Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God

One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston’s beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams.

-From Goodreads

Zora Neale Hurston crafted literature the way she lived her life, with boldness and often out of sync with her contemporaries.  As a result, Their Eyes Were Watching God went out of print shortly after its first publication.  Decades later, it was resurrected with the help of author Alice Walker.

Learn more about Zora Neale Hurston


Red Cow in the Yellow Sky

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall Red Cow in the Yellow Sky

Born in the Russian city of Vitebsk in the late 19th century, Marc Chagall and his family endured the severe restrictions imposed upon Jews.  Despite the odds against him, he left Vitebsk to pursue art school in St. Petersburg.   Regarding the city of his youth, Chagall said, “I didn’t have one single painting that didn’t breathe with your spirit and reflection.”

Learn more about Marc Chagall

Wild Geese

Mary Oliver

Flight of GeesePhoto by Tim Ellis

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Louisiana 1927

Randy Newman

Randy Newman wrote this song to commemorate the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the most devastating river flood in the history of the United States.  It was performed by both Newman and Aaron Neville in 2005 as part of the Hurricane Katrina Relief effort.

More music by Randy Newman

Youtube post by WestHam720

Author Lauren Roedy Vaughn

An Interview with the author of OCD, The Dude and Me

Lauren Roedy Vaughn



For all of us to heal, for the world to heal, for new ideas to emerge, we each need to be who we are. Being who we truly are is an act of bravery that flies in the face of our commodified existence. It is an act of beautiful rebellion…



Lauren Roedy Vaughn was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but later moved to Honolulu where she lived much of her childhood. She excelled in gymnastics and speech, winning the state championship in the “humorous interpretation” category in 12th grade. After high school, she attended the University of California in Irvine where she majored in Drama. She earned her Masters in Special Education and Learning Specialist Credential from National University and has been working with students of all ages and abilities for over twenty years. Lauren is a Board Member for the International Dyslexia Association’s Los Angeles branch and was presented with The Walk of Heart’s teaching award in 2005. She is a national trainer for The Jane Schaffer Writing Program, a widely used methodology for how to teach essay writing to students. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Robert, and enjoys yoga and travel. Recently, Lauren focused her attention on the craft of writing. Her first novel, OCD the Dude and Me, releases March 21 and is a Publisher’s Weekly Pick of the Week. Healing Hamlet spoke to Lauren about her new book, its journey and lessons.

Your just released first novel, OCD the Dude and Me, is receiving positive reviews, including a starred review from Kirkus which praises the book as a “rare find” with “characters you’ll never forget”. The main character, Danielle, is a girl struggling to navigate the social challenges of high school with the added complexity of having OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Why did you feel it was important to tell Danielle’s story?

At the time I was writing the book, I didn’t question why I was writing it. The ideas kept coming and I kept writing them down. The more I wrote, the clearer the voice became. Now I feel that perhaps Danielle’s story is important for teens and adults in order to get a glimpse of how painful it can be to feel different and how it is possible to transform out of that pain.

When did you first meet Danielle?

I “met” Danielle after much thinking about how stressful the expectations of school are for most students. I wondered about the many ways teenagers handle that stress and the support networks that are available to them. From those thoughts, the idea of a girl chronicling her life by keeping everything she writes in a meticulously designed binder rose in my mind. I started asking myself what kind of student would do that and what such a ritual would offer her. Those were the thoughts that brought Danielle to me. I am glad I met her: she made me laugh, and she taught me valuable lessons.

Tower Bridge Handstand in London

Tower Bridge Handstand in London

For over twenty years you taught high school students with special learning needs. How do you manage the individual needs of an entire classroom of students?

For many years I was a classroom teacher (now I see students one-to-one in my own private practice), and meeting the needs of each individual student was always the greatest challenge and something I worked very hard to facilitate. First, I made sure I took the time to know each of my students. Working in a relationship with them was important to me. I read their profiles, talked with the student and had them fill out personal and academic inventory questionnaires. I spoke with their parents and former teachers. Also, I was an obsessive lesson planner and enjoyed coming up with creative ideas that would be a good fit for my classes. My students poked a lot of gentle fun at me over my academic enthusiasm, but I will proudly admit that I am a nerd! When starting new lessons, I would teach the whole class first to get a sense of who was tuned in to the ideas being covered and who needed specific guidance. The reactions of the students helped me see where things needed to be tweaked or reworked. Later I’d break the class into small supportive groups, and when students were ready, they would work independently. I tried to be very flexible according to each student’s needs and met with students individually if they wanted extra help. I took it as my personal responsibility to help a student who wasn’t doing well.

