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MY SOLE SOUL ID

January/February 2017  Blog

Snapshot roles lived and played 1956-2016

My husband and I wearily arrived home from our post Christmas vacation last month.  After tucking away the last of my packed items, I climbed into bed with the satisfaction of an organized life and a new day ahead.  My eyes flashed open.  I had left my IPAD on the plane!  I could see my hand neatly tucking it into the seat pocket in my typical nesting fashion.  What had I done?

48 hours of high anxiety passed as I contacted the airlines, learned about locking apple devices, changed every pertinent password I could think of, and agonized over the message flashing on my computer that someone was attempting to use my Apple ID.

Bottom line I was freaking out because some unscrupulous person was trying to steal my identity and I had allowed them in the door.  It wasn’t fun.

The next night we watched “LaLa Land”; a film about an actress and a musician, love lost in the timing, and L.A.  Emma Stone played an identity type I could relate to.  As an actress in Los Angeles since 1978, I have personally experienced almost everything portrayed in that film, with the exception of dancing on the top of a car while stuck on the 405, and becoming famous.  My mind was reeling.  I have spent a lifetime immersing myself into the identities of others as I audition, workshop, relate, and professionally share their lives.

I was majorly obsessing about my identity and then the next day at church our Pastor taught a sermon titled: “Sacred Roots: Reclaimed Identity”: https://vimeo.com/199219553

I was mesmerized.  “God, what are you trying to tell me?”

I have spent the last six weeks contemplating this query and the truth of what Pastor Ramin shared.  Human identity is a fleeting, ever changing, multifaceted concept.  We wear our ID as labels of relationship: husband, mother, daughter, neighbor, friend.  Our moniker is also our profession or interest: athlete, doctor, influencer, teacher, waiter, cat lady, artist, fan.

We can have a variety of identities often worn at the same time.  They may be our own choice or epithets subjectively assigned: beautiful, fat, gossip, hipster, idiot, atheist, loud, Christian, intelligent, activist, introvert, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, liar, hater, survivor, winner, guilty, innocent, rich, poor, loser, hilarious, sincere.

People wear their labels with pride, shame, or futile resignation. The hanging albatross or scarlet letter emblazoned on their forehead can give them a sense of belonging: criminal, gold-digger, victim, predator, womanizer, addict, racist, bully, whore.

Deep within every soul there is a common denominator of need to know who we are and why we are here.  As human beings, we intrinsically know that our condition, choices, race, worldview, or gender don’t truly identify us.  My DNA, and my fingerprints are uniquely mine, but they still beg the question.  None of these markers define me.

Even our physical bodies, organs, and minds alter, mature, and morph with age.  I am not the woman I was a year ago, or yesterday. My desires often change in tandem with wisdom or fleeting opportunity and I remain content because I choose to be, and because of the strength I find in my faith.

I believe God is telling me to fully accept who He has made me to be, not who I think I should be, or what I believe others expect me to be, rather His vision alone.  I, quite literally, am the clay of his artistry.  When I allow him to do His sculpting with no resistance, the final result is overwhelming satisfaction.  If I insist on hanging my hat on the elusive labels of beauty, performance, and social approval, I will be forever chasing it down a disappointing road.

It’s true, “My identity in Christ” is a Christianese term I’ve struggled with.  I am called a Christian, but my identity is not in the phrase, or a philosophy, or even in behavior that appears religiously acceptable or not, but rather in the steadfast person who walked the earth bearing the name.  It is a heady subject to wrap your head around.  God does not change…ever.  While the world repeatedly turns on its axis, and for better or worse, its inhabitants, circumstances, and cultures, incessantly reinvent themselves, the Creator remains blessedly the same, and I know my Creator is good.

Jesus was also provocative.  His life on earth ignited a reaction of startling rebellion and violence in the midst of His message of pure love and peace.  He was an advocate of equality between women and men and all the races.  He chastised the religious hypocrites, elevated the poor, and healed the suffering.  He was not interested in approval or status.  His sole purpose was to reveal the nature of, and His identity as God, to restore our relationship with Him, and bring justice on earth because of the inordinate crimes of mankind.  He took His seat for us in the “electric chair of the day”, and terminated our guilt for eternity.  Three days later in the ultimate drop the mic moment, He exited death and the tomb to bring His point home.  The only catch is to believe that He did.

God’s love and forgiveness cannot be earned, only accepted.  Sometimes I think it’s too simple and overly complex at the same time. The Holy Spirit, given to us the moment we believe, is the gift within that illuminates, communicates, and guides us.  People always told me how motherhood would change my life, and they were right, but I had to experience it to fully understand.  The indwelling of the Spirit of God through that 1st leap of faith in Christ is much the same.  One enters the providential learning curve of the ages.

