THANK YOU FACEBOOK

  

( Recent events have reminded me how important family is. I am also reminded of how special extended family can be, cousins especially. One of my second cousins, Nyna Giles, is writing a memoir about her mother*, my first cousin Carolyn, and another second cousin, Kacy Ferrar, recently posted the picture above on Facebook. Both of these have taken me back to my own memories of my cousins and Grandma’s house. I dedicate this to all of them.)

            

  

My mother grew up with nine brothers and sisters. As a result of that reality my brother and I inherited 18 first cousins on the maternal side.

The best part of that is we were born with friends. Every holiday or special occasion we would pile into grandma’s dining room with us cousins sometimes overflowing into the kitchen. None of us jitterbugs ever minded being set up at the long table covered with oil cloth because it meant we were out from under our parents noses. 

Pigtails could be pulled, unwanted food easily gotten rid of by a quick shove onto someone else’s plate and kicks under the table couldn’t be reprimanded.  

All of us flying in and out around that farm house like wild honey bees during those gatherings, the joy we all felt as children, as cousins, of just being, escaped us. We thought it would last forever. Of course, it didn’t. 

As I have written about so often, soon after the war prosperity was beginning to bloom and most of my aunts and uncles moved to various parts of the state and country where they could find work. Thus the fracturing of the close knit family began and my loving ties to my cousins unraveled.

My mother, though,  remained very close to her four sisters and brother who lived nearby. They were the threads that kept us cousins connected as we grew up and went our own way as adults, leaving behind fading memories of Grandma’s kitchen and a life that would never again be. We were never to be together again in that utopian state. Nor were we to know then that the only gatherings later on where some of us could reacquaint ourselves would be when we were grieving the loss of one of our own.
  

Christmas cards would be exchanged by a few of us throughout the years, but basically I would say most of us lost touch for many years. Everyone seemed busy with their own lives, their own children in their own dining rooms and kitchens during the years. Looking back, I realize it was such a loss of time for all of us. 

   
 
Perhaps the longest relationship as a young adult for me would’ve been with my older cousin Carolyn in New York. Carolyn was like me more than any of my other cousins.  Most of them were just happy to get married, have children and work at what they liked. I was different.   I had been born with big dreams. I couldn’t help it. It just was. Dreams of something beyond my existence in the small industrial town where I lived.

 My cousin Carolyn, when I was still young, was able to fly away and realize her dreams. She was our family’s shining star. She was the one who had made it. It was Carolyn. She was the hand that was there to pull me out and inspire me to not be afraid of wanting more. Unfortunately, as the cruelty of life sometimes reveals itself, throughout the years, circumstantially, no one was there with an understanding hand for her. 

I guess the point of all this retrospective and what inspired this blog is that through Facebook I have been able to connect with so many members of my extended family that throughout the years I have lost. My cousins, second cousins, maternal cousin’s, fraternal cousins are back. We’re not sitting in the kitchen at Grandma’s table in Ohio, but we are connected and we are back as an extended family. For that I am most grateful. Thank you Facebook. 

Copyright© Sandra Hart 2016. All Rights Reserved

* The Bridesmaid’s Daughter, Nyna Giles (coming 2017/18)

Facebook- Are You Wasting My Life?

Next time you’re in a bad mood, resist the urge to try and cheer yourself up by checking Facebook. It likely won’t work, according to a recent study, reports Rebecca Hiscott, Editorial Fellow, HuffPost Business. 

The reason? Even more than other areas of the Internet, Facebook makes you feel like you’re wasting your life.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook due to the fact that I am host to three different Facebook pages; my professional page, my personal page, and one of my son’s Facebook professional fan pages.

I’ve been sitting here today waiting for a new furnace to be installed in the back of the house so I have a lot of time on my hands with nothing much productive going on except for the simmering vegetable soup on the stove. Which brings me to Facebook and all the time that I spend with my FB friends.

I started thinking about exactly what posts are in my newsfeed. What is the profile of my friends and their interests. Just exactly what shows up as I scroll my newsfeed every day? Are the posts in my newsfeed a mirror of me?

