Monday, June 25, 2012

Being Aware of Others

Moments ago as I pulled into the parking lot of the party store a young lanky kid the color of smooth tar was walking up. There was something about him. I jumped out of the car and walked to the door. He held the door open for me.

"Thank you," I said. "Your parents taught you well."

"Yes, ma'am," he said.

I smiled and rather nonchalantly followed him. He walked straight to the register and asked for a 25 cent box of Mike and Ike candy. He dropped the quarter onto the counter. It clanked. It had a joyous sound.

"Here," I said, "Let me pay for that for you and why don't you get something for your siblings too. Do you have siblings?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said, "I have a little brother. I was going to share this box of Mike and Ike's with him."

"Well, why don't you get him a box and anything else you might like," I said. "Now, I'm not big on junk food, but tonight let's just say that it will be a special treat."

"Really, ma'am?" he asked.

"Really," I said. "Go ahead. Have you had dinner?"

"Yes, ma'am" he said. "I got a bad sweet tooth."

"Most kids do," I said. "But remember this is just a special treat and please be careful not to eat so much sugar and junk food every day."

"Yes, ma'am," he said.

I went to get my favorite summer drink, Bombay and a bottle of tonic water. The kid went for chips, a bigger box of Swedish jelly fish candy and a 16 oz bottle of soda.

"Remember," I said, as he brought the junk food to the counter, "this is a special treat."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, beaming from ear to ear.

"I'm going to give you this and I want you to pay for your own treat and you can keep the change."

His eyes got the size of silver dollar pancakes.

"Really, ma'am?" he asked stunned. Really seems to have been his favorite word.

"Really," I said, smiling.

"Thank you so much," he said.

"You're so welcome," I said. "What's your name?"

"Leviticus, ma'am" he said.

"Wow, Leviticus?" I asked.

"Yes, ma'am. It's the third book of the Bible," he said confidently.

Apparently, the name was one of distinction for him. It's originality had no ill affect.

"I know the book well," I said.

Tears circled my eyes, but I didn't know why. There was such a hush about the meeting, a beauty about the kid. Leviticus is a book of rules, but it is also one of distinction. I pray that this kid will make an impact. By his demeanor and composure, he seems to have been given a good start.

Being Karen VanderKloot DiChiera

We had been preparing for weeks for the arrival of Karen VanderKloot DiChiera of the Michigan Opera Theater to come to Ludington Middle School to produce an operetta she had written, "Look to the Land." (Her then husband David DiChiera is the founder and general director, of the Michigan Opera Theater. . Both have done extraordinary things for the City of Detroit for over 40 years.) I was 12 and I was preparing "Amazing Grace." I didn't know any operatic pieces. I knew what opera was, as my grandmother had an extraordinary soprano and my father was a classically trained pianist and organist, but opera was not in my repertoire.

On the big day I walked out center stage. "What have you prepared for us?" Karen asked. She and Joan Hill, the lyricist, were conducting the audition. They sat in the middle of the auditorium which seemed huge to me. "Amazing Grace," I said. "Great. You can begin when you're ready," said Karen. As I was singing, she and Joan were talking. What are they talking about, I wondered, almost losing my concentration. "That was really great," said Karen, walking up to the stage and replacing the pianist. "Can you sing 'Happy Birthday to You?'" "Yes," I said puzzled, thinking that was a silly request.

I sang this silly song, not once but three times. Being rather vocal, I told her that I thought it was a ridiculous request, and to sing it not only once but three times was just plain silly. I was upset, especially since my voice cracked on the high note the third time around. I was so embarrassed and ran off the stage. She followed me, gently taking my hand and bringing me back center stage.

"Did you know that you have a 3 octave range?" she asked. "No, what's that?" I asked. "You sang a high C," she said. "Not many singers can sing that note so effortlessly." "I cracked," I said. "Yes, but that was on a high E" she said. "Three notes higher." It was all Swahili to me. She walked to the piano and began playing "'Do a Deer." "I know that song," I said. "Yes, it's from the Sound of Music." she said. "Yes!" I said. It was a favorite. "Sing it along with me," she said.

We sang the song three different times and she explained to me that each letter of the song represented a note which added up to a scale. I understood that and could sing that scale three times from top to bottom in different ranges, as she said "rather effortlessly."

"Okay," I said. "But what does that mean?" "It means that you have a very wide range and not many people have that," she said. "Oh, I guess that's good?" I asked. "That's great!" she said. "Can you stay after school and meet me in the principle's office." Suddenly, I felt as if I was in trouble. I was always a kind kid, but my head often raced well ahead of my maturity and I often spoke out of turn. Going to the principle's office was never a good thing. "I would rather not," I said. "Oh, it's a very good thing," she said. "I'm going to call your mother and tell her what a great gift you have."

Karen wrote a song for me and included it in the operetta. I was the only kid to have a song which had three verses that was adapted to my natural way of singing. It had cadenzas, somewhat in the style of the black church, with a flavor of the Spanish style of the operetta she had written for us. The song was called, "Gather 'Round Me Noble Rancheros." I could sing all verses today. I have never forgotten the melody or words.

