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Author: Netta

IN GIVING WE TRUST

IN GIVING WE TRUST

I was listening to a soon-to-be ex-tenant of mine ranting on about how the past two years of her life spent on a little island in the Pacific that the P.C. (Politically Correct) crowd touted as the dream place to live had been most unsatisfactory.

Her body held rigidly erect as she stood flat-footed on the ground, she had thrown down her bandana and was giving up.  “Going home,” she said.  “I’m going home.”

And then there was a truly heartfelt cry.  “Where’s the ah-low-haw?” she blared.

I thought back on our relationship of the past six months and could not even begin to explain to her that her habit of following Mark Twain’s snarky definition of the “Diplomacy Principle” – give one and take ten – might be at the heart of her difficulties in moving gracefully through the life here in the islands.

It got me to thinking on the issue of generosity and the dance of give-and-take that smooths the way for some folks here and frustrates the expectations and hopes of so many others.

THE THING ABOUT ALOHA

There’s a lot of hoopla and hoo-hah about the concept of “aloha.”  Poetic metaphors and sappy slogans abound.

There have even been government-sponsored public relations campaigns aimed at mitigating what some smarty-pants see as a diminishing of an important “asset”….as if the whole thing is a commodity that can be bought and sold.

aloha
“Aloha” by Danielle Chang via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
These smarty-pants have tried to define “aloha” as “reciprocity.”  But that’s not really it.

The basic “reciprocity” thing is all about “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”  That is not aloha.  That’s a trade agreement.   It could also be a pathway to collusion and conspiracy.  As a way of living it tends to get as clunky as a hula danced by a robot.

 IT GOES BACK TO CARING AND TO THE LAND

Old-style Hawaiians had a very different take on the generosity thing, it seems to me.

It begins with a concept:  ‘aina.  The word literally means, “that which feeds.”  It is also the word Hawaiians use for “land.”

The land here was bounteous and mostly kind.  It fed the people well, if the people took care of it.  If they took care of each other and shared what they had and what they produced with one another, life was good.  It’s an underlying mindset that is just one of the realities of island life, I think.

I’ve thought on it a bit.  Some folks say the Jewish kosher rules about food had a lot to do with dealing with food-spoilage.  Many of the dietary rules are practical and pragmatic and encourage the safe handling of food.  They were all developed before the advent of refrigeration.

The same holds true in the tropics.  Food spoils very quickly without refrigeration.

If you killed a pig, you threw a feast and shared the meat with everybody around because there really was no way to preserve it.  Three hundred pounds of rotting meat makes a mighty stink.

A tree that produced an abundance of fruit meant that you went looking for people to share in the bounty or faced a mountain of rotting fruit.  (It got problematic if all your neighbors had the same kinds of generous trees.)

A plentiful catch of fish could be dried, of course, for the times when the fish were scarce or the sea was rough, but the ocean is always there, and mostly it is kind to those skilled in the arts of caring for and gathering in the abundance.  There were always relatives and friends and other people who had no easy access to it and who would appreciate a taste of the sea.

Taro fields produced large quantities of food if the land was well-tended – much more than one extended farmer-family could consume.

taro-and-valley
“Taro and Valley” by Jen R via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
You gave away more than you kept.  Everybody did.  Hoarding makes no sense if all the treasures are perishable and have a short shelf-life.

And if your hands are free and your heart is open, well…the people around you tend to give things to you as well.  Why not?  They have more than enough their own selves.

It works better that way.

You  malama (care for) the land that feeds you and you malama the people around you because if the land and the people continue to prosper, so do you.  This is the hidden meaning, the kaona, in the word “aloha.”

 THE SHARING HABIT

This habit of sharing is ingrained in the island culture.  It’s pretty much unconscious, it seems.  You give and what goes around comes around.  It makes a circle of goodwill that is inclusive and that keeps expanding as more folks come and join in the dance.

 Immigrants came from many other places.  Many of them were worker-people brought in to toil in the fields of plantations, large and small.  They were poor folks and they knew about hard.  They also understood about having to depend on the goodwill of neighbors and strangers for their own survival.

