Breakfast with a not-so-famous Tony Bennett

Click on Chewbacca Mom photo to see Youtube video.

It’s easier than it’s ever been to become famous. When a cellphone video goes viral, an individual can gain instant popularity. Last May, 37-year-old Candace Payne became an overnight sensation when she filmed herself laughing hysterically, while wearing a Chewbacca mask. The video became so popular, that Payne ended up being featured on Good Morning America and The Late Late Show with James Corden, among countless other appearances. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg even invited the Texas mom to visit the social media website’s headquarters.

In my formative years before the advent of the Internet, overnight success was almost non-existent. Still, back then a lot of little boys grew up wanting to become a well-known president, and girls dreamed of being a famous movie star or the wife of someone important. When feminism hit in the seventies, a lot of young women also decided they wanted to be president. I’ll bet not too many young people today would desire the notoriety of the oval office, but that’s a whole other column.

Celebrity has never been a huge draw for me. Of course, it would be great to win a Pulitzer Prize like poet Sylvia Plath, or a Nobel Peace Prize like civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet like many renowned people, fame exacted a tremendous cost. The brilliant Plath took her own life, and the inspirational Dr. King was senselessly slain for his convictions.

Anyway, dependent on the size of your pond, there will always be a more famous fish. More importantly, if you climb to the top of the ladder, there’s a good chance you will have to experience the long climb down more than once.tony-bennett-2

For example, famed singer Tony Bennett was definitely not at the top of his game, when I served him breakfast in the late 1970s. I first saw the musical legend early in the morning, as he sat waiting for a server at the former Cascade Holiday Inn in Akron, Ohio. He was alone, reading his newspaper for what seemed like an eternity, while the small group of waitresses where I worked, argued about who should wait on him.

My co-workers seemed awed by his celebrity, so nobody wanted to take his table. I assumed the poor man was hungry, and even though he wasn’t in my section, I volunteered. Mr. Bennett needed breakfast, and I was a struggling college student in need of a good tip. Honestly, I had almost no idea who he was. By then, his career was in a downward spiral, and he was on the fast track to becoming a has-been. Two of his mid-seventies albums had failed to gain popular success, and he had parted ways with his record label. I had heard of his 1962 hit, “I left my heart in San Francisco,” but was too young to be impressed.

tony-bennett-billSadly, I took the singer’s order for Eggs Benedict and served him without even acknowledging that I knew who he was. The talented performer was very polite, and I should have at least complimented him on his incredible voice. Thankfully, Bennett didn’t need my affirmation, because the test of time has proven his enduring talent. By 1986, with a new album and his son as manager, the Italian crooner was back on the map, and more Grammys would eventually follow. The vivacious senior turned 90 last August. Decades since that fated breakfast, he remains an icon among celebrities. For instance, his 2014 CD with Lady Gaga titled, “Cheek to Cheek” won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

For me, meeting this amazing performer was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’ve always regretted my omission of not recognizing the importance of his musical contribution. Especially, when he was at the bottom of his game. So, Tony Bennett, if you somehow get a chance to read this, I would like to publicly apologize for being an ignorant kid, who didn’t realize how much joy your music would give to our world. I think you are the greatest. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me, and would you please autograph a “Holiday Inn” breakfast napkin and send it my way?

christina-driving-copyChristina Ryan Claypool is an Amy and Ohio AP award-winning freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com, especially if you happen to know Tony Bennett, and you can pass along my sincere apology to him. 

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When Thanksgiving isn’t Happy

photo (9)A not-so-happy, “Happy Thanksgiving,” to you. I don’t want to bring you down, but not everyone is happy this Thanksgiving. Some folks are in tremendous pain having lost a spouse, a parent, a sibling, or the very worst, a child this past year. There will be an empty place and a voice missing as they sit down to their Thanksgiving celebration. Inside of them, there won’t be any celebration at all. I have to ask you to be gentle with these grieving ones, if their tears fall, or if they don’t show up at all, overwhelmed by all that will never be again.

Others are experiencing the heartbreak of divorce, maybe a broken relationship with a prodigal child, or the betrayal of their own body brought on by illness or aging. This always seems worse as the holidays approach. There are also those who have no family to fit into. Single moms and dads who pack up their little ones and send them off to a family they are no longer part of, while spending the day alone. They act brave in front of their children, waving good-bye from the front door, but when they close it, they often feel the sting of rejection.

