Sunday, February 28, 2010


On a Friday evening I watched and listened to David Leonhardt share his genius on the piano with his percussionist and bass player at the Allentown Symphony Jazz Cabaret, marveling at his musical gift as his fingers danced in the high treble cleft octaves then zipped down several octaves with rich tonal sounds sweet to the ears. I wondered from where such a gift originates. How does someone get to be that intimate with notes and a keyboard that improvisation sounds like that?
The next day I went to the Picasso exhibit at the Philadelphia museum and was awe struck by the assemblage of paintings by Picasso and others. So many of them I had seen in my freshman lecture hall class in art history, or at other museums. I found myself inspired to create and once again I wondered about the genius people have to express Life as they experience it.

Now, several days later, I want to use this rainy day to be quiet and get in touch with the splendid ways I create and how I am always replenished over and over again. I never get empty. It seems so natural and it is something we all have inside. The modality may differ. We are not all going to express by music, painting, or writing. But, there is something we each do and love to do that allows us to put our signature on it in a unique fashion because it comes from deep within. It might be something that is created in a hobby space, garden, kitchen, or conversation with another.

We each have gifts that nurture our souls and are blessings to others who get to witness what we have created. We are God’s vessels to express that which we have been given to cultivate, and share. Where is your genius? How do you express it so that others are blessed by it?

Dr. Ethel Drayton-Craig

Sunday, February 21, 2010


In the late hours of the night, my girlfriend sent me an email that caused me to pause and think about her words. We had been having fun all week going back and forth critiquing a celebrity’s fashion like we were opposing television critics, laughing ourselves to tears in the process.

Then she sent me an email that got us talking about grandchildren and how she is surrounded by members of her new community who are fully engaged in activities with grandchildren. With a successful son into his second year of a fast-track career, she is not there yet.

Retirement offers people many options of which being a grandparent can be a natural and rewarding feature. However, reading her email made me realize the social pressure people can feel to become grandparents.

The wonderful thing about growing older today is that people who have lived fulfilled lives are able to recreate themselves and not fit into pre-set molds if they don’t want to. Be it second or third careers, volunteerism, entrepreneurship, distance learning, hobby groups, dance groups, and travel, to name a few, the field of options is wide.

For those who are nearing retirement, selecting a few interesting biographies of people who have done amazing things well into their nineties will inspire you and be grist for the mill to create your unique and personally rewarding activities during retirement years.

Dr. Ethel Drayton-Craig

Friday, February 12, 2010


Everything was in place: the wires, the hardware, and the juice. My TV would not come on because there was no signal. Unable to hear the latest of what was happening with the snow storm, I resorted to continuing my evening, like my day: in quiet. The next day there still was no signal until the afternoon.

Something so critical – a signal

I think of the times when I have pushed and pulled to make something happen that I wanted. There is something to be said about surmounting odds and sticking to something until it comes to fruition. Much of the time that is where we fall short. Yet, something that can be so easily overlooked is whether the project I planned was right for me to take on in the first place. Maybe the timing or the way I planned to go about it was not quite the way it should have been for an optimal outcome.

The process of beating the odds can feel like Sisyphus rolling a boulder uphill, in literally, an uphill battle. I am reminded when I enter a struggle pattern to stop and be still. When I encounter struggle in trying to make something happen, or to get my own way, I need to stop and be still. In that stillness, quiet reflection, contemplation and prayer, I may come to realize that nothing needs tweaking. I do not need to try harder. I do not need to make more connections with people in order to get my way, nor do I need to be more forceful.

The simple answer may appear: There is no signal. It is not the right time. I have learned to honor that and wait for God’s signal about how and when to proceed. WITHOUT A SIGNAL – ALL ATTEMPTS ARE FOR NAUGHT.

Dr. Ethel Drayton-Craig

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Junk Heap

Have you ever gone past a junkyard and wondered about the things contained within? I have heard a television preacher say that when she and her husband drove past a junkyard, her husband remarked, “Those things are somebody’s dreams.” That statement struck me because I never looked at it that way before.

I contemplate that statement because one can acquire much over a lifetime. Surely, there are things that we feel we must have and do. There are things that we save months – even years to acquire, and then one day they are old, tarnished, broken, and outdated. Oftentimes, we admit to ourselves that we are amazed that we ever wanted the item in the first place. We can certainly say that about the clothing we find in our closets and drawers that have survived a decade or more.

Was there a particular profession that you entered because it was your dream? What work did you do day and night in order to secure a particular job title or income level? What work was more valuable to you than your family and friends who accepted your apologies for missing an event? What activities and habits are so important to you that you neglect your physical well-being? What invitation is so important that you are hurt when you do not receive one? In what neighborhood do you dream to own a home? Why? (to all of your answers).

We pay for everything in physical, and/or mental, and/or emotional, and/or spiritual coin. When you assess where you are, what you are seeking, what you have acquired, and why, in view of the cost in relationship to the value, might you want to reprioritize your goals and aspirations? When the fruits of your focus and labor end up on the junk heap, will it have been worth it? I hope so.

Dr. Ethel Drayton-Craig

Monday, February 1, 2010


While remembering aspects of my childhood, I cannot overlook a period of eleven years that dominated my time away from school. I took classical piano lessons. Since my first two years of lessons were with a teacher that allowed me to run all over the keyboard without the least care about counting, at the recommendation of my mother’s co-worker, my mother enrolled me in lessons with a STRICT teacher for the next nine years.

May L. Etts was the President of the National Piano Teachers Guild. She had a studio in the old Carnegie Recital Hall for her very accomplished adult students and she provided lessons for children out of her home in Queens, New York.

One of the things I remember about her is that during her annual spring student concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall and Carl Fisher Hall in New York City she would go ballistic when a child (who did not know yet) said, “I am nervous”, backstage.

Up to that point we had put in at least four months of specialized practice to memorize our ensemble numbers, with the last four weeks consisting of three or more weekday afternoon and weekend rehearsals. Many of these rehearsals found us in terror or near tears as we fumbled the keys. Things intensified the week before the concert with her slamming her hand on the piano while yelling and making us play over and over again.

The night of the concert, the seasoned students knew that she would be another person from the drill master to whom we had become accustomed. As I look back, the time had come; we were prepared well; we were at the point that our best met the best that she could impart; and “the show must go on”. She was calm, quiet, and even reassuring, but the one thing she ABSOLUTELY would not tolerate was the use of the word "nervous". She taught us to honor our feelings by describing verbally how we felt inside without giving it a label. For the young children backstage, she would help them to describe it as little butterflies flying in their stomachs.

Words matter. Some are infectious and pejorative in nature. They will tear at our self-confidence and destroy our abilities when under pressure, like a contagion of “nervousness” in young children backstage before a performance. Even if only one student was affected, it would destroy the result of the ensemble’s endeavor during the performance. Miss Etts could not afford that.

Today I give you an opportunity to be mindful of your words and how they affect you.

Dr. Ethel Drayton-Craig