
We had a connection like never before. 
No, he's not a baby who is finally noticing the world. 
He is three years old. 

My godson has his own world he lives in. 
Most times, people are not allowed to visit. 
There is happiness in his world and confusion as well. 
I'm sure he wonders why we can't all understand what he's going through. 

They say there are many forms of autism. 
e loves to recite the same things over and over. 
It's a thrill when I can interject a new word into his
Running monologue and hear him repeat it. 
It means I somehow was invited in for that very short moment. 

I have no idea what is in store for him down the road. 
There is growth and changes every day. 
But for a moment, he actually stopped and looked me deep in the eye 
as if to acknowledge he knew I was there and that he was there too. 
My heart melted.

Now, these six years later – it is amazing to see him coming into his own. He still sees the world through his own filter, but I’ve been able to witness his incredibly smart mind as he sits and does homework; the joy he brings to those around him when he engulfs them in his laughter; the happiness he possesses in living the routines that keep him balanced. From horseback riding, to karate to eating red velvet cake at his favorite restaurant – he is just like every other nine year old who experiences all the world has to offer.  Happy birthday, Gabe!    

Monday, November 1, 2010

Back to Life

I just returned from an amazing vacation – one of those ‘once in a lifetime things’ that I could go on and on about seeing the Roman Coliseum, the Pyramids of Egypt or standing in the stable where Jesus was born in Bethlehem…but instead I chose to discuss those moments we notice when we return home.

There are several factors that play into your return experience (length of time away, location you went, etc) – and maybe these are just things that happen to me – but I wanted to share a list that jumped out at me.

     1. About two days before vacation is over, my mind returns long before my body and I began to list the things I need to accomplish once I return.
      2. Walking in your house after being away for more than two weeks and everything just ‘looks & feels’ different from the hotel room/cruise ship statement you've called 'home'.
      3. Remembering there is no milk in the fridge for breakfast and either you or your spouse has to draw straws to see who is going to go to the store.
      4. Creating that pile of dirty clothes as you unpack and the realization that you and only you will be doing that laundry. (Along with the towels you can no longer throw on the bathroom floor expecting someone else to pick them up.)
      5. Using your real toothbrush instead of the travel toothbrush.  Awwwww.
      6. Never noticing how much junk mail you really receive until it’s all there in one pile.
      7. Getting behind the wheel of your car after being escorted around on tour buses and taxis during your vacation – but like a bike, you pick it right back up with no problems.
      8. Like a fool, deciding to return on Halloween night when all you want to do is go to bed and all the neighborhood children are laughing and screaming outside your window - so you turn off all your lights so they will not ring your doorbell.      
      9. The weather. Just a few days ago I was in shorts and running the air conditioner in my stateroom on a cruise ship every day – only to return to the coldest morning New Jersey has seen this season.  Ouch!
     10. The trees that I swear were still wearing their leaves when I left decided to let go of them and several found a nesting place on my car windshield.  Watching them blow off the car this morning on my way to work reminded me once again that vacation (and warm weather) was truly over.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It Gets Better

The string of suicides by the gay youth in America is disturbing and heart breaking on so many levels. That someone could feel that much despair and sense of life not getting better is mind boggling to adults. Even though it has been years since I was in high school, I still can remember how those moments felt as if they were the most important times in my life. As if nothing would ever be as huge as decisions made then. No matter what adults told me then - you couldn't get me to believe otherwise. I applaud so many people taking pledges online and making videos telling youth how it will "get better", but when you're living it alone in a state in the middle of the country - Hollywood actors telling you to hold tough feels a million miles away.

It definitely got me thinking back to my school days. Things were very different in the 80s. Someone could write your name on a bathroom wall and call you something bad, but we didn't have the internet so that a video of you could get thousands of 'hits.' In those respects, today's youth have it so much worse than we did then. But I also didn't have the internet to connect to other teens struggling with their sexuality and the issues I was facing. Like today's youth: I felt alone and completed isolated. The outside world saw me as the carefree, fun-loving guy that marched to the beat of his own drummer - at times acting crazy and being an 'individual' (and I'm sure many of them called me all sorts of names behind my back) - but inside, it was a fearful place as I believed the feelings I had were wrong. My church told me it was. Society told me it was wrong. There were no gay people on television letting me know I was normal. I would find myself hiding in the public library trying to read up on books about homosexuality - never checking them out due to fear. I came from a family that would discuss anything and everything - but that topic was off limits in my mind. I wasn't about to share it with anyone.

And then my sophomore year of high school, while working in a community theatre production - an adult reached out with a lifeline that blew me away. I knew the man was gay so I would constantly ask him questions until he felt the need to write me a letter about homosexuality. The letter said he could tell I was dealing with it (from my questions) and the three page letter answered many questions for me about my feelings behind being gay. Most importantly, he assured me that no matter what: God loved me. No matter what others said and the fear that filled my brain - I should hang on to that. I kept that letter hidden under my mattress all through high school; at times pulling it out for reassurance. I never know what became of him nor did he ever know what that one act of kindness did for a scared young Christian who was afraid of 'what he was becoming.' But it meant the world to me. That letter was my "it will get better" video - long before they were making them and I only hope I can do the same for someone now. One youth. One at a time. If adults could find at least one teen to mentor and not think in terms of addressing the masses, perhaps that would help some of them before they are at the end of their rope.