What have your students taught you? What can they teach others?

The most important thing my students taught me and teach others is that the world needs all of us, all of our diversity, all of our individual richness of being. We can’t plant just one crop year after year on the same soil; we can’t all hold down the same jobs; it would be drudgery if we all had to wear the same outfit or think the same thoughts or listen to the same music. Viewed in this context, it is easy to see why we must all be our unique selves. But, in practice, it is very challenging to accept the things that make us different or the ways in which we do not fit a celebrated mold of perfection or success. Our everyday lives rarely heap praise upon us for our uniqueness. We usually get a literal or metaphorical slamming for it. But, for all of us to heal, for the world to heal, for new ideas to emerge, we each need to be who we are. Being who we truly are is an act of bravery that flies in the face of our commodified existence. It is an act of beautiful rebellion that I witness year after year with my students. Individuality, by nature, cannot be mass managed, mass produced or mass handled. It is spectacularly messy. My students do not “fit in,” and I love them for that. They are outliers, the people who end up changing systems and expanding concepts because they are the squeaky wheels within established, often outdated and rigid, systems. It is not easy to be this kind of voice. It is not easy to not fit in. But, it is absolutely essential to the evolution of consciousness that people of this kind of extraordinariness exist. I am so blessed to have met each of my students and to have learned these lessons from them.

In a perfect world, what resources would be available to all students in order for every child to reach their potential?

In a perfect world, all children would have at least one adult at school who believed in him/her and could be counted on to be the port in the storm no matter what. Dr. Robert Brooks, author of The Charismatic Advisor, calls this person “a charismatic adult.” I am a strong believer in the power of that support.

The Big LebowskiHow did the cult film, The Big Lebowski, come to be a part of your story?

As the story of OCD, The Dude, and Me began to unfold, it became clear to me that Danielle loved stories (books and movies). She retreated into them for comfort and knowledge, like many young people do. At one point in her story, The Big Lebowski and its lessons about “abiding,” hit a resonant chord with her.

Admittedly, I love The Big Lebowski. Most people who know me are somewhat surprised by this. I am not a bowler, I don’t condone the behavior in the movie, and I am nothing like any of the characters — specifically. Yet generally, I am just like the characters in The Big Lebowski. I’ve had to endure ridiculous situations; I’ve felt lost and frustrated; I’ve become unhinged; I’ve gotten through with support from my friends; and I am learning to abide. Also, this movie just makes me laugh and laugh and laugh, which is one of my most favorite things to do. In this way, it is for me some of the best medicine on the planet. It is for Danielle as well.

The reader learns about Danielle through class assignments, emails, journal entries and letters. Why did you choose this format?

I chose this format for several reasons. First, I thought this format would be one way to reflect Danielle’s OCD. She has to keep everything significant that she writes, and she has to give it the proper home; this is one method she uses to control her environment. Secondly, I thought it would be interesting to explore the ways in which the act of writing can be healing, because it is for me. It is difficult for me to describe what this healing is like so I wanted to see if I could show it through a character’s experience. Finally, I thought it might be interesting to see the evolution of a character as it happened through her writing. She may not be able to articulate how she is changing and growing, but I thought perhaps her writing might reveal it.

How long have you wanted to be a writer?