To know who I am I have to know Jesus first and be in relationship with Him.  Who was He really, and who am I because of Him?  Will I be, selfless, forgiving, honest, faithful, patient, empathetic, generous, kind, non-judgmental, and open to relationships with people who are different from me?  Am I willing to listen and relax my defensive posture?  Will I honestly share what I believe, tempering it with compassion and respect for the other person and their point of view?  Will I be willing to grow?  Will I think before I speak saving my anger only for the appropriate righteous moments?  Will I be willing to swallow the last morsel of my fear and pride and get out of the way so God can complete His work in me?  Will I choose to live a life of surrender and love?

The verses in 1st Peter 2:9-10 sum up the identity in Christ that every single human spirit alive, at any given point during their time on earth, are freely offered:

you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (NIV)

With all its reality TV turmoil and genuine terror, life is still an amazing journey and I am thankful to participate.  I am thankful for my passion for Jesus and His for me since I was a young girl.  He clasped my open hand and embraced my broken heart during a night of unbearable grief over my parent’s divorce and has never let go regardless of my failures to reciprocate.

The other side of 60 draws me away from futile striving and closer to those closest to me with a glorious backdrop of my eternal home in sight.  I’m desiring to serve the person in front of me as opposed to the one inside of me.  No agendas.  It is remarkably freeing.  My blogs and desire to publically share my faith and musings are a result of this process.  I pray I’ll be of service to the reader on a similar path.

“16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2nd Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV)

 

LIFE’S MAGIC 

December 21st, 2016 Blog

julie-and-lou-with-walking-dolls

Christmas in the 60’s with our “walking doll” gifts from Dis and Rudolph.

I love the Christmas season. I am one of those people who starts the holiday music On Dec 1st with no going back until New Year’s day. Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, and Andy Williams, fill both car and home while visions of Jimmy Durante’s “Frosty” dance a jig in my merry head.

I am a child of the 60’s when life was a lot simpler and seemingly sweeter. Christmas was a time of great joy and warming anticipation. The worries of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, or our parent’s grown up troubles slowly melted away with each forming icicle and frozen windowpane.

Every year my great Aunt Izola, known to us as “Dis”, would arrive with my Uncle Rudolph laden with enormous bags from Thalhimers. My sister, and brother, and I found it difficult to breathe as they carried the forbidden booty into our home depositing the bags under the tree and into secret places we dared not search out. Soon the smells of wine jelly cooking and Smithfield ham filled our tiny Virginia kitchen along with conversation and laughter as our family gathered for yet another season of Christmas love.

There were no I-Phones, pods, pads, or anything remotely “I” or Apple to distract us from one another and the leisure of our precious time. These were days of simplicity and focus never to be known in the same way again. Now don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t swap my I-phone for the finest corded Princess today, but I would trade the binding tether that seems to accompany our modern world of communication in 2016.

I marvel at how in a relatively few short years we have learned to stay “plugged in” from the moment our eyes open till the lights of our devices flicker over and out. The general complaint I hear is that there is no “down time” as we work more from home computers and conduct business while driving, walking, and riding elevators around town.

We instantly worry if friends and loved ones don’t respond within minutes of a text imagining the worst until the familiar tone signals all is well. The art of patience along with eye contact and verbal conversation is on the dying path of cursive and handwritten notes.

I imagine children must text or e-mail Santa Claus these days with nary a postcard reaching the North Pole. It is a little sad and worrisome to see stress levels rise and anxiety increase as we juggle more virtual born relationships and commitments than we can handle. Even as we complain of its superficial nature, posting the best photo is a national obsession as we feel the social pressures of keeping up with the Kardashians and their ilk.

I experienced a refreshing break from the media madness this month while delivering gifts and holiday cheer. I stopped by to visit a dear friend and his family in their valley home. Alex and his wife have a large piece of property hidden in the midst of our typical LA mansionization where “next-door neighbor” takes on new meaning as homes battle for the most square footage. My friends have a private gate that rolls back to expose an elegant two story Tudor with a massive back yard that I’m certain realtors and developers drool over daily.

Alex and Carolyn’s three children greeted me with the cherished love and affection reserved for grandmas and aunties. I had only met these babes a couple of times in their little lives, yet was smothered with coveted kisses. The next hour was spent with the children showing me their individually decorated Christmas trees, sharing knock-knock jokes, and displaying well-executed cartwheels. I held Ginger, the softest bunny alive as Carolyn gently showed me the correct technique. Her soft angel blue eyes glistened while her progeny flitted around like happy larks as children are meant to fly.

Alex tutored the capture of an alligator lizard. They effectively home school with Carolyn at the helm. In her is the patience of a mother who cares enough to discipline with direct consistency and love.

The neighbors are close friends so they built a gate between the properties. One of the girls slipped through and delightfully returned hand in hand with her three year old curly headed chum. The family attends church, and travels often, educating their children and building solid relationships. The only time I saw a child near a computer was in the school/guest house finishing lessons. I felt I was on a field trip of my own as both participating student and cast member in their theatre of life and learning. I was mesmerized.

