All posts by dixonl2014

In the Stillness!

breahe When life is shaking you up and down like a salt or pepper shaker, just stop. Go inside to the center of your power like the eye of a hurricane while things on the outer are being tossed in circles.

Give thanks that you are a witness and not a victim.  If you are able to see or observe it from a distance, then you have a chance to walk away from the shuffle.  Yes, it may cause some discomfort but change is like that because as the adage goes, “No pain, no gain.”

Realize that you are being shaken from your foundation and the old beliefs and thoughts that no longer serve you must go. They have no place in the new and evolving you that is growing and stretching.  New and beautiful islands are formed from unsettling and scary volcano eruptions because Mother Nature knows what she is doing.  Similarly, the oyster’s inner agitation produces that priceless pearl.

So, in the midst of mighty change whether on the world stage or within your own soul, first find a safe space.  Create a breathing room, a reflective spot or a scenic corner where you can find solace for a short time while the outer things continually spin around and around.

Let the storms of life pass over as you become still.  Breathe deeply.  Become centered and take time to remember who you are when nobody is looking or demanding your attention. Reflect on times gone by as you acknowledge and bless them.  It took every nuance and event to shape who you are today. Now, pause.  Salute the new and wonder-filled you that is determined to push right on through!

Lynn M.                                                                                         June 23, 2018

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Staying in the Know!

Spanish in 100 DaysEach summer, I take on a project that is new, eclectic and memorable.  Summers are very special to those of us who live in the chilly Midwest.  We have to make the most of this all too brief season.  Outside of getting out to soak up some sun, it’s a great time to learn something new! 

This year I have chosen to learn or shall I say become proficient in speaking Spanish.  Educators that cannot speak Spanish are beginning to feel the effects as our school districts make way for its new little ducklings.  That would be the Spanish-speaking children who in turn need bilingual educators.

In an effort to stay on the cutting edge, I have enrolled in a Spanish class again.  A few years back, I took a two-day workshop called Spanish for Educators. Thank goodness, I kept my detailed notes and teaching tools.  I also pulled out my Spanish-English Dictionary along with a book called Spanish in 100 Days that I had packed away.  I am pooling my former efforts along with the new teaching program because it is truly time to take this venture seriously.

I took French at many different points in my life, but I still cannot converse in French. C’est dommage.  But now as I am writing and learning Spanish words, voila!  It all makes sense because I understand feminine and masculine nouns, pronouns and articles from my years of studying French.

As in life, each experience prepares us for the next thing coming down the pike.  Both are Romantic languages.  Yet, I feel a little guilty when I sound out an s as I pronounce Spanish words because in French, that is a huge no-no!

During this uninterrupted stretch in my life, I plan to hunker down and focus.  When I see my young Spanish-speaking students in the fall, I will be able to say more than hola or adois.  Hopefully, I will feel confident enough to use what I have learned and try to converse with them.  Oh, the joys of staying the know!

Lynn M.                                                           June 16, 2018

Our Souls at Night: Book to Film

Our Souls at night-bookIsn’t nice when a writer leaves a screenwriter some material that he or she can mold and make come to life?  Well, the late Kent Haruf did just that when he wrote Our Souls at Night.  I happened to pick it up from the New Books Shelf at the public library.

The plot is unique where a widow knocks on her neighbor’s door who is a widower and asks him to do something quite unusual.  She, Addie Moore, asks him to come over and spend the nights with her. She admits that the nights are the hardest for her and she simply wants to talk.

Louis Waters, a former high school teacher, is taken aback and quietly contemplates her offer.  They both have been alone for years and ultimately each feels that there is little to lose. So, on the next night, he travels through the alley with his pajamas and a toothbrush in a paperback. He knocks on her back door and thus, the story unfolds.

In the small town where they live, tongues start wagging but they are in their seventies and they are quite oblivious to what others think about their actions. They proceed and share many intimate details of their lives.

She talks about the tragic loss of her young daughter who was hit by a car.  Both her husband and son basically shut down and their marriage suffered along with the loss of any intimacy.  He, on the other hand, had an affair with a school teacher which almost ruined his marriage and did indeed destroy the other woman’s marriage.

Both Addie and Louis continue their new routine and at one point, they decide to make a public showing.  As others gawk, they walk down a main street arm in arm.  Just as they are reveling in their new-found friendship, the unthinkable happens.

