I am fascinated by our words, by our ability to speak, something which we own apart from the animals, and by our awareness – or lack of it – as to when to NOT speak, when, instead, perhaps to listen.

Most of us, I’ve found through the decades, are absolutely terrible listeners.  This is a skill that not only do we often not possess, but we are usually not even interested in honing it as a skill in ourselves.  Why?  Because then we would lose the spotlight, the focus on us.  And that would be, in our distorted minds and hearts, disastrous.

There’s a program regularly on cable television called “Actors on Actors,” which is a roundtable panel discussion of seven or eight currently prominent actors or actresses talking about their craft and their lives, moderated (or at least attempted to be moderated) by a staffer from “The Hollywood Reporter.”  (You can usually tell, humorously, that he or she has had more experience writing about actors and actresses than actually attempting to herd their conversations and keep them on point.  And keep two or three of them from running away with the narration.)

        Anyway, a few weeks ago the panel was composed of current TV series comedic actresses, and it was interesting and fascinating to watch to see which people hijacked the discussion – no matter what the question posed to all of them – and which did not.  I observed that even when one of the quieter, more subdued women was speaking, one of the more flamboyant “please look at me!” personas would manage to capture attention just by exhibiting a very dramatic reaction to something someone else said.  “Oh no!  That didn’t happen!!!” and the camera would of course shift to that reaction, that actress, to capture the comment, moving away ironically and surreptitiously from the woman who should have been the focus because of her original statement or story.

How subtle.  How selfish. How like all of us.

Timothy Keller talks about this kind of behavior in his devotional “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life,” which he wrote with his wife Kathy and which, as I’ve shared quite a few times this past year, I’m using early in my mornings as a brilliant but often painful devotional.

He talks about “the wise hold their tongues rather than multiplying words.” “Proverbs,” he goes on to say on July 9’s devotional, “consistently teaches that fewer words are better than many words…The more you say, the less you get to listen to others, and so the less well informed your words will be when you do speak them…Then, too, people who talk too much appear to be more interested in themselves than in you, and often it is the case.”  The actresses on this program who kept pulling the focus back to themselves, weren’t remotely interested in the ones who were speaking by letting them know they understood what had been said; they were saying, “Please, let the attention come back to me!  It’s been away from me for far too long!” That is to say, about two minutes.

Studying people in this mode of “How can I rather underhandedly regain control of the microphone?” is fascinating to me.  Studying people when and how they use their speech is a really big deal.  Again, Keller makes this point in one of his devotionals: “Finally, controlling our tongue is a way to gain self-control in general.  If we can master the difficult task of controlling our speech and our desire to pontificate about every subject, then self-control in other areas will be much easier.”  He references James 3:1-2. (“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.  For we all stumble in many things.  If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.”)

I reference Jeremiah 12:5 when thinking about this concept that Keller talks about: “If we can master the difficult task of controlling our speech and our desire to pontificate about every subject, then self-control in other areas will be much easier.”  Jeremiah 12:5, tattooed on my right inside forearm so that I won’t easily forget it, says: “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?”  In other words, if you can’t do the easy things of life, how will you ever be able to do the hard ones?

If you can’t learn to listen, to keep your mouth shut, to not need the attention, the focus to always be on you, then you’ll have difficulty, I imagine, to be able to do anything of substance, because, like the actresses on the program I watched, instead of living in the moment and making life better for those around you, you’ll be worried sick about how people are perceiving you, how you’re coming across, and whether or not you’re in control the way you want and feel you need to be.

Think about it.

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Posted by: ritagone | July 4, 2018

Sometimes It’s the Little Things…

We got a new clock (pictured here) a week ago.

No big deal…and yet.  It has in reality changed our lives in some very small but significant (and yes, funny) ways.

My “old” clock was one I had seen in a hotel room in New York City last year and thought was very cool.  Battery operated, it only lit up if you reached across the night table and tapped a button on the top of it to make it do so.  Otherwise, at night, you couldn’t tell the time on it. The only problem: for me, that meant it was hardly ever lit up.  Which meant I could hardly ever see the time on it.  Which meant I would have to kind of elevate myself on one elbow and look over Michael’s sleeping head and shoulders to see the lit up clock on his night table.  Kind of stupid.

Still, I did this for the better part of a year.

And then, I got fed up.

        And went on a search on the Amazon for a clock of me own. (Sounding like a pirate here.)

And found the clock pictured here.  It came in all different frame and letter and number colors, but I chose black background with white letters.  I think it’s actually made for the benefit of Alzheimer’s patients, those who are having trouble remembering the day of the week and date and even the time of day or night.  It was so easy to read that I didn’t even need it on my night table; I plugged it in on my dresser, about three feet away from the bed, and could see everything on it perfectly.