The land was giving and the new people, too, joined in the circle of sharing that was already established, and so it went.  They survived and many of them thrived.

The sharing – the thing we call “aloha” — is not about giving with the expectation of getting back something from the person you gifted.  You give because you know that in the giving, somewhere down the line, when you need it, somebody else will be there to give you what you are needing.

It is about trusting that together we all can make an abundance that we can keep growing.

It is a hard thing to explain to others who see the whole dance as a zero-sum game, where the resources are limited so you have to grab as much as you can as fast as you can or you will end up with nothing.  It isn’t the same as “if you get more, I get less.”

MALAMA THE ‘AINA

I got to thinking about all this again when I ran across this video, “Molokai Words of Wisdom,” that was put together by Molokai filmmaker Matt Yamashita and his Quazifilms Media using snippets from other videos he’s made.

It holds the thoughts of a number of elders and passionate younger people who live on the island of Molokai, where I grew up.  Among other things it is an attempt to explain about what it means to “malama,” to care for the land and to care for each other.  It is most beautiful.

Matt was raised on Molokai and after receiving his BFA from Chapman University, he came home to become the island’s first professional filmmaker.  With a small budget and limited resources, he’s been producing hit-the-heart documentaries and videos since 2001.

His list of clients reads like a who’s who of folks who are working on preserving the ancient  wisdoms.  Among them have been the Polynesian Voyaging Society, OiwiTV, University of Hawaii, Queen Liliu’okalani Children’s Center, Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission, Pacific Islander’s in Communication, First Nations Development Institute, Departure Films, Notional, Gaia, Sacred Lands Film Project, Mill Valley Film Group, Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana, Honua Consulting, Pacific American Foundation, Hui Ho’oniho, Tau Dance Theater, Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation, Hui Ho’opakele ‘Aina, Na Pu’uwai Native Hawaiian Health Systems, Molokai Community Health Center, Ala Wai Watershed Association.

The list also includes assorted government and media groups like Maui County AHEC, Hawaii State Department of Health, Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii State Department of Agriculture, and KITV, KHON, KGMB, and KHNL news stations.

Check out his other videos on his You-Tube channel.  They are amazing….

Here’s a poem:


HISTORY

It’s said we are all

By our history defined.

All the people before us,

The panoply they made,

The great and winding parade,

Continues onward, onward in us.

 

Some say we are doomed

To repeat the mistakes of

All the ones who’ve gone before.

Others say we will transcend

The Was and do another thing

That never before was seen.

 

I’m not sure that either side

Has the right of it.

I say we will do what we do as we do it,

Just like those ones of old,

And in the tomorrows before us

The consequences will inexorably unfold.

 

Let us pray those consequences

Are good ones….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture:  “Sharing” by Josh Harper via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

ON THE ROAD TO MEANING

In 2001, a group of  friends graduated from college and set out on a cross-country road trip to interview people who lived “lives centered around what was meaningful for them.”

The boys acquired an RV, and wandered around countryside filming a documentary about their trip in which they brazenly approached all sorts of people who were doing what looked like interesting things and asked them a lot of personal questions about life-issues like, “How do you know that this thing you do is right for you?” and “What was your worst mistake?” and  “What advice do you have for a lost puppy like me?”

The documentary the friends made of their journey was expanded into a series on PBS. They wrote a book about the first road trip.

This first book was followed by other books, by other projects all designed to help other people get the kind of insights the young men acquired on their own original road trip.

Eventually they and the team they assembled along the way launched a nonprofit called “Roadtrip Nation.”  The goal of this nonprofit is to help other young people who need advice for shaping their own careers into something fulfilling, for living a life doing what matters most to them.

In the following YouTube video, “Road Trip Nation:  The RT Nation Story,” the three friends, Mike Marriner, Nathan Gebhard and Brian McAllister, tell the story of their continuing journey.

They point out that going around the country asking people they encountered questions about how they ended up living lives that had meaning and mana helped each of them find their own truths, their own self-definitions, and their own kind of good life.