Addie’s son calls and says that his wife has abandoned the family and that his finances are in shambles.  He asks her to take in her seven-year old grandson Jamie for the summer. This leaves Louis wondering how and if he will fit into the new scenario.

Fortunately, Jamie is in need of a lot of comfort, so the three of them have a number of experiences that help them bond.  He accepts and gets used to Louis coming over at night; they play catch ball; they go on a hike in the mountains and Louis gets him a dog as a reassuring companion.

And then, crash.  Gene, Addie’s son comes to her house outraged that she is allowing Louis to stay over around his son and things get pretty salty.  It was a prime example of how some people cannot run their own lives, but they still feel the need to control others.

As I was reading the book, I met a woman who saw the cover and told me that Our Souls at Night had been made into a movie.  To my astonishment, not only was it a movie, it starred Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.  Who knew?  I was excited and knew that I had to compare the two after finishing the book.

Souls-movie

Afterwards, I was able to see a blurred version of the 2017 movie on You Tube which I observed closely. The script pretty much followed the book with a few exceptions.  In the book, Louis used a family of mice to entertain little Jamie but the movie chose an electric train set instead.  Also, the movie added a scene which included Louis’ adult daughter Holly.  And most importantly, it minimized the son’s aversion to their union and this made for a much lighter ending.

When I finished the book, I was a bit disturbed because Addie was so vulnerable and was being victimized by her controlling son.  He made her leave her house after she experienced a fall.  She was subjected to him and his yelling wife who had returned home.  Addie had to sneak and call Louis to talk and it made me think of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic ending.

However, the movie’s ending was more tolerable and it left me feeling hopeful.  Yes, she did move in with her son and grandson after having a fall, but in the movie, the wife did not return home. It seemed like a more peaceful living arrangement for the three of them.  And yes, she does call Louis but she does not sneak and it signals a happy continuation of their relationship.

Thank goodness for great writers and thank goodness for optimistic screenwriters who know the importance of leaving their viewers with a good feeling!

Lynn M.                                                         June 9, 2018

June Images!

Splat, splat, kids dash at this and that,
June sun. Free. Hair not in a plait.

Kids can laugh, swim, roam, dance and sing,
No more school bells go ding-a-ling.

Blue skies beacon us all outside,
Much time inside- taken in stride.

Vacation plans neatly unfold,
New stories waiting to be told!

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Lynn M.                                       June 8, 2018

Beam On!

beam

Have you ever felt like you’ve just scaled a mountain?  Or perhaps, you may feel as if you’ve been running like there is no tomorrow?  Either way, at some point, you have to stop and take a station break, so to speak.

And then, you turn and look back and when you see how far you have come, what you were able to do and how far you have moved forward, you simply say, “Wow!”  Then, you can Cash In, the title of a song by the great Phoebe Snow.

You can take all of the chips that you have gathered and as you count the stockpiles, you can hear the cash register ring cha-ching. There are monetary gains yes, but there are so many other assets.  There may be new friendships and associations formed or new skill sets added on as you unconsciously prepare for your next level.

Then you pause again and see that it’s time for a little self-indulgence.  You may not be where you want to be but when you really get still, you can express gratitude and sigh, “It is enough.  I have enough. I am enough.”

So you smile softly knowing that you shot your best shot.  You have let your light shine.   You then take the time to repair your mind, body and soul.  You know that yes, the battles of life have taken their tolls but the rewards are immeasurable.

You realize that every wrinkle was bought with a price along with all of the other changes that come from walking this earth over time.  W. Herbert Brewster, a Southern poet, wrote a poem called “Be Proud of Your Wounds and Scars.” Accepting life as it comes and presents itself, you just beam on quietly knowing that you gave it all you had!

 

Lynn M.                                                                                                             June 2, 2018

Waiting for Godot: A Play

Waitng for Godot

Waiting for Godot is a play that has haunted me over the years.  I first read it in college some years ago and there were times in my life when I too felt like I was waiting for Godot.  When I heard that the Shakespeare Theatre in Chicago was staging it, I felt that I had to see it.  I cannot ever recall hearing about its staging so I immediately bought a ticket.  And even more ideally, it was being shown in the day during the week. That made this enterprise that much more appealing.

