Ten Holistic New Years Resolutions

It’s that time of year in which we make and then break a list of New Year’s resolutions.  Here is my list of ten holistic resolutions.  There’s ten because not all of them will be relevant to all readers.  I think you should only have one or two resolutions anyway.

  1. Don’t be nice – be kind

There’s a big difference.  Nice people are polite, smile and are friendly.  Kind people actually care.  Last year I received a random act of kindness.  I pulled up to the drive through window and was informed that the car in front of me had paid for my meal.  That was nice and who doesn’t want a free lunch?  But we should match our kindness to need.  Be aware of people you know who have suffered a lose or are otherwise hurting.  If you go to a funeral follow up about a month later with a call or a visit.  We all know people who have been through divorce or bad break ups.  Keep them on your radar and make it a point to reach out.  Your opening can be as simple as “I was thinking about you.  Can I buy you a drink?”

2Change from Within

 Instead of focusing on weight or appearance change from within.  Seek and appreciate solitude every day.  For one friend who is a single mom it’s the 15 minute very hot shower in the morning.  I’ve tried driving to work as a moment of solitude but that doesn’t work for me.  Try meditating.  There are lot’s of YouTube videos with guided meditations.  If you belong to a religious congregation seek out the more spiritual aspects of your beliefs and worship.

3. Eat Better Food

Did I say I was at a drive through window?  I’m working on this.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says I should be eating 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day based on my age and level of activity.  I’m not even close. You can find out what they recommend for you.  One has to shop, clean and chop  those veggies.  But once you do that roasting, steaming, boiling or sauteing them is pretty easy.  And they taste pretty good too.

4. Spend Less Than you Earn

This is financial equivalent of burn more calories than you consume.  Keep track of your spending.  It’s surprising how many people don’t especially when using credit cards.  For $39.95 you can get Quicken’s Money Management software. You can automatically link your bank accounts and credit cards to down load and categorize all of your expenses. A free on-line version is available at Mint.com.  I’m not comfortable with all of my financial data and passwords on the cloud but I’m no expert on this either.  Make monthly contributions to your retirement as important a payment as your rent or car note.

5. Be a Mentor

Parents with children at home can skip this one.  Reach out to a niece or a nephew, a kid in the neighborhood or someone at work.  Give them the gift of your time and your wisdom.

6. Volunteer

You know how to do this.  Do it.

7. Be Creative

Former President George W. Bush took up oil painting.  The critics have not been kind but who cares?  I’m going to try to edit video…and be a bit more faithful to this Blog.

bush paintings

8. Get Rid of Toxic People in Your Life.

This may sound unkind but it’s really not.  You know who toxic people are.  They contribute nothing to your personal growth, talk about themselves way too much, whine but do nothing and are constantly critical about everyone and every thing.  I remember one such person criticizing mutual acquaintances to me and it made me wonder what he said about me to others.  Life it too short and we have choices about who to include and who to exclude in our personal environment.

9. Learn a New Skill

If it’s a creative skill you’ve got a twofer (see no. 7).

10. Be Mindful of Your Life’s Purpose

Indulge me as I get a bit “New Agey” here.  I do not believe we are accidents of evolution.  We all have a purpose.  Most of us are fulfilling our purpose without realizing it.  Being mindful of ones purpose makes it’s fulfillment all the more satisfying.  One’s purpose includes each of these three characteristics.

a. You are very good at it.  Be it writing, teaching, cooking, writing code or painting houses – you are better at it than just about everyone else.

b. You enjoy it.  My father used to say they don’t spell work “f-u-n”.  To an extent he is right.  Work is work.  But when we are engaged in our life’s purpose we are most likely to get into the “zone” in which all of our concentration and attention is focused and time loses its meaning.

c. You Make the World is A Better Place.  When it comes to saving the world few of us can do more than baby steps.  But all of those baby steps accumulate.  And they are very important to those around us that experience and benefit from our life’s purpose.

Happy New Year everyone.  I’m hoping it’s joyful, healthy and prosperous.

Look at what our friends at Google think about the Year in Search 2014

Red Kettles, Catholics and Gay Folks

In a previous era my principal source of news was the morning Detroit Free Press. This news was curated by an editorial board that met at 4:00 PM the previous afternoon and chose what  they thought was important enough for me to read and what was not. Among the positive blessings of social media is the expansion of my editorial board.  My Facebook friends and those I follow on Twitter urge me to read all kinds of things which would otherwise never be on my radar.

A few days ago a Facebook friend urged me to read an article from the site “Think Progress” with the headline “Leaked Salvation Army Document Shows Pro-LGBT PR Campaign Is Just Spin” In reading both the article and the “leaked” document I was struck by how similar Salvationists’ theology on sexual morality is to the teaching of Roman Catholicism; a religious tradition I was born into and still practice.  Boiled down both denominations teach that marriage can only be between one man and one woman and that all sexual activities outside of marriage are sinful.  My church doubles down and goes on the say that sexual relations in a “valid” marriage must have the “potential” for procreation or it’s sinful.  In other words no contraception.  These rules are obviously problematic on several levels for both opposite sex couples and same sex couples.

