Hitting the Big Time


I celebrated too much last night. The wine was still flowing on the late-night train back from New York City, and it’s hard to tell if the clanking in my head is the remembered rhythm of steel wheels on the track or the fading pulse of champagne in my veins.

The Big Apple. Broadway.

Big Apple

Big Apple

Did I mention champagne?

I’m not a lush. I used to be, but I’m older and wiser now; plus, alcoholism killed my Dad when we were both too young. But that’s another story, and besides, I’m late to that authorial party – haven’t we all had enough of writers who survived alcoholic childhoods, overcame their own addictions and demons, and then hit the big time as an author?

Big Time on Broadway

Hitting the big time. That’s always the dream, and it’s what I have been celebrating.

A dear friend of mine had her Broadway acting debut this week in what the Washington Post calls the “brilliant” Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

My “little friend,” which I’m allowed to call her because I knew her when she was a mere denizen of the womb, is well on her way to the big time.

Liesel Allen Yeager has been an actor from her first breath, bursting into song at the dinner table, dancing down the beach, and doing spot-on imitations of her teachers and a passable Elvis as well.

And now . . .

An understudy never knows if she will make it onto the stage, but Liesel has been playing Nina all week, the perfect role for her — an ingénue utterly enamored of an aging movie star played by Sigourney Weaver. Liesel performs alongside “Sigourney” (as I am now allowed to call her) and David Hyde Pierce (Niles on the Frasier TV show, if the name doesn’t ring a bell).



Backstage after the show as Liesel cleans up and we snap pictures of Liesel cleaning up, she tells us that Sigourney and David have been very kind and supportive, which is no surprise because Liesel is brilliant and beautiful and talented and charming

OK, I’m biased. Sue me. But it’s not just me saying that, the folks waiting at the stage door while she signed autographs for them said she was “sweet and nice and cute.”

Liesel with Admirers  (Photo: Barbara Early)

Liesel with Admirers
(Photo: Barbara Early)

Super Secret Stage Door

Super Secret Stage Door

Busting Butt

This all seems like a dream to her friends and family. But to Liesel, it’s a solid reality soaked in sweat and tears and probably more than a few drops of blood. A reality built on years of slogging through hopeful auditions and despair-provoking rejections, grueling days at The Juilliard School, strenuous physical workouts, nonstop networking, and practice, practice, practice.

Therein lies the lesson about hitting it big. There’s no guarantee that if you do all those things – totally bust your butt, discipline yourself, and never miss an opportunity – you will ever hit the big time. But if you don’t persevere in reality, your chances of reaching your dream are virtually nil.

I shouldn’t be doing the second-person thing here; I’m talking to myself more than to you.

Liesel is an inspiration to me as I approach the final semester of my Masters in Writing at Johns Hopkins. I want to channel her spirit and get up early, hit the keyboard, make the most of connections, send my vulnerable prose out into the world, and look for the lessons in the rejections — rejections that are already piling up.

Freshly Pressed Perspective

Up until last week, I imagined that “hitting the big time” for me would include getting “Freshly Pressed” by the WordPress Gods, who bless only a few blogs with that recognition. I reached that goal on Friday with a post about violence in the movies.

It was very exciting, but frankly not as exciting as I had expected. Especially the part where I had to respond to comments from a bunch of hard-core proponents of violence in the movies. It wasn’t a debate about censorship or some underlying philosophy — they simply enjoy watching violence.

At any rate, the glow of being Freshly Pressed quickly faded in the stage lights that shone down on Liesel last night as she grinningly gripped the hands of her fellow actors for that final bow, her flowing white dress and floral headband giving her the aura of a bride or an angel.

Congratulations, Liesel! You rocked the house!!

A Well-deserved Toast

A Well-deserved Toast

An Addendum – Welcome New Friends!

Although being Freshly Pressed has been eclipsed by the Big Apple and my Little Friend, I did want to say that I am most grateful to WordPress Goddess  Michelle and to all the new folks who have visited, “liked,” and decided to follow my humble offerings here at Writing with Spirit.


