Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mary J Blige: My Top Ten

Even with all her success, Mary J. Blige is one of the most underrated music artists of all time. Since the release of her breakout hit album, “What’s the 411?” in
1991, the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul” has taken us along on her journey of self discovery, sharpening her talents to unmatched heights, and providing us with great entertainment and inspiration along the way.

Mary J. Blige, or MJB, has always created infectious songs, mixing heart pounding, feet thumping grooves with irresistibly catchy lyrics that beckon listeners to sing along, matching Mary’s inflections with enthusiastic abandon. Mary has created many classic tunes, from heartfelt ballads, to infectious hip hop funk beats, to feet thumping dance grooves. Throughout, fans have come to learn from Mary’s stories as lessons in life. It’s a difficult task to choose ten out of so many, but here are my top ten Mary J. Blige songs:

#1 – No More Drama

The familiar piano of TV’s, “The Young and the Restless” theme provides an appropriate background to Mary’s now classic tune proclaiming liberation from the unnecessary turmoil that comes with the drama that exists in many relationships. She’s clearly experienced the games and commotion and tells us that she’s had enough. The song has become an anthem life. Anyone who’s been in unfortunate situation in life can heed Mary’s words:

“I don’t know.
Only God knows where the story ends for me,
but I know where the story begins.
It’s up to us to choose whether we win or lose
And I choose to win.”

Mary’s learned a lot from her involvement with relationship drama. Her words inspire taking responsibility for the choices we make. We determine our own destiny. It’s some of the best advice ever given in song.

(NOTE - The Thunderpuss remix of the song adds an equally powerful, danceable, and inspirational feel to the classic.)

#2 - Be Without You

Mary’s #1 song from her 2006 album “The Breakthrough” represents a newer, happier phase in the chaotic life of the singer. Both the studio and the remix versions of this ode to love and devotion were major hits on the Billboard charts. Mary’s singing still inspires clubbers to “put [their] hands up” on dance floors across the nation.

#3 - Family Affair

Let's get it crunk upon
have fun upon up In this dancery
We got ya'll open, now ya floatin'
So you gots to dance for me
Don't need no hateration, holleration
In this dancery
Let's get it perculatin' while you're waiting
So just dance for me

What exactly is hateration? Or holleration? I really don’t know, but the catchy lyrics and infectious beats make this an irresistible groove that just beckons us to “get a crunk upon” and “have fun”.

#4 - We Ride (I See the Future)

The song comes off of Mary’s 2006 greatest hits album, “Reflections – A Retrospective”. It was originally intended for her previous effort, “The Breakthrough”, but was instead saved for inclusion on this compilation. The song continues on the same vein as the songs on the preceding CD, characterizing Mary’s exhilaration at her current space in being, happy with a husband she loves and pleased with the new direction her life has taken. The lyrics once again inspire the listener to sing along to every nuance of Mary’s vocal range and are a powerful testament to her newfound joy.

#5 - Reflections (I Remember)

“Reflections (I Remember)” is the opening salvo to the previously mentioned retrospective CD. In this song, Mary takes us back to her beginnings, revisiting particular moments of change in her life through her long and tumultuous career. The song is sentimental and comforting. Mary puts her past to rest through contemplation, without regret, and embraces the Mary she’s become. It’s a feel-good trip down memory lane for MJB fans.

#6 - I’m Goin Down

For Mary’s fans, this one is a classic. The tune first appeared on her sophomore effort, “My Life”. It is a cover of a 1976 song by Rose Royce and this rendition convincingly portrays the vulnerability of a naïve and desperate young woman. Mary’s pleads with her man, “If I ever lose you…I’ll be goin’ down…Please forgive me, baby… and come on home”. The haunting, hypnotic melody blends perfectly with the authentic desperation of Mary’s vocals.

#7 - Just Fine

“Just Fine” is Mary’s latest hit. It’s a lively and danceable tune that’s a celebration of the elation in Mary’s life today. Fans are invited to share in the party, singing and dancing along to the catchy and rapid fire lyrics:

“So I like what I see
when I’m looking at me
when I’m walking past the mirror.
No stress through the night,
at a time in my life
ain’t worried about if you feel it.
Got my head on straight,
I got my mind right
I aint gonna let you kill it
You see I wouldn't change my life, my life's just fine, fine, fine…”

It’s simply a fun song!