There has to be a way to follow their lead staying connected without sacrificing our sanity. The Christmas season is a perfect time to take stock and let go a little of our technical binds. Surely Christ appreciates more interpersonal relationships. After all He was born into this world specifically for the sake of rescuing our relations with our Creator and God. He is the King of connecting.

I commit to check on my “likes” less and like people in person more. I plan to make more phone calls and follow through with real time visits. I want to ask more questions and listen better actually remembering the things people say instead of thinking about what I want to offer next. I will not allow my cell phone to share the same dinner table with me, and movies at night with my husband at home will be treated with the same respect as my local AMC. I will spend daily un-interrupted time with God in my devotions far enough from social media and the maddening temptation to check in.

I challenge you to do the same and see for yourself if there isn’t a lowering of blood pressure and resulting lightness of heart. It will be our experiment for the New Year and a lasting Christmas present that has the potential to benefit more than we can imagine. Let me know how it goes!

So on that positive note I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and joyous holidays for all.

Psalm 46:10

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 

Matthew 11:28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.           

 Scroll down to read all of Lou’s blogs for 2016:

 

THANKFUL IN ALL THINGS

November 24th, 2016

Today is Thanksgiving. There is SO much to be thankful for no matter how you feel post election, and trust me I have loved ones who are zealous for either side.

I witnessed visceral tears in my Hollywood acting class Wednesday morning after that jaw dropping Tuesday.  A rat even died somewhere in the theatre walls leaving us with an unbearable stench reminiscent of the mood and the recent campaign antics.   In contrast I have friends and family who were elated and hopeful.   They were not so much Donald Trump supporters as they were truly fearful for our country and believed a change was necessary.

I am not a political person.  In most cases I consider it a necessary evil mistrusting the selfish agenda at the heart of many a partisan player red or blue alike.  The election this year was tough for a person who avoids conflict like a root canal with the plague.

I consider myself a moderate Republican. A term I’ve used without too much fear of my Democrat friends searching for their tar and feathers.   Frankly, there are certain things I support on both party platforms.  But in the end I couldn’t vote for Donald Trump … and I’m sorry, I went the libertarian route on Hillary.

This is the deal; with our equally divided polarization pretty much 50% of the people in our country are going to be upset all of the time.  Each side is just as frightened of the other.  Each side truly cares and has valid points.  I am a mix of both so you can imagine the turmoil I could be facing,  if I allowed fear to govern me.

My truth that keeps me sane is the fact that God plays no favorites in government.  God loves Democrats and He loves Republicans. God loves all races, genders, and ethnicities.  God loves people, and He will allow what He will, whether you favor the outcome at the time or not.

Since Trump has been elected by the system we currently have in place as our 45th President I will support his leadership just as I have with all his predecessors whether I voted for them or not.  He is now bending on some of his more inflammatory promises, as every president does when the campaign theatrics are over. Perhaps the gravity of the office will humble him while keeping him steadfast on the issues that strengthen our nation.  I’m praying for his success and the safety and well being of our country and every person living in it.  Time will tell what Trump’s true mark on history will be.

I come from a long line of mostly English Christian families originating as colonists in Long Island in the 1600’s and the Southern state of Virginia from that same period.  I had kin fight in the war against England for our American independence and in the Civil War on either side.  The late 1600’s Mulford House standing today in East Hampton as a museum, was used as a station in the underground railroad assisting slaves in their escape to Canada before the war.

My brother still has the Union sword carried by my Great-Great-Great Grandfather New Jersey surgeon for the army Col. William Cattell Mulford.  My northern relative Captain and later Major Samuel Mulford fought in the 4th Infantry.  Conversely one of my North Carolina cousins, Captain Edward Hall Armstrong lost his life for the Confederacy.  His family letters during the civil war became the subject of a UNCW thesis.  As a teen I was given photocopies of several of those original letters documenting his difficult experiences in the fight for their Southern lives as they knew them in that day.  I grew up in the south and my entire family branch was deeply affected by the pain of that war.

These were men and women with love, honor, family, faith, and convictions they felt compelled to fight for.  None were evil.  They were caught in a dreadful time of necessary change that the country was not equip to handle with peace.  I have empathy for them all.

Perhaps it is the blood of my ancestors that cries out in my heart for brotherly love between all men and women in the United States. My great-grandmother Bir, a descendant of the Harwood’s listed in Jamestown Colony, taught my grandfather to count to ten in Chickahominy and the knowledge then passed from my father to myself, and my siblings.  She had such respect for the Native Americans, which has led me to wonder what more untold stories rest in the fabric of my genetic past.

Today we celebrate all that we are thankful for in our American lives. I thank God that I am a blend of my past, present, and future. I am thankful that because of the sacrifice of others I live in a free country where we are allowed to worship our faith, vote our conscience, have opinions, and support or disagree without fear of torture or death.

I am thankful for my many friendships that cross party, gender, and racial lines.  I pray for patience, tolerance, and continued growth where needed.  I pray for judicial peace and the calming of tensions that produce radical extremism.  We are a big country with big problems that are forever changing, yet in some ways remain the same.