You will find this blog to be an eclectic blend of rambles with a splash of humor, a jigger of peace, justice and eco-ranting, and a twist of brilliantly insightful and/or piercingly poignant essay.

This particular ramble is in response to fellow-blogger and fellow-student Oliver Gray’s writing contest. I did not expect to be participating because as I say, my days of serious recreational drinking have passed, and his contest is focused on Writing and Drinking. I have chosen the category of Hangovers.

I’m glad that my New York trip qualifies me to enter Oliver’s contest. I did not set out to get a hangover, but a Broadway debut is heady stuff and worth a small champagne headache. Good champagne, I might add, courtesy of Liesel’s father, Brooks, who is shown here celebrating in a most dangerous manner last New Year’s Eve. Please do not try this at home.

Do Not Try This at Home

Do Not Try This at Home



A Rant About Violent Movies


So you want a rant, do you? What? You say you’re tired of the frothing at the mouth, end of the world, I-have-all-the-answers racket that goes on 24 hours a day now?

Me, too. But this one can’t be helped.

Creating Demand for Violence

The WordPress blogmeister has this thing called Mind the Gap where you present your “side” of an issue.  I rarely participate because as I say, I’m tired of negativity and division and general pointless opining.

But this week, they asked: Does watching violent movies inspire violence in the real world?

This is something personal to me, like being a vegetarian.

Several decades ago, I chose to stop supporting violence in the movies after I heard some producer saying that the reason they made so many violent movies was because that’s what people wanted. So I thought I would vote with my dollars.

I miss an awful lot of movies, and I often can’t join in conversations with my friends who have just seen a film I skipped because of violence. I’m sure some people think I’m eccentric or stodgy or overly dramatic. I don’t care.

I feel pretty strongly about this. I do not want that crap in my head. It is bad for my psyche. I think it’s bad for your psyche, too. And I think it’s bad for a budding young terrorist’s psyche.

Does it affect society? Damn straight it does. Frankly, I do not know and I do not care what studies show. It is common sense.

I cannot believe that people are seriously asking about the Boston bombers, “How could a young man who grew up in America commit such an unspeakable act?”


Garbage in, garbage out. Blood and gore in, blood and gore out.

I wonder if one reason so many people are on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds is that we’re all walking around with mild post-traumatic-stress-disorder from exposing ourselves to blood and guts and body parts and decapitations and stabbings and shootings and bombs.

That is not entertainment to me. It is trauma.

At best, we can brace ourselves for violence in a film, inure ourselves, numb ourselves. How is that good? Why should I pay money for that?

This is not an unpleasant reality we’re forced to face, like a Boston Marathon bombing; it is an unpleasant fake reality people choose to subject themselves to. It’s a cheap, low-blow to the gut that makes people think they have seen an effective movie.

Remember the great Alfred Hitchcock films? Those scary movies from the 40s and 50s and 60s that practically made you pee your pants?  Yet in his most celebrated films, the murders always took place off stage. Maybe the shadow of a knife.

You lost none of the drama – in fact the subtlety contributed to the terror. Until the Psycho shower scene, when Hitchcock gave in to the pull of violence, and we started our inexorable plunge down the drain to the cesspool we’re in now.

We Don’t Even Recognize Violence Anymore

The other night I went to a movie at my local theater.

“Is it violent?” I asked at the ticket window.

“Noooo,” the guy said, considering.

“You don’t sound too sure,” I said. He knows me. I ask this question every week.

“Well, two older women walked out of the last show, but it’s not that bad.”

“That’s OK,” I said. I went home and watched a Downton Abbey episode instead.

I found out later that the whole movie was about violence, but one friend explained that it really wasn’t violent because it had a redemptive ending where the guy decides not to pull the trigger (this, after several hours of carnage).

One Voice for Nonviolence – Plus One, Plus One, Plus…

I know it seems silly. One person’s choice to boycott gratuitous violence in movies won’t make a difference in what Hollywood does. True. One person might not make a difference. But if one person doesn’t start, it is guaranteed nothing will change.