Some people have grown so used to spending Thanksgiving by themselves, that it becomes easier to decline the offer from a well-meaning co-worker or church friend, than to be a part of someone else’s gathering reminding them that they have no real relatives of their own. Long ago, their family might have been broken by circumstances too painful to remember.

All of these folks, even the grieving ones, are brave and forge ahead most days, trusting that God has a plan and that He does all things well. But on holidays, they feel small, weak, and orphaned, wondering what on Earth they have done to end up so isolated when everyone else seems to be a part of so much more. The Gospel tells them to go help someone in need, but they can’t even help themselves, so that becomes one more burden of guilt. Yet, their heartbreak does not go unnoticed by a God who has big shoulders, and can take it, when His children get angry that life seems so unfair. The Creator steadfastly loves them, when they are at the top of their game, but He holds them closest when they are at the bottom. Psalm 147:3Psalm 147-3

For whatever reason, if this Thanksgiving is not a “happy” one, we must be careful not to get swallowed up in self-pity, because that can open a door to long-term depression. Instead, it’s important to realize that probably half the world feels lonelier at holiday celebrations than any other time of the year. Besides, it is so easy to concentrate on all that is gone, but what remains? What is there to be thankful for? Even if the word, “thankful” might be a difficult pill to swallow right now, what is it that you can hang onto? Hang onto that, with all you are worth. You are not alone. You are loved more than you can imagine by a God who sees every tear, and even when you don’t believe He hears your prayers, He is still listening. Ask Him to help you get through this day. If you are like me, remember, “It’s [always] one day at a time!”

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The Legacy of the Runner-Up

 

HeadlinesDespite isolated protests, by now most people are probably glad that the election is over. We can once again go about the routine business of our everyday lives. If your candidate or issue didn’t win, it might be difficult to trust that all will be well with the world. Besides, in our competitive society, there is an entrenched stigma involved with losing anything. But in Norton, Kansas, a small city with a population of just under 3,000 people, a museum honors presidential candidates who have lost. The portraits of those who have been unsuccessful in their bid for the presidency are displayed inside the First State Bank on the mezzanine overlooking the lobby.They Also Ran Gallery will soon include a picture of Hillary Clinton in their collection after obtaining permission and finding just the right photo according to museum curator Lee Ann Shearer. About 250 people visit this unusual museum each year, especially those “who love political history,” said Shearer who is also an employee of First State Bank.

In 1965, former Norton bank president William Walter Rouse conceived the idea for the gallery after reading, They Also Ran, a 1943 book by historian Irving Stone. To learn more about the museum’s Hillary Clinton inaugural event visit their Facebook page or their website at www.theyalsoran.com. they-also-ran-gallery-3Like Clinton, countless individuals have experienced the anticlimactic letdown of being a runner-up? Whether it was in a political contest, a professional endeavor, a sporting event, a romantic relationship, or a beauty pageant, only one person walks away with the crown. The loser on the other hand often drops below the radar, and is sometimes never heard from again. Or else, an individual can handle a loss optimistically, and begin planning a new strategy.

For example, many people know that Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin and received limited education as a child. He repeatedly experienced challenging circumstances. According to www.u-s-history.com, as a young man, Lincoln had a hefty monetary failure in the grocery business, but later went on to study law. In 1843, www.historyplace.com states that Lincoln was “unsuccessful in a try for the Whig nomination for the U.S. Congress,” but in 1946 he was elected to the House of Representatives. This Website also records that twice he was not chosen to be a U.S. Senator. Yet in 1860 Abraham Lincoln was finally elected as this country’s 16th president, and was responsible for the history-altering Emancipation Proclamation during his presidency. Most people would have given up, but Lincoln’s key to success was simply that he refused to quit. For me, he has long been a role model of persevering in the face of defeat, because it’s then we have to find a new plan.

Purpose Driven Life coverIn the classic bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold over 40 million copies, Pastor Rick Warren emphasizes the fact that there is a divine purpose and plan for every person. When we lose, we especially need to believe that something better is around the bend, because coming in second place can be deeply disheartening. I know because I’ve been a runner-up myself a few times. For instance, the day before Thanksgiving over 15 years ago, I received a phone call informing me that I was a runner-up out of the final three candidates for a job that I desperately needed at the time.