#8 - Sweet Thang

Mary’s 1991 cover of the Chaka Khan classic puts a contemporary spin on the original. Mary’s sultry voice stays close to the originator, but is authentic on its own. For an album full of great hip-hop songs, it serves as a nice segue into Mary’s soulful side. Both incarnations of the song have earned their own entry into the classic R&B songbook.

#9 - I Love You

Another hypnotic ballad off the “My Life” album, this song is a lamentation to lost love. “I Love You” is a bittersweet reflection on a failed relationship coupled with a longing for what might have been. The melody is haunting and the lyrics, like so many other MJB tunes, make for an irresistible sing-along!

#10 - Let No Man Put Asunder

The closing track of MJB’s 1999 CD, “Mary”, this cover brings new life to a 70’s disco-funk hit with a hands-in-the-air, gospel, funk feel. Unlike the rest of the songs in this top ten, “Let No Man Put Asunder” was never a notable hit, but the continuous gospel-infused hook, “It’s not over…” is a powerful centerpiece to this catchy remake.

Clearly, Mary J. Blige has amassed a large catalog of great music in her stellar, yet still underrated seventeen-year career. History will surely recognize Mary as a legend in her time, and we’re all lucky to benefit from her gift. Choosing a top ten song list was a difficult task, and I’m sure many fans might choose an entirely different set of worthy classics from the “Queen of Hip Hop Soul”. If you’re not familiar with Mary J. Blige tunes, take a listen. You may find yourself inspired to by her words, stirred to sing along, or even motivated to dance!

Check out MJB's artist page on iTunes:

Mary J. Blige

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Reflections of a Breakup VII: Back in the Saddle

It’s been a long time since I’ve written any entries to this journal. My last piece differed from the previous entries in that it may have been a little more personal it should have been. At the time I had written it, I was in a really bad place. Uncertainty about my future hovered over me like a dark cloud, preparing to deluge my life with more misery than I had bargained for. Once again, I’d jumped the gun and overreacted to the possible scenario of not having the ability to buy our home, as its’ valuation came in unexpectedly high. I wrote the essay in the form of an open letter directly to my ex. In hindsight, it was surely an error in judgment, yet it set things in motion to where we are today.

When I first published my “open letter”, I was hesitant, but I submitted it anyway. I don’t know why, but I must’ve had an inner inkling that something would come of it, because I fell asleep thinking about it. By the morning, though, I had pretty much forgotten I had even written it, until he got home from work that night.

“I read your letter!”

(Dumbfounded silence from me.)

“Why? Why did you have to put it on the Internet?” he added, shaking his head.

I didn’t know. I had no answer. I was embarrassed, mostly. I didn’t regret what I had written. It was what I felt. But that question, “Why did you have to put it on the Internet?” kept echoing on and on in my mind. I felt foolish. Why would anyone do something like that? I’ve been thinking of how to answer that question for the better part of two weeks now.

I’ve always been an avid reader. I enjoy reading all sorts of written work. I especially value works that are honest and genuine, ones that come from both the heart and the mind. There is a certain authenticity to the writing that piques my interest, especially when the experiences and feelings depicted in the writing are ones I can relate to.

Writing has come to be another passion of mine, a natural extension of my love of reading. I have a lot of opinions and points of view and I find that writing is a viable vehicle for getting them out. Over the years, I’ve written many pieces on a wide variety of topics. I reviewed museums and cartoon cats for an alternative college newspaper. I’ve penned writing assignments for college on all sorts of both academic and social topics that have won praise from professors and peers alike. My Master’s thesis, “What Happened to the News?” was nominated for an annual university award for submitted dissertations. In recent years I’ve started a blog, “Rants” in which I share my views on issues I find newsworthy. I’ve more recently found outlets on amateur writing web sites, where I’ve found a new audience for my work. Like any other aspiring writer, I want to be successful.

Much of my writing is told from my experience, based on my views of the world. “Reflections of a Breakup” is the similar, in that I tell it as I see it, only it is based on my views of my own world. Writing in this manner is effortless, as I am only telling it the way I see it. It is my truth, right or wrong. Putting my feelings and experiences to paper is my way of working things out for myself.

When I started crafting “Reflections of a Breakup”, I thought I had a good thing going. I had a lot to get out of my system and I hoped that maybe it would be of some value to others, as the stories I read were valuable to me. Although I had seen our breakup coming for a long time, I hadn’t anticipated all of the feelings and experiences that would surface in my life. As time went and things started to change, I thought that it might be interesting enough to be read by others.

