Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tradition... tradition!

One night a year you will know exactly what I will be doing, where I will rather be, and who I will either travel near or far to spend it with. Granted, while I will miss desperately a certain few who speak the language of Oscar, truth be told, I have enjoyed the evening many a times in the company of pop and corn, wine and chocolate!

Now, now, here this: my infatuating with an awards ceremony, perhaps this particular awards ceremony, is about 20 % red carpet, 20 % the movies and what they represent, 10% the show (and its often ill-fated opening number!) and 50% the stars---yes, the stars gathered in one place, at one moment celebrating magic; magic that takes you away from reality and transports you to a magical place called Oz, the Moon of Endor or the State Capital.

I have already blogged about my love of movies, all things movies and the behind the scenes stories, history, gossip this and gossip that. This entry is about the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences' annual red-letter day, celebration, dare I say, feast day. Yes, it is, at least for me, a feast day. A day where Hollywood stops for a minute and like Bob Hope once said while he hosted, "in my house, it's known as Passover!"- chuckle! He never won an Oscar, but hosted more than 10 times. :)

When I was growing up, blessed to have been introduced to American cable TV at an early age, my dad and I would plan out our Oscar night date. Popcorn purchased, ballots (sometimes) printed and filled out! We always tried to watch all the nominated films before the actual night. Pathetic excuse to eat movie theatre popcorn- YUM! But at least we had an educated and informed opinion of what film we voted should be crowned with the golden statue of Bette Davis' uncle! ;)

Ah, yes, the stories of old Hollywood always fascinated me. How legend tells Bette Davis once proclaimed that the statue reminded her of her uncle Oscar. Really, Bette? I am thinking the brandy had something to do with altering her vision. A story that sure has stuck. I mean, Oscars. com? Welcome to the Oscars? The Oscars this and the Oscars that. I guess people got tired of saying Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences. Yeah, I guess I would too.

I also loved how Judy Garland was suppose to win her Oscar for "A Star is Born", but it went to Grace Kelly for "Country Girl". How Audrey Hepburn got snubbed in 1964 when she was nominated for "My Fair Lady" and the Oscar went to Julie Andrews for "Mary Poppins"--- no offense, I love and can sing all of "Mary Poppins" especially when I need a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, but Eliza Doolittle would kick Mary's ass anytime--- Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiii!

 Now, not all of my favorite tid bits or memories of Oscar nights past. A few years ago, a tribute to the man who made films that defined high school to so many of us children of the 80s: John Hughes.
John Hughes had recently died. Sad, so sad. John Hughes brought us "The Breakfast Club", "Sixteen Candles", among others and of course, the best, now classic, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". Before the IN MEMORIAM sequence, a montage of Hughe's films was followed by Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Jennifer Garner and Ferris Bueller himself, Mathew Broderick, walked upstage to take a final bow together--- some of the original members of the Brat Pack. Thank you John Hughes, for everything I needed to know about how to survive high school, I learned from your movies and thanks to you I met the city of Chicago!

But perhaps the best thing about tonight I have already described to friends today. It is that no matter what, Oscar trumps everything, EXCEPT while watching the Oscars, I am in constant communication with dad. Date night continues, whether I am in Ohio, and he is San Juan, or he is Colombia while I am in Canada. I have also been in Germany, while he loyally watches from home. No matter what has happened, no matter where we are... the text messages come, the emails exchanged and the post- Oscar commentary will take place on Facebook, of course! ;) My awesome cousin and aunt are also watching and it's a family tradition that we keep alive.

A night like this is our own tradition. Some families have a favorite birthday or celebration that they make tradition. This is ours. It started years ago... and while I can't remember when I sat down to watch my first Oscar awards show, I know my mom was still around, so it was before I was 12. It's corny, it's cheesy. Ask me anything you want to know about completely useless Hollywood or Oscar trivia -- like the fact that Peter Coyote was the announcer during commercial breaks one year. Poor guy, hadn't made a movie in a while. He was good in E.T. but I LOVED him in "The Legend of Billie Jean". Ha! Let's see who gets that! ;) -- Did I say this is corny and cheesy?? Oh yeah, I did. But I have learned that we need a little corny in our lives once in a while. It's a hobby, it's an escape, it's a temporary dream that can make us cry and make us laugh. It's a tradition... tradition!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dr.'s orders: Listen to the 800 yr old Turkish philosopher and call me in the morning.