Asking questions and listening to the answers from people who had taken their own paths was profoundly useful to them.  It helped them answer that age-old question, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

What started as a madcap adventure-cum-vision quest has spawned a whole movement of young people who are looking for their own answers to this most important question.

Besides an assortment of books, Roadtrip Nation maintains an extensive on-line video library of the interviews they conducted on their PBS series.

If you click on the “watch” link you can browse the PBS series by season.  Within each season you can browse each episode by interview subject.  Among those interviewed are everything from CEOs of major corporations to everyday workers in all kinds of industries and working situations who love what they do.

 Besides all of this, the Nation has put together a guide-book of sorts called ROADMAP: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do With Your Life.  It’s a starter-kit for seekers looking for the meaning and mana in their own lives.

Check it out.  (It’s filled with exercises and ideas that  work for serious questers  of any age.)

And here’s a poem:


WILL YOU HEAR ME?

Understand something, please:

I do not aspire to be that tree

That falls in the woods and no one hears.

I refuse to be one of a line of trees in the forest

Blown down by a big kona wind,

Spilling across the landscape like fallen matchsticks.

 

I want to be heard,

To know my voice will rise up and grab at ears,

That my words will shake and stoke hearts that burn.

I want my voice to join those other voices in the wind,

That roar like a raging river,

That gently sigh like a baby sleeping.

 

Will you hear me?


Header picture credit:  “Traffic Trails” by Barry Davis via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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THAW THE FREEZE

THAW THE FREEZE

It’s famous…the Fight or Flight reaction dichotomy that happens  every time the adrenaline starts pumping through your system as you’re facing yet another new crisis or unfamiliar situation.

It’s a human thing.  I mean, look at us:  Bad eyes, really limited smelling ability, can’t hear well, small teeth, no claws, weak muscles, can’t run, bad at climbing, and on and on.  In a world of predators, we tend to be a lot wary.  We’ve got good reasons.

Depending on your own propensities, you may want to believe that you’ll stand firm and fight your way through whatever obstacles and challenges you must.

Courage and perseverance and never say die…all the full-blown, pump-’em-up motivational stuff plays in your mind as you keep on trucking on.  Forward, forward, always forward.  A valuable and viable option.

Or maybe you want to believe that you will be wily and smart enough to pull a dig and peel on outa there when the odds are overwhelmingly against you.

Retreat and you’ll live to fight another day.  You’ll be able to choose your battleground and marshal your resources more effectively.  Fall back, regroup, and try again.  Another valuable and viable option.

AND THEN THERE’S THE FREEZE

Then there’s the third reaction that doesn’t get quite as much show-time.  It’s called the Freeze.  Think deer in the middle of the road, caught in the headlights of an oncoming sixteen-wheeler.  Few people want to emulate the soon-to-be street pizza, but very often they do.

deer-in-the-headlights
“Deer In the Headlights” by Shena Tschofen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The Freeze arises from the fact that we think…a lot.  It’s another very human trait — the one, in fact, that has put us at the top of the food chain and made our species the biggest, baddest predators of all.

THE FREEZE HAS A FANCY NAME

The Freeze is such a prevalent behavior pattern that the smarty-pants scientists even have a name for its extreme form — “tropophobia.”  It’s a genuine, actual condition that can be extremely debilitating and cause all kinds of problems for you.

“Tropophobia,” it says here, is “the fear of moving or making changes.”  People who suffer from it don’t handle surprises well.  They suck at dancing with change.  Even minor changes can cause a complete breakdown.

Tropophobia can be triggered by things like moving to another country, state, city, or even another house in the same neighborhood.  Changing schools or jobs are major obstacles.  Relationships that are changing are excruciating for these folks.

Getting a different vehicle, changing doctors or insurance companies, having new neighbors move in next door, making small changes in set routines, changing your mind or entertaining a new idea….anything that’s different, anything “new and improved” can throw you into a tailspin when the Freeze is your default response.

