I am an author, CPA, entrepreneur, Foundation President and a website editor. I would like to think I am making the world a better place.
October 14, 2013
It was with more than a little trepidation that I slid into the front seat of my brother’s truck for the ride from my hotel to my mother’s house. I was in Fargo, North Dakota as part of a ten-day adventure to visit family and friends in the Midwest, and my daughter Angela was accompanying me on my journey back to my homeland. One of the goals of this trip was to say hello to my mother, or at least knock on her door in an attempt to find out if she was interested in talking to me. We had not spoken for eight years, and during that time I had published a book about my life and my childhood experiences on the farm on which I was raised. I assumed that she was not happy about the contents of my memoir, and so I expected that she may not answer the door, or perhaps she would slam it in my face. I had braced myself emotionally and mentally for either of those outcomes. What I had not prepared myself for were the events that would actually unfold.
My brother Frank also lives in Fargo, and he graciously offered to assist me in making the connection with my mother, by placing a telephone call to her to confirm that she was home. He asked my mother if he could stop over to take a look at something on her car, and I heard him tell her to make sure she was up and dressed. He said nothing to mom about me being in town.
My brother picked up my daughter and I at our hotel, and we made the short trip to my mother’s house. When we arrived, I exited his truck and stood in the driveway by the vehicle’s open door. My brother walked up to our mother’s front door and knocked on it. I saw it swing open, yet I did not immediately see my mother, as she remained inside. I heard him say to her “You won’t believe what the cat has drug in!” My mother stepped out, looked over at the truck, and then at me. A look of anguish came over her face, and I saw she was, to put it mildly, shocked. She hesitated for a moment, and then she proceeded down the sidewalk.
As the contorted look on her face started to gradually fade away, I focused more clearly on the 86-year-old woman walking towards me. I was struck at how much weight she had lost since I had last seen her, and the degree to which her face had aged. On the other hand, she was maneuvering quite well down the sidewalk towards me, so I was confused that this woman, with her life experiences now literally etched on her face, had maintained her physical health. This was all a bit disconcerting to me, and I was trying to take it all in as she approached the truck.
She stood directly in front of me, looking me squarely in eyes, making no further movement. I took the initiative to make the first move, and I reached over and put my arms around her and hugged her. Then I said something that I do not ever remember saying to her – “I love you, Mom.” She reacted to neither the hug nor my words, and I released my hold.
At that moment, Angela got out of the truck, and my mother went over to her, and gave her a hug. Obviously still flustered, she said “Well, I guess we should go inside.”
We all proceeded to enter her small condominium and Angela and I took our seats on the couch and she sat in her recliner. My brother then surprised me by saying, “You know, I have some errands to do, so I will pick you up in a couple of hours.” I was stunned at his words, and at first I was a little miffed. Then I reminded myself that it was me that wanted this experience, and I settled into our visit, leaving myself open to whatever was about to occur.
My mother was very talkative, and much of the conversation revolved around her life and what she was doing. She brought me up to date on what was happening with the relatives, her friends and the church. She spoke to Angela, and I paid attention as they engaged in conversation. For my part, I listened to my mother, and I answered any questions she posed to me. Our conversation was cordial and light, and we did not talk about the past, nor was any mention made of my book.
My mother stated that she was getting her affairs in order, and I commented that it was always good to have things set up the way you want them to be. I could tell from her comments that she has reached a point in life where she is divesting herself of her personal possessions. She offered me a box of old photographs that she had collected over the years, and I accepted them as graciously as I could, and said I would go through them when I got back to California. She asked Angela to pick out some teacups and saucers from her collection in the dining room china cabinet, as a remembrance of her. Angela chose two that appealed to her, and my mother was delighted when my daughter told her she was going to put them beside the vases she received from her other grandmother.
Then my mother asked me to pick out two sets of cups and saucers for myself. Almost instantly, the little three-year old girl still inside of me started to tell me she did not want anything from this person! So, in an attempt to appease that child-like part of myself, I declined the tea cups and gave my mother the excuse that they were fragile, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get them back home safely on the plane. I watched my mother’s lighthearted expression change when I made that comment. At that moment, a piece of advice that I am accustomed to giving others came into my consciousness, and it immediately altered my thinking and the mood. I heard my mind silently speaking to me as it said “It is better to make the choice to be kind, instead of always needing to be right.” My mother was offering me a gift, and if I was going to walk my talk, I needed to take the higher road of gratitude and acceptance.
