Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Let's face it - Cleveland doesn't get much good press and the country rarely gives us a break when they have the opportunity to make us a laughing stock of something. This week Cleveland is enjoying some positive attention. We are the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - yet the induction ceremony has only taken place here once since the Rock Hall opened in 1997. Henceforth, it will be here every three years.
This is Induction Week 2009. Last Saturday they held The Moondog Coronation Ball with groups such as Tommy James and the Shondells, Three Dog Night, Herman's Hermits and Little Richard. (I read that Little Richard came on the stage in a wheelchair - now THAT can make you feel OLD.) Tomorrow a new exhibit opens called From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen. Thursday will see a concert with the O'Jays, Dave Mason and Wanda Jackson. Friday- Little Anthony and the Imperials. Saturday is the Induction Ceremony at Cleveland Public Hall. This year's inductees are Jeff Beck, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Run-DMC, Metallica, Bobby Womack and Wanda Jackson.
I can't say I'm actually attending any of these events, but I'm enjoying the positive atmosphere and the good news in Cleveland for a change. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum is a beautiful building that sits in North Coast Harbor on Lake Erie as you can see above. Just this weekend I was listening to the oldies being played in the grocery store and wondering if any of these artists ever dreamed we'd still be hearing their songs forty years later.
A couple weeks ago we met some friends at a restaurant where an "oldies" band was playing. Hearing songs from Junior High and High School was more fun than I imagined. The place was wall-to-wall fifty and sixty-somethings dancing their fool heads off. We LOVE rock and roll and always will.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Generosity of Writers

This weekend I went to two writer events. I don't know about other cities, but Cleveland has a community of the most generous and amazing writers I could ever imagine. For several years I took classes at what was then known as the Poet's and Writer's League of Greater Cleveland. Now it is known as The Lit. I worked with incredible fiction writers and poets and I learned more than I can say here. I had been writing my own personal form of poetry for several years and it focused on feelings, (specifically anger most of the time.) I learned about the complexity of writing poems, editing and publishing poetry, and that they were so much more than expressing your feelings
I have a chapbook now and some poetry credits but I still feel like I am a newbie among these accomplished writers. However, they don't react to me that way. I am immediately accepted and encouraged in their presence. I have to accept that I AM a writer. I had several offers to read my poetry on one night. Today the facilitator of one of the classes was someone whose blog I read and he, in turn, has read mine and was kind enough to order my chapbook. He put my blog up on the screen and told the class that my poems make him cry. There is not a thread of competition when you are among other writers. We are in this together. We all know what drives us from within and we understand each other without ever meeting face to face. These writers are also incredibly generous with their time and advice. I can only hope to pay it forward someday.
Thank you to all my mentors out there. You know who you are.

Writing breaks open the vaults of the dead and the skies behind which the prophesying angels hide. Sylvia Plath

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Buying A Pair of Jeans

It could take a whole day, maybe two -
the pulling up and pushing down of blue denim.
You know before it wraps around your thigh
whether to continue the heated upward effort.

Sometimes you miscalculate
as they smoothly rise over your hips
to discover the button will not be forced
into its matching hole from two inches away.

Boot cut, flare, straight leg, wide leg,
curvy, slim, skinny, low-waist, ultra low,
faded, dark wash, ripped, bedazzled,
stretch, regular, ankle, long, petite, short,
5-pocket, 4-pocket, button-down, zip.

Then a pair slides on without tears.
You button, you zip, you turn to view the rear.
You squat, you stand on tiptoe - and you sigh.
You pay a lot of money, bring them home

and try them on to make sure it wasn't a dream.
At long last you sit into the ease of your new jeans
and smile. You pray they won't shrink.
You hope you don't gain any more weight.

You touch the soft blue fabric and rejoice
in the comfort you so valiantly sought.
It's a victorious day - and then your husband says,
so what did you do all day?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kermit Wisdom


Here's some simple advise: always be yourself. Never take yourself too seriously. And beware of advice from experts, pigs, and members of Parliament.

