Monthly Archives: August 2015

Sign of the Times

Here we are in twenty-fifteen,
Refocus those lenses. Stay keen!

As disturbing events unfold,
Explanations cannot be told.

Tighten those holds. Simply grip,
Making sure that you do not slip.

Breathe. Sigh. Lean in. Fall into shape,
Stand silently. Mouths, not agape.

Wise ones! Pick up those spiritual books,
Find those quiet spaces and nooks.

Recall those teachings as a child,
From parents who were not that mild.

Smart ones, revisit their young ages,
Pull out those lessons from the sages.

Look for those sure, silver linings,
Keep unraveling those bindings.

Press down, grab ahold and hang tight,
Rest, but clinch with all of your might!

Lynn M.
August 31, 2015

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Growth!

I am currently reading the classic Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis.  I thought it was a light-hearted humorous piece about a pompous real estate salesman who prided himself on having it all together.  He lives in the perfect part of the town; belongs to all of the right clubs; teaches Sunday School at a respectable church and is a devoted family man.

But something happens to George Babbitt which shakes him to the core and he begins to see life in a different way.  He suddenly becomes more compassionate towards the union strikers, who his club members see as thugs.  He has an affair which he had never done before and he falls in with a seedy group of people.  Babbitt becomes a smoker and regular drinker. Those around him are highly disturbed and his wife decides to go away to her sister’s for a while.

I have not finished the book, but this Nobel Prize for Literature author has me thinking.  I was more than halfway into the book before all of the shocking events unfolded.  I thought I would simply muddle through this satire, but now, Babbitt is questioning himself and his once neatly ordered life.

Babbitt was simply growing.  And, that is what happens when we outgrow former things and people as we evolve.  We no longer fit in with the old circles and, as in Babbitt’s case, people are generally outraged.  His associates felt that he was acting strangely.  His behavior became a topic of conversation because people don’t like it when we no longer fit into the old molds.  It makes them uncomfortable and it may force them to take a hard look at some of their own life choices.

Just this morning, I looked at a plant that I planted at least five years ago with a group of second graders from my former school.  I could not believe how it had grown!  In fact, I did not know that it had the capability to grow that large!  In my old residence, it merely survived; but now in a new environment, it has taken on a life of its own and is growing out of its pot.

Before Babbitt’s metamorphosis, his views on life were quite narrow.  But events that involved Paul, his close friend, upset the status quo and he was forced to widen his outlook.  The blinders were removed and he was saw people’s situations from more varying points of view.

He tried to rub shoulders with those in higher echelons and they looked down on him and his station. Ultimately, it made him more tolerant of those who had less than he had acquired in his life.  And that is what true growth does.  It opens or eyes and ears and gives us the patience to let others have their say and yield out of their way.  We simply observe, perceive what is happening and adjust our lenses to emit more light for a greater understanding.

Lynn M.                                                                                                                       August 28, 2015


Common Courtesies

Thought.  Have we become such a fast-paced society that we don’t have time to say thanks, merci or gracias. Years ago, it was an automatic response to time well-spent; a consideration shown or a listening ear loaned.

But it seems that now it is more of a gulp as one hurriedly eats.  We take in others’ efforts to accommodate and swallow it down leaving a void and vacuum where there had once been something.  And too often, there is no thank you nor even an acknowledgement.

There was a time when even applicants for a job were acknowledged for their efforts to get the resume there on time and certainly for making it to an interview if one was on the agenda.  I remember having to borrow money for gas to get to an interview or even borrow the right blouse to try to make that connecting impression.

At least then, even if you were not the chosen candidate, there was a letter or email that said thank you for your time and most often your dime.  Money will have to be spent to get there, one way or the other.  It could be for gas or a new outfit and heaven forbid, if you flew to an interview in another city and paid for it out of your own pocket.  Oops.  Not to mention the hotel because sleeping in the airport would not work. Shucks, tag on that cab fare and yep, you had to eat. Add: long –term parking in your home airport lot.

And then?  No response.  Nada.  No email saying thanks for coming in to sit with us.  No closing the deal to say that JoJo got the job, but thanks for spending your time and several dimes to attempt to work for our establishment.

Those used to be considered to be common courtesies that came with the territory of hiring and interviewing practices.  Oversights are difficult when they come from family and friends but there is a degree of leeway for forgiveness with them. After all, you know them and their shortcomings. But with companies and corporations, that is simply unacceptable. Period.

Certainly, we are not that busy or in a hurry to turn over the next deal.  And where are the gatekeepers? Are we not teaching the young professionals how to do business?  There should be guidelines and really no one should have to say, “You should have done this.”  Common acknowledgements should not be an afterthought.  It should not be, “Oh yeah, I should have….”