Throughout my entire life Karen has supported my mother and my talent. She employed me since the very day we met, helping to arrange her music scores and correspondence, and hired me to sing at their Christmas parties at their gorgeous home in Bloomfield Hills. She got sponsors to pay for my piano lessons and saw to it that I had lunch and bus fare to get back and forth to when I entered high school. The school was nowhere near my house and it took me three buses to get there. She had called the School Center Building and spoke to the music director of the Detroit Public Schools to make sure that I had everything that I needed.

We didn't have a car when I was in high school and Karen let me use her spare car whenever I wanted or needed it. It was like my car. She also paid for anything that I needed that my mother could not afford. She was raising 12 children alone. She never asked what I needed, but just saw to it that I had what I needed. When I entered college she helped to pay for my first trip to Europe where I spent the summer backpacking with a friend. For the trip, took me to London Luggage and bought me a beautiful set of luggage with my initials. I still have pieces of that luggage set. It was good stuff. She taught me about architecture, driving me often through my neighborhood that looked nothing like hers, pointing out the beauty of the architecture, causing me to appreciate my environment. I just felt good about that. At the time, I didn't know why. She was teaching me to love myself.

My photographer took this photo of Karen at the opening of my jazz series at the Detroit Opera House last Thursday and it so warmed my heart. As I was singing, I saw her beaming with pride. It made me feel so good. Afterwards, I asked her how I did. She has always been one of my biggest supporters and she has always been very honest. She has a discerning ear. She did not answer right away, but tears filled her eyes. She then said, "You were brilliant. I love you, Judith." We embraced and she introduced me to the kid sitting with her. He's in middle school and she had told him all about me. "Now, when time allows," she said. "I want to tell you about him."

The kid smiled. I smiled. Karen smiled.

It was a beautiful evening.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Being Agile and Humble

It takes agility and humility to hold contradictory thoughts. Let's be conscious to be certain that contradictions do not become the enemy of thought, but the fuel of new beginnings.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Being Andrew Breitbart

Peace and love to Andrew Breitbart's family and friends. May our words be honorable and our deeds noble.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Being Named

What's in a name? While watching the extraordinary documentary Oceans where underwater life is beautifully documented, the names of amazing creatures struck me as so appropriate. Color, movement, form and habit made it so. But before naming and knowing existence was. The sense of appropriateness is based on pre-existent knowledge, not omniscient knowing. We are discovering what has already been. Again, I ask, what's in a name?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Being Confident

"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward." --Hebrews 10:35

Being Creative

In preparation of upcoming performances I have been listening to recordings of great jazz singers and instrumentalists. In imitation creation begins.

Being Complex

Complexity is generally the genesis of the path to understanding, not understanding itself.

Being Forever Aware of Fascism

Conservative Zionism attempts to silence the voices of justice and the equality of peoples based on a sense of righteousness. In a letter to the New York Times Albert Einstein outlines the danger of fascism shortly after the formation of Israel in 1948. While Menachem Begin's leadership is rightfully questioned here, it is good to see that he had evolved beyond his terrorist fundamentalism as Prime Minister with the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1979. But the actions of the Israeli Defense Force during the 1982 Lebanon War in Sabra and Shatila where Lebanese and Palestinian civilians were mascaraed tarnishes the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him. We must always be aware. Fascism forever rears its ugly head.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Being Ron Paul

While it is not surprising that Ron Paul according to the Washington Post was "deeply involved with his company that produced" those despicable racist newsletters and even wrote them as others have suggested, what is the worst scenario--continued corporatist control, war, and Wall Street looting? After all, many of our founding fathers owned slaves. Does that make the Constitution and Bill of Rights of no effect? I don't think I can vote for Ron Paul, although I respect some of his positions. But if the government goes broke and our constitutional rights are constantly being thwarted via legal means including congressional laws and Supreme Court decisions by believed non-racists or concealed ones (Clinton is excused for his racist comments during the primaries), we all go down. Blacks and other minorities will be first. Again I ask, which is worst?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Being Barack Obama

In his State of the Union address Obama reveled in his accomplishment that Osama bin Laden and other top Al Qaeda leaders are no longer a threat to Americans. It was a strong opening. But the problem with such assassinations is that any opposition to others can be considered assassination-worthy for the security of a country and its people. As Israel has long engaged in targeted killings, it is significant that Andrew Adler, the owner of the Atlanta Jewish Times, wrote that the assassination of Obama should be an option for the Israeli government for the security of Israel and her people. Besides the legality of such acts of war among governing bodies nationally or internationally, is there not a better way?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Being Kind

Whole Foods was really busy today. I was wet and cold after a 10 mile run and just wanted to grab some veggies, fruit and juice. I was parched and couldn't wait to get my favorite drink, ALO. To my disappointment there was only one on the shelf. I usually buy six or so. I grabbed it along with my other items and headed to the customer service counter.

"Might you have any more of these?" I asked.

"Let met check with grocery," the cashier said.

"Are those good?" another lady asked.

"They're the best," I said.

"What's in it?" she asked.

"It has 25% aloe vera juice and pulp," I said.