Oh - and btw: I have an amazing family who are the most supportive Southern Baptist, God loving people you'd ever meet. They love me and my partner of ten years and open their arms to us. It only took a few years to get past the fear of outting myself and the family coming to terms with it - but in the end - to have the relationship I have with them all now: it was well worth it. We're back to being a family that can talk about "anything" again...and it did get a lot better.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Knowing to say WHEN

How do we ever know when the time has come to end something, stop it or move on?  Careers, relationships, hobbies (knowing when to stop editing a book)...these are things people nurture, tend to, and watch change as we move along in life. 
I've seen many examples of people that knew exactly when their time was up. Certain singers who have called it quits because they realize they can never be as good as they were in their hey-day. Politicians who have quietly moved back into regular civilian life. Teachers who have reached the end of a very fulfilling career having seen numerous students through the door, but knowing time had come to step away from the text book. 

But for all of those, there are others who just don't know when enough is enough. Certain celebrities who have a 'farewell tour' every other year. People who are knocking on a certain age, but insist on doing things they did when they were younger instead of giving someone else a chance to take on that role. And writers who will continue writing even if publishers refuse to take on their literary works at their publishing house. 
But then again: it's those that don't give up that we end up hearing great things about. I suppose if you've found something you do well and you love - maybe you should continue doing it until your own body will no longer allow you to do it. 
The barometer that says "it's time to stop".  
I plan to keep moving until that internal clock tells me time is up.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Fork in the Road

Yesterday I was interviewed by a college journalism class. The students had studied up on my life (from my website), asked questions about my writing, my career, and my work as the managing director of the arts center on our campus. One question stuck out: “what do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment?”

This really got me thinking. At forty one, should I already have had my ‘biggest accomplishment”? My life has been full of many bends and turns along the road – not unlike most people who believe they are setting out to achieve “X” and find that “Y & Z” are a much better fit for their lives. I’ve had a great journey and have been able to do so many different things. While I can look back and say “I never got to do this” or “I didn’t quite make it to that” – family and friends are quick to point out all I have realized. I went from being an actor to climbing the corporate ladder in NYC and then returned to my heart’s passion in the arts in my late 30s.

Sometimes, it’s the decisions we make that cause the most agita. Actually doing it isn’t so hard, it’s convincing ourselves that we’re making the best possible choice for that particular moment in our lives. I hope I never have to stop choosing. I enjoy the feeling of  taking on something new. I can appreciate the time it takes to create my pros and cons list and research, research, research. I thrive on the initial fear it brings and then relish in the glow of achieving it. My insides rev up as I see that fork in the road with the knowledge that it’s time to determine the best path to take.   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I have come to a complete standstill in my writing.

That has never happened to me before. I've been writing since I was a child and have always plowed right through.  I've written musicals (score and book), poetry, short stories, 3 novels and I’m working on my 4th.  I started this novel with an outline that poured out of me in a way I’d never experienced before. All because of a dream I had that started the first chapter of the book. However, midway through the book – the characters start to tell me where they wanted to go and the book took a twist that I didn't expect when I started on the journey.  Now my characters are left in limbo like they are on the island in “Lost” or something and I don’t know how to get them out of their own way.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been sick the past two weeks and it’s zapped all creative energy I had. (At least that’s what I’m going to hope – even though spending more time at home and away from work should/could have given me much more time at the computer.) In the meantime, I open the file on my computer … reread past chapters praying that will spark something to send me down my next path.

I’ve heard of so many people having writer’s block and I always thought it was odd as stories are going through my head constantly. (Does that sound pompous or schitzo?) 

But now as I stare at a blank screen – and though I’ve had some poetry and prose published, shows produced on stage even, I can finally say I must really be an author to have hit this wall.

Maybe my main character will need to deal with how numb he has become to his surroundings which paralyze him from doing anything. 

Nah – that’s just me. 

Friday, September 10, 2010


In this weekend of remembrance - I remember it all very well. I was in the World Trade Center in '93 during the first bombing and walked down 98 floors. In 2001, I stood in Hoboken looking across the water at those two signs of the US economic power crumbling. But much more than brick and mortar and people's lives have crumbled since that horrific day. Human kindness has all but evaporated. The fabric of our society is splitting in two as people yell across invisible lines at each other that their way of thinking is better than another. That their religious beliefs mean more than someone else's. 