Let us slow down and make sure we extend those common courtesies and acknowledgements to those who have responded to a request that we threw out there.  Even a job posting states that there is a need for some type of service.  To hear nothing is not okay.  We really did learn what we needed to know a long time ago as author Robert Fulghum reminds us in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  We just think that no one is watching when we are rude and insensitive.

And in our dealings with those in our close circles, lack of saying thanks is asking to be put into some newer circles or out of the throngs of those who are most beneficial to our lives.  Robert Fulghum says it best when he said, ”Speed and efficiency do not always increase the quality of life.”

Fulghum...Kindergarten

Lynn M.

August 26, 2015

Pause!

When in doubt, pause and just wait.
Don’t jump and grab the first bait!

The right answers will align,
Often coming with a sign.

Clarity will show the path,
Let the Divine do the math.

All will become crystal clear,
The road to take is quite near.

It will quickly be revealed,
Wait. Be still. Keep those lips sealed.

Lynn M.
August 25, 2015

Above the Fray

In life, sometimes we have to adjust our altitudes.  Just as planes go higher to avoid the turbulent skies, we must follow suit and go up a little higher. The ruckus or choppy weather is still happening but we are less affected by it because we have found smoother airwaves.

When events are tumultuous in the lives of our loved ones and friends, we truly want to be of assistance.  But we cannot be a guiding force if we are like Elvis sang,  All Shook Up. So, we find calmer, thinner air and at some point we come to a rest.

We perch with an aerial view as we assess and see what is really going on.  We quietly wait until we have gathered the facts and make a plan for later re-entry into the fray.  While perched, we prepare.

And how will we do that?

  • We spend a lot of time in the silence.
  • We meditate, pray or use varied methods to connect to our Higher Power.
  • We read.
  • We gather information or data.
  • We spend time reflecting on our thoughts.
  • We take copious notes and jot down whatever is revealed.
  • We formulate a plan of action.
  • We add at least a couple of alternative  or back-up plans to Plan A.
  • We anticipate possible scenarios and dialogues.
  • We make a list of mock responses to prepare for counterattacks.
  • We get good nights of sleep.
  • We eat healthy foods.
  • We exercise.
  • We breathe and take deep breaths to refresh our lungs.
  • We vow as Catherine Ponder said in Millionaire Joshua, “To keep our cool emotionally.”

And then, we flap our wings.  We gain momentum. We become airborne. We descend.  We affirm, “Going in.” And we fly down to meet the situation head on feeling assured that there will be a victory because, we are equipped!

Millionaire Josuha

Lynn M.

August 23, 2015

Catching Up on the Classics!

In high school, we are often introduced to the watered-down version of several classics.  Many of us hated them and wondered why they were considered to be important or great as we muddled through them for a passing grade.

Now, that I am older and wiser, I would tell students that this is a time to simply be introduced to great books.  I would remind them that they will taste better as the students age and mature. They can be revisited later.

Over the past few summers, when I’ve had the extra time, I have picked up some of those laborious reads.  I remember my mother and sister having this huge struggle over Wuthering Heights.  My sister hated it and my mother was trying to get her to get through it so she could pass.   As a child, I thought, “This must be the worst book ever!”  And when I did read it?  (As an adult, of course.) I loved it!  It is one of the greatest love stories ever told along with its twisting and winding parts.

The website, Goodreads, asks its members, “What are you currently reading?”  Well, right now, I have just started Babbitt for which Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  His choice of words and colorful descriptions are keeping me engaged.  Also, it is not ridiculously long and I am enjoying his artistic form which is sprinkled with bits of wit and humor.

I finished A Room with a View by E.M. Forster earlier this week.  The pace was quite slow, but I felt as if I was walking along with Lucy and her traveling party when they were visiting Florence and Rome.   A lot of the plot centers around a stolen kiss, which must have been a big deal back then and it caused quite an uproar to those who knew about it.  Yet, it did help Lucy in choosing the right mate when she dropped Cecil and added George to the equation. Outside of the plot itself, I also looked at Forster’s simplistic writing style and his method of storytelling.

In the last few years, I have caught up on these classics:  All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque); Anna Karenina (Tolstoy); Dr. Zhivago (Pasternak); Les Miserables (Hugo) and spent one entire summer reading Hemingway.  That included The Sun Also Rises; Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. I traveled from the WWI battlefield to the streets of St. Petersburg to snowy Russia to the French landscape on to hanging out with the partying Roaring 20’s expatriates and the running of the bulls in Spain.

Each of these timeless novels has revealed so much about life. They have shown the universality of all people. I could see more deeply into the situations that the writers shared because I had more life experiences. The plots were memorable but I also noted all of the unique writing styles. These have helped me to further develop as a writer.  I am happy that I had the time to take an adult look and recognize why these books are considered to be great.