I am mostly thankful to God for being in control of my constantly out of control existence on this planet.  May you also find comfort in that knowledge this holiday season and be equally blessed. Happy Thanksgiving.

Luke 10:27

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

John 15:5

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

november-blog

 

WHAT MADE THE BEE GO BAD?

October 3rd, 2016

September/October Blog

I love honeybees. I’m constantly rescuing them from our pool after they nose dive for a little sip and get more than they bargained for.  I’m also fond of humming birds and run a bustling backyard bistro for our little omnivores.  They virtually own me in the summer months patronizing four feeders at a time.  Usually it’s a happy coexistence with the flora and fauna in our canyon life; until a few weeks ago.

I was watering the garden when a lone bee began darting at me.  At first I thought it was one of my nemesis yellow jackets, but closer inspection proved me wrong.  I sprayed him away only to be attacked with increased vigor.  Like a schoolyard bully he chased me inside.

A few hours passed and my husband and I decided to have a little snack outside.  Before long we noticed a group of bees swirling around one of the feeders.  They gathered tempo and volume as more bees joined the riot.  The swarm expanded in our direction as our typically docile bees turned Nazi-nasty and raided our food and us!  They won the squirmish and come morning, I relocated the feeder to safer ground.  New equipment with bee guards have kept them less inebriated, so they now share the territory more peacefully with their feathered friends and myself.

So what would make a lovely little bee with no pursuit in life other than pollinating our countryside and making delicious honey decide to turn rogue?  Was it the poison in the punch or the sudden power of the masses, or a little of both?

It made me think of our current worldwide dilemma and the responsibility that comes with large gatherings of like-minded people.  There is power in the wolf pack and with that strength comes accountability.  Unfortunately, there is disparity between the masses in what is considered “good”, “bad” or “in between”.  The internet has managed to shrink our world and expand factions at the same time.  In our country alone we are split down the middle by sharply contrasting ideologies.  Race relations are at an all time low.  Every day there’s a new story of a shooting or tragedy somewhere, and we see children casually massacre adults at the behest of their dominant leaders.  I repeat, what is it that’s making the bee go bad?

We can’t control the choices of others.  We are only responsible for ourselves.  We have to be conscious of what we consume and what we follow.  There is nothing new under the sun and mankind has been a mess ever since Eve gave Adam the apple and he savored his first illicit bite.  My prayer is that the innate human knowledge of what is truly good and right will overcome.  The syrup may be tasty and the crowd may have overwhelming appeal … but ultimately, whether we believe it or not, we will all have to answer to a greater authority.  Death of the body is the great equalizer and one day we will all know the same truth.  That’s a fact no one will contest.  In the meantime choose to love, accept differences in others where you can, forgive, and always be willing to grow.

Romans 14:10-12

“You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister ? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “ ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”

Galatians 6:9

“ Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

What Made the Bee Go Bad?

“What Made the Bee Go Bad?”  Bees conquering the hummingbird’s feeder in my backyard. 

 

LAVISHLY LOVED

August 5th, 2016 

July/August Blog

The past couple of years have been fraught with increasingly annoying, at times potentially dangerous health challenges. I thought my warranty was up ten years ago. I didn’t have a clue. I’ve had to have surgery to correct surgery. I’ve endured imploding aches and pains in parts of my body I never knew existed, suffered weakened immunity, and within the past two months a ridiculously sprained ankle, a locking knee (the good one, not the one with the replacement) and basal cell surgery on my forehead leaving me with a very fine scar in the shape of an L above, and inside of my eyebrow. My sister playfully reminded me what the L on my forehead stood for. I could picture her on the other end of the phone forming “LOSER” with forefinger and thumb invoking her sibling right to tease. Ha-Ha.

I have taken it all with as much humor and grace as I can muster, but the humiliating straw that broke the camel’s back simultaneously injured mine.  Last week a rocking sneeze sent a lightening bolt sprain through the ligaments in my lower torso.  Later my husband asked me, “Were you in a torqued position?” “Yes, I was just slightly leaning over the trash compactor when the sneeze hit.”   “Oh you never want to be leaning when you sneeze. I always brace myself if I feel one coming on.” He instructed.

Seriously? This is a thing? Somehow I managed to miss this crucial bit of health education in the past 6 decades. I told my chiropractor that somebody evil out there must have a Lou shaped doll and a healthy supply of pins, plus hammer.

You may wonder how I can laugh in the midst of such unraveling.  First of all, suffering is relative.  It can ALWAYS be worse.  I am humbled by the strength I see in those with greater difficulties.  I am also thankful for the good, as well as surviving and growing from the bad.  I’ve cultivated the ability to accept both as twin partners on my journey.  I find satisfying relief in my ongoing prayer life, specific supplements, and occasional treatments.  I’m actually doing really well at the moment and truth be told I have every reason to dwell in a higher stratosphere.