This is not good.  It’s hard to do your dance when your head’s whirling around and around and you’re feeling dizzy and nauseous.

hurricane-season
“Hurricane Season” by jamelah e. via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

ANATOMY OF THE FREEZE

To some extent, every one of us humans can get overwhelmed by changes that keep coming and coming.  Most of us develop work-arounds and strategies for it that allow us to keep on moving through the changes in outward circumstances or changes in our own feelings and internal landscapes.  Some of us just can’t.

One of the most common traits of people who are affected badly by the Freeze is extreme stubbornness.  Their “Yes-Book” is very small; their “No-Book,” very large.  Things are supposed to happen a certain way and no other way is going to work.  Rigidity is their middle name.

The general anxiety that happens when faced by any change gets blown up into major crisis proportions.  If the anxiety level gets too high a panic attack may set in.

Your heart beats faster and faster.  You have difficulty breathing.  Weakness, fainting, dizziness, tingling or numbness are common occurrences.  You start sweating a lot and may experience chest pains.  Extreme terror grabs you and you spin out.  ACK!

One cause for the condition that stands above the rest, according to the smart guys, is trauma.  Something happened to the sufferer that convinced them that moving made them a target somehow.

Any kind of movement that calls attention to their presence feels dangerous.  For them, it feels better to hide out in the bushes or behind masks rather than to risk an attack that might cause some kind of harm or suffering.

Just the possibility of future suffering or the repeat of suffering that previously occurred gets magnified so badly that they become unsettled and very wobbly.  Who wants to move when the ground under your feet is rocking and rolling and cracks are opening up in front of you?

cracked-earth
“Cracked Earth” by Gerry Thomasen via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
An extreme need for consistency makes people who suffer from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder prone to getting driven into a frenzy by any change in daily routines.

Others may just be terrified for no real reason at all.  You don’t need a reason to be scared.  Sometimes you just are.

Hey…let’s face it.  Despite our current status as top dog of the world as we know it, humans are basically descended from a long line of brainy runners and cringing scaredy-cats.

The ones who were brave (and unlucky) didn’t survive long enough to HAVE descendants.  Freeze-genes are part of our DNA.

We honor the fearless ones mostly because the majority of us know that inside our own selves there is a terrified heart prone to a heck of a lot of trembling and moaning.

hikers-at-pilot-rock
“Hikers at Pilot Rock” by Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington [CC BY-2.0]

SO, HOW DO WE DEAL?

Therapy is one solution touted by the smart guys.  Cognitive-behavior therapy can be helpful.  This type of therapy changes the way you react to a feared stimulus by helping you sort through the options available to you when you are confronted with whatever scares you.

Often, by using these techniques, you can even get some insights into what causes you to freeze up like that.  You use your mind to calm your mind by developing routines and workarounds that help you cope with some feared change or other.

Things like shock or exposure therapy have also been used to treat tropophobia as well, but that just sounds like a refined sort of torture.  (The kid’s scared of the water?  Easy solution:  throw him into the middle of a deep pond.  Watch him drown.  End of problem.)

Medication’s another solution.  Specially designed anxiety medication and/or anti-depressants can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.  They can also help with the physical symptoms of panic attacks like difficulty in breathing.

However, the side-effects of the drugs can be gnarly and, for real, popping a pill every time you get scared just shoves the fear under the rug for a while.  You’re going to keep tripping over it…again and again and again.

Relaxation techniques, including the beginning stages of meditation and yoga, listening to music and various breathing exercises have been found to be very effective at alleviating anxiety and other symptoms.  Many people choose these as quick and easy methods for coping with various situations as well.

The problem with all of these methods, practices and techniques is that they are coping devices.  When you use them, you relieve and mitigate the assorted symptoms of the problem, but you are still stuck with the basic problem, which is your fear.

It sits there, a raging stream that cuts across your path and the dream you’re chasing is on the other side of the stream.  Treading water in the middle of the stream just doesn’t get you to the other side.

raging-river
“Raging River” by Szoki Adams via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

WHAT ELSE?

Marketing maven Seth Godin had an interesting take on this whole issue in his book, POKE THE BOX.    He points out that things are always moving and flowing.  He calls that flow “flux” and says that engineers can measure the flux of heat or molecular change by measuring movement.