Two mornings later, I noticed Michael was unplugging his electric clock and putting it in his night table cabinet.  “I don’t need it,” he said. “I can see yours just fine.”  He meant it as a compliment.

And we were both happy, not the kind of happy about winning the lottery, but happy for having made a purchase that changed our lives in a small but enjoyable way.

We showed everyone who came over our new clock.  I even suspect that purchases were made on the Amazon of that same clock, maybe in different colors, but with the same clarity of message in mind.

No doubt about it: we were bedroom clock trendsetters.  Okay, make that I was the bedroom clock trendsetter.

I honestly do love this $40 purchase.  Every night when I get in bed, every time I wake up (don’t ask me how many times) during the night, in the morning when I’m up for good, I look at it and I’m excited to know the day, the date, and the precise time.  Who wouldn’t be?

Back in the ‘50’s there was a popular song sung by Kitty Kallen called “Little Things Mean a Lot.”  I’m humming that song right now, because it is so, so true.

What’s a little thing in your life recently that means a lot to you?  Share it with someone today.

 

Posted by: ritagone | June 27, 2018

Sick Leave

Please forgive me for not writing my blog this week.  I’m a bit under the weather with a cold and am trying to take care of myself by doing as little as possible and resting as much as I can.  Hopefully I’ll be back next week with my usual clever repartee and something brilliant to say.  Thanks for understanding.

Posted by: ritagone | June 20, 2018

War and Peace by the Pool

On my recent trip to Maui, accompanied by my husband and joined later the same day by my two children, my son in law and all four grandchildren, I learned something very valuable: you cannot read “War and Peace” by a busy hotel swimming pool.  “Why?” you ask.  Because children and adults make noise by the hotel swimming pool, talking, laughing, screaming with joy as they jump and dive and run around with friends and family.  “War and Peace,” on the other hand, demands the utmost concentration, lest you forget who Pierre is or where Rostov fits into the plot, why Napoleon wanted to conquer Russia in the first place or what was happening to the boots of Russian soldiers on the march to whatever city in Austria you can’t remember because someone was yelling her lunch order to her mommy during that paragraph.

My friend Sue texted me when I returned home and wanted to know what we did on this wonderful vacation.  I texted back that there was snuba-ing (a combination of snorkeling and scuba diving where you don’t go lower than 10 feet in the water but have all the visuals of both activities and none of the fears of drowning in your prime), surfing lessons, a helicopter ride around Maui and over to an adjacent island, and zip lining, which almost killed Michael.  Not the zip lining itself, mind you, which looked amazingly fun, but the hike up to the heights of the mountain so that you could zip line DOWN, down, down to the end of the runs.

Meanwhile, back at the condo, where it was deliciously quiet, I kept reading “War and Peace.”  Sue wrote back to me how impressed she was that I had finished “War and Peace” in five days, admitting that it would probably take her at least a year to read it.  I wrote back that she mis-read my text: I hadn’t finished “War and Peace,” I had merely begun the process.  When I arrived back home to Westlake Village, I had read 17% of it, just a little over 100 pages on my Kindle.  Only about 645 Kindle pages more to read!!!

I thought about switching to the paperback edition of the novel that I decided not to pack due to its weight, over 1,000 pages of text.  But when I found my corresponding page in it and started to read, the text was so small that in a short time I was losing my vision, so I switched back to my Kindle version, where the font size is so big that every time I swipe, I have read about five sentences on the regular print page of the paperback.  Still, I prefer that, because I’m building quite a bit of dexterity with my right hand swiping technique while moving along slowly but surely through the novel.  I figure I may be done with it by the time summer ends.

Lesson learned: sometimes two things are at cross purposes with each other through no fault of their own.  Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”  Reading “War and Peace” is a noble undertaking.  Vacationing by a hotel pool in Maui is amazingly relaxing.  But you probably should not mix them.  One demands a sort of quiet solitude so that you can concentrate on the exorbitant number of characters that march through the novel with varieties of names in Russian.  The other beckons you to laugh and be cheerful and enjoy the frivolity of family and friends, to bask in the sun and pretend that all’s right with the world, even for a few hours.

Apples and oranges.  Oil and water.  They don’t mix. I’m sorry, Count Tolstoy, but I must finish your tome in the quiet of my room, snuggled in and savoring the language (translated), the characters (with many names), the plot (Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812), and everything else about this jewel that so many people will never read because they are daunted by its size and stature.