My oldest daughter was married in a fairy tale wedding mid July to a man who nurtures and adores her.  We love him as our own and I now have an official son for the first time in my life.  My husband is praising the Lord, and the kindred testosterone having been surrounded by girly-girls since 1988.  Even our dogs, and probably our fish, have always been females.

There is nothing quite like watching your daughter celebrate the most joyous time of her life to date, embraced and supported by truly loving friends and devoted family.  Her face radiated like all her Christmas mornings packed into one glorious day.  It was the happiest 24 hours of my life so far.

Adding to my elation, her younger sister is engaged and marrying an equally splendid young man next May.  I get to be a back-to-back M.O.T.B. and do it all over again!  If that weren’t enough jubilation for one person, my engaged daughter and her fiancé recently moved from San Diego and all four kids live in our city and have great jobs nearby.

A few years ago I played a “crying mother” in a silly Verizon Mother’s day commercial that spoofed separation anxiety.  I had to grieve over my daughter’s move to her new apartment “4.7 miles away”.  It was comedic but the director wanted real tears the entire ten-hour shoot.  It wasn’t hard for me to conjure memories of my baby girl’s precious angel faces staring up at me with that adoration only an infant owns.  I imagined every lullaby sung, flower sniffed, and syllable proudly uttered first time.  The waterworks flowed.  Acting and writing are my lifelong passions, but I was born to be a mother.

Knowing that a perilous sneeze, or something painful, even tragic, may lurk around the corner must not stifle the joys and highs that are rightfully ours to embrace.  I commit to exorcise the phantom shoe that threatens to drop like a leaden boot on my heart and head when life seems a little too good to be true.  I encourage the reader to follow suit.

God blesses us mightily in every season and I know without a doubt that I am covered and protected spiritually regardless of what may come.  That eternal faith is my cozy quilt of comfort.  Surely, the recent “L” branded on my forehead stands not for loss, but for “Lavishly Loved”.

Erin and Julia July Aug 2016 blog

My beautiful girls as maid of honor and bride in the bridal suite pre-ceremony.  I took this photo in a private moment with just the three of us on the cusp of a new and wonderful chapter in our lives.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19

 

THE COLOR OF LOVE

June 29th, 2016  Blog

june 2016 blog

One balmy evening on vacation my husband and I closed down a restaurant chatting with a lovely couple also from Los Angeles.  The husband had recently completed sound editing on both the O.J. Simpson scripted series with Cuba Gooding Jr., and ROOTS 2016.  I told him it was ironic that my vacation reading of choice was to finally finish Simon Northrup’s painful but riveting autobiography “Twelve Years a Slave”, and not only had I done that, but I had devoured the lives of Frederick Douglass, and slave Josiah Henson as well in the Kindle package of books.

Fast forward to a few weeks later at home watching the extraordinarily educational OJ: MADE IN AMERICA five part documentary series on ESPN.  We vividly lived the OJ saga in our neck of the woods with constant circling helicopters and lookie-loos on Bundy slowing traffic for years as we locals ran errands.  Had the series been just about the trial and murders I would have passed as the subject has been rehashed to the point of obsession.  This documentary however, was so much larger than O.J. Simpson or the tragedy of his life choices and their horrific repercussions.

As a privileged white woman in America it is impossible for me to fully comprehend the African American experience in Los Angeles or any other city in our nation.  The extreme dichotomy of racial perceptions was never more blatantly revealed than in the opposing response by the majority of blacks and whites to the results of that trial, myself included.

I have learned that if you don’t take the time to appreciate the complete African American journey beginning with the brutal kidnapping of their ancestors as property, with no freedom or rights, then you cannot fully comprehend where we are in our culture today.  The majority of white America will always be shamed by this truth in our human history and the instinct is to say okay, it was bad.  We hate slavery too and don’t believe in it.  It was an atrocity of the times.  Now, why can’t we move on?  White America desperately wants to lump our African American neighbors originating from slavery into the same category as the immigrant, but this is impossible.  There is no comparison to freely choosing to build your new life in another country and being trafficked into forced labor and oppression.   Even if you were considered a “good and kind slave owner” you were still contributing to the institution and perpetuating the dilemma of the African American race.  This legacy of mistrust and abuse of human rights carried right over after emancipation and into my life as a child of the south in the 60’s.  The documentary, combined with a fresh reading of historical accounts of actual slaves, fitted my feet a little further into the shoes of my friends of color.  Like it or not, racism is still alive and well in 2016.

Tension in race relations post L.A. 1992 riots, and the OJ trial of 95 have increased these last several years with the tragedy of Trayvon Martin and the like.  I doubt it will completely simmer down in my lifetime.  Relatively speaking our country is still a child with growing pains.  There is no other nation with our unique history, challenges, and diversity to learn from and compare.