I selected two sets of pastel cups and saucers, each decorated with the variety of a flower that you would find in a Midwest garden. As I held them up to look more closely at each one, I noticed how delicate they were. I also chuckled to myself as I wondered how long it had been, since the age of Starbucks and Coffee Bean, that anyone had used a saucer. I thought about the hundreds of cups of coffee they held and the various people who had enjoyed the porcelain decorations. As I examined them, I realized that they had held their beauty, even when many no longer considered them useful. A lot like we treat people, I thought!
My brother returned, two hours later, and suggested we all go out to dinner (they call it supper in the Midwest!). My mother was delighted to be asked, so we journeyed off to their favorite barbecue rib place, where I ate way too much food!
We drove back to my mother’s condo to drop her off after dinner, and I got out of the truck to walk her up the pathway, and make sure she got the front door unlocked and opened. As she was about to go in, I wrapped my arms around her and once again said “No matter what happened, I love you Mom.” She was silent, although she hugged me back.
And then, as I was walking down the sidewalk towards my brother’s truck, I heard my Mother’s voice calling out after me. “Marion,” she said, “This was a great day.”
For a split second, I thought about responding, yet my instincts told me to stay silent, for everything that needed to be said has been said. I turned around, smiled and waved goodbye.
I sat in silence in the front seat of the truck as my brother drove us to the hotel, and I pondered what has just transpired. I thought about my mother and her last comment. Before this trip, I was pretty sure my mother was wrong about anything of importance. My thinking was altered during this visit, as I now knew she was right about at least one thing.
Indeed, it was a great day!
September 30, 2013
If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you fall into a group that I belong to – “The Baby Boomers” – sometimes referred to as The Sandwich Generation. Though the connotation refers to caring for elderly parents, we are also financially sandwiched between our depression-era parents and our I-can-have-it-all kids. The question is did we learn our lesson and did we learn it the hard way? Many of our parents survived the Great Depression. They taught us to waste not, want not. Mama showed us how to get three solid meals out of one chicken and dad taught us how to change our own automobile oil. But they also taught us to make a better life for ourselves. They scrimped and saved to put us through college so we could have more productive careers. They pushed us to test our limits so that we could achieve more than they did. They instilled confidence in us, preaching that with hard work and endurance, the sky was the limit. And we bought into every word of it. The sky was the limit, but we didn’t realize that sky might eventually fall.
It didn’t take Boomers long to do the math and figure out that a two-income household meant having more. The cars got bigger and more numerous. Husband and wife each needed one to commute to work, and when the kids were old enough to drive, it was easier to put them into their own set of wheels than to line up transportation to after-school activities. When we were younger, getting a car meant working an after-school job and saving up to buy a clunker. Our kids were awarded late-model vehicles that provided dependability and safety along with a credit card to gas it up as needed.
As our bank accounts grew, so did our treasures. We built larger houses that required more upkeep. Busy with our careers, we hired housekeepers, landscapers, pool boys and every other professional maintenance company required to keep us up with the Joneses. And the Joneses were doing the same to keep up with us. As technology advanced, so did our cache of electronic toys. We coined the phrase, he with the most toys wins. While our spending spiraled upward, the economy was starting its downward spiral. It was an accident waiting to happen. Happen it did and with a bullet. Our offspring, who had become used to putting out their hand and having it filled, couldn’t grasp the concept of debt and eventual poverty. Fearful of losing face with them, many boomers continued to live like they were dying, bank accounts ran dry, retirement funds deflated and foreclosures became a reality.
The financial collapse that zapped baby boomers was the culmination of many factors, and we have to shoulder our share of the blame. We got used to having more and more, and that was the role model our children banked on as well. Many Boomers are still hanging on to the notion that the glory days will return, but reality is causing us to make some changes in order to survive. Hybrid cars, green energy and recycling are becoming chic.
Let’s hope our children think that the concept of getting back to basics is cool.
August 15, 2013
Oddly, I have been exposed to what seems like more than my fair share of gang violence.