But I, I will finish it.  I will finish it.  I will finish it.  I will finish it.

 

Posted by: ritagone | June 13, 2018

The Highlight Reel

“Stop me if I’ve told you this already.”

As we get older, we tend to need to say this sentence more and more.  Why?  Because we forget what we’ve said.  And who we’ve said it to.

But worse than that, I’ve found that I’ve forgotten huge chunks of my life, because the longer you live, the more opportunity there is of forgetting segments of your life, experiences that you’ve had, especially if your life is chock-full of wonderful events and people and experiences in different places around the world.

        So…stop me if I’ve told you this already, but there was the time a few years ago when Michael and I were checking into a wonderful hotel on the river in Budapest, Hungary, after a Communitas conference for one night just to enjoy the city and relax for a bit.  The young lady behind the front desk said to us, “Welcome back, Mr. and Mrs. Warren,” and we shook our heads negatively, saying, “No, we’ve never been here before.” To which she replied, “Yes you have. You’re in our computer from 2009.” She had proof.  We had none. We were flabbergasted, to say the least. Not only did we not remember staying at the hotel; we didn’t remember a single thing about that particular stay in Budapest.  Weird? I’ll tell you it was!

Or you know the experience: Someone starts talking about a time when you were with them, relating details of that time together…and you can’t remember a thing about it.  You’re lucky if you remember the person who’s telling you the story.  It’s as if a blank wall is facing you. Like someone has dug out portions of your brain wiring that included that particular episode of your history.  Strange?  Yes, sir!

But then, there are those moments etched into your memory forever: the births of your children, your wedding day (not in that order, of course), events that were so wonderful or terrible that you can’t escape the memory of them, because they are permanently etched on your brain.  I can remember the stained ceiling tiles of the old Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles, where my son Matthew was born some 43 years ago, as if it were yesterday.  They were relocating to the new hospital, Cedars Sinai, in a few months, so everyone felt okay with letting the old place get a bit seedy, including water damage, so as I lay on the birthing table, I could look up and see those ugly water stains staring back at me.  I see them now.  They are with me forever.

I remember emotions I’ve felt at times, people who shared those times with me.  Not everything, mind you.  Else why would I have forgotten completely what surely was a lovely time in Budapest in 2009?

So what I’ve decided is that our brains create a sort of highlight reel, like the best pieces of a film or television show that are preserved to show everyone on the last night a cast and crew are together for a wrap party.  It’s called a highlight reel because it is truly the highlights of the endeavor recently finished.  Someone sat in an editing room and decided, “This is great!  Keep it!” and “This is not worth it.  Throw it away.”  Maybe that’s exactly what our brains do about all the experiences and times of our life: “This is worth keeping; this isn’t.”  Otherwise, we would be so inundated with memories – both good and bad – that our heads might explode.

        So instead of bemoaning the fact that I can’t remember every single incident in my 70+ years, I’m going to consider that my brain is compiling its own highlight reel, and that’s good enough for me.  I will allow those experiences that it has stored away for me to come to the surface, I’ll enjoy them, then tuck them back into their drawer, and then hopefully be able to retrieve them again in the future, because my brain thought at one time they were worth keeping.

A highlight reel.  Sounds good already!!!

Posted by: ritagone | June 6, 2018

Life Is An Adventure!

When I was younger – much younger, in fact – I was very much afraid to try anything new: new food, new undertakings, new people.  Why?

I don’t really know for sure, except what the psychologist or pop culture people tell me, that is: we stay comfortable, in our zone of recognized places and things and people, because they’re…well, comfortable and recognized.

Then I began to realize that life was short and getting shorter all the time.  All those new places to see and visit, those new foods to eat and taste, those new people who might broaden my view of the world were out there just waiting for me to find them.  So I went looking.  Some of them were wonderful.  Some were not.  The places that were not so great I crossed off my list of re-visits.  The foods that I didn’t like the taste of I just decided not to ever eat again.  I must confess that this includes a great assortment of dishes, probably more than I liked a lot, but at least I tried them.  And if I didn’t enjoy the company of certain people, I realized that I didn’t have to spend more time with them in the future.  So it made it easy to keep going forward seeking the tasty food, the interesting places and people.

It’s a good rule to live by: find what you like and then find more of it.  You can’t go wrong.

Life should always be a bit of an adventure.  Otherwise, we just get stale and old too quickly.

Don’t you agree, even a little bit?

Posted by: ritagone | May 30, 2018

Resting For a Week

I hope you will all indulge me as I take a week off to enjoy two graduations in my family: my oldest granddaughter’s high school graduation, and my only grandson’s from middle to high school.  There’s so much activity around these two events that I don’t have much else to say or think about this week.  I’ll be back next week with something stirring and hopefully interesting to entice you with.  Until then, be well and full of peace and joy.