My daughter has her Master’s in psychology and in discussing the ongoing dilemma she remarked that we should all be in therapy together.  Family therapy would be a good thing were it possible.  Because the truth is many, if not most, blacks and whites share the same DNA with a percentage of caucasians unwittingly carrying the bloodline of their African relatives.  Ty Burrell from Modern Family is a perfect example and the touching 1996 film A FAMILY THING with Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones explores the journey of just such a compelling discovery.

Like the “Crazy Cycle” in a marriage, we as a general population of differing races, keep repeating our mistakes stubbornly alternating from defensive to antagonistic as we seek to blame and control instead of resolve. As long as we refuse to empathise and educate ourselves about the perspectives of varying cultures we will continue to have violence, fear, corruption, racial profiling, lack of job opportunities, recidivism, judgment, and prolonged mistrust on all sides.

We must embrace our commonality as human beings on the planet regardless of race, creed, and gender. This mind set could help to bring unity worldwide if entertained by all.  A psychopath with a hatred for what he could not understand outside of his culture murdered fifty souls this month in Orlando.  The evil of bigotry dies hard, but I believe love and compassion are heartier at the core.  I am committed to the hope of Christ and His directive of brotherly love.  It is my goal with my monthly blogs to uplift, inspire, and encourage others in like manner.

“Let love be without hypocrisy Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;”

Romans 12:9-10

 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:21

 

BEFRIENDING DISAPPOINTMENT

May 31st, 2016

IMG_3208

Feb. 2014 /Jimmy Whitmore, Mark Harmon, me, Scott Bakula

Disappointment is a drag.   A friend or loved one lets you down once again. You over, or undercook the turkey on your first Thanksgiving with the in-laws. You fumble a pass, blow the putt, or shoot an air ball in a high stakes game. Maybe the job you were counting on that everyone told you was surely yours, goes to someone else.

As an actress handling dismay over the latter is in the mental contract. You can’t be an artist without managing disappointment on an exponential scale. We eat it for lunch, as do most people in sales. Unfortunately, we are selling not only our talent, but our very essence as a human being. It’s a tough one that I’ve grappled with for decades.

In 2014 I experienced a double dose of this more superficial brand of dismay. It’s not the life and death kind, nothing to grieve about, just the stuff that really smarts like a painful cold sore that everyone can see and won’t go away.

After working in my twenties, taking an 18 year film and TV hiatus to raise my daughters, and then hacking away as a middle aged female with “no name” to rebuild my theatrical resume, I booked a great guest star role on America’s most popular television series NCIS. It was the spin off pilot  for the now highly rated NCIS New Orleans starring Scott Bakula. I was elated. Mark Harmon and his team are considered some of the most professional, delightful people in the business to work with. They did not disappoint.

My last scene was with Mark and Scott in the NCIS conference room. In between takes Scott stopped to comment on the state of my stockings hidden under the table. The wardrobe dept. had accidentally given me a pair of pantyhose with one leg that looked like it had been through a Ninja Blender. I didn’t say anything because I knew my legs would never be seen on camera. After being exposed I poked a little fun by propping my foot up on the table for display and questioned, “Yeh, what kind of budget do you guys have on this show anyway?” Mark responded with humor by immediately rushing off to the wardrobe department to demand a fresh pair of nylons for my abused right leg. The entire shoot was filled with this kind of fun camaraderie as well as heady verbal affirmation for my work. I was in that rare and lovely space as an unknown actress where I felt accepted as their peer.   Not all celebrities are this gracious.

After we wrapped I gathered the director James Whitmore Jr., Mark, and Scott for a group photo.   I told Scott that I wanted proof. “You never know when you’ll end up on the cutting room floor.” I said.  He generously responded, “No that won’t happen.  Your part is too important.”

Fast forward to the day after I have sent out my promo cards to all my industry connections and posted on FB for friends to look for my episode. The phone rang. It was my agent. “I have good news and bad news Lou, what do you want to hear first?”   “Uh, give me the bad news please.” I held my breath. “Well”, he forged on, “Production just called, and your scenes have been cut. He went on to explain about the pilot and the need for time to introduce the new characters, how sorry casting was etc. but, that I could be cast again in one of their shows, so that was good.

I numbly responded by accepting the situation as a seasoned veteran of not being in control. After all, that is what disappointment is basically about. We want or expect something to go our way, and it just doesn’t. End of story. We move on and try again. It also didn’t hurt that Mark Harmon mailed me a sweet apologetic hand written note of explanation.

I had forgotten about the whole disheartening incident until several months later when like Santa through the chimney, a message came in from my manager. I had another guest star audition, this time for NCIS New Orleans. It was around 10PM at the end of an 18 hour day when I saw the notice. I had been working on a location print shoot and was bleary eyed as I prepped for bed. I reverted to full alert memorizing lines for the late afternoon read next day. I even wrote out the time in bold letters so I wouldn’t miss a beat.

Next day I just knew I had the role. It was in my wheelhouse and I was beyond positive as I worked on my character and wardrobe for the 5:30 PM call.   I was planning my flight to New Orleans in my head. Scott and I were going to have a laugh about that photo and my prophetic words. I planned to leave a little early to give me time to get settled after driving across town during rush hour.