My Beloved, do not let anger estrange your Heart.
Be generous, invite me to your feast.
Let no one be deprived of the joy of your company.

Every morning Rumi quotes are featured on my news feed. While my daily prayers always include a simple "thanks" for merely waking up, being blessed with the need of the often judged, enabled caffeine vice and the desire to do... to be, Rumi adds something more.

For a publicly declared sap, I often admit that Rumi's daily quotes are so full of love that even I gag. Yes, I am owning it now, especially when it comes at 6:00 a.m. It is way too early for so much love, so much joy... Hmmmm. Stop. Yeah, I know. I don't buy it either.

It does surprise me that no matter how little or restless sleep I get, how my mind wonders often too wildly into adventures way too complicated to retell, I wake up, read Rumi and breathe. It works. A sense of peace fills my head, my soul, I guess. Smile.

Maybe it's stress, or maybe it's February. Winter gray skies are in full bloom, leaving those of us residing in the lovely Mid-west longing for longer days and evenings outings--key word OUT! ;) 
Maybe it is "that time of the year" like so many politely comment in casual conversations when asked how things are going and clearly, the baggies under the eyes are as obvious as the need for more hours in the day. No matter what it is, Rumi couldn't be better timed. 

I can only speak for myself, although I noticed more of my friends becoming "friends" with Rumi themselves, noticing a much better awareness of how his words (or whoever translated them) become daily prayers. These short, easy to remember statements of love, hope, peace, silence and prayer are just as good as any Nike Just Do It commercial, Hallmark greetings cards or Lifetime movies- girls, you know what I mean. ;)

Here's another good one that was perfectly timed mid-week:

There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted.
Then there’s another way: a breath of Love that takes you all the way to infinity.

Here's the thing, this 800 yr old philosopher is often referred to as "Doctor Love" or "Love expert" because of his, well, philosophy, or actually, religion. Did you know the love he talks about, he witnessed, he lives and experiences in the deepest , mystical, physical and soulful way, is the love of God; God's love towards each and every one of us. How's that for Valentine's day? ;)

No, I am not preaching... The purpose of this reflection is in appreciation of how a simple statement of love can help change the outcome of a day, or assist in acquiring the patience you didn't have before facing a problem, or even helping prepping to take on a new project. Not only can one of these quotes become that little mantra in your mind (and some have, indeed!), but they can remind you of simple rules of life... Be kind, think with love, act FROM love and leave anger behind.

How sad and often disappointing to be faced with a situation where hatred, meanness and negative thoughts turn relationships into divisive weapons to hurt. I make a daily promise to think, speak and act from a place of love and while it may be challenging at times, it is worth it in the end... I am here, I am blessed. Hearts have been broken, intentional hurt been done. I am still here, I am blessed. Thank you Rumi.  Thank you God and all the angels in heaven-some that I know personally ;) and thank you to life, friends and family for keeping it real- always!

When life takes a turn for the worse, questions arise and hurdles pop out of nowhere to make us either jump over them or fall, close your eyes and say a quick prayer... and remember the Turkish philosopher and hopefully, he can remedy the aches in your heart...

You are rest for my soul,
a surprising joy for my bitterness.

Imagination has never imagined
what you give to me.

There is nothing I want but your presence.
In friendship, time dissolves.

The Christian Trinity, the Zoroastrian light-and-dark,
I absorb them all.

Though my body has not noticed,
union has begun to see a new way to be.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Old memories, new memories. A homecoming... of sorts.

Memories... how deliciously addicting they can be, while either making you smile from cheek to cheek or turn your stomach upside down and release the Kraken-esque butterflies that make your eyes well up with tears. Memories are incredible and I wouldn't want to live without any, ANY of them, good or bad.

I just experienced almost four days of reliving old memories and making new ones. I experienced a homecoming, of sorts, while visiting the wonderful city of St. Louis, for work. ---MAIN CAVEAT---
Work to me IS fun and I enjoyed every minute of all the work meetings, conversations and memories carefully, yet spontaneously orchestrated by life, this weekend. Goals were met, work got done.

In the middle of scheduled meetings, meals and appointments, all work-related, my head and my heart reminded me, or perhaps, it nudged me to think that there could be time for everything. Define everything, I asked? Well, are there others that you could visit with? Are there other places we can squeeze in to see once the work is done. No way-there's lots to do. Hold the phone, try.