 

Posted by: ritagone | May 23, 2018

Longing for God

Once again I’d like to present a reading from Timothy and Kathy Keller’s devotional, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life,” which I’ve been using in 2018 for my morning reading.  When I am particularly struck by a 

  given day’s reading, sharing it with my readers brings me great joy because I know how impactful Tim Keller’s words can be.

 

This is the entry for May 19, and the verses shared are Proverbs 30:1-3 in the NIV.  “I am weary, God, but I can prevail.  Surely I am only a brute, not a man; I do not have human understanding.  I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.”

 

“LONGING FOR GOD.  The speaker says he has no more understanding of life and God than an animal (a brute). Exaggera

tion?  Yes, but a healthy, paradoxical one.  He says he doesn’t know God, but that very statement is a mark of spiritual awakening.  Those who are confident they know God well don’t.  Those who cry that they don’t know him at all have begun to do so.  Sometimes a keen sense of God’s absence is a sign that he is actually drawing us closer to him.

The man who cried, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” was actually putting faith in Jesus at that moment (Mark 9:24).  The first step to remedying ignorance is to know the full extent of your ignorance.  “If anyone would like to acquire humility I can, I think, tell him the first step….If you think you are not conceited, you are very conceited indeed.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity) The sage in 30:1-3 took that first step by admitting the infinite gap in knowledge between God and human beings, and therefore the need for God’s revelation.  The next step is to listen to the Word of God and admit we are sinners in need of grace.

Can you honestly say you have a hunger to know God?

 

Prayer:  Lord, teach me the absolutely essential spiritual skill of repentant self-examination, but help me to avoid the self-absorption of morbid introspection.  Amen.

Posted by: ritagone | May 16, 2018

A Post by My Friend Amy

Here’s a blog from my friend Amy Downing that I just love.  I asked her if I could share it, and she generously said yes, so enjoy it.  I know you will!

 

Always Know the Way Home

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WHILE I CREATED THIS FOR A BABY, I FIND IT QUITE FITTING FOR THIS TIME IN MY LIFE AS A MOTHER AS WELL.

Dear readers: As I think about the upcoming Mother’s Day, I’m reminded of one of my  more difficult mothering times–almost three years ago, exactly.  Husband and I put our older son–15 years old at the time–on a plane to Chile for 25 days. Alone. His idea, not ours. To help me deal with this back then, I wrote him a letter. (With his upcoming high school graduation only a few weeks away and college a couple months later, I have a feeling I will be “writing lots of letters.”  Please bear with me.

Dear Shmoo,

Over the last few years, you’ve been slowly earning our trust. We have quite a nice stash built up, and so when you said you wanted to go to a country and be immersed in the Spanish language and a different culture, there was nothing to keep us from letting you go. Except I didn’t want you to.  Unfortunately, I know that’s not a good enough reason for an almost 16-year old. And so, soon very soon, you will be walking down that ramp to step on a jumbo airline, taking you far away from everything familiar.

Here are some things that I want to impress/remind/tell you to help with your trip (and I won’t even mention laundry, though you know I’m dying to).

 

I know this list will not be complete, because my lists never are, but here it is so far:

  1. Don’t stress over the small things,  which is pretty much everything.  There is nothing you can’t solve when you call on our heavenly Father for guidance.
  2. Be flexible. It may mean waiting when you don’t want to wait; or working when you don’t want to work; or eating something you’ve never seen before. Do it all, and try to smile while you’re at it.
  3. Please pick up after yourself . . . and others, without them having to ask you first.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. Or  two. Or three. And it’s always okay to say, “I don’t know.”
  5. Admit you’re wrong when you’re wrong. (While it’s a very grown-up thing to do, a lot of grown-ups have not yet learned this.)
  6. Take pictures. Take notes. Take time to record your adventure.  Because seriously, when you are back home and we are asking you questions, “fine” and “it was good” is not going to cut it.
  7. It’s okay to fail and make mistakes. In fact, it’s a necessary part of growth. Always lean on God, but particularly during those times of struggle. That’s what He’s there for.
  8. Always be kind and generous, in every circumstance.
  9. Finally, never forget how much Our Father loves you. Where you are at this moment. With all your doubts and questions. With all your energy and enthusiasm. The bad, the good. All of it. So share that love with others.

We’ll miss you more than you can understand . . . that is, until you are doing this with your child, decades from now. We are with you and will be praying for you always.