It’s like being a vegetarian. Back in the early seventies when I quit eating meat, only one percent of Americans were vegetarians. I didn’t know one. Now – depending on whose polls you look at – it’s 5% to 13%. And that doesn’t include the 1/3 of the population that regularly eats vegetarian meals. This weekend I went to a local vegan festival and hundreds of people showed up. Here are two of them — perfectly normal folks.


Vegans are Sprouting up Everywhere

Eating meat is not good for me. Watching violent scenes is not good for me. I don’t think either of those things is good for you either, but I’m not going to get in your business. You make your own choices. But at least think about it, OK?

And a last word from the Bible, because I like the Bible:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. “

Thanks to Publicdomainpictures.net

Acting Your Age is Overrated


There are things about aging that truly suck, for lack of a more graceful word. They just do. For instance, my knee is all funky today. No reason, it’s just not as young as it used to be. So I decided not to go to the gym. Which reminded me that in the olden days, or rather the youngen days, I could drop 10 or 15 pounds just by switching from bagels to yogurt for a few weeks.

I’ve been working out regularly for nearly a year now, after a long spell of being about as active as a marshmallow that rolled under the couch a few years back and has half-melted into the carpet.

No weight loss. Nada. Please don’t tell me that muscle weighs more than fat; I tell myself that all the time. But wouldn’t you think….

Still, I have changed shape a little, and I can go upstairs without getting out of breath. That’s a good thing.

Sometimes my hip hurts; sometimes my back hurts. I can’t see close-up without reading glasses now. And here’s something – I have wrinkles on my earlobes. ON MY EARLOBES.

But I guess that Mother Theresa had wrinkles just about everywhere, and she did OK. She had a lovely wrinkly smile.

My Birthday is a Big Secret

Regardless, I still love my birthday, which is this week. I want everyone to know about it and treat me extra super special.

But I won’t tell you exactly when it is, lest you then seek out my address, my mother’s maiden name, the last four digits of my social, the name of my childhood best friend, and the nickname of my oldest sibling, with which you could find out all my passwords and bust into my accounts and steal my identity, and then I would crack, just crack under the strain because I would feel so violated and all, and I would start losing sleep because nobody would understand why this was a total intrusion into my actual self, you see, as if someone had broken into my very soul, and then my friends would tire of hearing about it and start thinking I should get over it, and even my therapist would say, “Enough,” and then I would feel isolated and alone and get weird.

And we wouldn’t want that.

Here is a picture of me with a corn chip on my nose.

fall2010 016

Parties, not Prose

Suffice to say, it is my birthday week, and I don’t have the inclination to create a truly insightful, spiritually enriching, or even mildly entertaining blog post this week. I have a Monty Python play to attend, dinners to ingest, long lunches to linger over, and parties at which I must embarrass myself.

I’m going to my first “pub trivia quiz,” which should be seriously embarrassing, because some hold the notion that with age at least comes wisdom. They will find out otherwise at the pub quiz. But my buddies and I will laugh, and they will insist on buying me a few drinks and maybe some hummus with pita, and I will feel grateful for the fact that at least I’m still around to discover new wrinkles and experience new aches and pains.

Here is a picture of me in Saint Croix on my 21st birthday, trying to feed a leaf to a hermit crab.

st croix 001

And here is a picture of my “birthday frog,” which I bought on that same day in Saint Croix, and which I still wear around my neck for the two weeks bookending my birthday. Isn’t he a charming companion? (Charming, get it? A frog charm? HA! Am I not the funniest person you know?)

st croix 003.frog


Sex, Shame, and Cowboy Boots


I grew up during the time they call the “sexual liberation,” and you may surmise from that what you like. As near as I can tell, this liberation was a backlash against the hypocritical, dishonest prudishness of earlier generations. The stated “norms” of the 40’s and 50’s weren’t really the norms at all, and led to some messed up beliefs and a TON of confusion and shame. And I’m not even talking about the head trips that were laid on gay people.