I was full of ideas. A twenty-year relationship between two men is not too common in the psyche of the average person. J and I, and all of the people around us, saw that we were not that different from any other couple. I actually consider myself lucky when compared to a married couple with children who are separating. Nonetheless, many of the experiences and feelings I’ve been facing are similar. Maybe some will learn from or identify with my story. Who knows? Like I said, I’ve got a lot of ideas and I’m sure more will come out as my chronicle unfolds.

Upon hearing that he had read the letter, and most likely the rest of the journal, I fell into a pit of uncertainty. Would have to end my little online journal? I struggled with how to move on. I had questions to be considered.

Can I still write as openly and honestly as I’ve planned?

How did he find out about this in the first place?

This one troubled me. Several of my friends know about this journal and have read it. Could one of them have given him the web address? Then again, he’s been successful before at finding things, like a password I had had once for a porn site (How did he figure that one out?) He gave no clue how he found it, just that he did. I can’t help but feel a bit uneasy. I’ve got to watch what I say from now on!

After wrestling with the question of halting this journal or continuing, I’ve decided to move on with my story. For whatever reason I choose to, it is of no one’s concern but my own. It’s my life and this is my therapy. Many bear their souls for the world to see. I share the same capacity for doing so. Why do we keep secrets anyway? We’ve all got these walls around us that we feel we must keep to ourselves in order to fit in. I’ve found that honesty is scary to people and many become hostile towards it. Who knows how we became that way, but we have. I could be naïve, but I think if we were all honest, the world would be better off. And I’m no angel in that regard. But I try!

I still find myself struggling day by day with our situation. It’s been almost six months now and we’re still under the same roof, each of us frustrated and anxious to move on with our lives. After the “letter”, we’ve moved ahead. We sort of came into an agreement and I’ve put my mortgage application in. Hopefully, both the end and the beginning are near.

Now that I can see it on the horizon, my feelings are more intensely awash with anticipation and sadness. On one hand, this is the first time in my life, at forty-three years of age, that I will be completely on my own, and the prospect that I alone will make the decisions that affect my life excites me. The future is what I will make of it. On the other hand, I dread the end, and the time left between now and then. Daily life has been so difficult! We live under the same roof, yet we’re in separate worlds. Sometimes I can’t wait for him to be out of the house and out of my life, and other times I feel nothing but sadness at the loss of my companion of twenty years. As time marches closer to the day when he leaves, I know it will be even more difficult. That day will be one of polar opposites; both the saddest and happiest days of my life.

So, I’m relieved that I’ve put the ball back into play. I realize that he’s probably going to read this, but at this point in time, I can’t worry about it. I’m doing what I feel I need to do. It helps me to get it out, and I hope it serves to inform, question, or even entertain anyone out there. This is my therapy and whoever is reading this, I want to thank you for listening to me!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Reflections of a Breakup, Part VI; An Open Letter

I hate the way things are going between us! Being forced to live together has been as rough on you as it has on me, I know that. I’m so frustrated now that I can’t begin to tell you what I’m feeling at this moment. But I feel I have to get them out…

I know I’ve always pegged you as the one who doesn’t communicate, but I have to admit that I’ve been doing my fair share of avoiding conversation, especially the past few weeks. I think my breakdown in communication comes out of fear. When we broke up, I told you that I loved you and I still do. This breakup has caused a lot of unexpected feelings and behaviors between us. I guess I was naïve to think that you’d been feeling the same things I was feeling, and were already at an emotional point in time where we could easily become the friends I thought we’d always be. At the time, I believed we could make that transition. I hate to say it, but right now I don’t believe that may ever happen.

Right now I feel like I’m at a moment where I’m going to find out whether or not my perceptions were real. I’ve questioned your feelings towards me for a long, long time and have always feared hearing the words, “I don’t love you” come out of your mouth. You told me once that you didn’t like me sometimes, and it really hurt!

Jay, I know deep inside that you love me. How could you not after twenty years together? I want to tell you here and now that I still love you and I always will. We’ve had a lot of good times…we were kindred spirits for over twenty years. This is a heartrending situation for both of us, just the same.

For a long time, I’ve felt la lot of guilt. I don’t know how much you regret what’s happened to us, or if you regret it at all. I can only guess. Outwardly, it turns out that I was the one who officially ended our relationship, so ever since I feel like the bad guy. Rationally, I don’t believe I am. I think that inside you’ve wanted this too, so I’m feeling some of the same sorts of hurt as you are.