One example he uses is putting an ice cube in a cup of hot tea.  The heat moves from the water into the ice.  The ice melts.  That’s flux.  That’s movement.

iced-tea
“Iced Tea” by EmberEyes via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The problem is that people often confuse the natural flux and movement of the evolving world around us with risk, and, for real, “risk” is just a state of mind.

The feeling of “risk” is the result when we put some value on a particular outcome.  We want that outcome very badly.  If we don’t get to that particular outcome then we feel we have lost something somehow.

Risk always involves winning and losing.  And risk always brings with it the possibility of failure.  Chances are, the more risks you take the more likely it will be that you will fail at some point.

If you’ve been trained to avoid failure, Godin says, you will be especially averse to taking risks.  Your wonderfully agile mind starts in, showing you all the ways this move or that move could lead to failure.  Not only that, the people around you, who probably don’t like change any more than you do, are likely to chime in as well.

You start getting anxious.  You’re going to lose, Lose,LOSE…oh, no!  So you don’t move.

Anxiety, according to Godin, is “experiencing failure in advance.”  Your mind is doing a ju-jitsu number on you, throwing you for a loop.

Godin likens the reactions of the risk-averse to acting like a rock in the middle of a flowing river.  He says, “People act as though flux – the movement of people or ideas or anything else that’s unpredictable – exposes us to risk and exposes us to failure.  The fearful try to avoid collisions so they avoid movement….”

He tells us, “Like a rock in a flowing river, you might be standing still, but given the movement around you, collisions are inevitable.”

He points out that a log floating down that same river is in the flow of movement and change, but that log is likely to experience a heck of a lot more calm around it when compared to that rock.  Moving with the flow it doesn’t get banged up so much by the floating debris and it can land in a pretty cool place eventually.

its-too-cold-to-jump-in
“It’s Too Cold To Jump In” by Jamie McCaffrey via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Godin’s solution to thawing the Freeze is this:  Flex with the flux.  Move.  You are more likely to get to somewhere else pretty much intact.

ANOTHER TAKE

This YouTube video, “Numbing Pain and Joy” presents an important concept:  when you numb pain (or discomfort or fear) you numb joy.

The video was published by KirstyTV, the You-Tube channel for internationally known motivational speaker Kirsty Spraggon whose main focus in her talks and as an interview talk-show host is vulnerability and working through the issues connected with being a bonafide, genuine human being.

Here’s a poem:


PAY ATTENTION

Pay attention!

This is SERIOUS!

Here you are lollygagging down this road

on your way to your Doom.

 

You are ignoring all the smarty-pants prophets.

They tell you how foolish it is to be

refusing to be ruled by inevitability,

refusing to heed their fingers pointing at your fate,

ignoring their gloomy and direful predictions of your predicament.

 

So what happens?

 

This road of yours takes a left.

then it takes a right…

an unexpected corner – OOPS!

pothole here, mud bog there,

mist and shadows,

caves and heights.

 

You move one more jot

along your meandering trail

going hither and yon along yet another cliff edge,

then down some rocky beach,

under the pretty trees,

totally unaware of that stupendous bunch of heavy coconuts

that just misses your head because

YOU stopped to watch some hyperactive orange-and-black butterfly

zigzag-zipping along through the zinnias.

 

Ya know…

This is not so bad.

 

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Glacier” by Douglas Scortegagna via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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I DID NOT SPEAK

I DID NOT SPEAK

Here is another powerful poem by spoken poet  Robert Maxie, Jr.  He is sixteen years old and has been writing poetry since the age of seven.  He has his own You-Tube site and his first book, BLEEDING INK, was published this year.  More are on the way….

He says, “This poem is extremely important to me and my life.  It’s a constant reminder that I’m not alive to make sure that I do and say what pleases everyone around me.  That kind of life is unsustainable.  Instead, I want to make sure that I’m saying and living my life the way I want to.”

A wise young man.