Love and more

Mom and dad

Posted by: ritagone | May 9, 2018

Are Geniuses Born or Made?

         I get this website (Delanceyplace.com) every day in my email, and often it has the most interesting information.  This one from a few days ago was about Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer and musician, and the reason I found it so fascinating is that I’m intrigued by this kind of talent: does it come naturally or is it nourished in some magical way that most of us are not exposed to?  Read it and come to your own conclusions.  It certainly made me want to read Webber’s autobiography “Unmasked,” which I just might do this summer!

 

 

Delanceyplace.com

Eclectic excerpts delivered to your email every day

 

Today’s selection — from Unmasked by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Andrew Lloyd Webber, famous for such musicals as The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Cats, first encountered musicals as a preteen in London:

 

“Christmas holidays 1958 brought me full frontal with musicals for the first time. It was a bap­tism and a half. I saw My Fair Lady and West Side Story plus the movies of Gigi and South Pacific all in the space of four game-changing weeks. 1958 also coincided with the arrival of [our home’s] first long-playing gramophone. With it came an LP of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Unfortunately for Dad the other side was Proko­fiev’s The Love for Three Oranges Suitewhose gloriously dissonant chaotic start much appealed to [my brother] Julian and me. The famous march had us dancing on our bed with joy. Thus started my lifelong love of Prokofiev, in my opinion one of the greatest melodists of the twenti­eth century.

 

My Fair Lady was the talk of London throughout 1958. The leg­endary musical based on Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion had opened on Broadway two years earlier to ecstatic reviews, apart from one Alan Jay Lerner told me about in Variety that said there were no memo­rable songs. The producers did a brilliant hyping job in Britain by banning the music from being heard or performed until just before the London production opened with the result that the Broadway case album was the ultimate in chic contraband. Naturally [my] Auntie Vi had one so by the time I saw the show I knew the score back­wards and had long pondered whether Rex Harrison’s semi-spoken song delivery had a place at the Harrington Pavilion. London’s lather foamed even further as the three Broadway leads, Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews and Stanley Holloway, repeated their starring roles at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and I was lucky enough to have a ticket to see all three — actually two because Stanley Holloway was off. It’s funny how a disappointment like that stays with you forever. In my case that and the rustling front cloth depicting the exterior of Wim­pole Street as Freddy Eynsford-Hill warbled ‘On the Street Where You Live’ are what I remember most about that December Saturday matinee — apart from my showing off by singing along with the songs to show I knew them.

 

“My love of the score took me to the movie of Gigi, the now impos­sibly un-PC story about a girl being groomed as a courtesan. Can you imagine what would happen if you pitched a Hollywood studio today a song sung by an old man entitled ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’?’ Thank heaven I was young enough only to agree and even today the overture from Gigi is something I relish hearing.

 

Curiously it was Granny Molly who banged on about West Side Story and it was she who took me to it. The American cast’s danc­ing was like nothing I’d seen before. That two stage musicals could be so different yet equally spellbinding had me in a tailspin. Granny bought me the Broadway cast album for Christmas and pretty soon it was my favourite of the two. I related to Bernstein’s score much as I did to Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges.

“However what completely pulverized me was the film of South Pa­cific. I went with Mum and Dad and I remember the afternoon I saw it as vividly as the legendary colour filters that would have clobbered a lesser score. I had to wait until my birthday the following March for the soundtrack album. I still treasure my battered worn copy — incidentally it is the only album to have been No. 1 in the UK charts for a whole calendar year. By Christmas 1961 I knew the scores of CarouselThe King and I and Oklahoma! and had seen the South Pa­cific movie four times. But there was one other movie. It only had a few songs but it grabbed me nonetheless. Elvis in Jailhouse Rock. The ‘Jailhouse Rock’ sequence had me standing on my seat. I still have the worn-out 45 rpm single that drove my parents to distraction.

 

“Musicals were soon the staple diet of [a pretend theater at my house]. I wrote tons of dreadful ones. An audience of bored parents and friends, relatives and anyone I could find would gather for the latest offering with [my brother] Julian and me on vocals, and me alternating as pianist and scene-shifter. At its zenith the theatre’s stage, were it to have been built lifesize, would have dwarfed that of the new Paris opera house at the Bastille. Subjects included everything from The Importance of Being Earnest to The Queen of Sheba. A whole fantasy town developed around the theatre. Everyone in this town was somehow dependent upon the theatre’s well-being. The Harrington Pavilion had a box of­fice through which the townspeople booked tickets. Hits or turkeys were assessed by the reaction of the audience of bored parents and friends.”

 

 

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