Well, a lot, a whole lot of my friends love animals. Dogs, cats, kittens and unusual friendships between domestic and wild life. Videos that have circulated forever of cute, crazy and rescued animals. Then there was that crazy dentist who killed Cecil, Zimbabwe’s beloved lion. A favorite. My friends, including me, couldn’t get enough of that dentist of death! A pox on him!
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My Facebook friends and I share envious pictures of food – where we ate it and what we were doing and who we were with while we were having a good time eating food and taking pictures of it, including not-always-so-flattering selfie’s with our friends while eating at that marvelous place. I kind of feel left out of the good times when I see these friends of mine celebrating while I am sitting at home wracking my brain for a blog idea, or alone with a pile of laundry looking at me. They may be right on that point if you never ever have anything going on in your own life.
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There are the political posts and gun issue posts. This is where my friends divide. I find a spectrum of diversity on both of those issues, each friend so sure their conclusions are right. I have always believed that friends and politics don’t mix, so it is only on a rare occasion that I stick my nose into any divisive issue, rather than to have it bitten off. I don’t think FB is a forum of persuasion. Just my opinion.

And music. I love music and many of my friends also find music to be an integral part of their lives and we share all kinds of music information on Facebook. I love these posts. 

Finally, there are the myriad of shared posts with affirmations about how much we love being mothers, daughters, sisters and friends. 
Someone said to me the other day that when she logs onto Facebook and sees all of these people socializing and having a good time it makes her feel lonely. So maybe the studies are right, but I doubt in the very near future that people are going to walk away from Facebook. 
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In the meantime, in my own personal non-scientific study I do find that my friends mirror who I am and what I’m interested in reading about; with the exception of politics and keeping my nose out of it.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2015©. All rights reserved.
 

 
 

Home Is Where The Heart Is

  

I was born with an extra chamber in my heart. OK. That’s not exactly the truth. I just have love for three places where I can hang my hat and call home. Period. 

Some of us are happy wanders with a pack on our backs and home is our wanderlust. Some of us are gypsies at heart who pick up and can only live for a short time in one particular place. Then there are those like me and maybe you. We are nesters. I am a nester.

 When I am living on the water it’s the sea inside of me that makes my heart beat. When I am living in the tropical sun it’s the white sandy beaches and swaying palms that warms my heart. Then there is Chelsea. Chelsea makes my creative heart crave to do just that. Every time I’m in Chelsea I long to be back in the theater and back into acting. 

Many mornings in Chelsea I awakened at 4 o’clock to be on the set by six. Night after night, I have taken cab rides home at 1 o’clock in the morning from the theater district, both exhilarated and tired to the bone. The indoor sets for Law and Order were just three blocks away at the Chelsea Piers and many streets shoots were right here in our Chelsea neighborhood where producer, Dick Wolfe lived. It was a good time in my life. It’s not a big revelation nor secret to anyone that it always is better when you’re doing what you love.  

  

I have often had script reads here in our Chelsea apartment with fellow actors. Back in 1999, I wrote my memoir, BEHIND THE MAGIC MIRROR, on a word processor. I did it right here, warmed by the light streaming through our ivy covered windows overlooking the gardens of London Terrace.  All the while unknowingly inspired by the ghosts of numerous Chelsea authors. 
  

The Chelsea Hotel is just a block away going east from here. One must take a deep breath before diving into this list of Chelsea Hotel writers: Mark Twain, Arthur C. Clarke, William S. Burroughs, Leonard Cohen, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Wolfe, Arthur Miller, Edgar Lee Masters, Brendan Behan and so many others, not to mention all of the musicians who have lived and died there. 

I think most of us are a little schizophrenic in our likes and wants. Sometimes to survive economically we have to have a 9-to-5 existence that is not exactly us and we have dreams of another life we would like to live. Take it from this over-fifty woman,  “Don’t let those dreams die.” There are hours in your life away from the mundane where you can pursue your dreams if you just do it. It is up to you to make it happen.