"I always like to see what other people are buying," she said.

"It has only 60 calories per serving and it's not very sweet," I said.

"I'd like to try it," she said.

"Here, take this one," I said with a slight inner twinge. I wanted it so bad.

"No, you go ahead," she said. "I'll remember the name for another time."

"Please take it," I insisted, feeling good about my decision.

She stood there looking into my eyes. She was always welcoming, but suddenly there was such softness around her eyes and mouth.

"That is so very nice of you," she said. "Thank you."

"You'll love it!" I said. "It's so refreshing."

"You are so kind," she said.

"When I see you again you'll have to tell me how you enjoyed it," I said.

"I sure will," she said beaming. "You're so kind."

"Blessings!" I said. "I'll see you again."

Offering that drink may not have been a huge gesture, but I felt really good about it and from the look on her face she did too. Let's be sure to practice kindness daily. Often times it's the small gestures that mean so much.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Being a Creative Destructionist

Creative Destruction, the "gospel" of shipping jobs overseas, paying executives outrageous salaries and bonuses, and dismantling companies for future economic growth, turns out to be greed--pure and simple. And here I thought the derivation of the term gospel was "good news."

Monday, January 9, 2012

Being Considerate of the Needs of Others

When I pulled into the gas station there was simply something about a gentleman standing at the pump. But I didn't know what. I jumped out of my car to pop in for a Naked berry smoothie. I had just done a two hour intense workout and I was drained. As I was in line, he came in. I walked away from the line and then came back. Out of his pocket he withdrew a fist full of change.

"Should I lay it on the counter," he asked the attendant. "There are eight dollars here."

"No," she said. "Give it to me. I'll count it. But wait right there though."

As the attendant counted mostly dimes and nickles and a few quarters, they seem to sparkle. They were so clean. Shortly thereafter his wife came in and gave him a gentle hug, but not before giving more change.

"Here, I found another dollar," said the wife, lovingly caressing her husband's shoulders, handing the change to the attendant, and stepping back out quickly.

"Please give the change back to him," I said. "If you don't mind sir, I'd like to fill up your gas tank today."

"Really? You would?" he asked.

Yes, sir," I said, making sure to put that particular handle on his name again. Not being able to adequately provide for your family must be humiliating.

"Thank you so very much," he said. "May God richly bless you."

I waited for them to fill their van up. It took some time. My car is smaller.

"They must be on e flat," the attendant said.

"That's okay," I responded.

"Look," said the attendant, "he's crying."

After paying for the gas, I thought of how I might leave the station without running into them to avoid a sense of obligation. But that didn't work. They were both coming in my direction with tears streaming down their faces.

"We just asked God if he could provide a means for us to get to prayer," the wife said. "God answered our prayers."

She gave me a big hug and thanked me profusely. I mentioned that there is no other reason for our existence on the planet, save to be a help to one another.

"Do you have little ones?" I asked.

"Yes, the husband said. "We have four. Two are in the van."

"Beautiful. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus," I quoted.

"Amen," they responded.

"Now, Father, we ask you to bless our dear sister 100 fold," he said. "Whatever her needs are, meet them. It's done."

There was a big group hug. When I got into my car I wept. Let's always be sure to consider the needs of others. In doing so we are blessed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Being Doubtful

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."

-William Shakespeare, Measure by Measure

Monday, January 2, 2012

Being Barack Obama

President Obama signed the indefinite detention bill into law after initially having "serious reservations" about it. This seems to be Obama's MO: to claim either to be against something or in support of something and then do the exact opposite--think the extension of the Bush tax cuts, single payer health care, and now this indefinite detention bill.

This new bill is an extension of the Patriot Act which erodes American liberties and is endorsed by Obama. Liberals were frothing at the mouth Sunday about Ron Paul's comments on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and lying low about Obama's signing of this outrageous bill over the holiday in Hawaii on Saturday. What tools liberals and libertarians are!! Sadly, obviously presidents, including this one, are tools too.

Funny, I searched high and low for articles by the mainstream media about this indefinite detention bill on the internet and found none. From the looks of things, along with Congress and the Supreme Court, the mainstream media seems complicit in destroying the freedoms of the Constitution and Bill of Rights through laws passed or the sanctioning of such. Consider this indefinite detention bill, the Patriot Act, and Citizens United.

If presidents, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the mainstream media will not speak for the American people, who will? President Barack Obama most certainly did not.

Being Suspected Terrorists

President Obama signed the indefinite detention bill into law on Saturday. We are all suspected terrorists now. Yes, this means you.

Subtitle D—Counterterrorism


(a) IN GENERAL.—Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.

(b) COVERED PERSONS.—A covered person under this section is any person as follows:

(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.

(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.

(c) DISPOSITION UNDER LAW OF WAR.—The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:

(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

(2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111–84)).

(3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.

(4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.

(d) CONSTRUCTION.—Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

(e) AUTHORITIES.—Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.


The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be ‘‘covered persons’’ for purposes of subsection (b)(2).

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Being Inspired by the New Year

Grace, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness are re-newed continually. Begin again daily.

Happy New Year!!