Abiding in Kauai

Abiding in Kauai

Being a writer is not something I consciously sought to become or to define myself as. Since I began school, I always loved to write, and I was one of those strange people who loved to be assigned essays in school. I relished thinking about them, planning them and writing them. In college, I loved helping people develop great thesis statements and analysis for their papers. I am not joking; that was spectacular fun to me. It is no wonder that I became an English teacher; although, I didn’t consciously choose to do that at first. For good or bad, I don’t think I ever had very solid plans for myself. In college, I majored in drama because I loved expressing myself and studying great playwrights and their characters. I don’t think I was a great actor, so my choice of majors was probably not very practical, but I still loved it. It was wonderful for my imagination. I don’t feel like I consciously chose to do any of the things in my life that have turned out to be incredibly meaningful. I feel like they chose me, and I just followed the impulses through. If I hadn’t joined a writers’ group peopled with terrific writers and human beings who encouraged me to get this story published, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I am grateful I had that support. And, I will continue to write because it is something that provides meaning for me. (Even though not everything I write can be a gem. Thank goodness for editors and multiple drafts!)

What writers do you most admire?

I love reading, and I read across a wide variety of genres. I couldn’t possibly list all the writers who have touched me with their work. This list is the tiniest tip of an enormous literary iceberg of writers I feel lucky to have read: David Sedaris, Michael Pollan, Marianne Williamson, Anne Lamott, John Irving, Maurice Sendak, Judy Blume, Sherman Alexi, Louis Sachar, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, James Hollis, Arthur Miller, William Shakespeare… I’ve just started, but I will leave it at that for semi-brevity sake.

What is your next literary project?

I am writing another young adult novel centering around the themes of social class and identity. I guess this is the genre that has chosen me and I am grateful. I hope I can honor young adults in the fullest way with whatever I write. I admire teens for their energy, insights and passions. Teenagers are both idealistic and not easily fooled. I love that combination about them.

Cheering for the Team

Cheering for the Team

The Dude in The Big Lebowski is an avid bowler. Who would you choose to be on your dream bowling team?

My dream bowling team (after much thought) is Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Tom Petty, Sara Vowell, and Eddie Izzard. I would learn so much from them, laugh a lot and be entertained, while we all drank some “oat sodas”…even though I don’t really like beer…this is a dream, after all.

Anything else we should know about you?

Thank you for asking me all these questions. I loved reflecting on every one of them. A memory rose in me as I worked on these and it was lovely to experience it: When I was in junior high school in Hawaii, I had a friend who was my neighbor. We would call each other up on summer days and ask the other to come over and play. What we would often do is just share space in each other’s living rooms while we each read separate books. After hours and hours of silently reading together, the visiting friend would just get up and go home for dinner. . (I know, I know, I lived in Hawaii and should have been at the beach; I did that, too!) We barely spoke, but I will always remember how we shared this very meaningful space together because we were united through the world of stories.

Lauren, congratulations and thank you for your book, OCD, The Dude and Me!

OCD The Dude and Me

Visit Goodreads to purchase OCD, The Dude and Me from your favorite book store.

Learn more about Lauren Roedy Vaughn on her website.

Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party

Ying Chang Compestine


Nine-year-old Ling is very comfortable in her life; her parents are both dedicated surgeons in the best hospital in Wuhan. But when Comrade Li, one of Mao’s political officers, moves into a room in their apartment, Ling begins to witness the gradual disintegration of her world. In an atmosphere of increasing mistrust, Ling fears for the safety of her neighbors and, soon, for herself and family. Over the course of four years, Ling manages to grow and blossom, even as she suffers more horrors than many people face in a lifetime.  Drawing from her childhood experience, Ying Chang Compestine brings hope and humor to this compelling story for all ages about a girl fighting to survive during the Cultural Revolution in China.

- From Goodreads

Dancers of the Sun

Collin Sekajugo


Born in Uganda, Collin Sekajugo established The Ivuka Arts Center in Kigali, Rwanda.  “Ivuka” means “rebirth”, a fitting name for the first art center in a country that is still healing from the genocide of nearly twenty years ago.  The artists of Ivuka, many who have returned with families that were forced to flee during the unrest, have a mission to “use art to change lives”.

Learn more about Collin Segajugo

Visit The Ivuka Arts Center Website

Healing Quote of the Day

Tying a Knot by Jared Benedict

Photo by Jared Benedict

When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

Closer to Fine

Indigo Girls

I went to the doctor, I went to the  mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains
There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine

- Post by “RockAndfunk”

- More from Indigo Girls

John Thornburg of JAR

John Thornburg


I approach my music as if it is my only option. A lot of the time, I truly believe it is. Music makes people happy! I love making people happy! Just getting some sort of idea or message out there is really something. In the end, it is the bigger picture that drives me. I just want to make some sort of mark. I don’t care how important or relevant it is. I don’t care if it is understood or embraced. I guess I just want to leave something behind.