I am a Christian - but believe that all have a right to their own beliefs. And to do something terrible (in the name of God - or to get your fifteen minutes of fame) is not the Christian faith I care to be associated with.  Yes - we should remember 9/11 and all the lives lost. But we should also remember the lives that are still attempting to live together in this country comprised of immigrants and people that may not look exactly like us.  Just because our skin color is different or our views may not be in sync does not make us any less human. It truly saddens me the more I read where people are claiming the U.S. as only 'one way' of thinking or viewing the world. We must be careful because it is not a far stretch to see us melding towards other societies that came before us - those that had a very narrow view of the world and thought that anyone that believed other than them had no rights. 


Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I love creativity! You can see it in a museum, on a stage, a movie, reading a good book – or even what some people are doing now with audio software.  Man has technology changed since I was a kid. We would use an old tape recorder to make ‘effects’ for haunted houses or things, but nothing like what they have today. There are numerous examples on youtube of ingenious creative types who are savvy with audio/video samplings to take a speech someone has made and turn it into a rap or a song.  Double Rainbow, Patti LuPone, Bill O’Reilly or the newest one I heard about on the radio this morning.   

One man’s tirade is another’s man’s art.

Monday, August 30, 2010


One of my first jobs in high school was working in a public library. I loved being surrounded by books. The smell, the feel of them in your hand - and yes, I was a freak and even loved putting them in correct order. Once I moved to NYC, I could get lost strolling through a bookstore - looking for that book that would call to me to read it. But that was years ago before our society was over-run with so many digital choices.  From music to books to games and the internet (blogging, facebook, surfing) - all those things that would surprise us if we added up the hours spent and truly realized how much time was lost from our days.

Another major book store in NYC has announced a closing and I can't help but feel it is an epidemic that is eating away at our country. I'll be the first to admit that I shop online and download digital books, but it's still heart breaking to see these lifelines to words closing down. Do a search (again - online) and just see how many have closed in the past five years all across the country. As someone that is trying to get his own books published, I can't help but wonder if there will be real stores left to make a purchase (let alone do a book signing) by the time I get to that point. It would be pretty hard to sign a kindle. (PS: I didn't blog this weekend as I've started a new novel and it captivated every spare moment I had. Sometimes the creative process can grab you when you least expect it. And now I have to work that much harder and quicker so that I can get myself in to a store. I'm already missing out on Oprah's book club. I don't want to miss out on a real book store. Go buy a book in a store today!)      

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Come Out, Come Out!

Hiding who you are is a terrible, lonely feeling. Think for a moment if you are a secret hoarder, or binger of food – or you have a rare rash that discolors your skin and you walk around with a turtleneck on during summer. It is a miserable existence to live in secret. Worse yet: to live your life as a lie. This is what many homosexuals do that stay hidden in a closet. They know who they are inside, but society dictates it’s just not right so they’d rather get married, raise a family and try as hard as they can to keep those feelings sequestered deep inside. Sometimes they act out on those feelings by searching out for hidden ways to feed the urge that festers inside of them.  “Tap. Tap. Tap.”  “The down low.” Phrases we’ve heard on television or in the media of some secret 'Davinci-Code-type society' that only men who are living some 'perverted' existence have a membership.

I am very happy when someone can own up to who they are and accept themselves and finally live their own truth. But here is where I have a problem.  How did they lead their life prior to the moment they chose to remove the nails and unlock the bolts that have kept them bound inside the closet?  The media and certain gay organizations would have us believe we're supposed to give them a medal for bravery for making that 'choice' to come out. Now: I know how hard it is to open that door and subject yourself to ridicule and if you’re a politician/famous actor/clergy member – you’re opening yourself up to so many attacks. I get that. But if you made a career out of publicly denouncing homosexuals or actually working against them on any given platform – then the hair on my neck is standing up and I'm sorry - but I don't believe you're entitled to a medal from the Wizard. Ed Gillespie, a former RNC chairman and friend of Ken Mehlman (who just came out of the closet after being Bush’s campaign chief for years and a chairman for the RNC), told The Atlantic Magazine that "it is significant that a former chairman of the Republican National Committee is openly gay and that he is supportive of gay marriage.” Sorry, Mr. Gillespie – I don’t see the significance. You can’t spend your adult career making money by heading an organization that speaks volumes against who you are (and Mr. Mehlman was gay during all those years – it's not as if he just took a pill and decided he was) and expect every gay to jump on a bandwagon now thanking you for finally being courageous and honest about yourself.      

I'm happy that the Mehlman's and the McGreevey's can come out and be who they believe they are. I truly am. But the hypocrisy of what they did leading up to that moment is a lot for me to swallow. I'm not crazy enough to think that if every politician that was in the closet would fling open the door that anything is truly going to change. The fact that a former RNC chairman came out is not going to change that platform in any way shape or form. But while equal rights are such a hot topic in this country and so many people are at odds, standing across the street yelling from both sides (and neither hearing the other), don't expect every gay man to be waiting on the other side of the door with a welcome banner. Not until you show me how you're going to work to undo much of the wrong you helped to propagate for all those years while you hid. Then perhaps this friend of Dorthy's might consider sending a lollipop or some ruby shoes through the mail.