Life isn’t easy. We all say it, but I’d never fully appreciated the weight of it until a recent conversation with a friend. After years of struggling to stay afloat financially and emotionally, she’d relocated, lost her livelihood, and encountered life-changing upheaval that would make even the strongest of us crumble under the devastation. Her stamina was faltering. Her bank account dwindled down to nothing and she was losing hope – fast. Despite courageous attempts to change her circumstances and tremendous sacrifices, she felt defeated and out of options. Standing on the rocky shore of her existence after years of fighting to survive, she was wondering out loud if her ship would ever come in. Continue reading
On a Friday night about six months ago, I was engaged in my usual routine. It was close to midnight and I was hunched over my computer keyboard banging out another freelance project. Trying not to think about the dishes that still needed to be washed, I also attempted not to obsess about when I’d squeeze the laundry into an already packed weekend, and kept a responsible eye on the time; my daughter would need to be picked up on the other side of town soon. I was falling asleep, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by a growing “to do” list, and listening to the voices of happy people as they walked home from a night out at the local bars and movie theater. I was quietly but deeply resentful. And that’s when it hit me: It had been a long time since I remembered to play.
When Teresa Thaman heard how bad the storm was going to be, she, her daughter and her husband closed themselves in their bathroom and hid under a mattress, just like they’d done every other time a tornado warning had been issued. This time, though, was terribly different. The storm didn’t pass. The windows exploded before the roof tore off, piece by piece, and the wood in the walls cracked apart. Teresa and her family clung to the toilet and tub, unable to comfort one another or even hear each other scream. And as debris pounded the mattress and the suction intensified, she was sure they were going to die.
When the storm passed and the family emerged from a pile of wood and rubble, dirt filled their mouths, eyes and pockets, and the once varied skyline was leveled flat for miles. Family heirlooms, photographs, every piece of furniture and clothing they’d ever owned were all gone – taken in a matter of minutes by the 2011 Joplin tornado. Continue reading
In the 1970’s a folk artist from Detroit penned and recorded some of the most poignant songs of our time. An edgy brand of inner-city poetry, his songs addressed societal issues that were tearing our country apart: war, racial inequality, abuse of women, poverty, drugs and corruption. They were heartrending and profound. They expressed the frustration of an entire generation. And due to a lack of commercial success – they were never heard.
Across the Atlantic, South Africa was being rocked by the oppression and violence of apartheid at the same time. However, thanks to the underground anti-establishment songs of one particular musician, the seeds of full-blown protest were being sown. In a country where speaking out against apartheid meant imprisonment and other atrocities, this was nothing short of a miracle. His records were secreted into every liberal home, and he became a bigger household name than Bob Dylan.
Believe it or not, these two stories are about the same man. Continue reading
Just two weeks ago, the world watched in awe as Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Key West, in shark-infested water without a protective cage. Throughout the 100 mile trip, the endurance swimmer contended with harsh wind, exceptionally cold water, fatigue and jellyfish. Hardly a novice, Nyad had attempted the crossing four times before, each time dealing with storms, asthma attacks, a swollen tongue and lips, and even vomiting due to excessive intake of salt water. But all of this isn’t even the most impressive part to me. Her fifth and final attempt took 53 hours, resulting in a historic achievement, all at the tender age of 64. Continue reading
In the midst of the challenges and chaos of our day to day existence, it’s easy to forget that there’s a world of opportunity out there. Sure, we dream of alternate careers, travel, starting a new business, moving to that distant place we’ve always dreamed about, learning to play the piano. We even imagine how rewarding it would be, but at the end of the day we often file these cravings away in folders labeled Someday, Pipe Dreams or Impossible. The reality is, many of our dreams don’t have to be “out there” at all. They’re not only possible, they’re attainable with some planning and work. And the only things stopping us are two little words…. “I can’t.” Continue reading
I have a friend who is a scenic artist. She’s smart and incredibly talented, and has worked on films starring big names like Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Kevin Bacon. She can transform any surface into an artistic illusion; marble… rust… any patina imaginable. So you can imagine my surprise when she recently whispered to me that she’s afraid of being “found out” – that people will realize she has no talent. Continue reading
I’ll never forget the sound of laughter coming from my grandmother’s bathroom years ago as she finished getting ready for one of our weekend lunch dates. Staring with a raised eyebrow at the closed door, I listened as the 75 year-old matriarch of my family collected herself and then quietly emerged, shaking her head.
“Grandma,” I said, making no attempt to hide the amused grin on my own face, “what was so funny?” Continue reading