Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My way of thinking/ Finding the Positive

A dear friend recently asked me to write about finding the positive in everything.  I replied that I thought that was pretty much what I have been writing about all this time.  But she said that I need to spell it out step by step.  Okay,  I am up for a challenge.

First and foremost, having a positive attitude begins with you.  You can't look at the world around you as positive if you aren't going to be positive yourself.  So step one is to make a personal choice to create your own positive contribution to the process.  Everyone has the power to make this kind of choice.  I believe that we choose how we want to be perceived by those around us.  We can blame others all we want for the way we are, but in the end, it really is our own choice that defines us.

Step number 2 is to begin applying our positive outlook to everything that presents itself to our personal space.  I know, that seems hard but it really is quite simple.  Not every situation can be looked at as positive.  The trick is to find a positive action that we can take in any given situation.  A mother and her small children are killed by a drunk driver.  Nothing positive there.  But we can take a positive action.  We can offer our love and support to the family.  We can send a card.  We can cook dinner for those left behind.  Love is always positive.  There is no negative that can stand up to the power of love.

Step number 3 is putting this principle into practise.  This takes a little work and concentration.  When something that seems negative enters our personal world, or space if you prefer, we have to empower ourselves by finding the positive within ourselves.  We then look for ways to trust our inner power to stand up to whatever seems negative and bring something optimistic to the person or situation.  We begin to look for the good within ourselves instead of expecting it to come from something or someone externally.  Remember that there IS no negative in love, empathy, or compassion.  These things come from within, from our soul.  Apply these gifts and the rest will take care of itself.

If this seems simplistic, that's because it IS simple.  It all comes back to you.  It comes down to the choices you make.  We all have the power to choose what kind of person we want to be.  We can't control everything around us.  We CAN control our own hearts and mind.  All we have to do is recognize our responsibility to find and share the best part of ourselves.  We really can choose to be happy.  There can be no negative in a happy attitude towards life.  Look for all those positive yes words.  Stop saying no when a challenge presents itself.  Think about giving and forget about getting.  You may be pleasantly surprised by how much easier life can be.

Norman Vincent Peale wrote "The Power of Positive Thinking" a long time ago.  It is still relevant today.  Also "Begin With Yes" by Paul Boynton (a Facebook friend) is a helpful and easy read on this subject.  Remember that everything begins with you.  That's where it ends as well.

                                          Peace and Love,



Friday, February 24, 2012

My way of thinking/ bullies

I have been thinking about writing this post to my blog for quite some time.  Something else always came up, partly because I think I was avoiding this particular topic.  The topic is bullying and today I can no longer avoid writing about it.

On facebook someone sent me a request to join a cause that is fighting to prevent teen suicide due to bullying.  Old memories suddenly presented themselves, as they are wont to do at the slightest provocation.  I found myself remembering experiences in Junior High.  That was 7th-9th grade for me.  Back then I was a rather unusual kid.  I loved musical theatre.  I loved to sing.  I dreamt of being an actor.  These things don't seem unusual now, but at the age of 12-14, these things were considered strange by the boys who dreamt of sports or following in daddie's footsteps.

I was never timid about expressing myself to anyone who would listen to me.  Perhaps that was where I went wrong.  I started hearing the word "fag" at age 12.  I wasn't sure what that meant but I knew it was not a compliment.  It went from something whispered behind my back to something that was said directly to my face.  Then I began to get offers to fight some of the older boys at school.  Then they began waiting for me to get off the bus on my way home.  I didn't want to fight them.  I didn't have any idea how to fight.  I tried just ignoring them.  That wasn't working.  They became more cruel and agressive.  I finally began riding my bike the 3 miles to my school to avoid these confrontations.

Eventually, as my singing and acting began to be recognized for the special talents and gifts they were, the teasing subsided.  I developed a group of friends, many of them older, who helped me create a certain respect.  I was released from these bullies by refusing to be intimidated and by following the beat of my own drum.  I refused to give in to the pressure to conform and I won.

My message here is not that I was strong enough to keep from succumbing to pier pressure.  The message is about those who are not that strong.  Not every child has the supportive and loving family that I had.  Not every child is as driven and self-assured as I was.  For many this form of abuse is overwhelming.  Feeling that they have nowhere else to turn, they feel that life is just not worth the effort.  Too many take their own lives.  Too many adults turn a blind eye, or worse, consider this as some right of passage.  This is what must stop.  The general apathy towards bullying is unacceptable and it is up to us to stop it.

Sadly there are many adult bullies out there as well.  We even attempt to ignore them even after we have grown up (hopefully).  We owe it to our kids and grandkids to stand up to the bullies around us, no matter what their age.  If we remain silent on this issue, how do we expect little boys and girls to stand up for themselves.  We have to take the love we feel for one another and protect those who are vulnerable, whether they are old or young.  We make a difference, but only when we choose to stand up.  I urge you to join me.  Make a difference by putting fear (not common sense) aside.  Expose the bullies among us.  Let them know how hurtful they are.  Ostrasize them.  Isolate them.  Never put up with hate speach.  Never allow negatives to outweigh positives.  If there ever has been such a thing as a devil, negativity is the equivolent.  Love is the antidote.

