Saturday, March 30, 2013

Poetry in Your Pocket

April is National Poetry Month, according to the Academy of American Poets, and they’d like us to celebrate by carrying a “Poem in Your Pocket.” It’s a fun idea to energize a flagging spirit. You find a cherished poem from childhood or write one yourself, keep it in your pocket or purse, and gift it to someone. If you’re a teacher, it’s suggested you make class more exciting in April by giving extra credit if someone can produce a poem from their pocket.
I took a Leisure Learning class at McNeese State University in February. Our lovely instructor, Connie McDonald, inspired us with her enthusiasm and knowledge, dragging our winter weary minds into spring with some fun poetry exercises. My middle-aged mind hesitated at first, then grabbed the rope and took a step. Swinging out over the river of imagination, I let go and enjoyed the metaphor and mechanism that poetry embraces. When our four weeks were over, I wished it could have been a few nights longer.
For the next few months, I’m committing to blog about different types of poetry and encourage you to carry in your pocket that Shell Silverstein poem you read your kids a million times, or the Langston Hughes or E. B. Browning poem that gave you goose-bumps the first time you heard it.  When you see a long face at the grocery store, or that special person at work who makes you laugh, gift them with a poem. Let’s celebrate. Happy Easter.

       The Swing                                                             
       by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
    Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
    Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
    Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
    Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green
     Down on the roof so brown
Up in the air I go flying again,
     Up in the air and down!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Athletic Indifference

I don’t like to exercise. I’m not an athlete. Competition makes me nervous. If you want to be first and win, I’ll gladly step aside. The concept of sweating for pleasure is foreign to me. I’d rather sit and read, exercising the muscle between my ears. But recently an ugly truth has surfaced in my miry brain—if you don’t step up and play some games, you run the risk of becoming a pawn.
My weight, like most Americans, has increased with my age. In the past two years, I cringe to admit, I’ve started taking prescriptions to battle the side effects of obesity. Of course the doctor never says lose weight, he just hands me another script.
I was teasing our daughter the other day about being an exercise fanatic, and she reminded me she’s an athlete, training for a triathlon. This got me to thinking; I’m in training for a stroke. My mouth keeps saying I’m going to lose weight, but that muscle between my ears lies. Sitting there in the dark, it’s only fooling me.
So—enlighten, what do I do? “Run the race with perseverance,” is the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to disciples. Disciple being the root of discipline, I’m lacking. Not being an athlete, I never quite grasped that running metaphor in the past. Maybe because I didn’t want to lay down my idol worship of food and join the race.
Hum…, I need to keep my eyes on the prize and sweat a little more.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sage Advice

My mother-in-law is visiting for a few months to escape the late snows that are plaguing the Midwest. Her birthday is next week. She is going to be 92, but you’d never guess. Always ready for “an adventure,” she slides in and out of my sedan like butter. I can see arthritis has knarred her knuckles and one knee now bends in, making her walk hobbled. Not quite as fast as last year, she still cuts a path—cane and all. I’m glad she’s here. It’s hard adding another adult to your space, especially a parent. The first week took some adjustments, more to my attitude than my schedule.
In January I committed to coordinating a fundraiser for The Open Door, a women’s prison ministry and re-entry center, where I volunteer. Some days I feel like the sword thrower’s assistant, strapped spread eagle to a colored wheel being spun around. Thunk. Thunk. The knives whizz past my skin and hit the board. I try to smile, but feel like throwing up. In the evening, I stumble down from the stage to sharpen the blades and make my to-do list for tomorrow.
My office is upstairs, and I feel guilty sitting at the computer for hours or making a bazillion phone calls, leaving my guest. Her son’s at work, and I’m a poor excuse for a host, but she beams happy as long as there’s coffee in the pot. She likes to read and alternates this with The Days of Our Lives and doing her “stretches.”
Wednesday, I decided we needed to do something fun. After four quick call backs, we escaped to shop. After ninety minutes tottering the long aisles of JC Penney’s, we hit a bistro for soup and a sandwich. On the way home in the car, I brought up her obvious arthritis and mentioned she never complained. In my shallow mind, musty with fiftyish youth, I figured it didn't bother her since she never mentioned it. Her German, mater-of-fact comment broke the cartoon light bulb hanging above my heart. “No, why complain? No one wants to hear about that anyway, so why bother.”
I look at her humor and willingness to wait – to do whatever opportunity presents itself with a smile, and I wonder, if I start practicing now, can I be this gracious to my daughters at 90? We’ll see.