I recently sat through eight days of the jury selection process pertaining to the trial of a known member of the largest Hispanic gang in Oxnard, California. He allegedly robbed and killed a local businessman in cold blood as he exited a bank in Oxnard. The victim was carrying a satchel of cash that he was transporting to his check-cashing facility. I was glad I was not chosen for the panel, although I am sure I would have been dismissed had I been called up for questioning and relayed the following information.
When I lived in the Coachella Valley in California, two of my closest friends were robbed at gun point by members of a Hispanic gang in Indio, California. My friends were brothers, and they were exiting their check-cashing facility, located in their meat and produce store, with $100,000 in cash that they were transporting to another of their stores. The thieves were lying in wait in the parking lot. After turning over the satchel to the robbers, one of my friends was shot repeatedly in the chest, and his younger brother was shot in the back as he attempted to flee. The gang community closed ranks around its members, and provided alibis for the shooters. Ironically, both of my friends were also Hispanic.
Five years after the horrific trauma my friends endured, I was mugged and robbed by four gang members in Palm Desert, California, in the parking lot of a Michael’s store. One of the robbers was lying in wait under my car, and he attacked me as I approached my vehicle. The police said I was lucky I did not resist, as they knew which gang was responsible for the crime, and they informed me that the members were armed and violent. None of the perpetrators in either of these events were ever apprehended or prosecuted.
When I moved to California’s Coachella Valley in 1985, gangs had little presence in that community. Today, three of the eight cities in the valley have gang injunctions imposed within their city limits – Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City and Indio. These are similar to the gang injunction granted to the city of Oxnard, California in 2004, and to several other cities in the State of California.
Unless you have had some direct or indirect experiences with gang violence, many people believe it is an “internal problem” that affects only certain areas or certain communities. To the contrary, gang violence affects all of us.
This information was compiled by the National Gang Intelligence Center of the FBI:
1. Approximately 1.4 million gang members were criminally active in the United States as of April 2011. The number of identified gangs in the U.S. is over 33,000.
2. The numbers compiled in 2011 represents a 40% increase from two years prior (2009) when the gang population was estimated at 1.0 million members
3. Gangs are responsible for an average of 48% of the violent crimes in the United States, and up to 90% of such crimes in several large cities.
4. Gangs are increasingly engaging in human trafficking, prostitution, counterfeiting, identity theft and mortgage fraud, in addition to their core activities of drug trafficking, robbery and violent assaults.
5. The best estimates of the ethnic breakdown of these gangs is approximately 49% Hispanic/Latino, 34% African American, 10% Caucasian, 6% Asian and 1% other ethnicities.
This rise of the gang population in this country is nothing less than an epidemic. The illegal activities of these gangs are not confined solely to the neighborhoods in which they live, since they engage in violence and crimes far beyond the walls of their communities.
Evil prevails when good men and women do nothing, and nothing changes unless we accept that there is a problem. An honest, open and frank national dialogue is long overdue about what we can do to address the threat that gangs pose to the societal, emotional and spiritual health of our country.
Pierce Morgan of CNN has become the self-appointed voice for the gun-control debate in this country. Perhaps he would consider taking on the topic of the effects of the gang activity in this country. The sheer magnitude of the destruction inflicted upon our society by gang activities makes the issue of gun control seems like child’s play.
Sadly, gangs are an issue we must contend with in our changing world – and lest we get confused about what gangs are involved with and what they look like, the current gang culture bears no resemblance to that portrayed in West Side Story!
June 26, 2013
I am starting out each of my travel blogs with the same statement: You learn a lot about others when you travel – and mostly things about yourself.
I received a beautiful thank you card today from someone whom I helped out during my recent travels. It started me thinking about the concepts of appreciation and gratitude, and my perception of a change in our societal behavior during the last decade with regards to those qualities.
By way of background, I like to think of myself as a generous person. I share this information, not to toot my own horn, but to give you a better understanding of me and my life’s purpose. I worked long and hard at my career during my entire adult life, and I am blessed to be able to share the rewards of those endeavors.
I feel fortunate to get the opportunity to help people who come across my path, those need a little “helping hand.” I am also lucky to have the time and talents needed to be able to assist people with their projects. I am happy to help someone get their business started or tax filings completed, or support them in an endeavor of which they are passionate.
Having spent my entire adult life in the world of money, I understand about the economic, energetic and spiritual basis of “giving.” Gifts are given without the anticipation of anything being received in return, and there is no expectation as to how the gift will be used.