From time to time I’m asked why as a gay man I’m still a Catholic.  The answer isn’t terribly profound.  My life is better because I can worship in the diverse and welcoming community of Gesu Church. It helps that Jesuit priests run the place. And here’s the thing.  With the exception of their beliefs on sexual morality Roman Catholics are spot on about just about everything else.  My faith and Catholic education has informed my values about witnessing for the poor and disenfranchised, unjust war, civil rights and social and economic justice. As a high school seminarian I was taught English literature by the legendary Fr. William Cunningham in the years just prior to his founding of the civil rights and anti poverty organization Focus Hope.  We were taught that when Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” He meant it.

I can’t speak for the Salvationists but I can tell you that Catholics have gotten the memo on sexual morality more than once.  The vast majority know exactly what the Church’s teachings are and simply say “no thanks”.  The Vatican’s own surveys show how out of touch they are.  The Pew Research Center reports that 85% of Practicing Catholics between the age of 18 and 29 believe Homosexuality should be accepted.  The figure is 70% for Catholics of all ages.  There’s a certain inevitability here.

But Church leaders do say hateful things.  My own Archbishop Allen Vigneron is a good man with a good heart.  But he believes I shouldn’t receive communion because I believe in marriage equity. I can simply ignore him. The Second Vatican Council defined the Church as “the people of God” not a bunch of white men with pointy hats. I’ll go with that

Eighteen months ago Pope Francis make his now famous remark; “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”   General Andre Cox, the world leader of the Salvation Army, has said much the same thing.

“Of course we are guided by our own understanding of Scripture,” Cox said of the Army’s relationship with the LGBT community. “We are first and foremost a people to whom grace has been shown. If God held you or I to account for the things we have done, our past sins, we would stand condemned before him. God has shown us great grace in Jesus Christ. Then I think that first and foremost our reaction should be to show grace, to reflect grace.”

“I don’t think we can simply impose our own understanding on others,” Cox said. “I think there is a real danger that we can now, having been shown grace, say that we are the religious people of today and stand in judgment of others. We need to be careful about that… We are a people to whom grace has been shown and we need to reflect that grace.”

While neither of the Pope nor the General’s statements changes either churches’ doctrine they are important changes in tone.  We won’t be seeing same sex weddings celebrated in Catholic Churches or Army Corps anytime soon.  But to trivialize these calls for a more pastoral approach to the LGBT community as merely “spin” misses both the universal and historical context in which they were made.  These are good things.

I’ll be at Midnight Mass tonight listening to the glorious music and making the traditional prayer for Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward All.  I’m going to throw in a prayer for all religious leaders as well.

Wishing all of you Peace and Good Will.




I’m a Playa

Travelers up and down Jefferson Avenue have probably noticed the Players’ Club just west of the Belle Isle Bridge.  Completed in 1924 this is the home of the Detroit Players.

Founded in 1910 and incorporated in 1911 by a group of prominent Detroit businessmen, the Players Club of Detroit is a non-profit [501(c)(3)] gentlemen’s club whose official purpose is to encourage amateur theater. On the first Saturday of the Season (October to April), Player members perform three one-act plays at what is called a “Frolic.” In the Shakespearean tradition, all roles on stage are played by gentlemen. Player members also do the costuming, directing, producing, set construction, makeup and other technical jobs, including those involving lights and sound.

Like so many older and traditional clubs and times being what they are membership standards have been relaxed considerably .  In December 2013 I was officially admitted as a Player.

The building is pretty grand.

The Player's Club

Designed by Player member and architect William Kapp, the Historic Players’ Playhouse was constructed of what were, in 1925, revolutionary materials, i.e., cinder blocks. Look closely; that’s what they are! The building includes an upstairs formal meeting room with fireplace, a small commercial kitchen, a professional four-story high stage, dressing rooms, a back-of-the-house, state-of-the-art tech booth from which all lighting and sound may be controlled, and an assortment of basement storage and prop rooms. The Playhouse is both a Federal and State of Michigan designated historic site.

Inside the walls are covered with over one hundred years of caricatures of the plays that have been staged there.  Actors from the 20s and the 30s include names that are now on prominent Detroit buildings and streets. (I don’t know much about John Lodge – but he was a Player)

At Player events the strictly enforced dress code is black tie.


An evening at Players with Christopher Kurpa, David Lilly, Ryan Anderson and Rolland Legget

I’ve dabbled in theater from time to time since my portrayal of the Artful Dodger in my High School Musical. Several years ago my friend, actor and educator Jeff Luttermoser challenged me to actually take an acting class. I spent a summer studying with Rich Goteri at his Michigan Actor’s Studio.  You saw Rich in last year’s “Low Winter Sun” and number of other television roles.  

Guess what?  Acting is hard!

Three weeks ago my Player sponsor Todd Mister called and offered me my first on stage role as a Player.  They were doing an episode from the television sitcom Gilligan’s Island and needed someone to play Mary Anne.  Oh my, a female role!  The Club does operate in the Shakespearean tradition of gentlemen playing all roles.  Why not?

Saturday night I joined the six other castaways coping with a Japanese sailor that captured their desert island.  He didn’t know World War II was over. I had 10 lines and 8 of them were questions like; “What’s going on, Professor?”  Serious acting? No. But a good time was had by all.

The Professor, a rather stout Mary Anne and Mrs. Thursten Howell

The Professor, a rather stout Mary Anne and Mrs. Thursten Howell