The representative phoned to tell me that he had been in favor of my hire, but unfortunately his vote was not the majority. I began to feel sorry for him, as he stammered and stuttered, while expressing his disappointment in the decision. Of course, I was disappointed, too, but I told this gentleman about my profound belief that some things are meant to be, while others are not. Later, I found a position that was a much better fit, but the key was not giving up.

Like Abraham Lincoln, who in his first inaugural address on the brink of the American Civil War, desperately tried to create unity within our country. “We are not enemies, but friends,” he said. “Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” Let us remember the wisdom of this historic politician as our nation strives to find unity. During this Thanksgiving season, may we also be grateful, despite the fact that we don’t always take first place in the game of life.

Christina aloneChristina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Work martyr: The new workaholic

Hand on KeyboardOur country’s workplace has changed a lot. The day of getting a job right out of school and staying there for four decades is long gone. www.balance.com reports that the 21st century worker will have to switch jobs at least a dozen times during their career. All this change has resulted in some individuals becoming increasingly fearful of what tomorrow will bring. Fear is a formidable foe that can cause us get out of balance in our daily lives.

Long ago, the fear of failure or possible lack was the catalyst for my becoming trapped in the proverbial “rat on the treadmill” syndrome, better known as workaholism. Psychotherapist, Bryan E. Robinson, defines workaholism as “an obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work to the exclusion of most other life activities.”

Our culture gives pats on the back to those willing to devote their entire existence to their career. Whether you are employed as a six figure executive or struggling single mom like I was, people-pleasers share the commonality of saying, “yes” when we really want to say “no.” Your health can suffer, along with your family and personal relationships. It can be an especially difficult balancing act for working moms, unlike the storybook family photos on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. According to the Barna Group’s FRAMES project, 76% of women in our nation reported to overall satisfaction in their lives, but this data is a lot like posed social media pictures.

When Barna researchers unpacked the 2013 survey, the reality is that 62% of moms with children in their household are “dissatisfied with their balance between work and home life…Eight in 10 moms (80%) feel overwhelmed by stress…and seven out of 10 (70%) say they do not get enough rest…”

The Best YesNational best-selling author and speaker, Lysa TerKeurst believes that we should learn to say, “No.” In her 2014 book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands, she writes, “I misuse the two most powerful words, yes and no. I slap purpose across the face and stomp calling into the ground as I blindly live at the mercy of the requests of others that come my way each day.” I read TerKeurst’s book last year. I wish I could have read it fifteen years sooner, before I fell flat on my face from physical exhaustion and burn out, and couldn’t work for months.

Approximately 10 percent of American adults can be classified as workaholics according to Steven Sussman who is a professor of preventive medicine and psychology at the University of Southern California. Unfortunately, there’s a modern version of workaholism, that of being an “office martyr” which significantly affects millennials. That’s right, millennials, the group of individuals born in 1981 or later who are often accused of wanting to have a workplace voice without paying their dues. Looks like society might have pegged some of these young workers incorrectly.

vacation-photoAccording to Project: Time Off, http://www.projecttimeoff.com/about-us, “Millennial workers are the most likely generation to forfeit time off, even though they earn the least amount of vacation days. Millennials stay at work because they feel more fear and greater guilt about taking time away from the office than any other generation.” Society is concerned about this newest endangered demographic, but not for the right reasons. Instead of being worried about their prematurely high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, or work-related weight gain, the travel industry is concerned that as millennials forfeit vacation days the result is billions of dollars of lost revenue according to a June 2016 Washington Post article by Robert Samuelson.

Still, a vacation can be a good thing. A post on www.bustle.com by Carolyn Steber points to the benefits of time off including: reduced anxiety, increased productivity, better work/life balance, rekindling relationships, and resetting your focus. Some advice gleaned from my own workaholic journey is that if you’re used to always saying “yes,” you might have to say “no,” to everything that’s not a mandatory work assignment, until you reestablish your priorities. If you’re a people-pleaser like me, pause to consider the consequences before committing to a task whenever professionally possible. Also, it’s extremely valuable to be accountable to someone who cares about you. In the end, time is a precious gift, let’s use it wisely.

Claypools - CopyChristina Ryan Claypool is an author and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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