On the other hand, my personal belief is that a thank-you does not fall into either of those criteria. It is an acknowledgment and an expression of appreciation. And it also represents a simple act of courtesy. There is probably no more irritating situation during the process of giving than needing to contact a person to make sure the gift you sent arrived, after never having heard from them.
I readily admit it – I am one of the dinosaurs on the planet, as I continue to make out handwritten thank-you notes. I know, I am old-fashioned. I still believe there is something inherently special about taking the time to write a note and put it in the snail-mail box. If I don’t have a thank you card on hand, I will at least drop an email to someone to thank them and show my appreciation.
I was surprised on my recent travels, upon giving gifts to several young people, that they did not offer a word of verbal appreciation at the time. That struck me as odd, and foreign to that way I was brought up. I started to wonder why it seems, at least to me, that people have become less appreciative of gifts they receive or, at a minimum, why they believe it is acceptable to not exhibit some level of courtesy to the giver. The following questions started to come to mind:
- Has gratitude been replaced with entitlement?
- Has narcissism taken over where good manners used to be?
- Are we not teaching children good manners, politeness and courtesy?
Maybe it’s none of the above. Maybe “it is what it is.” And maybe I am going to vomit if I hear that term one more time. Even though something “is the way it is,” does that make it an acceptable way of being in the world, or a contribution to a more loving and kind planet.
Luckily, my faith in humanity was at least somewhat restored when I read the beautiful notes I did receive (including yours Kaila Kaden, Bev Lovas and Christie Groskreutz). The authors I assist are some of the most appreciative recipients (Grace Peterson and Mary Nally to name a few). I can feel their gratitude when I receive even a short note or text – and for me it completes the cycle of giving.
And where does all pondering leave me:
- Do I have a clearer understanding of the world’s changing societal behavior – yes.
- Do I now expect an acknowledgment or thank-you from everyone I help – sadly, I will not.
- Will I continue to give graciously to those who I can help – indeed, I will.
I have also questioned if there were times when I myself did not acknowledge a gift properly, or exhibit appropriate appreciation. “Probably” was my honest answer. So to anyone who was hurt or offended by my lack of courtesy – I apologize, and I will work to do better in the future.
For that is all any of us can do, right?
June 22, 2013
I am starting out each of my travel blogs with the same statement: You learn a lot about others when you travel – and mostly things about yourself.
I was born and raised on the prairies of North Dakota, so let me give you a little history lesson about my state. The information I am relaying in this blog was not taught to me in the elementary school, high school or university that I attended. I discovered it myself after doing research on my own as an adult. The reader is free to do the same.
During 1873-1883 the United States government, in coordination with commercial hide-hunting companies, promoted the slaughter of the American buffalo, including those in the Dakota Territory. The bison was a primary source of sustenance for the Great Plains Indian tribes.
The decimation of the buffalo was part of a deliberate, and successful, effort to starve the Plains Indians into submission. Many high-ranking U.S. officials were explicit about their intentions. In 1873, Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano declared “The civilization of the Indian is impossible while the buffalo remains upon the plains.” Two years later, General Philip Sheridan told a joint session of Congress that buffalo hunters had done more to settle what he called “the vexed Indian question” than the entire U.S. army. Sheridan urged the politicians to continue to support the hunters. “For the sake of lasting peace,” he said, “let them kill, skin and sell until the buffaloes are exterminated.
By 1884, the bison population in the United States was basically extinct. Although the exact extent of the carnage cannot be determined, it has been estimated that the population of 30 to 50 million buffalo was reduced to less than 1,000. This is one of the worst, and perhaps the most under reported, animal slaughters by humans ever undertaken on our planet.
And, as planned, the systemic annihilation of the Native Americans of the Plains was almost complete.
As this dark past has come to be revealed, shame has been brought on to my home state, and on to our country. My hope is that we can atone for our past actions, or our complacency about it, by agreeing to do better in the future. A recent trip back “home” after being away for years has made me question whether we have kept that promise. Only time will tell.
North Dakota is in the midst of an economic boom. Shale-based oil is being drilled in Williston using the process of fracking, which is drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to reach the oil reserves. The state is now the second largest producer of a non-renewal energy source in the United States. Corn is one of the primary commodities raised, and the agricultural community is recording record-high profits. This activity has generated surpluses for the State’s coffers, and reduced the unemployment rate to one of the lowest in the country.