I did not speak much when I was a child
They asked me to speak, so I spoke
I spoke of whatever my mind could conjure up
hoping that the abundance of words
would make them like me more
I was wrong
They said I was annoying
That I talked to much
They asked me to be quiet
So I shut my lips and sewed them shut to please them
Hoping that they would love me more
I was wrong
They told me I was antisocial and quiet
So I was friendly and outgoing and I spoke what I thought
They told me my thoughts were wrong, that I still talk too much
So I hid my thoughts and agreed with whatever they said
Hoping they would want me more
I was wrong
They called me a follower and gullible
So I led my own path and said what I thought,
hoping they would love me more
I was wrong
They hated me for my diversity
They abused me and made me an outcast
I starved myself to death trying to feed everyone else
People don’t want you to think
People don’t want you to speak,
they want you to shut up
especially when you have something important to say
For if thought corrupts language,
language will also corrupt thought.

© Robert J. Maxie, Jr., 2017

Header photo credit: “Bunker Hill” by KayVee, Inc. via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

[Guest poets add other voices to this thing and they do make the song we are singing more lively.  Click the button.  Come play.]

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AN ORDINARY DIFFERENCE

AN ORDINARY DIFFERENCE

Sometimes, it really is only a little thing that can make a big difference.  A genuine smile may brighten someone’s day.  A kind word or a sincere expression of appreciation can help somebody keep on going through tough times.

“Loving-kindness” was what the Tibetan Buddhist crazy wisdom master Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche used to call it, and for him and his students it was a most pertinent practice.  It helps alleviate the suffering in the world, the old masters all say.

CLICHÉ-ALERT

And, yeah:  It’s a cliché.  But that’s the thing about clichés…often they are just old truths that we need to keep telling each other as reminders.

It’s often really, really little, this loving-kindness thing.  It’s pretty much ordinary and every-day.  Still, loving-kindness is the best way us humans have for connecting with each other.

The original story by Elizabeth Silance Ballard was first published in a 1974 issue of Home Life magazine as “Three Letters from Teddy.”  Over the next three decades it spread, even making an appearance in one of the CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL books.  It is a good story.

WHAT IF…?

Here’s another video produced by the Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas that was published on YouTube by Sarheed Jewels in 2011.  It asks:  What if you could see other people’s problems?  How would that affect you?

SEED THOUGHTS

One of the loveliest online sites about loving-kindness in action is the one put up by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK), a group of educators and community leaders led by Gary Dixon who are all dedicated to the proposition that us humans are meant to go around spreading warm fuzzies.  Their mission is to encourage you to go forth and be kind.

The RAKtivists believe that kindness is teachable and contagious.  They can point to a lot of scientific evidence that seems to validate the fact that doing kind things is actually very good for your own health.

Among the findings they highlight are the following facts:

  • Kindness produces oxytocin, the “love hormone.”  Oxytocin, in turn causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels.  This aids in lowering blood pressure and helps protect the heart  increasing overall heart-health.
  • Harvard Business School did a survey of happiness in 136 countries in 2010 that found that people who were generous financially were happiest overall.
  • People who volunteer tend to experience fewer ache and pains.  One study showed that people 55 and older who volunteered for two or more organizations were at 44 percent more likely to live longer.  Other studies have shown that engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins – the brain’s natural painkiller.
  • There’s a thing called the “helper’s high,” according to research from Emory University, that is a consequence of the fact that often when you’re kind to someone else your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up. Maybe that’s because acts of kindness apparently stimulate the feel-good anti-depressant serotonin, which helps to heal wounds, calm you and make you happy.

So…here’s one other benefit to the whole kindness thing:  When you’re kind to somebody else, it just naturally bounces back on you.  And isn’t that a very good thing?

i-give-you-all-i-can
“I Give You All I Can….” by Brandon Warren via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


I PROMISED ME

 

No one ever promised

That life would always be true and fair

Or that there’d be a shelter from the storm,

A warm fire waiting there,

That happy would perch on your head

And belt out one more song,

That reaching out a solid hand

Would find other fingers reaching, just as strong,

That doing good and being kind

Would bring goodness and kindness back,

That celebrating and taking joy

Can disassemble any lack.

 

No one’s ever promised that

‘Cept for some god-mad fool or three.

Now I’m sitting here remembering that

Once upon a time,

Those were all things I promised me.