Going to Navy Pier on the weekend is a feat in itself and certainly at this time of the year.  So a weekday trip to this busy landmark sounded like a win-win invitation.  The gods were on my side because the day proved to be bright, sunny and dry, a rare gem for the city of Chicago.  Everything fell into place and parking proved to be a breeze to match the picturesque day.

People in the audience were talking and I heard one gentleman say that Samuel Beckett, the playwright, was born in Ireland and later moved to Paris, France.  However, he kept a dual citizenship and Paris was where Waiting for Godot was first staged.  To add to the flavor of the day, the actors were from the Druid Theatre Company out of Dublin, Ireland. Their witticisms and Irish brogues helped set the tone for the play.

I re-read Godot the prior week to refresh my memory and possibly see why I never forgot this play.  It is basically about two men who are waiting by a tree for this mysterious Mr. Godot.  They think that he can save them from their uneventful lives but he never shows up.

I thought of the many times that I thought some other person could bail me out or fix some problem, only to be disappointed. Over and over, I learned that I had to paddle my own canoe.  Or, I discovered that my demigod was in worse shape than I was and could never deliver the goods anyway.

I digress.  In the play, Estragon (Gogo) and Vladimir are two homeless men in tattered clothes.  Their friendship is about all that they have to sustain them.  They contemplate suicide often as they see themselves as insignificant people.  Even a boy messenger who tells them that Mr. Godot is not coming does not remember meeting them from the day before when he came to deliver the same message.

They pass the time to lighten the day and the actors from the Druid Theatre Company chose to act out a few playful antics to add laughter to the otherwise pathos.  At times, they reminded me of a Laurel and Hardy duo as they used various shenanigans to entertain us.

Two other men, Pozzo and Lucky enter the scene by the tree and they bring their own brand of excitement.  Lucky is led by a long rope and is being whipped by Pozzo who is arrogant, abusive and self-righteous.  He is quite proud and thinks rather highly of himself and says that they are trespassing on his property.  He has a few perks like a cigar, meat and a special stool which indicate that he is a wealthy man.

Lucky, on the other hand, shockingly raises his head, after putting on his hat and delivers a long, somewhat nonsensical discourse on mankind. He represents a man who probably was once brilliant but has allowed life to beat him down into servitude.  His level of degradation even shocks Estragon and Vladimir.  They feel that they can at least stand upright and see that they are indeed quite dignified compared to Lucky.

Yet, the next day, these same two characters stumble into their area again and the high-minded Pozzo is now blind and unable to stand without assistance.  He has fallen as low as Lucky and it all happened so quickly which fits the old adage, “Up today, down tomorrow.”

The play ends with Estragon and Vladimir still waiting for Godot.   They vow to bring a rope to hang themselves but they doubt that the small tree can even support them. They continue to wait for Godot to save them or plan to find a way to end it all.

Though I looked up others’ analyses of the play, here is what I think Beckett was saying to us all.  It speaks volumes about the condition of man. Today, we still see those who feel as if their lives don’t matter and have lost all hope; those who sneer down their noses at others only to need their help in a short time and those who have been beaten down so low that they rarely lift their heads to enjoy the sun.  Yet, we know that it can all change rather quickly just as the new leaves appeared overnight on the tree.

As we left the theatre, we mentioned the difference in how the Americans and Irish pronounce Godot- the illusive Godot. This timeless play is a great conversation piece. I am happy to have had the opportunity to see it staged by a group of fine actors.  It was simply astounding on all levels!

Lynn M.                                                                   May 26, 2018

 

 

The Life of the Party: A Movie Review

Mother and Daughter

The Life of the Party starring Melissa McCarthy was a little wild and even a tad risqué but enjoyable.  In the movie, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) returns to college to finish out her last year some twenty years after leaving to get married.  Her husband abruptly asks for a divorce and she is blindsided.  But after brooding, she decides to join her daughter on the campus of her alma mater.

Her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) isn’t thrilled with the idea but after she gives her mom a makeover, Deanna begins to blend in and even becomes a valued part of the younger set.  Through a host of adventures such as partying, drinking, joining a sorority and even making out with a fraternity brother, she soon forgets her woes as she moves ahead to complete her Archaeology degree.

There were quite a few laughs and there were even some great scenes of revenge when Deanna encounters her ex-husband and his intended.  It was a good way to escape into another world and as I was driving home and reflecting on the movie, it dawned on me that there were quite a few similarities to my own life.