On the reverse side, there always seems to be consequences to any type of economic windfall. These are some of the observations I made during my recent visit:
- Large quantities of the most fertile farmland in the United States have been sold to non-farming investors, with the concurrent elimination of many of the family-run farming operations in the state.
- Corn is now a major commodity crop, due to the profitability it affords the farmers. There is a growing demand for corn by the food industry, as high-fructose corn syrup is used in many of our food products.
- Monsanto Corporation, a biotechnology giant, has created a monopoly in the agricultural seed industry by using tactics to drive small farmers out of business, and to force growers to use its genetically modified seeds. Corn grown using Monsanto Corporation seeds is now labeled as a “genetically modified plant.” (Note: This corporation has been banned from doing business in a growing number of countries around the world).
- The state’s oil resources have been turned over to out-of-state oil producers, drilling contractors and engineering firms, including corporations such as Halliburton (who is at least partly responsible for the Gulf Coast oil spill).
- There is a potential for the pollution of the environment and the poisoning of our water supply because of the chemical leakage that happens during the process of fracking.
The activities in this list are no different than those happening in other farming and oil-shale fields around this country, and probably around the world.
Sadly, as of today, no governmental agency or environmental organization has been able to assess the long-term effects of the 600 chemicals used in the fracking process, and their introduction into the ground water supply. Even proponents of the fracking process are unable to provide complete assurance that we are engaging in safe practices, and that the health of future generations will not be detrimentally affected.
And although there is major controversy and a growing concern among the public about the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), these products continue to be included in our food source.
We do not know how all of the actions we are engaging in today will affect our children, our grand-children and even our great-grandchildren. If we find out twenty (or even a hundred) years from now that we made some “bad” decisions today, the effects of the killing of the buffalo in the 1880’s may seem like child’s play in comparison.
What is happening in North Dakota is not exclusive to that state – it is a cautionary tale for all of us.
June 20, 2013
I am starting out each of my travel blogs with the same statement: Traveling is a great way to learn a lot about other people – and even more about yourself. Having completed a year-long journey to visit people across this country, I am now sitting down to put my thoughts on paper.
By way of background, I am very blessed to have lived my life in various locations and environments. I was raised on a Midwest farm next to one of the smallest towns in the country. I lived and worked in the largest city in the United States. I went to college in the coldest part our country, and lived for years in one of the hottest spots. I have had homes on the prairie, on a lake, in an urban area, in the desert, in the mountains and on the ocean. Each one provided an opportunity to enjoy the beauty and gifts of the area.
So, what is it about people that they think it is acceptable to make derogatory comments about your home and the state in which you live? For my part, I have traveled to several places where (I admit) they would not be my first choice of a location to live. What I hope I would never do (and hope I have never done) is express negative comments to someone about their choice to make that place their home.
I live in California – often referred to as the “land of fruits and nuts!” I must admit, there is some truth to that. The real truth is that my home state represents a microcosm of what is happening across our country.
We are a state involved in a Great Experiment, as we try to deal with changing societal values, divergent cultures, immigration, fiscal problems, unemployment, overpopulation and a weakened educational system. We don’t try to hide these problems – instead we let the world shine a light on them, so we can work for change. One of my mantras is “You can change nothing until you realize something needs changing.” That is one of the things I like about my state. We are aware of our problems, and we have a self-deprecating sense of humor about it as we work to make our state and the world a better place. I appreciate this honesty and that fact that we are not putting our heads in the sand.
And so to those people on my travels who asked me (sometimes with sarcasm) “How can you live in California with all its crime and traffic,” I responded with “It works for me and what I want to accomplish in my life.”
Yet — in an effort to be totally honest with my readers — this is what I really wanted to say:
“I am here because I am proud of those Apple products created here that you can’t get enough of. The entertainment industry that gives you the movies that entertain you and the television shows that stream into your home and onto your computer (also from here). The food that comes from our immense agricultural economy. The technological innovations that make your life easier. The medical research that could save your life.”