The phone rang around 11:30AM. I heard my manager’s anxious voice, “Lou where are you?   … Yes, I had done the unforgiveable. In my fatigue I had written down the wrong time from the incorrect section of the audition break down. Hard to explain how or why, but I had missed my audition. Straight for producers too. They could not wait for me to get there. Pulling a no show with the exception of death or critical injury is pretty much unacceptable in my business.

My internal organs plummeted seemingly past carpet and floorboards. There was nothing I could do. How could I have blown something so incredibly important to me? This was truly a first. The type A girl in me died a little that day.   I hung up the phone and cried like a two year old for a few minutes. Then I called my sister and cried some more.

It has been two years now and I’ve heard nothing from the casting office in spite of apology flowers the day of my blunder. It is pretty pitiful, I know. It appears no chance for redemption at least for right now at the time of this blog.  I bear no ill will.  Their office is incredibly  busy and they very likely aren’t even aware, nor can they have time to be.  The first let down I could handle because I felt I was not at fault and I had the joy of my experience on set that no one could take away from me. The second however, was all mine and I had to own it whether I had an excuse or not.  Disappointment is a much tougher pill to swallow when we are the ones that cause the grief.

So what is the bottom line? How do we deal with these unavoidable moments of despondency in life?  First of all we must accept the fact that our mistakes do not define us. Even serial failure is not the definition of the person. Digging deep usually reveals a pattern that can be broken and improved. As a Christian I have the added assuredness that my identity has been sealed with His grace and His perfect perception of me, not mine.   My faith calls me to lean into God for support as the author of my mind and spirit.   Personal error can be a beacon to draw one back to the “mother ship”, so to speak, for both comfort and instruction.

Next we must recognize that failure is a part of life and indeed cannot be avoided. We need to do a kind of paradigm shift in our thought process about all of our disappointments.   How many supposed unhappy outcomes opened a door for something different and far superior to enter our lives? If my engagement in my twenties had not been broken I would never have met and married my wonderful husband years later. There is a grand picture that none of us save our Creator can see. Perhaps there is more design in what we call failure than we realize.

The process of learning and growth is always seasoned with pain. I promise you, absent senility, I will never miss the correct time again on an audition et al. The old adage “no pain no gain” fits our insides as well as what’s out. Like “Joy” in the film aptly named INSIDE OUT, we can learn that sadness is a necessary part of fulfillment and understanding others and ourselves. Our life portraits need the darker colors along with the light to add contrast and depth.

Finally I’ve learned to accept that each moment we are alive is just that, a moment in time. A moment, a day, has a beginning and an end all unto itself.   Nothing is over except that moment, and then immediately a new one begins with new hope and new promising possibilities. My Daddy used to tell me, “Don’t you worry Lou. You’ll go to bed tonight and in the morning you’ll open the door and the sun will be shining like always.” Just like that hokey song from ANNIE. He said those words to me many times and the image and truth gave me comfort.

I’ve learned to focus on the gratitude for the incredible blessings in my life. My career as an actress is a wonderful thing. I embrace the journey as well as the paychecks when they come, but at the end of the day it is not what brings me lasting joy. My faith, family, and relationships are my true anchor. When I tug on that line and see how solidly I’m grounded, absolutely nothing can phase me.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have (perfect) peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous (be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy); I have overcome the world.” (My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.)

John 16:33 Amplified Bible (AMP)

 

“PURSUING PATIENCE IN THE PAIN OF PROGRESS”

April 5th, 2016 BLOG

I woke up the other morning to the sounds of battle. My husband was in hand to hand combat with the cordless phone stuck in the trenches behind the bedside table. They say “cordless”, umhum. The cords and attaching wires to the wall socket were winning as he rattled them in a tug of war that ended with a triumphant jerk.

“I wish life were simple again.” He snorted. “Too much technology!” and he was off to the bathroom to dress for work.

I frequently long for the days of the highly efficient on/off button, two simple functions. What bliss.  A telephone was a sturdy instrument with substance in your hand. You never had to worry about microwaves scrambling your brain either.

When Bob brought the SONOS home, I was silently kicking and screaming like a baby. “Not another thing I have to learn how to use that will break down and force me to call the dreaded, dare I say the name aloud, TECHNICAL SUPPORT.”

I’d rather clean the dog’s poo in the yard than call tech support. After running the gauntlet of voice commands they put you on hold for half the day.  When they do answer they speak in a foreign language, and they frequently disconnect you just for fun. Like Parcheesi from Hell you have to go all the way back to the start and repeat the process.

The worst is when they tell you to find the computer cord connected to the such and such, by the so and so. Never a good thing. The murky area under my desk looks like Medusa on a bad hair day. Plus it’s dark down there and I’m blind without glasses for close reading. My younger daughter has set up pretty much everything for me, so I always feel like the loser on ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER? when the tekkie asks me questions. So humiliating.