Liberated People

Perhaps as a personal backlash against that liberation backlash, I believe that sex is at least a semi-private affair. I know that puts me in a distinct minority in America.

It’s not that I don’t have opinions about what constitutes healthy sexual behavior; I just don’t need to share them with anyone unless I’m asked. I won’t say that I don’t care what you do, because I think that broken sexuality can pollute an entire culture and damage its youth. I know that my own unhealthy sexual behavior as a younger person came from warped family and societal dynamics, and it caused me a lot of pain, not to mention the male wreckage I left in my wake.

All that said, this post is not going to be about sex. I just used that title so you would start reading. It’s not really about shame either, and not at all about cowboy boots. I just wanted to get your attention so I could talk about myself.

No, not really.

I want to talk about YOU. Who are you, and how did you get here?

I know that some of you are friends of mine, and you read my blog because you are kind and because sometimes I make you laugh. But what about all those other folks who either “follow” me or “like” my posts, or just pop by for a visit. Seriously, close to 5,000 views – why?

I set about this line of questioning because I recently passed my six month anniversary of blogging and have been nosing about the spiffy statistics that the WordPress platform keeps for us. Much to my delight, they have kept track of all the Google, Yahoo, and other searches that have landed people at my site.

I wanted to share some of this fascinating — and sometimes scary — data.

What Color is Shame?

I once did a post called What Color is Shame? I intend to write more about shame, because y’all are clearly a bunch of basket cases – this post has received far more searches than anything else on my blog. Not searches for shame, but THE COLOR of shame. What’s that about??

Close to 50 people have searched for a variation of “what color is shame?” A goodly number spell that “colour,” which makes me suspect that the Brits have some shame issues going on.

People found my blog by searching for other colors, too, such as “what makes a vagina brown or pink?” No idea where that one came from. But see? This post does have some sex organs in it, after all.

Kicked Momentarily into Writerly Fame

Regarding cowboy boots: I posted a cartoon of a cowboy boot, because I was talking about my Texan dad. Now lots of people arrive at my blog because they are curious about cowboy boots. In fact, that phenomenon recently led to a huge high for me, closely followed by a resounding crash.

If you are a WordPress blogger, you know about being “Freshly Pressed,” wherein the WordPress Gods select a few blogs every day out of millions of posts and give them special recognition. Recipients often write about how their statistics go crazy, and they get a ton of hits all at once.

So some poor schmuck was having computer issues when s/he came looking for cowboy boots – a stuck clicker or something that led to several hundred hits on my blog, followed by a certainty in my mind that I had been Freshly Pressed.

I’m famous! My writing career is taking off! It’s about time they discovered my dynamic diction and scintillating syntax!

And then . . . scratch that. They were looking for a cowboy boot. A tilted cowboy hat, in this instance.

Random Roamers

Several have searched for “bald women” or “bald girls,” which gives me the heebies. In fact, I’m relieved that visitors do not have my home address, especially the ones searching for “axe rubber ducky” and “rubber duck sex pictures.” (See? More sex!)

I am glad that many people are interested in the spirituality of Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which I want to write more about since I have both issues. A surprising number are interested in finding out if Maya Angelou is a CIA spy, and one person apparently has reason to believe that Yoko Ono works for them as well.

File:Yoko Ono 2007.jpg

CIA Operative Yoko Ono (courtesy of Wikimedia)

To the person who Googled “Diarrhea on a plane” and ended up on this Writing with Spirit blog: Bummer – I have no idea why you were sent here, but I hope you found what you needed elsewhere.

And just because, here are some searches that I am glad to be associated with:

Slow dancing with the moon

Move in rhythm with God

Bittersweet truth

Spiritual white cloud over a person’s head (don’t you love that?)

Jesus, I’m a mess

And of course: The spiritual realm and bee stings; and Sting on the butt.

Peace out, dear readers. Thanks for sticking with me for six-plus months.

Related Posts:





https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/rubber-ducky-exposes-cia-sexual-harassment/     SEX, SEX, SEX!!