And so, continuing to exercise discretion, I say silently to myself, “So, if you never want to come to California, or you left the state – thank you. It leaves more room for the rest of us to enjoy the blessings of this state, and to have the opportunity to learn, grow and face the challenges in front of us now and in the future.”
June 15, 2013
Traveling is a great way to learn a lot about other people – and even more about yourself. Having completed a year-long journey to visit people across this country, I am now sitting down to put my thoughts on paper.
By way of background, in many ways I have lived a “charmed” life – well maybe not so much charmed, but at least blessed. I grew up in abject poverty, so I know what it is like to struggle financially, and the impact that can have on your self-esteem. I am fortunate to have had a successful professional career, and at times I had a lot of money in my life. Alternatively, I have on at least on occasion during my adult years lost everything. Living and working in the world of money, I had the chance to observe how people deal with having money, and also the impact on them when they do not.
Some of the friends I visited on my recent trips are well-to-do (however you define that) and others are struggling financially. To me it makes no difference. I choose to have them in my life because I like who they are as people – and not what they have or don’t have in the bank.
What I discovered on this trip is that I am tired of people who choose to judge others based on their financial status – whether it is rich or poor. I am bored and irritated with comments and opinions expressed that relate to one’s economic standing.
It has long been my belief that humans created money as an incredible tool to learn valuable lessons. We can become more self-aware of our behavior as we consider how we view money in our life. It can serve as a vehicle for us to look at some of our negative characteristics, such as jealousy, self-esteem and judgment. It can also shine a light on our positive qualities – such as generosity and compassion.
Money has no inherent power – either good or evil. It is propelled by the energy that we attribute to it. I believe that if we didn’t have money as a tool, we would develop some other device in order to play out our personal dramas and learn our needed lessons.
I have met “saint-like” people who have little in the way of financial rewards to give to others, but they give fully of themselves. I have also met poor people who have developed a sense of entitlement and who are extremely rude and disrespectful.
Conversely, I have crossed paths with extremely wealthy people who share their prosperity freely. And I have also met a lot of rich folks who exhibit little compassion and who show limited understanding for the plight of others.
For in the end, it isn’t the lack of money, or the abundance of it, that defines a person. It’s your underlying character – integrity, compassion and honesty.
May 11, 2013
The recently elected Pope of the Catholic Church has expressed a desire for open discussions, transparency within the church, and a dialogue about current social issues. The recent production of Urinetown by a Catholic high school drama club seems to be in perfect accord with those goals.
Urinetown is a Tony-Award winning Broadway musical production containing subtle and not-so-subtle undertones, amazing choreography and incredible songs. It opened in New York with a full cast of professional singers and dancers, along with a multi-million dollar set and lighting budget. The production parodies the traditions of musicals as a whole, and it jabs at the legal system, capitalism, corrupt corporations, environmental waste, and our sense of entitlement.
I did cringe a bit when I heard the drama teacher at St. Bonaventure Catholic High School in Ventura, California had chosen this musical as the spring production. The high school has a mere 30 drama club members, and the show was to be performed on the stage of the auditorium at the adjacent local elementary school.
Let me be honest and tell my readers I am a self-proclaimed theater snob. I think I know good theater when I see it, and I also think I can tell when theater is “not so good.” I have to admit that I was a bit apprehensive as I drove to the school to watch the performance. I thought about all the things that might go wrong when you are trying to produce a world-class musical with limited resources and a non-professional cast.
I was, to put it mildly, surprised and amazed as I watched the production.
From the acting, to the staging, to the costumes – this production was a pleasure to watch and to get involved with. Each of the 22 actors gave it their all – fully attentive and involved in the action on the stage. They executed their over-the-top facial expressions in such a way that it added immensely to the parody of the piece.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of the entire cast, there were several characters that particularity delighted me.
The relationship between Officer Lockstock and Officer Barrel was reminiscent (at least to me) of the old Laurel and Hardy comedy act, and it was delightful to watch. I have observed Charlie Strickland and A.J. Herrera in other performances, and I had no idea they were able to shake their booty the way they did.
And what can one say about Penelope Pennywise, as performed by Araceli Gonzalez. Over-the-top, entertaining, displaying a wide range of acting, vocal and dance talents. I hope she will continue to share her talents and entertain audiences in the future.
I would have enjoyed hearing more of the individual vocal stylings of Tayler Drew (I love her voice), although I have to admit that seeing her pregnant with a toilet seat around her neck was a nice secondary option!