Lynn M.

August 21, 2015

Encouraging Songs!

Songs can encourage us to proceed as we take the next steps on our walk down Fate’s path.  There is a design and we don’t necessarily have access to that hidden plan; but just as we approach a stop sign, we put our foot on the brakes, look both ways and move forward with caution.

All generations have had songs to help them ‘keep on keeping on’ even when they could not see what was ahead.  I just heard a song on the radio which had me feeling uplifted called, Yes You Can by Marvin Sapp.  I was bobbing my head along and I felt as if I could handle whatever was coming down the pike.

During the turbulent 60’s, Curtis Mayfield reminded his listeners to Keep on Pushing.  I played this for my 8th grade students because I knew that they were navigating the emotions that come with teenage angst along with battling the mean streets of the inner city.  They listened and had the words to really get the message.

Another song that helped me motivate them was Tupac’s Keep your Head Up.  I looked for ways to reach them in a language that they could understand.  I feel that my efforts were appreciated.

Once when I was working in an office setting, these guys came in and they were obviously facing some challenge.  They said, “Let’s sing the Fight Song.”  I laughed and imagined that they were probably former college football players. It got them pumped up for their battle ahead.

In one of my books, the librarian, Phoenix is feeling quite low because a job change is inevitable.  Yet, when she hears the young children singing, You’ll Never Walk Alone, it touches her deeply and she feels like going on. There are many renditions to that song, but we had the one and only Roy Hamilton’s version while we were growing up.

There are so many songs that keep us inspired when the road ahead looks bleak.  Years ago, the Tempting T’s, an affectionate name for the group The Temptations, sang Keep on Walking, Don’t Look Back. That encouraged a lot of people by reminding them that they should keep it moving.

And lastly, Donnie McClurkin took me to work on many days and as he soothed and reassured me when he sang, We Fall Down and the lyrics continue, “But we get back up again!”

Where would the world be without the music?  Songs keeps us balanced, grounded and inspired as we stay on the life train and keep chugging along.

Lynn M.

August 18, 2015

Maya’s Last Poem: A play

I went to see a play called Maya’s Last Poem on Sunday afternoon. This three-woman play was only about an hour long but it was so power-packed!  I am still reflecting. The playwright, Tim Rhoze took an extremely creative approach to reviewing pivotal points of Dr. Maya Angelou’s life.

She is now in heaven and walking around in God’s Library as she gets used to her new home. God is played by a woman and there is a third woman called Petra, who is Maya’s angel-in-waiting.  God affectionately calls Maya by her given name, Marguerite. They sit down and have a conversation as they go over key points of her life. God reminds her that she was always there, looking over every detail of her life.

They re-visit times such as her brutal attack, her years of being mute and Mrs. Flowers’s role in her life.  Mrs. Flowers is the one who gave Maya her voice back by telling her that poems had to be spoken to show their power and beauty. Maya read for her after making no sounds for six years.

God reminds her that she was building the love of words in her even during her dormant years, because she read voraciously.  Maya mentions her love for Thomas Wolfe, Paul Laurence Dunbar and William Shakespeare.  Throughout their talk, God is telling her to write a poem and she has been given a legal pad and pen by Petra.  As the conversation deepens, she starts a poem and pauses as they continue to reminisce.

She remembers her brother Bailey, her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas and her mother who she later joined as a teen in California.  God reminded her that some mothers do not deal with small children that well and that is why she and Bailey had the grandmother.  But her mother took them in as teens and gave her incredible confidence when she told her, “You are the greatest woman I know.”

They play the words of Marguerite’s son from her funeral and she is reminded of this phrase.  God told her, When you came into the world, you cried and the world rejoiced.  But when you left, the world cried and you rejoiced.”  She assured her that her work on Earth was complete and that she had lived to the height of her potential.  She only wished that others could find their missions and work on fulfilling the designs set for their lives.  She (God) admitted that many do not find it and many blessings are still in a locked room and have not been given out.

The actors in this play where absolutely amazing.  After a while, the lead actress started looking more and more like Dr. Maya. I could feel her presence and her smile of approval as the play continued. Towards the end, Marguerite sees her brother, her mother, her grandmother and her uncles.  She can also see that her son, Guy and his children and grandchildren were doing just fine here on Earth.

She recites her last poem and it brought tears to the actress’ eyes and to those of us in the audience. It ends with her being adorned in a beautiful white scarf that she held by its ends to look like wings.  There was a standing ovation and I left feeling so happy that I did get to see Dr. Maya Angelou speak in Boston around 2004.