When I was a tadpole there was really only one thing that I collected. I had a file of newspaper and magazine articles on Frogs in Show Business. It was a small collection, but I think it influenced me a lot.

I have a lot of great memories from the swamp. I remember when I was little, we'd all just sit out on our lily pads for hours and hours, rocking gently on the water and listening to the soft, sweet sound of chirping crickets. . . then of course, we'd eat the crickets. . . but that's another story.

I really do believe that all of you are at the beginning of a wonderful journey. As you start traveling down the road of life, remember this: There are never enough comfort stops. The places you're going to are never on the map. And once you get that map out, you won't be able to refold it no matter how smart you are. So forget the map, roll down the windows and whenever you can, pull over and have a picnic with a pig. And if you can help it, never fly as cargo.

When green is all there is to be it can make you wonder why - but why wonder? I am green and it'll do fine. It's beautiful and it's what I want to be.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Food Memories - Or Not

I have a wonderful writer friend, Gail Bellamy, who writes about food. She writes for food magazines, has a poetry book called "Victual Reality" with food poems, and wrote a book called "Cleveland Food Memories." I can't say I have many food memories because food is not really interesting to me. I never was interested in cooking. I made every effort to feed my children healthy meals, but they were nothing to provide them with food memories either - with the exception of my homemade macaroni and cheese! They still love it and I still make it for their birthdays, but sadly, that's it for their mom's cooking. Not being a cook, I believe, has hampered my social skills since there is always talk about new recipes and I have nothing to contribute. Oh well.

I married a wonderful, creative cook and since then my cooking skills have deteriorated to zilch. Hey, I can't be good at everything! I always enjoy his creative kitchen endeavors, but would be just as happy with a fried egg sandwich. You'd think I'd be skinny, wouldn't you?

My husband and I are in the habit of surprising each other with a dinner at a fancy restaurant for our birthdays. We've had several special evenings at some of these highly-overpriced places. Food is not really interesting to me and I am pretty much happy with anything but I do enjoy a relaxing dinner at a place with a pleasing ambience. This week was my husband's birthday. I decided to take him to "Lola" in downtown Cleveland. The reason this place is notable is because the chef, Michael Symon is a winner of the "Iron Chef" television reality show. It's a hot spot in Cleveland, of course. When we approached the restaurant my hubby sounded like he was pleasantly surprised at where we were to dine. We were seated at one of those tiny tables where one of the seats is a long bench so you are sitting about one foot away from other couples on each side. Both sides of us had two men (loud-talkers). We were also about twenty feet away from the kitchen that was located in the middle of the restaurant, not behind doors as it should be. I don't know if the famous chef actually ever cooks there now, but if he did you would be able to sit on a stool with an appletini and watch to your heart's content. This would be really boring to me, plus the noise of ten young men in baseball caps throwing pots and pans around was deafening. It may be where the action is (I think that was a show in the 60's) but I quite enjoy talking to the person I'm having dinner with.

Then comes the meal. I ordered a fish called Artic Char because I like fish and because it was accompanied by sweet potato something-or-other and I love anything with sweet potato. Now for a $29 entree you think they could afford more than a teaspoon of pureed sweet potato, but that was all I was able to locate. The fish serving was small too - and that was about it for dinner. Oh well, at least I didn't feel bloated afterwards. To be fair, everything was very tasty, but between the exhorbitant bill, the chaotic atmosphere and the tiny servings - well, we both said -at least we can say we've been here. No food memories there.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Spring Walk

On a lunchtime walk this week I came upon a fallen branch with ducks and turtles resting together in the sun. Before I took this photo there were several more large turtles and a couple more ducks, but unfortunately I scared them away. However, I found it a fine example of COEXISTING. Two species, one branch. HAPPY SPRING!
(You can click on it to enlarge. Warning - the two on the end may be getting prepared for something more than sun-bathing!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Here's Your Answer