At the end of the film, I recalled that my mother and I had also attended college together.  She was a senior and I was a freshman.  I used to say, “Hi, Ma,” in the hallway.  And later, we taught on two of the same college campuses and marched as faculty together.

So, when Deanna and daughter were clothed in their graduation regalia, I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have had such an amazing experience.   During this month of honoring our mothers, I pause and recall the lines from a famous gospel song that say, “Precious memories.  Oh how they linger!”

Lynn M.                                                                                May 19, 2018

In A Gilded Cage: A Book Review

Gilded Cage

Rhy Bowen’s In A Gilded Cage caught my eye on the library shelf because of the  woman’s fashionable dress on the cover.  I checked it out and after reading the first few lines, I knew that I was in for a treat.  It was written in first person and that immediately drew me in as I listened to what Molly Murphy had to share with me.

It takes place in New York in 1918 during the women’s suffrage movement and Molly’s tone was light and amusing.  I packed my bags and traveled back into this historical era when women were standing up for the right to vote.

Molly Murphy has her own small detective agency and she is asked to join her neighbors Sid and Gus on a walk in the Easter Parade.  But the Vassar graduates have a secret mission and they plan to wear banners for Women’s Right to Vote across their dresses.

Needless to say, this does not go over well with the police and all of the women are arrested.  Molly, though from Ireland, has the chance to meet many of the prominent women who all attended Vassar College.  Thus, she meets Fanny and Emily who both become the main focus of the story.

The women are surprised to know that Molly Murphy is indeed a detective and her affiliation with the police captain helps them get out of jail without spending a night.  Daniel is Molly’s intended and helps her on several occasions.

Both Fanny and Emily hire Molly Murphy for private reasons.  Fanny suspects her husband of cheating in a long-standing affair and Emily is not sure of her parentage and possible inheritance.  Her uncle is less than honest yet quite wealthy while she struggles to make ends meet while working for a pharmacist.

Then, the tide changes when three of the Vassar women die a similar and mysterious death.  It seems like  influenza but there are other odd symptoms like hair loss and vomiting.

Who wants these society women dead?  What are the ties that bind?  Why are they a threat?  As Molly tirelessly works to get to the heart of the matters, Emily is spared though Fanny is not as fortunate. They Molly and Daniel put their heads together and act as a dynamic duel. The shocking murderer is revealed.

As in life, there are many twists and turns along with false leads but as the saying goes, “There are no secrets in the Book of Life.”  Read In a Gilded Cage and be reminded that all that glitters is truly not gold!

Lynn M.                                                         May 12, 2018

Fresh May!

May-basin

Oh, the beauty of fresh May,
Smells of newness, we all say.

Ah! At last we surely know,
Warm spring breezes make us glow.

Endured winter’s frosty crust,
Now propelled forth with a thrust.

Into this calming, green May,
Planting smiles throughout the day!

Lynn M.                                                                            May 12, 2018

Soft Landings

cushionsHave you ever felt as if you were a juggler as you tried to manage all of the pins being shoved your way? If so, you understand why the jugglers don’t take their eyes off of the pins because one wrong move can cause the whole game to come crashing down!

Life is like that as you try to keep it together or keep on keeping on.  It is comparable to watching a dog jump through hoops or a skilled track and field sprinter clear those hurdles in a timely manner.

But if there is huge slip-up, it’s just like an opponent in a chess game calling out “Checkmate.” You then know that the game is over. There is no other recourse other than to simply start  over, if given the chance.

There is a children’s story called Anansi the Spider and Anansi was prone to trouble; yet, his six sons often saved him.  Each son used his unique gift to successfully rescue their father as the brothers worked as a team.

On one occasion, they had to save Anansi from a huge falcon. After Anansi was freed from the mouth of the bird, he fell towards the ground.  His youngest son, Cushion, then positioned himself so that his father landed on his back.  Cushion offered a buffer and and helped his father have a proverbial soft landing.

So, the next time that you find yourself in the middle of running a challenging race, remember that in the end, the most you can hope for is a smooth landing. Later, when you have time to reflect and let out a big sigh of relief, you can lean on the words of Shakespeare.  He wrote, “All’s well that ends well!”

Lynn M.                                                            May 5, 2018