I think the character I found the most compelling was that of Caldwell Cladwell. Perhaps it is because I spent my life in the business world, and I personally know folks like him. I developed a love/relationship with him – disliking him for his lack of compassion, yet admiring him for his entrepreneurial spirit (how’s that for honesty). Gabriel Meade gave a performance well beyond his years, and he can be proud to finish his high school drama career with his standout portrayal. My hope is that he gets to keep the sparkled jacket – as it looked great on him!
Kudos to Stephen Bombara, Angelina Diaz and Nicole Aggarwal for the courage to step into the limelight and take on the all-important lead roles. Congratulations to all other cast members – Conor Boales, Adrianna Benavides, Ryan Koch, Michael Minkoff, Joey Poole, Zachary Meade, Natalie Van Conas, Liam Cochran, Mia Torres, Sean Riley, Diego Magana, Shannon McDermott, Andrew Hamrick and Wynsum Kearns. And to Nick Perry – stage manager and right-hand man to the director and the cast.
A majority of the cast members are seniors, so the school’s drama teacher will be faced with developing a new troupe of thespians for the coming years. She will have a great start with sophomores Angelia Diaz and Nicole Aggarwal. They are both strong vocalists and actors and I look forward to watching them grow in the coming years.
And, in all reality, this show would not have happened without the vision and courage of its director and choreographer, Patricia Strickland. It is quite clear that Ms. Strickland expects, and then demands, the best of her actors, along with anyone involved in a production. As I watched this show, both from a technical and from an entertainment standpoint, I wondered why she has forgone the opportunity to direct on the stage of a professional theater, for she definitely has the talent and ability to do so. After pondering this for a moment, I realized she is already involved in one of the most worthwhile endeavors one can take on – changing the lives of our youth, one at a time.
May 5, 2013
Our awareness of the issues affecting the children in this country, in our communities and in our own backyards has been significantly raised during the last few years. Unfortunately, child advocacy agencies report that neglect is fast becoming the most significant type of confirmed childhood mistreatment.
The reported data also discloses that this growing level of neglect is being fueled by two major factors:
- The increasing financial stress on families, especially single parent households
- The growing alcohol and substance abuse by parents or other caregivers
These factors, among others, increase the risk for a child to be subjected to physical, emotional, educational and medical neglect on the part of a parent or other caregiver.
Our country is addressing this growing problem through child protection services, law enforcement and a myriad of child advocacy groups and social service agencies. While these efforts are necessary as protective measures, the problem is so large and so systemic that it is going to take a concerted effort on the part of society as a whole to stem the tide of this growing problem.
Each of us can do something to help the children who may be in these very unfortunate situations. We can start in our neighborhoods, and take some very simple steps that can have a huge impact. Here are some suggestions posted on the website of the Child Welfare Information Gateway:
- Get to know your neighbors. Problems seem less overwhelming when support is nearby.
- Help a family under stress. Offer to babysit, help with chores and errands, or suggest resources in the community that can help.
- Reach out to children in your community. A smile or a word of encouragement can mean a lot, whether it comes from a parent or a passing stranger.
- Be an active community member. Lend a hand at local schools, community or faith-based organizations, children’s hospitals, social service agencies, or other places where families and children are supported.
- Keep your neighborhood safe. Start a Neighborhood Watch or plan a local “National Night Out” community event. You will get to know your neighbors while helping to keep your neighborhood and children safe.
Whether you decide to become involved in organized child advocacy efforts, or you chose to keep a watchful eye on the children in your neighborhood, we can each play a role in making the world a safer place for our children.
April 20, 2013
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– Layer the following ingredients:
- A large dose of fear
- Anger fueled by misunderstanding
- Vitriolic dialogue spewed by the cable news networks
- A huge helping of bigotry
- Several pinches of prejudice
- A healthy portion of ignorance
- More anger and more fear, to taste
– Toss the above ingredients
–Sprinkle more fear on top layer
– Place the above mixture on a fire built from righteous indignation
– Allow the media to fuel the flames with inflammatory rhetoric
– Wait for explosion to happen
– Be shocked when it occurs!
Only known antidote to this poisonous concoction is equal portions of LOVE, COMPASSION and UNDERSTANDING