Did you hear the one about the man that was stranded on a rooftop after a flood? He prayed for God to help him. Soon a boat came by and offered assistance, but the man declined saying that God was going to help him. Then a helicopter flew over. . . yeah, you've heard it.
One of the frustrating parts of my job teaching kids with learning disabilities is that they know I'm there to help them and sometimes if I don't do a task for them, or tell them the answer I hear "You're not helping me!" I always tell them I am not in fifth grade, they are, and they won't learn if I do it for them. As parents we've all said the same type of thing.
Recently Terry Pluto, a writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote an article called "There are times when God doesn't want prayers." Hmmm, interesting.
". . .some of us have prayed our way into paralysis. We know what we're supposed to do - but we'd rather pray than do it.
He gave examples of people asking for prayer and being told by friends that they already were capable of doing what they were asking for - so just do it! I thought about something I've prayed, cried and agonized over for years and I realized that it was not that I couldn't do it - it was that I wanted God to make it easier for me. The glaring fact that He has not done that made me think He wasn't helping! Yikes! I sound like my fifth graders!!!
Sometimes we pray to be able to accomplish something and the reply is: " What is standing in your way?"
And really the only answer is : me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

John Denver



I caught a bit of two TV shows this weekend. The first was VH1's Greatest Hard Rock Songs. Whenever these kind of shows are on my husband can never get over how uncool I must have been in the 70's. I am unfamiliar with some of the top songs or which band recorded them. I've never been to a KISS concert or seen an Alice Cooper show. I truly regret missing some of it because now I not only like many of these songs, but I appreciate the absolute originality and musicality of some of the groups of the 70's. (If you must know - their top song was "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns and Roses - a group I did not appreciate when a poster of an unzipped Axl hung in my adolescent daughter's bedroom!)

The other show was a PBS special on John Denver. Now THAT's what I was doing in the '70's! The folk song thing suited me (and my guitar) just fine. I could play all of Denver's 3-chorded songs (D-A-G). I was a big fan , as well as a big fan of James Taylor, although James's music was a bit more complex.

I remember going to a John Denver concert at a now-long-gone humongous venue called The Coliseum and it was packed. He was actually quite a phenomenon; recording 30 albums with 14 going gold and 8 platinum. His songs conveyed mostly the beauty and goodness of the earth or the bittersweet aspects of loving someone. I loved a lyric like:

He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year.
Going home to a place he'd never been before.

I insisted on "Annie's Song" being sung at my (first) wedding even though my mother thought the lyrics - let me lay down beside you - were inappropriate for church.

John Denver seemed to have a childlike joy for life. He was a philanthropist and environmentalist and his music was loved all over the world. His concerts were like a camp sing-a-long - although he requested that the audience only sing during the chorus. His life wasn't all rosy - two failed marriages and a drinking problem. He died in a plane crash at age 53 in 1997. I was truly saddened, but I think he was a person that lived life to the fullest while he was here.

So I am not ashamed to be a John Denver fan. I still pull out my guitar, and the John Denver songs are the simple and lovely songs I still know by heart.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Unspin

There is no excuse for your life
just because someone with less
has erased your name
and written their own.

They filled your bucket,
stole your words, tumbled
your ramparts, but there
are still mirrors everywhere.

Don't say you confused
sunrise with sunset
when God put the universe
and all the colors in you.

Don't say He didn't answer
your prayers when what you
prayed for you could
have already made happen.

You're in a blindfolded spin
like a childhood game
but you're not a child.
Unspin yourself.

Hear the resurrection sounds,
walk in His orchard.
We only saw good
until we asked why.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dark Shadows vs. Twilight




So my book club read "Twilight" - if you haven't heard it's a young adult series of vampire/werewolf books. Yes, I do belong to an adult book club and I didn't want to read it, but I was curious about all the hoopla over the book. I read the first one and it kept my interest. It is unoffensive in every way. The main character is a typical, insecure, flawed teenager who just happens to fall in love with a vampire. But hey, vampires are nothing new, right? In the late 60's I was rushing home from elementary school to watch "Dark Shadows". Everybody watched it! I'd often go next door to Mrs. T's and she'd make me a cup of tea and we'd watch it together. Then I'd race home and call my best girlfriend to discuss the events of that episode. Above is a photo of the dreaded vampire Barnabas Collins. The guy was a terrible actor and the sets were cheesy back then, but it must have captured our imaginations, just like Edward Cullen of "Twlight". One big difference though is that, while Barnabas seemed to entice his share of the ladies, um, I'd have to say Edward Cullen is much hotter. (I haven't seen the movie, just seen pics).