No way! It worked. This is a silly example of when you set a goal, or put your heart into something, it will happen. Or better yet, you can make it happen. And the creation of new memories, celebrating old ones, began!

A quick visit to the office where some of the gifted spiritual leaders of my community work, was the first of the new memories I created. Here's the thing, friendship, love and support are not things. They are organic, feelings you feel, funny, weird goosebumps in your skin, or uncontrollable needs for giving and receiving hugs. I felt all of that when I walked in the door. Immediately, arms go up in the air and smiles shape faces. :)

As we walked up and down the hallway I glanced at the wall paintings, many of them by artists I admire, images of Madonna and child- the real Madonna and child, not the one from Michigan. Memories of my visit from November 2010 when I presented to a group of alumni, to the March 2011 meeting to review the best ways to communicate using on-line marketing. Great conversations and brainstorming, community building and faith sharing together. The mass in their meeting room on December 8, 2012, as an already, somewhat "seasoned" resident of Cardinal Nation. All these memories came rushing back. 

Talking out the plans for the weekend, quickly updating folks on the latest happenings at the university, and more important, anticipating anxious and loyal support for our basketball team-all part of the new memory card created at that moment, now forever engraved in my mind---and heart.

The next day there was, dare I say, an hour at the end of the day to make a stop I was hoping for. A place where I once found a best friend for my heart, mind and soul; a community of friends and educators living for the "hear and now" of young men's lives. A Dragon's lair.

Another set of hallways. These wide and green and with small windowed doors, I glance into classrooms and quickly recognize faces. One, two, three, four Dragons come out to say hello. My boys. After being blessed with being a faithful companion in the spiritual journey of some of these fine, young, men for the last few summers in Dayton, I give thanks. More hugs, memories- bring it!

At that moment, I experienced joy, simple, pure and real joy. Smile.

Teachers say hello, some I met last summer, others I met years ago. These are my friends even if I don't see them every week, email, call or text each other everyday, like we used to. You are part of me. I missed some that were gone for the day, but that's OK. They know I was there, looking for them. Wanting to see them, Wanting to hug them... wanting to say "It's sooooo good to see you again."-- Tear.

After a heart-wrenching basketball game, where the boys tried and tried, but didn't quite make it--and those memories some may want to skip altogether-- we moved on to another "what if..." A celebration of community was taking place at another high school where more friends waited, while others had no idea we would show up. Tic toc, tic toc, we were running late. Late, late, I hate being late-- don't I, friends? ;) -- but we made it and with my heart feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest, we made it and sat in the very last pew. How purely, perfectly, Catholic. 

Silence, peace, grace. I look around and recognize faces and finally, I look up and stare. God, I know you are witnessing all of this. You know, I know you know what I know. Memories, welcome back. Tears fill my eyes, butterflies savagely fly inside my stomach. I had been there before, many times before, but now it was different. Everything was different. I smiled without making any type of fuss or noise. For right then and there the image of my friends laughing, telling stories and joking, praying and praising together, hug my heart and make it smile. All of these filled my heart, my soul. Anxiety, nerves... calm. And, yes... I smiled.

I didn't get to talk to everyone, nor I got to really catch up with others for as long as I wanted to. With some, only looks and glances were exchanged. But at least, I am glad the exchange took place. Words are great--I am a big fan of them-- hugs even better, even though at times, it's OK to simply have eye contact and share a simple glance.

The evening concluded with more memories shared of times of Marianist LIFE past! Memories of reconnecting with old amigos, meeting new ones and facilitating the potential "beginnings of beautiful friendships" made for a weekend of work, turn into a weekend of creating and re-creating.

We created memories, while re-creating old ones, celebrating that they happened. We created shared times and spaces that only US, those present, at that time and that moment, lived and shared together. Like our own little secret, full of "you had to be theres" and a million and one THANK YOUs.

This entry could have easily become an ode to St. Louis. It could have included detailed accounts of conversations, exchanges, agreements and questions among friends and strangers alike. What I hope to share is an appreciation and a celebration of memories. And, by memories, I take the good and the bad equally- can't discriminate against what has already happened, for it has happened and there's no way of changing it... whatever "it" is. Think of a place you have been to, a city lived in, a school attended, or office you worked at. Memories fill your mind. Experiences in life that helped shaped your life. Much like I have written about before, life experiences come with the baggage of memories. Whether they make you smile or tear up, this entry is to say thank you to the memories past and bring it on to the memories yet to come!