I ask you here, for the sake of the next guy, to learn to open up more. I’ve always had to guess what you were thinking or feeling. You never really shared anything with me. It often led me to think that you didn’t really love me, that you had accepted what you’d gotten in life. That simply wasn’t good enough for me. I felt unloved, many times. It left me unhappy and unfulfilled, and I guess I’d just given up trying to believe otherwise the last few years.

In a way right now I feel powerless, and sorry for myself. I need to work this out alone, but I wonder where we go from here. When we first broke up, I had feelings that our house was special to you and that maybe you’d find a way to keep it. I wouldn’t have minded. You loved it at first sight, and taught me over time to appreciate its beauty. But I knew I was in a better position to do it, and I couldn’t picture it as any stranger’s home.

I was happy when you agreed to have me buy it, and I have to admit I’ve wanted to get past this quickly, to get on with my life. I’m sure you, too are looking forward to the day when we truly part ways. I dread it and look forward to it at the same time. I’m sure that day will be the toughest of all.

So here and now we face a test. You know I can’t afford the house at the price it was appraised for. We both underestimated the value it would come in at, by a lot. After my initial shock I’ve come to realize that I shouldn’t feel all this gloom and doom. I shouldn’t necessarily have to pay the price that the appraisal came in for, should I? If we put it on the market, do you think we’d really get that much money for it?

I see this situation as a breaking point, either an opportunity to let us part with the opportunity of salvaging some sort of a relationship, or a mechanism that will validate what I’d been feeling and sever our ties altogether. On one hand, I know you are kind-hearted. We share that trait, you know. I’m also scared that you’re going to play hardball with me, inflicting hurt upon me as maybe I’ve done to you. That would be the proverbial last straw on my back, bringing us to a place I never wanted to be, leading us further apart, and erasing happy memories of twenty years. I hope you’ll reflect on our lives together, and be fair with me. I deserve it, and I hope I can still buy this house not for just my sake, but for the sake of salvaging a special relationship with an old friend. That’s all!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Musical reviews: Wicked

In 1995, Gregory McGuire's unique spin on the legendary Wicked Witch of the West captured a whole new audience for Wizard of Oz enthusiasts around the world. "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West" casts the notorious character as a socially conscious, misunderstood figure who is a victim of her own circumstances. The depiction of the witch gives audiences an entirely new perspective on the classic tale. McGuire's novel became so popular that in 2003 was brought to the Gershwin Theater on Broadway and has quickly become one of the greatest Broadway shows of all time.

For over 100 years, Frank Baum's, "The Wizard of Oz" has fascinated generations with its mystical characters and magical themes. The characters have become iconic figures in American pop culture. "Wicked" takes a real-life approach to the development of the characters in the original story. In the end, we come to realize that the witch is not so wicked after all, but a misjudged human victimized by the conditions under which she finds herself.

The magical aura of the show hits visitors upon entering the world-famous Gershwin Theater. The far wall of the venue sports a gigantic atlas of the fictional country of Oz, over four stories tall. Ushers are clad in Ozian attire and the set is intricate and inviting to the eyes, setting up the lavish production that awaits the theater-goer.

The show opens with "No One Mourns the Wicked", celebrating the recent demise of the disreputable witch, who has just been destroyed by an innocent farm girl. The song poses the question, "Are people born wicked, or is wickedness thrust upon them?" Herein lies the central question of the production. At this point, the show segues to the time of the birth of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. The infant with the green skin and crooked teeth is the product of a lonely mother's infidelities and her lot in life has been thusly forged.

The play takes the audience on a journey through the life of McGuire's sympathetic incarnation of Baum's character. As protector of her sister Nessarose during their days at Shiz University, Elphaba is commonly misunderstood, judged and feared more for her jaded appearance than what lies beneath her greenish exterior. Armed with a strange gift for sorcery and a socially conscious mind, Elphaba attempts to fight the good fight, only to be publicly derided as an inherently evil sorceress by the Wizard and his government, to be feared and scorned by the people of Oz.