The Plane Crash that Killed a Million People


We still don’t know who shot down the plane, but we do know that the death toll was between 500,000 and one million people. We aren’t talking about a disaster movie; unfortunately, this is a true story.

The people weren’t on the plane, obviously, they were on the ground. And — also obviously — that many people on the ground couldn’t have been crushed by one plane.

No, these people were crushed by fear and hatred of “the other.”

Lest We Forget Rwanda

It was nineteen years ago today that Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane fell from the skies, the target of either a Tutsi military organization (the president was a Hutu) or Hutu extremists who wanted to prompt a mass “revenge” killing of Tutsi people.

My guess is it was the latter, because within hours of the plane crash, the slaughter began, led by Hutu extremists in the army and the police force. For several years, the president had been whipping up anti-Tutsi sentiment, hoping to build his power base among his Hutu people. Hundreds of Tutsis had already been massacred by the time the civil war officially began nineteen years ago tomorrow.

English: President Juvénal Habyarimana of RWAN...

President Juvenal Habyarimana

Whichever side shot down the plane, Hutu extremists took advantage of the assassination, and the all-out slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus was on. The resulting ethnic genocide was the worst since World War II.

The day after the plane crash, April 7, 1994, ten Belgian peacekeepers were murdered, which led to the withdrawal of U.N. forces from Rwanda and the ultimate death of 75% of the Tutsi people living in Rwanda, many hacked to death by their neighbors after radio stations urged the Hutu majority to kill all the Tutsis.

President Bill Clinton called his failure to do anything to stop the genocide “the biggest regret” of his presidency.

If you have never seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, please watch it. For the world’s sake.

Let’s not forget.

Compassion Fatigue

We hear about compassion fatigue – it’s often talked about in reference to professional caregivers or to those who are caring for loved ones. But it’s true on a global scale as well. Too true. Our human psyches weren’t meant to be subjected to atrocities, day after day, year after year. We tune it out. We numb ourselves.

Your memory banks are probably full of the echoes of TV and radio reports about various genocides, your brains pulsating with color pictures of slaughters “somewhere else.”

But there is no “somewhere else,” folks. Sometimes the slaughters are carried out with assault weapons in our neighborhood schools. Sometimes they come in the shape of airplanes plowing into skyscrapers. And sometimes they come at the hands of a broken military veteran who witnessed human carnage and was himself massacred by the psychological aftermath.

We can’t afford to let compassion fatigue win out. We must – we must – remember these atrocities and the victims, living and dead and damaged. We can’t stop the cycle if we ignore it.

But what can we do, just a bunch of Americans on our couches, hunched over our computers? Read on….

Hope amidst the Hate

I am a member of Bloggers for Peace, a group of idealistic bloggers who pledge to write about peace at least once a month. Thinking that if we send enough hope for peace into the cosmos, surely it will return to the earth.

Last month, I told you about a friend of mine who works with mothers in the Niger Delta promoting peace.

With this post, I want to tell you about several other amazing friends of mine. A few years back, a couple of us went to Africa together. We met a man from Rwanda, Steven, who had been a Christian missionary knocking on doors and handing out leaflets. When he realized that many of the doors he knocked on were answered by orphans who had no adults in the house, he decided he could probably do something more useful than hand them a Bible tract. So he took a few kids into his home. Then a few more, then…


Some of Steven’s Crew

Pastor Steven

Pastor Steven

Well, you won’t believe what one person can do. And the thing is, he’s not just one person anymore. A few of my friends on that African trip went to meet Steven’s orphans in Rwanda, while I went to the slums of Nairobi to work alongside widows with HIV.

My friends Lori and Kelly were so taken with Steven and his growing family of refugees that they started a new organization called African Road to help support the kids. They are working to provide housing for orphans, micro-enterprise business assistance for mothers, and education for young people.

Please visit their website to hear this remarkable story of hope. This is what can happen when we see ourselves in “the other” – when instead of looking for differences between us, we look for the heart of God in each person.