Martin Luther said, “I have a dream.” He was not alone. Of course as individuals we each have our own dreams. Both you and I may have different dreams. Right now I’ve added a return to acting to my bucket list for next summer, but while we are still here we should each work hard to see our bucket lists fulfilled. Let your dreams awaken. Don’t let them die with life-long regrets. It is never to late.
Copyright Sandra Hart©. All Rights Reserved. 

Eliminate The Negative

  
This weekend I asked myself with all the negativity in the world assaulting us from every electronic and wireless gadget attached to our digits, or in front of our faces, what should I blog about this week? What should I tell people to help them to reduce their stress? What can I do to relieve some of my stress? 

 My reply in my own head to myself was to stop – put down my iPhone and turn off the television. Now that’s cheeky advice I thought, knowing how I have been Mrs. News Junkie personified most of my life. How personally I react to everything that’s going on in the world from war to kidnapping to the stock market falling precipitously, ISIS murders and child-abuse. Never ending gloom. And the politicians on both sides! Heaven help us.

Of course a forever withdraw from the worst in the world is not practical, but it sure wouldn’t hurt for a few days, or even a week. Wasn’t it Deepak Chopra who said the same thing? The peace of mind I would have not being bombarded with negative and horrific news about the grand transgressions of the human race every waking moment of my day. It would be refreshing.  

 Most of us are sponges that can’t help but absorb negative energy when we feel the stress of a world that seems to have gone all wrong. I think today I’m going to take my own advice and see how I feel in a few days. 

If you are up to a challenge, come along with me to the land of ‘political and world news’ free. 

Let’s spend our time counting our blessings, walking in the woods, hugging our children and sitting surrounded by nature reading a good book in hand. Add a layer of background music that makes us remember how lucky we are to be in the here and now. “Actuate the positive, eliminate the negative…”

Copyright by Sandra Hart. All Rights Reserved.

  

Why Read To Your Child?

  
As early as I can remember reading and books have always been a part of my life. Growing up on a farm far away from all of my neighbors when I was young provided me time to use my imagination through the stories in the books that I read.  The complete tales of Charles Dickens,  the Bible, and Bible stories that were brought to the farm by the Jehovah’s Witnesses traveling the  backcountry roads delivering their message. Any of the books that I could find on the dusty bookshelves on my grandfather’s farm – I read them all.  Each of these stories within the pages of the books made me feel less lonely and took me on adventures that I could live and gave me friends that I didn’t have. 

I credit those early days of reading with developing  both tools that I’ve used my entire life; the ability to use my imagination and the ability to express myself.   Together these skills have allowed me to live a more creative and successful life. 

I do hope parents won’t be caught up with today’s technology  that makes it too easy to bother to stop and spend quality time with their children  with a real book with words weaving stories that will help them express themselves throughout their lives. Words and how to use them will prove to be one of the strongest platforms in their lives.  Ever.

* Please click on the link attached to ‘Ever.’ To watch a short video that fortifies my thoughts.

Copyright Sandra Hart©. All rights reserved.

  
 

 DANCING AT THE LOTUS

  

She heard the sounds of the piano stridently rising above the restaurant chatter and began to squirm in her seat. Whenever the music started it was hard to sit still. She looked at her parents busy with their menus, then over to her brother who was attempting to make a paper airplane from a cocktail napkin and slowly slid off her seat and ran toward the dance floor. 

 She loved music and the sound always made her want to move and swirl and swing around the floor with her arms open wide. She couldn’t help it. Something inside of her four-year old self just made her do it because it was fun and made her happier than hugging the cat or eating ice cream. Swinging and dancing and moving to the music until she was dizzy was out of her control. It was just what she loved to do on Sunday afternoons at The Lotus.

It was 1943 in Washington, D.C.. The Lotus restaurant was popular among military and government personnel during the war years. The Washington Daily News called it “a sort of a poor man’s Stork Club where the average Joe can put on a dog without pulling more than a five spot out of his billfold.” 

The restaurant occupied the top level of a two-story 1926 building and her little dancing legs looked forward to those stairs each week when her family lunched at The Lotus. It was not the food for which she had visions in her head, it was the music. Most of all it was the music that made her love those stairs.