The story is a realistic depiction of the characters from Baum's original masterpiece, representing elements of the story in a convincing manner, one to which many can relate. The Wizard is the typical conniving master politician propagandizing events for his own purposes. The Emerald City feels like a real metropolis, filled with all the corruption and excitement, good and bad that depict any other large city. Spectators come to learn how the characters came to their circumstances in the first tale. Answers to unasked questions are revealed, such as: who are the other two witches in the story?; who are the Scarecrow and the Tin Man?; how did the Cowardly Lion become so cowardly?; how did the flying monkeys develop their wings?; and many more. Anyone familiar with the original will surely take interest in this fascinating twist on the tale.

For anyone who's ever been a fan of the Wizard of Oz and enjoys great special effects, great lyrics and a great story, get to the Gershwin Theater in New York or any other venue showing Wicked. And if you see one Broadway show in your lifetime, make Wicked the show you choose.

Wicked Tickets

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Getting control of your credit card debt

Today's economy has put a major squeeze on the wallets of the middle class. Stagnant wages and rising prices have placed millions of Americans in a position of having very little disposable income. Monthly bills gobble up earnings and very little is left for non-essentials, like dining and entertainment. Unforeseeable expenditures, such as the breakdown of an automobile or household appliance, leave consumers with no choice but to employ the use of their credit cards to cover the cost. As a result, credit card debt adds up quickly, saddling the consumer with finance charges that further diminish the financial situations of many.

Once a person becomes burdened with high debt, there is no easy way to reduce or even eliminate the liability, but there are things a person can do to manage credit card debt and put themselves on a path towards eliminating it altogether.

Make Minimum Payments on Time

- Paying minimum monthly payments on time is critical to maintaining a good credit rating. Sustaining a superior rating is vital to managing credit card debt. High-quality credit ratings allow the consumer a wider choice of options, which translates to lower APR's and faster diminishing of overall debt. With the deregulation of the financial industry in recent years, credit card companies have been afforded the option of assessing high fees and exorbitantly high interest rates, with little recourse for the consumer. Maintaining a good credit rating only gives consumers clout in any negotiations with banks, as these are the customers they desire.

Consolidate Credit Card Debt to Lower Interest Accounts

- Lower interest rates mean smaller finance charges. The intent is consolidating your credit card balances to the lowest possible APR available in order to pay down those balances.
- Credit consolidation offers generally come in two forms:

o A balance transfer offer from an existing credit card company, with which the consumer already does business, or

o Offers/invites to apply for a new account

- In reviewing balance transfer offers, it is critical to read the fine print and the disclosures carefully. Balance transfer offers usually come with a fee of 3-5% of the amount transferred. In addition, most offers stipulate that future payments are applied primarily to these transferred balances, further cementing the debt that's already carried at the previous, higher APR. Taking these two factors into consideration, only you should be able to determine whether or not these conditions will help or hinder your goal of reducing your finance charges and therefore your overall debt.

- Another important consideration in analyzing consolidation offers is the length of time offered at the lower rate. Many agreements offer a choice of either a super low rate (sometimes even 0%) for a limited time or a slightly higher one that will be in effect until the balance is paid off. The lower, limited rate can be tempting, but should only be chosen if it will help remedy the specific financial situation of the borrower in the long run. Oftentimes, the low rate offer for the longer period is more beneficial.

Seek Professional Advice

- One benefit to arise out of the debt crisis has been the advent of debt counseling services. The notion of debt counseling, as opposed to debt consolidation, is providing people to manage their debt without ascertaining new debt. Quality debt advisement businesses offer a wide range of services to help consumers manage their debt. Such services include, but are not limited to:

o Offering budgeting advice to consumers who have difficulty managing their expenditures.

o Negotiating with credit card companies on their behalf, to help alleviate the burden of high payments as well as finance charges, in some cases. In most cases, multiple monthly payments can be consolidated into one, more manageable sum.

o Professional analysis of one's overall financial situation to determine the best options for you.

- As with any other business service in the market, many predatory businesses exist within this booming industry. They offer promises to those in need, preying on those who could least afford to be victimized by such actions. It is vital to perform some thorough research in finding a valid credit counseling service. Determining the legitimacy of any debt counseling company will only serve to benefit you in your search for some valid help. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (http://www.nfcc.org/) is a nonprofit agency that provides links to all sorts of services related to credit counseling.