                                          Peace and Love,


Thursday, February 16, 2012

My way of thinking/ Barbara Howe

On February 16, 1972 my mother, Barbara, transitioned to her new and eternal place in the Universe.  40 years later, not a day goes by that I don't think of her.  I imagine it will be that way until mom and I meet again.

It seems appropriate that I share Barbara with you on this anniversary.  She was a rare and wonderful human being.  I was only 17 when she passed over, but that was old enough to appreciate what an incredible woman she was.  The lessons she taught me by her remarkable example are lessons well worth learning.

Mom was a Christian singer, starting at the age of six.  She was somewhat of a prodegy and began singing on the radio in 1932.  That was in Beaumont, Texas.  At age 16 the family moved to California and she continued to sing on radio programs in Los Angeles.  As she got a little older she was a popular soloist in churches and big tent meetings.  Music was one of the most important things in her life, just one of the many things we had/have in common.

Barbara became popular with a singing group called, Phil Kerr's Harmony Chorus.  The group did a musicale program at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium every Monday night in the early 1950s.  In 1952 she met and married my dad and in 1954, I came along.  My brother, Phil joined the family two years later.

Without writing a book,  I'll settle for that thumbnail sketch of Mom's life up to that point.  But by the late '50s Mom's health began to deteriorate.  She would have trouble performing live because her energy was so low.  It turned out that she had a defective valve in her heart and the prognosis was not good.  But by 1965 medicine had progressed a long way.  She had one of the first open heart surgeries where they replaced her defective valve with a plastic one.  It was pretty experimental back then and it caused many problems such as rejection and strokes.  The positive thing about the operation was that it extended her life an extra seven years.  Time enough to raise her boys and pass on her wisdom and love.

I learned the importance of staying optimistic, thinking positively, and living each day to the fullest.  I learned the value of things like loyalty, compassion, and commitment.  Mom taught these things by exemplifying these qualities herself.  Whenever I find myself forgetting any of these things, I remember Barbara and find it easy to choose to be like her.  Even at the very end of her life, she still found ways to give of herself to everyone who needed her help and guidance.  She always encouraged my brother and me, and she was so proud that I was a singer.  She was at every performance even when she was confined to a wheelchair.  She taught me how to be a good person.  I honor my Mother by emulating her in every way I know how.

There are so many stories to tell.  I'm sure this won't be the last time I write about my Mom.  Today, on this 40th anniversary of her transition, I just wanted to share this inspiring woman.  I love you Mom!

                                       Peace and Love,



Thursday, February 2, 2012

My way of thinking/ Cubby

At the end of my second Broadway contract, with my first attempt at a long term relationship waiting to meet me at a bar, I decided to walk to the bar after the show.  I loved the walk and it was a beautiful night.  I was happy and excited about the future.  I had two job offers, both would take me away from my beloved NYC but, after all, that was what actors had to do sometimes.

As I crossed over from Broadway to Columbus Ave. at 76th Street it was trash night so I was keeping my eye out for some unwanted treasure, when I saw movement in a trash bin.  Assuming it was a rat, I approached with caution.  I will never forget that moment.  It wasn't a rat.  It was a newborn puppy.  She was wiggling around amid nine other pups, all dead.  She was fighting for her life, hanging on for me to find her.  I gently lifted her out of her tomb and pressed her against my chest, carefully covering her with my jacket.  We went to the bar, met up with my new partner, and hustled up to 86th St. where we lived.  We barely said hello to the doorman because my goal was to get to my friend, Denise who worked for the ASPCA.  She had 3 rescue dogs and would know what to do.  After waking Denise up, she made a few phone calls, got dressed, and we hailed a cab to take us across town to the ASPCA headquarters.  A Vet was on standby and he checked our newborn out.  He wasn't exactly optimistic but he supplied us with formula, baby bottles, and some meds.  Back home we went with my trash can treasure.  She looked like a tiny bear cub, so I named her Cubby.  That night was the beginning of the most pivotal 12 years of my life.

Cubby thrived and grew into a healthy, happy puppy with constant care and bottle feedings every two hours.  Denise, Bill, and I took shifts.  When she was 8 weeks old I was ready to make a huge decision.  We were going to California and I was going to take a role on my first and only sitcom.  The sitcom lasted all of six weeks but Cubby was there for me.  After just 4 years my relationship with Bill ended, but Cubby remained. I kept right on working as an actor.  Jobs came and went, a new partner came and went, but Cubby remained.  I raised Australian Shepherds as show dogs.  They came and went, but Cubby remained.  My brother passed away and Cubby saw me through the worst year of my life.  She was my rock, the one constant in a world full of change.

Cubby was my girl for 12 tumultuous years.  On October 11, 1992 she ran away from me on a walk in West Hollywood.  My other dog, Briar and I searched for her for hours.  We finally found her lying beneath a bush.  Cubby had crossed over that Rainbow Bridge.  I was beyond sad.  I was bereft.  I carried her home that night just as I had carried her home the first night we met. 

The next day I had her cremated.  A friend asked me to meet him for a drink and I went.  I NEEDED that drink.  That was the night I met Jon, my partner of 19+ years.  You see, Cubby knew her work was done on earth so she became my angel, arranging a life for me that has been utterly incredible.  To this day I feel Cubby's presence.  Her shadow walks with me, Roxy, and Charlie on every walk.

Love never dies!

                                             Peace and Love,