Friday, September 21, 2007

Maya Angelou

In 2004, I had the fortunate opportunity to see Maya Angelou make a presentation and read some of her poetry on campus at GVSU. She is a phenomenonal speaker and gifted storyteller. I have always enjoyed her writing and it was a nice experience to see her live, something I'll never forget. She is one of America's greatest Poets!

I recently checked out what I believe is her latest book, Celebrations, from the library. It's a collection of some of her more notable poems, including one that she wrote for Mother's Day 2006. I found that poem very touching and would like to share it here. Here's to all the mothers out there, and especially to my own. (I love you Mom!) Enjoy!


A Cradle to Hold Me

It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
I owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.

During those early, dearest days
I did not dream that you had
A larger life which included me,
Among your other concerns,
For I had a life
Which was only you.

Time passed steadily and drew us apart.
I was unwilling.
I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever
That one day you would have to stand
And where would I be?
You smiled again.
I did not.
Without warning you left me,
But you returned immediately.
You left again and returned,
I admit, quickly.
But relief did not rest with me easily.
You left again, but again returned.
You left again, but again returned.
Each time you reentered my world
You brought assurance.
Slowly I gained confidence.

You thought you knew me,
But I did know you,
You thought you were watching me,
But I did hold you securely in my sight,
Recording every movement,
Memorizing your smiles, tracing your frowns.
In your absence
I rehearsed you,
The way you had of singing
On a breeze,
While a sob lay
At the root of your song.

The way you posed your head
So that the light could caress your face
When you put your fingers on my hand
And your hand on my arm,
I was blessed with a sense of health,
Of strength and very good fortune.

You were always
The heart of happiness to me,
Bringing nougats of glee,
Sweets of open laughter.

I loved you even during the years
When you knew nothing
And I knew everything, I loved you still.
Condescendingly of course,
From my high perch
Of teenage wisdom.
I spoke sharply to you, often
Because you were slow to understand.
I grew older and
Was stunned to find
How much knowledge you had gleaned.
And so quickly.

Mother, I have learned enough now
To know I have learned nearly nothing.
On this day
When mothers are being honored,
Let me thank you
That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery
Did not bring you to
Discard me like a broken doll
Which had lost its flavor.

I thank you that
You still find something in me
To cherish, to admire, and to love.

I thank you, Mother.
I love you.

Angelou, Maya. Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer. "Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me." Random House: New York, 2006. Pgs. 71-77.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Circus was in town -- The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey -- to be exact. I haven't been to the circus since I was a kid. I vaguely remember going, on the bus, for a field trip to Grand Rapids sometime in middle school, or was it elementary? Whichever, it's been a long time.

On Wednesday, when the kids heard the circus was going to be in town, they begged to go. I thought about it, primarily the cost, and then decided, What the heck? It would be fun to go! So we made plans to check it out.

On the evening news Thursday, they reported that the Circus Train had arrived and that there would be the customary parade as the elephants and horses were lead to the Van Andel Arena. No need to say more, my daughter and I jumped into the van and headed downtown. For some reason, my son didn't show the slightest interest, and I couldn't tell you why... But, we arrived early and waited on the sidewalk of Ionia Avenue. It is a simple parade, and really cool. First came the elephants, walking all in a row, with their handlers, then two zebras, and finally the horses -- absolutely beautiful animals! The tail of the parade was a truck with the pooper-scooper patrol riding on the tailgate. Fortunately for all of us there was no poop to scoop!

I started checking out ticket options Friday during the day and we decided to go that night for the 7 o'clock show. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed! When they say, The Greatest Show on Earth, they're not exaggerating.

We went to see The Circus of Dreams, which featured a host of talented performers. (You can read an article about it at "Circus Encourages Big Dreams") I'd have to say my favorite one was...well, all of them!