John Thornburg and his brother Russ, along with neighborhood friend Alex Addams, formed the band JAR in 2007 when they were only 14 and 10 years of age. JAR’s founding brothers were raised outside of Seattle, Washington by two music enthusiast parents who recognized and supported their talents at an early age. Their father, Doug Thornburg, a fire fighter, and their mother, Colleen Thornburg, a vocational specialist, ensured their sons received music training and got to their gigs on time. Fast forward to 2013 and the band, now christened JAR of Rain, and with the talent of bassist Julio Posada replacing Alex Addams, has established a loyal following in the Seattle area and is emerging into the broader Alternative Rock scene with the release of their first professionally recorded album, Humans. John Thornburg agreed to talk about the journey with Healing Hamlet.

John, thanks for speaking with Healing Hamlet! Is the band officially JAR or Jar of Rain?

Good question! This subject is quite hazy for everyone. By law, we are officially Jar of Rain, but we do tend to go by JAR for short because it sticks better.

John singing

John Thornburg on drums

At the age of 14, you formed JAR with your younger brother, Russ, and neighborhood friend, Alex Addams. When did you first know that music was your passion?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t completely obsessed with music. My parents tell me that I became strangely fixated with Jim Morrison of The Doors at the age of 2. I would learn all of the lyrics and scream them at the top of my lungs in private and in public, which was kind of funny because a lot of their lyrics tend to be quite vivid and controversial! The pivotal circumstance for me was seeing my first arena rock show. It was August of 2004 and Incubus was headlining at the Key Arena. I had this cathartic felling of “Wow…I am not going to be satisfied until I am up on that stage”. I still feel that same magnetic feeling today.

You play guitar as well as drums. Were drums your first instrument? Any other instruments you play?

Well, I don’t really consider myself much of a guitar player, but thank you non-the-less! I write a lot of music on the guitar but I am not 100% comfortable with my ability yet. I have played acoustic guitar in our sets for awhile now and it has always been a goal of mine to strike up the confidence and play electric guitar on stage! Drums were my first official instrument, yes. For many years, I took drum and vocal lessons from Steve and Kristy Smith of The Seattle Drum School. From time to time, I train my voice with instruction from Susan Carr. I can fake the bass guitar. I have written on the piano as well.

You write most of the band’s lyrics. Where do they come from?

It’s very hard to say most of the time. Despite how most people see me, I am extremely shy. I tend to keep to myself a lot. My emotions are kept very close to me and often go unexpressed. I always like to think that my lyrics are my way of saying what I am too afraid to say in real life. Usually they are uncensored and even sometimes uncomfortable for me to sing. Many people don’t seem to understand that. Therefore, I take my writing and our songs extremely seriously.

Russ in the air

Russ Thornburg catching air

You and your brother, Russ, have grown up sharing the same passion and are now reaching milestones together. How would you describe your relationship?

Oh man he is such a jerk! Ha ha…Our relationship is great. We never ever argue when it comes to music. We have what I like to call “passionate discussions”. Both of us want to create something beautiful or exciting, but sometimes bringing an idea to a final destination is tough. I have come to find that we really complement each other, almost like checks and balances in the government. I don’t let him get carried away, and he makes sure that I am brave enough to try new things.

Julio Posada replaced Alex Addams as the bassist for Jar of Rain. How did that come about?

Back in 2009, right around the time I decided to take a break from playing music, I was invited to host a weekly jam night at Oddfellows Bar and Grill in Redmond. This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. The jam night allowed Russ and I to play music on a regular basis and because of the occasional poor attendance, we were able to experiment with some of our new material in front of an audience. This is when I decided to try singing for the first time. Week in and week out, jammers would come and go. This is when our good friend, Julio Posada, began to show up at the jams. Julio was the only jammer that came out every single week! At the time, Julio had been playing the bass for a tender month or so and was extremely shy to get up and perform. His attendance consistency surprised us. When the jam nights came to an end, Russ and I were once again left without a musical project. We wanted to put a band together with me as the lead singer, but we needed a bass player that fit. We began to try out musicians. Everyone we tried out was very talented, but didn’t fit in with the vision we had. Then it hit us… Julio Posada!