Cut Back on Spending and Cut into Your Debt with a Small Daily Expenditure that You Can Afford

- Have you ever heard the quote, "Pay yourself first?" A couple of years ago, renowned financial adviser Suzy Ormon was on the Oprah Winfrey show giving tips on financial health. During the show, she suggested taking a small sum of money that you might spend needlessly on a daily basis, such as for lunch or coffee and putting it into a savings account. Ten dollars was her recommended amount. With this measure, a person would save $3650 in just one year without putting too much of a strain on their wallet. For people heavily in debt, this is surely a beneficial way to chip away at that large stone of debt, whether it's ten dollars daily or even five.

Clearly, credit card debt is a major issue in the lives of millions of Americans. There is no magic pill for eliminating it all at once, but there are several options to help you effectively manage that credit card debt and make your way towards financial freedom. Above all, it is important to take a step back and explore all options thoroughly and decide on a plan that's best for you.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Reflections of a Breakup, Part V: The Friends

Within a week of the breakup, the phone stopped ringing. At first, I hadn't really noticed, but eventually the silence of the telephone became louder and louder to the point of being deafening. One day, all of a sudden, it hit me. People had become afraid to call the house.

I can certainly understand the reasons people have hesitated dialing our number. I've come to realize that an unexpected consequence of our breakup has been the effect it's had on our friends and family.

During a relationship, especially a long one, the circle of people who've come to view you as part of a couple grows and grows with time. Longtime friends of one partner forge relationships with the other. Each becomes a welcome and loved member of the other's family. Along the way, new friendships are forged with people you've met together and all of these people become an important facet in the lives of both individuals.

The dissolution of a relationship is a loss, much like the passing away of a loved one. Friends and family members need time to adjust and grieve the loss of these individuals as a couple. Friends who hold no loyalty to either individual probably have it the hardest. Although they end up gaining two 'new' friends, there's no question that the loss of the couple is lamentable especially to them. We've got two such special people in our lives.

Probably the one friend who's kept his head through all of this is our friend 'Dit'. Dit was a friend of a friend of mine from before our relationship, but we had never met until during the early days of my relationship. My friend Blanche used to bring Dit around for nights out at local gay clubs. Eventually club nights turned into dinners, plays, and other excursions for the four of us. Over the years, each of us has gotten closer to Dit, and when we broke up he was surely one of those friends neither of us wanted to lose from our lives.

For me, Dit has been a shoulder to cry on, an empathetic ear, and a source of endless laughs to make me forget my problems. He's made it clear through his actions that he has no intention of losing either one of us as a friend, which is admirable. Unlike family members and past friends, Dita is the non-partisan of non-partisans, making an honest and true effort not to break the link he's made with each of us.

He makes time for both of us and that's the way it should be. As a matter of fact, he's one of the first people to call the house phone since the breakup. I know both my ex and I are glad he'll still be around in both our lives. He's a true friend!

Ms. T and Miss Margaret are two ladies we met when we bought our home. They are a very cool mother/daughter duo. They lived across the street from us and soon after we moved in they rolled the venerable welcome wagon to our doorstep. They had both recently taken an interest in gay people and wanted to make some new friends. They had met another gay couple from the neighborhood and invited us all to a barbecue. From the start, the two of them gave us nothing but love and kindness and the four of us have been like family ever since.

Like everybody else, our breakup has been saddening for these two, especially Ms. T, who still lives across the street. Like Dit, Ms. T has maintained a steady line of communication with both of us. She's made it clear from the beginning that she has no intentions of losing either one of us from her life. And that's the way we'd both like it to be. She's always been a dear and caring friend, often sending over some extra food she'd been cooking up, inviting us over for a drink or a chat. The only thing that's changed since the breakup is that now the visits are with us separately.

A breakup is difficult for everyone involved. The grieving process is not only for the separated individuals, but for those who knew and loved them together. Mutual friends have the most complicated of dilemmas, and we've been lucky enough to have two friends like Dit and Ms. T who work to maintain their relationships with both of us. So, to them I say bravo and thank you.

Push and Pull


Like many who came before
From distant corners of the globe
Pushed from home
Fleeing calamity
Hunger, Poverty, War

The United States
Land of Dreams
Pulling those seeking a better life
Offering hope and optimism
To the downtrodden, the desperate

They’ve come to this New World
For several hundred years now
In crashing waves from different places at different times
Only to face new struggles
In a new land

“They’re taking our jobs.”
“They’re stealing our money.”
“They don’t want to speak English.”
“Send them all back to where they came from.”
They’ve all taken turns bearing the brunt

Eventually each group melds into the giant pot
Becoming a part of a new America
Time and time again
And the wave we have crashing over our shores now
Will, too