Seriously, the most fascinating act was Madame Shamsheeva who had trained domestic cats to perform tricks! I couldn't believe my eyes, especially since I have a house cat who's about as lazy and disobedient as they come. The cats were in pet carriers in a row a few feet from the bar where they performed, an assistant would open a carrier and a cat would run out, directly to the "stage." They did all type of cat tricks -- weaving in and out of spindles, crawling across a double "tight rope", jumping from perch to perch, crossing over a ladder -- and as each finished, gave their trainer a "high paws" for the finale, and then, right back to the pet carrier. It was amazing!

Actually, the whole circus was amazing. The level of skill and dexterity of all the performers is top-notch. There were aerialists, clowns, and singers and dancers. Perhaps the most jaw-dropping stunts were performed by Super Silva, who walked upside down with no safety harness high above the floor, and The Torres Family, who rode seven motorcycles in a 16 cubic foot steel sphere - an incredible feat! I would have to say the most beautiful of the acts were the horses ridden by the Cossacks, where Roman riding, equestrian and acrobatic skills were demonstrated. If you haven't seen these riding forms, you haven't yet lived! Totally cool! There were white tigers, zebras and llamas, and the famous elephants. Chuck Wagner as the Ringmaster and Jennifer Fuentes as the Circus Songstress. Herkules the Strong Man and the Shenzhen Acrobatic Troupe. All of them did a spectacular job.

Going back to the circus after all these years was worth every penny we paid. If the circus is scheduled to come to your town, I highly recommend you go, whether or not you have children! It truly was an awesome experience -- I felt like a kid again oohing and ahhing at each spectacular feat -- and The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus is truly The Greatest Show on Earth!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

And now, it's time for a message from...

City Hope Ministries:


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Mutant Corn That Ate Grand Rapids

Here's a picture of the corn I planted back in May...I swear it's about 10 feet tall! This is no ordinary corn -- it's MUTANT CORN! There's no ears to be had although four plants have tassels. Even though it won't produce, at least it's cool to look at, and it makes a great privacy fence. This corn is the only crop I've planted in the last eleven years that's actually grown well, and since I've done nothing but kill the lawn (I do have a fine selection of Native Michigan Species, aka weeds) I think next summer I'm going to plant the entire plot of land with nothing but MUTANT CORN and sit back, relax, and just watch it grow!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Miracle of Life

I had the privilege and honor of being a labor and delivery coach for my friend and her husband as they welcomed their first-born child, a healthy baby girl, into this world on Saturday, September 8th. This was the first birth I was present at, as a witness and not a participant, and I have to say that the miracle of birth and of life is an awesome one.

My friends called me on Saturday morning to report that labor was progressing and that they were going to the hospital. They picked me up and we went around eleven. I stayed with them, helping when I was asked and when I could by speaking to the nurse or just lending a comforting hand. Childbirth is a long process, especially for the first baby, but I stayed with them all day -- comforting my friend, making sure she had what she needed, that "dad" didn't faint from hunger or nervousness, trying to respect their privacy, and helping to maintain as much calm and balance in the room as I could.

It was after ten at night by the time the baby was ready to be born, and there is just something so terrific about this. To the inexperienced eye, when the head appears, you're not sure what to think. I found myself wondering what part of the head it was, and then in a few seconds, I saw the little face turned to the side, and knew. From that moment, everyone in the room was exclaiming at how beautiful the baby was, and as she was delivered by the midwife and the father there were more exclamations and tears of joy.

She had a soft, but lusty little cry, and she cried out quite angrily as her mouth was suctioned, her cord cut, and wiped dry and then handed up to mommy. I helped take pictures from this point on, and as the nurse weighed and measured her, took her foot prints, and administered her eye drops and vaccinations. All the while, she would cry out from time to time. I could tell from those first moments of life that this little one is going to have a feisty personality!

After mommy and baby were settled in and getting to know one another, I went home. I was very tired but more than that, was so very happy for them.

The next day, me and my whole family went to the hospital for a visit. We stayed for about ten minutes, but it was just enough time for the kids to get a peek at the new baby. My daughter thought she was so cute and tiny and the only thing my son could think was to ask me when would the baby be big enough to play with him.