The thing that gets me ab0ut fads like this is that they are not original. I remember when I read the first Harry Potter book. I was expecting brilliance for all the adoration it was getting. I read about magic spells and broomsticks and wizards with the ability to become invisible. What? JK Rowling didn't exactly make any of that up out of her amazing imagination. I was disappointed. Now it's well-meaning, handsome vampires. Oh well, I guess anything that gets kids reading is okay with me. I was forced to read the second one too and then I'd had enough of teeny-bopper land. But my friends tell me book 3 and 4 are MUCH better!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kneel and Kiss the Ground

In my effort to see with new eyes I started jotting down a sentence or two every morning of things I am thankful for, the good things I can see in my life. I have a little journal just for this purpose on my writing table. Yesterday in Cleveland there was a job fair and 7500 people showed up - only 2500 had registered. In another suburb there was an opening for a school janitor and 700 people applied. So today, no matter how frustrating my job may be - I must be thankful for it.

Today like every other day we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Rumi

Monday, March 9, 2009

A Church Story - Part 2

Losing my church was like another divorce. Life would never be the same. My deepest disappointment was from knowing that my children were at the age when they would not blindly follow me to another church. Why would they risk another rejection in their lives? After all I had done to assure their Christian upbringing, now they would not even have a church home. I didn't know if my parents and I would end up at the same church either. I was disgusted with organized religion altogether after I witnessed the way doctrine could be skewed in the wrong direction anyway.
I cannot judge what degree of faith my children have or ever had. Maybe church was just a social place for them. Maybe they never experienced decision of faith as I had thought. Maybe that was my story - not theirs. But I feel as if I failed at my most important responsibility as a parent.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.
Jeremiah 29:11-14
Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Proverbs 22:6
I cling to these verses and to stories from other parents - good, Christian, non-divorced parents that struggle with the same concerns. They tell me that my faith cannot be inherited by my children, but they must acquire one of their own. I cannot help but see the two most painful times of my life as contributing to my children not needing church any longer. Two upheavals that left only ashes of what once was a part of their lives. I could blame myself completely, but I know that God is bigger than my failures.
I'll never forget sitting in the car with my son in the church parking lot shortly before it closed. He felt bitter at all he had seen, and rightly so. I said, "God had nothing to do with what happened here. People made these decisions, not God. It's that free will part of being human that messes everything up."
How do I say to my children - this is what you really need in life - when they have witnessed my battles and failures? Why is it I need faith so badly, believe so strongly, defend it so vehemently? Because God proved himself to me long ago by living inside me, by being there in my darkest moments - the ones I created out of my own free choices. In this life on Earth there is little else we can count on but God - not even a church.
What I know for sure is that God will be there on any given day in their lives when they need Him and call on Him. And the happy ending is that my parents and I found a wonderful church in a community between our homes. My mother and I sit in the choir loft next to each other once again just as we did for so many years in our former church. An added bonus is the fact that over 30 members from my former church have made a decision to join my new church! So there are familiar faces everywhere. I know that this new church will welcome my children as well if they ever need it.
I have to add that my daughter and son are good people. They overcame a lot and had the integrity to put it behind them. We have a wonderful relationship and even as adults they continue to bring great joy to my life. So I cannot say that many of my prayers have not been answered. I see the answers every time I see them.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Church Story - Part 1