Kudos to Lori and Kelly! And thank you, readers, for sticking with me till the end of yet-another-genocide story. Perhaps you will consider making a donation to African Road here in honor of this regrettable anniversary.

May the anniversary of the start of the Rwandan civil war remind us that it does not have to be this way.

Please join me in praying for peace. Every day.

Peace to you.

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Bloggers for Peace — I urge you to join us!

Call Me Joey. I’m an Icon.


She’s been hauling me from place to place for forty years, believe it or not. We met in a hardware store in 1973. I was not well, actually. Spider mites.

She was a cashier, her first job, and she took it upon herself to spruce up the houseplant section. The Retail Gods determined that I was not worth sprucing up, so she took me home as her own. She named me after the assistant manager at the store – Joey. She had a mad crush on him, even though he couldn’t have cared less about me and my fellow green folk.

Anyway, I am proud to say I was the first of many, many green folk in her life. Our relationship started her life-long love affair with my kind. At one point, she shared her house with more than one hundred of us. Today, there are maybe sixty  – but back then, it was just me.

Just Me

Just Me — Joey

The Family Tree

I would venture to say I made a real difference in her life. She was a teenager when I met her, living in a pretty unhappy home. Her father always smelled like Gallo sherry and she hated it. Sometimes there would be yelling, especially when her older brother came home from college.

She would escape to the refuge of our room after the dinner table explosions, where she would hum to herself while she spritzed me with water and wiped the dust from my stomata with bits of old flannel. Sometimes she would flip on the black light, which mellowed us both out. The hazy violet glow contained just a little bit of the red and blue rays I absorb, so it was kind of a dream state, like dawn, almost. Surrounded by posters of flowers and peace signs and George Harrison and Bob Dylan  in glowing orange, lime green, and rainbow hues, she would talk to me in that human vibration that makes your petioles tremble.

I like to think I was some comfort to her. I guess a shrink might suspect that she was bordering on codependency with me, but she needed somebody to take care of and to listen to her, and I was there. No judgment here – just glad I could serve.

She learned how to take care of me from her mother, which I could tell was nice for her because their relationship at the time wasn’t so smooth. It gave them something in common, and she would sometimes make up stuff to ask her Mom just to start a conversation.

Water Music

We’re not as close as we used to be. Back in the day, she talked to me all the time and carefully removed my yellowed leaves. She read somewhere that green folk like classical music, so she played that for me even though I actually preferred Led Zeppelin II and, of course, the drum solo on the Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album. Whoosh! Talk about trembling petioles!

in a gadda.blog

On weekends, she fed me a delectable brew of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potash and then set me on the back porch for fresh air.

Now, though, we’ll go weeks with nothing more than an unceremonious dumping of left-over water from her bedside mug. Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s better than the long droughts she subjects me to when she disappears for weeks at a time in the summer. She has her neighbor give water to a couple of my finicky companions – the avocado trees, the orange tree, and the oh-so particular Oxalis and her friend the button fern.

Tough Love

She knows I’m tough, though. We’ve been through a lot together – twenty roommates (give or take), some dogs and cats that left fur and dander on my leaves, a few parakeets that nibbled on me, lots of addresses. I’ve been shuffled from the bedroom to the bathroom to the sunny kitchen window. Once I spent months balanced on the seat of an abandoned exercise bike in a dark and dusty “junk room.” For several years now, I haven’t even been in soil – just rooted in water.

Still, I’m OK. She doesn’t need to worry about me. I whine, but to be honest, I don’t resent this treatment at all. I’m glad I’m no trouble to her. I know she loves me, I can feel the vibes.

I mean, seriously. WordPress suggests that she write about an icon of some sort, and out of the whole wide world, she chooses me.  She thought about elephants. She thought about Saint Francis. She thought about an old Art Deco statue in her town. But she picked me. An icon of her past. I know I’m not particularly special to look at – not like her fancy-pants orchids.



But out of 60-something green folks, I’m the only one she calls by name.

What might be an icon from your life??


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