Julio Posada

Julio Posada

I had always been drawn to Julio because of his personality. That is exactly what Russ and I were looking for. A band member with an amazing amount of heart. A band member who we felt close to. A band member who was kind natured and willing to try new things. Everything pointed to Julio. Once we brought him into the band, his bass playing grew with leaps and bounds.

How would you describe the dynamics of your band? How does each member contribute toward the final result?

It is an absolute blessing that I can be in a band with my brother, and one of my dearest friends. Russ and I have been writing together for several years now. Julio is such a joy to work with that I almost can’t describe it. Usually Russ will have a riff idea. Then Julio comes in with his very unique style of bass playing and anchors the song. Then I finish things out with my lyrics and vocal melodies. Sometimes I help with arranging ideas and chords. It is usually very hard for me to put into words what I hear in my head, so I will usually sing a progression or an idea, then Russ plays it exactly how I imagined it.

Last spring, Jar of Rain produced its first professionally recorded album, Humans. How did this come about?



We all thought that it was time to really dig in and strive to make a professionally engineered and mastered record. At the time, we were at our 2 year mark in the band. To me, Humans represents JAR in its earliest stage. I think it is a good snapshot of where we were at the time as musicians and people.

What local opportunities are there for teens trying to find their voice in the business?

The Seattle scene is absolutely teeming with incredible musicians and supporters. That is why me and my good friend, Sawyer Thompson of Fringe Shift are starting an internet talk show called Line In – An Interactive View into the Hearts and Minds of Local Musicians. We are hoping that this will help strengthen the relationships between bands in the greater Seattle area. I think there will always be amazing opportunities for teens in the business! There are many great showcases and competitions held by venues like The Redmond Fire House, KTUB, The Lab, Studio Seven and The Crocodile!

You provide an entertaining stage presence while singing lead vocals and playing drums: not an easy task. What is it like for you on stage? What stage performers do you admire?

Thank you very much! Playing a show is very physically taxing. I try hard to play the drums with the same amount of passion that I sing with and vise versa. I admire so many performers. The list is too many to mention! Sawyer Thompson and Fringe Shift. Pat Moon and Shotty. The Neighborhood Ruckus. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, Adam Duritz from Counting Crows, and on and on and on…

You’ve worked toward your dreams since childhood. What drives you?

It is hard to say. It is what it is. I approach my music as if it is my only option. A lot of the time, I truly believe it is. Music makes people happy! I love making people happy! Just getting some sort of idea or message out there is really something. In the end, it is the bigger picture that drives me. I just want to make some sort of mark. I don’t care how important or relevant it is. I don’t care if it is understood or embraced. I guess I just want to leave something behind.

Playing a gigIn the song Clever Lullaby, you sing “Music made me. Music saved me.” Does this describe how you feel about music in your life?

Oh yes. I take a lot of solace in writing music. I think many people feel this way about art in general. Musicians and listeners can use art as a crutch. I want to make a damn crutch!

Who would you most like to play onstage with?

Jim Morrison, Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, John Bonham, Kurt Cobain or Elliot Smith! And among the still living: Counting Crows, The Smashing Pumpkins, Wilco, Neko Case, Dave Grohl, Chocolate Genius, Incubus, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Steven Wilson…so many …..

What do you do when you’re not with JAR?

I am currently enrolled in Edmonds Community College and working as a para-ed substitute teacher in the Edmonds School District. I also teach music lessons at Spotlight Studios. My interests include music, music, eating, music, sleeping and… music!

JAR on the dock

Find JAR on Facebook.

Listen to Jar of Rain on Youtube, Soundcloud and Reverbnation.

Don’t miss JAR this Saturday at the Mirkwood and next Tuesday at the Nectar Lounge.

Purchase music from Jar of Rain on Itunes.