Yet, once I have bitten the bullet of education and surrendered to whatever the new device or program is, I am typically more satisfied. I have made peace with my Sonos these last few years since we installed the “boost” in the dining room.  The music is great and I do enjoy the lack of tumbling CD’s in their breaking plastic cases.

You can’t stop progress, and realistically I wouldn’t want to. It’s a matter of choosing what I like and being okay within those limits. Feeling overwhelmed can be a choice. Sometimes I forget that.

“Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves. Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”
Ecclesiastes 4:5,6

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Under my desk: Medusa on a bad hair day.

 

EXPECT GOD IN THE UNEXPECTED

March 24th, 2016

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This Sunday is Easter so it is highly appropriate to make the public confession that I do, indeed, believe in miracles. They come in all shapes and sizes and they don’t necessarily have to be the parting the seas variety. God mostly speaks to me in whispers of the heart that many would call intuition.  Sometimes the communication is more blatant, and is revealed in a manner typically labeled “coincidences”.  For the record, I don’t believe in those.

On Feb. 17th I posted a photo of a happy face “coincidence” I discovered in my bathroom sink.  I was brushing my teeth that morning and looked down to oddly focus on a definitive smile with two round eyes in the brushed bronze drain looking back at me. I smiled in return and unbelievingly turned the water off and on a couple of times to see if it would disappear.  It did not.  Those warm brown eyes kept twinkling.  In two years since our remodel I have never noticed an emoticon in my sink!  I was really tickled and felt an immediate understanding that God was happy with my day and especially wanted me to know.

You see I was meeting an old friend for lunch later that I hadn’t seen in many years.  Her father was my former pastor in Van Nuys.  Her late husband had been our pastor as well, and my husband and I had, and continue to be, via books and video, significantly influenced by hers, and their collective ministries.  It may not have been feeding the 5000, or a wall come tumbling down, but it was one of those little declarations from my Creator, in His delightfully humorous way, of saying “I’m here for you Lou, and I’m pleased.”

I had also recently written down a kind of epiphany about, once again (its one of my things) letting go, surrendering my fears, my anxieties, need to control and finding peace etc. After I finished my journaling of this commitment to God I dated it and recognized the date, Feb. 10th. It was my 31st anniversary of my baptism as an adult at my old church in Van Nuys.

I believe God wants us not to worry so much. He wants us to know joy.  It’s a crazy world out there, with a capital Cray, but there is still hope. Goodness exists, love is real, and there are true miracles all around when we allow them and open our eyes to see.

I have photographed my sink for over a month starting with the 1st photo on Feb 17th, 2016 and these are the results. Jesus makes me smile.  🙂

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PS 2/17 is also my niece Catherine’s birthday.  She was born a smiley face!!!!

 

LESSONS FROM GORDY

Feb 3, 2016

This past Sunday it literally rained cats and dogs at our canyon home.  Well, mostly cat.  My husband discovered a mewing brown tabby curled up in the dog’s toy container safe and dry by our covered back door.  “Gordy’” had a name tag and hailed from a beach town an hour away.  The frantic owner, who was on a ski trip, explained she had just moved from that city and that her pet had always been an extremely self sufficient “Outdoor Cat”.  No kidding.  He had still managed to trek over 10 miles up our coyote infested mountain in one piece.  Once Gordy was returned, his appreciative owner firmly pronounced him a new and improved “Indoor Cat”.

I assume he was scoping his unknown real estate and became lost along the way.  I can relate.  Change can be daunting, even terrifying at times.  Yet it’s unavoidable.  Life is change.  Our marriages, jobs, families, relationships, and world are in a constant state of ebb and flow that must be embraced and welcomed for their challenges as well as their rewards.  The aging process brutally layers my pain, but I’m also thankful for the wisdom those years allow.

Survival is dependent on malleable growth.  Poor fettered Gordy must now learn the joy of carpet and walls as unpleasant as they may seem at first.  I pray for the will to do my similar “work” with each blessing of today.

Gordy, safe from my dogs in the bathroom awaiting his return home.

Gordy, safe from our dogs in the bathroom awaiting his return home.

Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed. Ecclesiastes 8:1

 

CONTENTED CHRISTMAS

Jan 2, 2016

It is 2016 and another year greets us in all it’s glory or furor depending on your outlook.  My husband and I were blessed to be able to travel to the South Pacific for 2 weeks in November and December.  We arrived home Dec 6th late into the season so I opted for a “Christmas Plant” over my favorite decked out evergreen.  Our little potted transformation is still listing under the twisted mass of twinklers; Charlie Brownesque for sure.. but it made me happy.  Life is like that sometimes.  We make the best of whatever comes our way and choose to be content regardless.  Substandard holiday decor is not what I’m really talking about, but it illustrates a point.  I pray your New Year is filled with joy and peace in the midst of life’s daily chaos.  Wear your twinkle lights with pride.  Happy New Year and may God bless you always.

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