This was a superb performance! The cast of phenomenal women were Jacqueline Williams as Maya Angelou; Cheryl Lynn Bruce as God and Antora DeLong as Petra.  I am still searching to see if the poem recited was written by the playwright or if it was one of Dr. Maya’s.  Either way, it was a win-win poem and it sounded like something she would have penned. Tim Rhoze‘s script is filled with substance and his imaginative ideas soared and took a bountiful flight in this wonderful play called Maya’s Last Poem.

Lynn M.

August 16, 2015

If

“If you can keep your head when all about you
  Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”

These first two lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, If, present thoughts to live by during these unpredictable times. When we are witnessing rare events such as huge fires, dust storms, hail storms, floods and winds that have blown planes askew, we need to hold on to something to stay grounded.

Years ago in Chicago, during windy snowstorms, we saw old news clips of people holding on to a thick rope that was secured to help them navigate their way. We affectionately call the wind “The Almighty Hawk” and Chicago is also known as The Windy City. The ropes served as anchors to help people steady themselves.

Today, we have to bear down and seek a sense of security as we see people losing it as we see mass shootings in churches, theatres, schools and a few other places. We try to ‘keep our heads’ or as the older generation would remind us to ‘keep a level head.’ We heard of phrases such ‘blowing one’s top’ and now we can see the results when pandemonium breaks out.

When we see things that we have absolutely no control over, we look for ways to cope and create a sense of balance for ourselves. Our creative outlets, our hobbies and our recreational activities can serve as up lifters during these perilous times.

To me, the biggest challenge is explaining these harrowing events to our children. With adult friends, we can simply clasp hands and shake our heads in disbelief. But with our children? Well, they ask questions and demand answers and will not be put off.

Before we respond, we must still ourselves. We need to breathe or take a walk. Maybe we can tend to our plants or tinker under a car hood or work on a ceramic wheel or whittle on some wood before we attempt to speak to them. We must unravel our thoughts and think long and deep. We might wonder how one of our grandparents would answer the troubling question called,“Why?”

And after a long sigh, perhaps we can come up with a mature response that both we and the children can live with and accept as a truth. We keep our cool emotionally. We speak slowly, carefully and succinctly. And, finally, if need be, we admit that we just don’t have all of the answers as we encourage them to remain calm.

Lynn M.
August 15, 2015

She Does it Again!

Ricki and Flash

The incomparable Meryl Streep does it again in her latest movie, Ricki and the Flash.  As I watched the film, I kept silently hoping that it would not end anytime soon.  However when it was over, I felt that this family tale had been a fulfilling slice of life.  It was worth the time and money.

Ricki (Meryl Streep) is a rock singer with her own band called The Flash.  She lives in California and is moving right along with her life where she is a cashier by day and a performer by night.  She gets a call from her ex-husband and hesitates to take the call because she knows that it will require some level of responsibility.  She now has three adult children that she left behind when they were small.

Her former husband, Pete (Kevin Kline) informs her that their daughter is quite depressed over the break-up of her marriage.   Ricki reluctantly flies back to Indianapolis to see if she can help her daughter, who is played by Meryl Streep’s real daughter (Mamie Gummer).  She is quite convincing in her role.

Fortunately, Pete’s second wife is on a trip to see about her father and it gives Ricki, Pete and daughter, Julie, time to bond.  Ricki is also reunited with her two adult sons and the meeting in a restaurant is awkward.  When Pete’s wife (Audra McDonald) does return, she and Ricki  have a light confrontation.

Ricki returns to her life in California after she sees some positive changes in her daughter.  She falls back into her lifestyle but has heavy guilt feelings about being a mother who has abandoned her children.  Yet, her friends are supportive and she begins to accept who she is and has become after making that choice.

This movie made me laugh at times and at other times, I wanted to cry.  We feel Ricki’s pain as she struggles through her own inner turmoil.  This is a rare look into the emotions felt by women who do walk away from their children for whatever reasons. She mentioned that men leave their kids all the time, but women are never forgiven for doing so.

Meryl Streep sings, plays guitars and looks the part of the hippie-type. The two worlds of the gated community and the free-spirit rocker do collide. Her love interest,Greg (Rick Springfield) helps her balance her inner emotions and the acceptance of her current lifestyle.  They return to Indy together for her son’s wedding and Ricki gives them the only thing that she has- her music.  She flips the switch as she draws them into her world by helping them to lighten up, relax and enjoy the event.

Meryl Streep is a true medium who is amazingly able to allow the artist’s ideas to roll through her making any writer smile and say, “Yes.That’s just what I had in mind!”  This is a must-see movie.  It will put the icing on your summer cake!

Lynn M.

August 13, 2015