In movies of the 1930s and 1940s, supper clubs were portrayed as places where big stars and popular bands such as Glenn Miller’s played, but far more common were the sort that hosted local musicians. Still, patrons dressed up and enjoyed a time out, dining and dancing, and maybe a floor show, without spending a fortune.

 Located in the capital, The Lotus got the best bands of the era and she got to dance out on that shiny floor with them all. Twirling in and out between the soldiers and their girls taking that last dance of leave, or when she was held in her daddy’s arms, the thrill was always there. Music was in her heart and she just had to move and be a part of the magic she felt.

This particular Sunday she had the dance floor for a few minutes all by herself and she swirled and dipped to the live music with her curls flying in the air and was just having the best of time before her father interrupted her short solo by leading her back to the table. It was also on this particular Sunday that her life could’ve gone in another direction. A talent scout from Hollywood just happened to be lunching at the Lotus that afternoon and thought that this little dancing girl should go to Hollywood for a screen test. After all Shirley Temple was a big star and he thought he saw something with the same star quality in this little curly haired girl who loved to dance. 

Her parents said politely to the Hollywood gentleman, “Thank you very much, but no.” They didn’t want their daughter to be in the movies. That was the end of that, as far as her parents were concerned, but certainly not the end of her love for music, or dancing, or just being herself. 

The author Virginia Woolf once said, “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.” 

 And so, my friends, that was my life during the war when I was four. And in the end, it turned out, I did it anyway. All by myself. My way. Written large.

Copyright Sandra Hart 2015. All rights reserved. 

  

Twitter 🚫

“You’re a mean man, Mr. Grinch!” said Dr. Seuss. I believe if Twitter had been around in the days of Mr. Grinch he would’ve been brought to his knees by Twitter feed. 
Full disclosure. I have a Twitter account. I basically just post my blog there and I don’t interact very often by tweeting with people that I’m supposed to be following. But the other day I became more aware of Twitter after Bobby Jendel the governor of Louisiana put his hat in the ring for the Republican primary candidacy. All of the sudden the Twitter feed blue up with #bobbyjindalissowhite tweets that showed up on my Facebook page because a successful Indian actor friend of mine was more or less keeping the mean spirited tweet thread alive. Really mean tweets. It seemed that each tweet was trying to top the other one with ridiculous hate and bullying. It really took my breath away. Wow! 
Where was all of this expressed hate coming from, I wondered? Have I been hiding under a rock all this time missing the spew that is flowing through tweets? Tweeting has become mother bird sticking her bill down our throats and regurgitating everything. 
 I’m Internet savvy but I wasn’t prepared for this. What has happened to us a supposed civilized society. Where is all of this hate coming from on Twitter. 
It was not only the tweets about Bobby Jendal not being Indian enough, that was just the beginning…..as my Twitter investigation ‘tweaked’ I moved on to other threads of tweets. So many tweet threads were caustic and mean spirited. Politicians, celebrities, news organizations, no one one was immune.  
Growing up I remember my father constantly telling my brother and I that if we couldn’t say something nice about someone, or to someone, don’t say anything. Once the words are out there, they never can be taken back. You can say you are sorry a million times and have regrets about things said in haste, but the reality of the life of hateful words never dies once they leave you. 
The worst reality of the hateful tweets is that our thoughts are now not just one-on-one, they are thrown into the Twitter universe forever and take on a life of their own. It is also a sad reality that my grandchildren are growing up with the rest of us adults that are in danger of being desensitized to this hate atmosphere that is quickly becoming the new normal. Whatever users are thinking is twittered without filters or sensitivity to the receiver’s feelings. 
So many things in the world seem to be going askew today, away from the cultural mores of the past and I can’t say I see any of these trends being positive. True I am an advocate for social networking, surely I use several platforms a lot. But I think we should all swallow our tweets if we have nothing positive to say when adding to the Twitter feed. As I see it, Twitter is in danger of becoming a comfortable bully pulpit for some who enjoy spewing hate speech. We just might be tweeting down a very slippery slope.
Copyright Sandra Hart. All rights reserved.