Smiling Begins with Children



“Why are they sad and glad and bad? I do not know, go ask your dad.” 
Dr. Seuss

Shinichi Suzuki, violinist, educator and humanitarian said that “Children learn to smile from their parents.”  Even so, whenever I think of a perfect smile, I remember when my baby boy smiled at me for the first time.  It was pure, without any artifice and it was all for me.

Gena Lee Nolin, actress and model, said, “My children are the reason I laugh, smile and want to get up every morning.”

Smiles begin in homes, around the dinner or computer table, sharing a pizza or working on a math equation. Children deserve our very best smiles.

“If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don’t be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning ‘Good morning’ at total strangers.” 
Maya Angelou

Without Fear



Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”

John Wayne

Without fear, courage is meaningless. When we or, someone we love, is in danger or in pain, when our way of life is threatened, or when we experience loss and suffering, that is the moment everything changes.  There is an immediate awareness that the only option before us is courage.

Fear is part of our human experience.  At some point we will all feel the wrenching emotion; avoidance is not an option. Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  This was echoed by Nelson Mandela.  “I have learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

We build our lives with protective mechanisms to circumvent danger and tragedy. We search for security in a world of uncertainty.  Perhaps, we do not recognize the generous amounts of courage that resides deep within our souls.

Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Helen Keller


Writing the Last Word



There is always the last word, the closing argument, the final chapter in any storyline.  The End – this is where the reader closes the book and says, “I wish there was more…”

As we write our personal narratives, our words gather momentum as we age.  Recall that great feats and resolutions happen towards the end, not at the beginning. Perhaps that is the reason memoirs are generally written in the “denouement” stage of life.  Looking through the lens of age it is easier to sort out the complications and fashion a fitting outcome to a life well lived.

Gloria Swanson confessed, “I’ve given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages.  You can’t divorce a book.”  Winston Churchill said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Conversely, the Comte de Lautreamont said “I will leave no memoirs.”  Frank Harris, editor and journalist, declared that, “Memoirs are a well-known form of fiction.”

Whether we write, paint, sing, dance or live our memoirs, one thing is certain – no one else can write our story as eloquently or passionately. The journey continues – write with enthusiasm.  Recall the words of Frank Herbert, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

Writing the Words


The Past

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.”

Steven Wright

As we enter a new year of blogging, I am reminded that we are recording our personal narratives in whatever way gives meaning to the timeframe we inhabit.  The act of writing is a creative process that forges the strength from past experience and acquired knowledge with the nascent energy of an undefined and nebulous future.  It seems that writing serves as the bridge between the two realities.  Yet, all that is granted to a writer is the finite moment, which seems at times to be too restrictive for the task at hand.  This week, I want to explore the imaginative, even inspired, nature of writing.  Words have an appearance of immortality, as Benjamin Franklin once pointed out:

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.”

The Chefs at Work


Kitchen Table

When I think that my life is crazy-busy, I watch the chefs on the food channels and realize my life is tranquil compared to the bedlam that occurs in a professional kitchen.   Professional chefs wear multiple “hats” and display interdisciplinary talents. They are artists, entrepreneurs, performers, communication experts, instructors and risk-takers.  Here is what they have to say…

William Todd English, based in Boston Massachusetts said, “I liked the energy of cooking, the action, the camaraderie. I often compare the kitchen to sports and compare the chef to a coach. There are a lot of similarities to it.”

On the other side of the continent in Yountville, California, Thomas Keller, founded of the award-winning French Laundry restaurant speaks to the moment he chose his life-work: “I wanted to learn everything I could about what it takes to be a great chef.  It was a turning point for me.”

Italian American chef and television personality, Giada De Laurentiis, was clear in her career choice.  To be successful, she said: “It helps to immerse yourself in what you potentially want to do.  Being involved, learning firsthand and observing the crafts and absorbing all you can, make it easier to define what you want.  It will also ultimately make you a better Chef. ”

The Barefoot Countess, Ina Garten, left a well-paying, prestigious position to follow her dream. “I worked for the Office of Management and Budget in the White House, on nuclear energy policy.  But I decided it would be much more fun to have a specialty food store, so I left Washington D.C. and moved to the Hamptons.  And how glad I am that I did!”

Kitchens, whether professional or in our homes, are the center of family life.  Vincent Andrew Schiavelli, the well-known stage, screen and television actor, once recalled: “My grandfather was a chef for a Baron in Sicily before he came to America. I grew up with him.  I used to do my homework at one end of the kitchen table while he cooked at the other end.”

An Actor’s Goodwill



“I am for people. I can’t help it.”

Charlie Chaplin

Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, born April 16, 1889, was the most famous film star in the world before the end of WWI and one of the most influential personalities of the silent-film era.  Most remember him by his celebrated role as the tramp.   Less well-known were his talents as a film director, writer and composer.  In 1919, he co-founded United Artists along with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith. His left-wing politics drew the ire and condemnation of Senator McCarthy which brought about his forced relocation to Europe in 1952.

Charlie Chaplin’s goodwill to all came in the form of humour. He used mime, slapstick and visual comedy routines to bring joy and laughter into a world torn apart by war and economic woes.  Hardship and poverty were Charlie Chaplin’s constant companions during childhood.  He said in later years, “I was hardly aware of a crisis because we lived in a continual crisis, and, being a boy, I dismissed our troubles with gracious forgetfulness.”  These words signified his resilience and spirit of determination.  His young journey was not for the fainthearted.

At the tender age of seven, Charlie Chaplin was sent to a workhouse and was housed at the Central London District School for paupers.  When he was nine, his mother, who had developed a psychosis from what appeared to be malnutrition and a syphilis infection, was committed to a mental asylum.  He lived for a time with his alcoholic father, whose abusive behaviour generated a visit from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. And yet through this adversity, he chose to embrace life, to look for ways to bring pleasure in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Charlie Chaplin reached other to others and gave the precious gift of goodwill to all.