I attended a Methodist church in my childhood and participated in all the opportunities one would expect: Sunday school, vacation bible school, children's choir. The church and its youth program became central to my teenage years. One of the ministers and his wife were musicians and they spent all their free time leading us in musical endeavors. On weekends we traveled to evangelize other youth. Then, to include the adults, they wrote an entire musical and whole families traveled and performed together. My mom, brother, sister and I all sang and danced and my dad was the business manager. They were glorious years that none of us will ever forget.
Each experience grew my faith and love for God. Music was a way to share that and my church was home in every sense of the word. I married and had two children and my greatest hope was for them to have the same meaningful experiences in the same church. As children they learned about God in the same classrooms and sanctuary where their parents were married and they were baptised. At home we read Bible stories, had birthday parties for Jesus and discussed the true meaning of Christian holidays. They had fun at the same Methodist summer camp that I had loved so well. They sang in some musical events and participated in the weekly youth group meetings. My dream had come true - three generations of my family in the same church every Sunday morning. A beautiful and rare thing. Both of my children were on their way to a life of faith just as I had hoped and prayed. You can give your children many things in this life, but I always believed that a grounded faith was the most precious gift you could give them. Something that will last into eternity. As a Christian parent I took that role very seriously.
Then the teenage years happened. I was, and still am, proud of the unique and uncompromising individuals my children are, but as you might expect, they rebelled when their father and I divorced. My daughter clung tightly to her church friends. My son - not so much. As they expressed their individuality they sensed rejection by some of the adult youth leaders. The clothes and hair styles that are so important to self-expression at that age were criticized. My life unexpectedly falling apart and then the comforts of church vanishing changed everything. I watched the dream disintegrate before my eyes.
Not only did my personal crisis change their lives, but then the church literally left us! Some of the newer members were put in leadership roles and it was decided that the present site of the church was inadequate. I unwittingly became a leader against the move. My church was the cornerstone of the community in its location and historic presence there for 150 years. Petitions were signed, television reporters came, dozens of painful meetings were attended and after a long battle, we lost. The church was divided in two. Friendships were ended and relationships damaged. I did not lose faith in God, but I certainly did in organized religion. It had turned on me and I could barely conceive of the impact on my family. I could never have dreamed that the one place that I had counted on my whole life would close down and move to another community. I felt like a tumbleweed with no direction or purpose, and I think that's the way my teenage children felt too.
To be continued. . . .

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Eyes

On January 1st I wrote about a sort of resolution I had to see with new eyes this year. To focus on what I have and not what I don't have.
I used the quote from Marcel Proust: The only real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

I have always been filled with gratitude for my life and I know Who to thank, but I am often just as observant of things that aren't just the way I'd like them. Well, I already screwed up - but am recently back on the right track. To me, this is grace.

Grace is a tricky concept and although we may have grown up singing about how amazing it is - I don't think it can be understood until it is truly experienced. Sometimes it seems like an answer to a prayer, but sometimes it is a gift that was not expected. It is more than you imagined. To feel as if you are seeing the world with new eyes is no small feat. It is an internal experience and no one can give it to you, except God.

Anne Lamott says: I do not understand the mystery of grace - only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

Frank Stella writes in"A Faith Worth Believing":
Perhaps grace is not so graceful after all. Perhaps it's in our disgraced moments that the mystery of God's presence can impact us the most. When we glimpse Divinity in the dust or, better put, when we see the Divinity of dust and pain and all things and all people unattractive to us, then we've met grace face to face and can be led beyond our blindness to an acceptance of reality as it is, and of God, who is never apart from it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

March


The blue sky is a liar,
traitorous in its nearness
to zero.
Acting as if
it won't send more white
like a heavenly flour sifter,
creating ice impalers,
rendering every vehicle
monotone.
We wait
in warmth
and look out
at the ice
blue sky.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Quote for a Monday Morning

I believe in taking a positive attitude toward the world, toward people, and toward my work. I think I'm here for a purpose. I think it's likely that we all are, but I'm only sure about myself. I try to tune myself in to whatever it is that I'm supposed to be, and I try to think of myself as a part of all of us - all mankind and all life. I find it's not easy to keep these lofty thoughts in mind as the day goes by, but it certainly helps me a great deal to start out this way.
Jim Henson