The next morning I went back, this time to give new mom and dad a helping hand in checking out baby from the hospital and taking her home. I helped for a few more hours, getting mommy and baby settled in and then I left.

As I drove to my children's school to pick them up, I couldn't help but think how witnessing this tiny miracle brought back memories of when I first welcomed my tiny miracles into the world. I think when a person is in the presence of a birth that they wax nostalgic for a while, so when I got home, I pulled out some baby photos and looked at them with my daughter. (My son could care less about babies, they're not big enough to play with!)

My daughter was full of questions and I tried to provide the answers. She had a hard time believing that she too was once that tiny. Of course, she asked me if I wanted to have another baby. I just gave her a hug and said that no, I was perfectly happy with the two big babies that I have right now and didn't need any more. But she wined and begged, claiming that she wanted a little sister who she can share her room with. I reminded her of some of her friends that have little sisters and she changed her mind, remembering what it's like to have a play date with a "third wheel" hanging around. I assured her that I was perfectly content with visiting the new baby from time to time and that I was looking forward to the possibility that someday I might be a grandmother. And I know, now more than ever, that I'll really be looking forward to that day if and when it comes.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Will Write for Food

Five months out and I'm still looking for a job.

Sure, I've been faithfully scanning the Morons Wanted column in the Swamp Valley One Wipe each and every Sunday and have been cruising the Internet, searching for something, well anything really. The few jobs I've found and liked, I've sent out my cover letter and resume. Rejections? I've had a few, but I've also gone on two real interviews and one almost-real interview. Not bad, if I do say so myself. Despite it all I can't help but wonder, Just how long will it take to find a job? and How much waiting will I be able to take?

My plan? I'm going to keep on looking for jobs and keep on sending those resumes, but next week, I've decided, I'm going downtown to stand at the intersection of Fulton and Division and, instead of staging a protest, I will advertise my services:


Do you think anyone will make me an offer? because, if a job doesn't come along soon, that's what I'm going to have to do. Hey, I have student loans to pay and my kids' school tuition on top of that. There must be someone out there, someplace, who can give this Writer a job!(?)

And, I can hear what some of you might be thinking, "Who does she think she is? Writing jobs just don't grow on trees!" And, I agree. They don't, but there's lots of other types of jobs that Writers can do, and I'm determined to find one of them. I know it's not going to be easy.

In the nation, Michigan is state with the highest rate of unemployment, and as for the jobs that have come into the market recently, most are low-paying. This factor has increased the number of Michigan families who are living at or below the poverty level. Nice isn't it? But nothing new in our great nation. And this recent data from Michigan is despite the fact that Gov. Granholm raised the state minimum wage last fall! And added into the mix is another great for Michigan - the sixth highest foreclosure rate in the nation. All over our state, factories are closing one after another and forcing people out of work and into the unemployment line. These same people, when they can't find another job or at least one that can pay the bills, are losing their homes and consequently leaving in droves, moving out-of-state to anyplace that they can find a job. What's going on with Michigan right now and what's going to happen later?

When I was a kid in the 70s I seem to remember a popular bumper sticker or slogan that read, "Last One Out Turn Off The Lights." And I've been thinking that lately someone out there should bring those bumper stickers back. They'd really come in handy...

While the immediate future of Michigan is uncertain, I know it will improve. It has to because it's been bad before and things got better again. Things around here will be better again. We all have to believe that.

In the meantime, I had a job interview today. The person who interviewed me said they had received around four hundred resumes for the position and had only advertised on one Sunday! I'm telling you, it's crazy out there. There are no "decent" jobs to be had in this town, and with such high competition it makes getting a decent job once you've found it even harder to accomplish.

Do you think if I tell the Feds that I can't pay my student loan due to situations out of my control that they'll understand? I doubt it too, so I'm going to keep on searching and appplying and interviewing, maybe I'll stand on the street corner, but most likely I'll keep on keeping on. It's the thing to do.