Header picture credit:  “Be Kind….” by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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SONG OF PROTEST

SONG OF PROTEST

Every Hawaiian song is a poem, built with words that come from a feeling heart.   The songs are called “mele” and one who writes them is called a “haku mele,” one who braids words and music together that allows one heart to touch another.

Just as there are songs that celebrate beauty, love, and all of the other feel-good parts of life and songs that honor respected leaders and foster pride in a people, there are also songs that express anger, sorrow, pain, and resistance.  (They, too, are a part of life, after all, and Hawaiian songs and poems do express all of life.)

Songs of protest, mele ku’e, are a traditional part of the repertoire of Hawaiian music.  The practice continues to this very day.

A NATIONAL TREASURE

One of the more beautiful projects in recent  years, was Project Kuleana, which was conceived and put together by Sean Naleimaile, Kihei Nahalea and Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing in collaboration with Kamehameha Publishing and 4 Miles LLC.

This video, which was published in 2013, took more than two years to put together.  It has been shared thousands of times online (and otherwise) since then.

More than two dozen island performing artists, including greats like the late Palani Vaughn and Ernie Cruz, Jr., and shining talents like Kealii Reichel, Brother Noland Conjugacion and many others volunteered their time and their music at a special place of their choosing to record a couple of songs – one in Hawaiian and the other in English.

The first song to be published for the Project was a song that holds a special place in the hearts of the native people of the islands.  The song has had various names, including “The Stone-Eating Song” (Mele ‘Ai Pohaku), “The Patriot’s Song” (Mele Aloha ‘Aina), A Lei for Those  Who Love the Land” (He Lei no ka Poe Aloha ‘Aina) and “Famous are the Children” (Kaulana Na Pua).

(The video has since been incorporated into the educational materials for the Kamehameha Schools, the school that was established by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, for her people.)

BIRTH OF A SONG

The song was written in 1893 by one of Queen Liliuokalani’s ladies-in-waiting, Ellen Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Pendgergast  during the aftermath of the 1893 coup-d’etat that resulted in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.  Pendergast was already a renowned poet and song-weaver at the time.

eleanor-kekoaohiwaikalani-wright-pendergast
Eleanor Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Pendergast by not given [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s important to note that Kaulana Na Pua was only one of Pendergast’s protest songs about the overthrow.  There were at least ten others written by her within four months of the overturning of the Hawaiian kingdom’s government.

During that same time as well other poets – native and non-native — produced at least forty patriotic and protest songs.

THE BACK-STORY

The story’s been told before.  As U.S. president Grover Cleveland explained in his report of that year to the Congress:

“And so it happened that on the 16th day of January, 1893, between four and five o’clock in the afternoon, a detachment of marines from the United States Steamer Boston, with two pieces of artillery, landed at Honolulu. The men, upwards of 160 in all, were supplied with double cartridge belts filled with ammunition and with haversacks and canteens, and were accompanied by a hospital corps with stretchers and medical supplies. This military demonstration upon the soil of Honolulu was of itself an act of war. . .”

uss-boston-landing-force-1893
Bluejackets of the U.S.S. Boston occupying Arlington Hotel grounds during overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani. Commander Lucien Young, U.S.N. in command of troops. Site of childhood home of Queen Liliuokalani. By unknown author (Source: Hawaii State Archives) [Public Domain]
The Provisional Government, which was composed primarily of American businessmen who lived in the islands, was an unpopular ruling minority.  When their plan for immediate annexation to America was thwarted by a U. S. Presidential investigation, the country remained under martial law .

In the months following the overthrow, the protests against the Provisional Government among the citizenry, both Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian, continued.  For the most part, the protests were non-violent acts of resistance as the people followed their queen’s wishes and example.

Two newspapers of the time, “Hawaii Holomua” and “The Daily Bulletin” describe the protest in articles entitled, “A Solemn Protest,” and “Protest of the People.”

The jittery “Republic of Hawaii” banned all large gatherings and kept the city of Honolulu under constant surveillance.  To outwit them, the loyalists devised a secret method of passing along information by means of newly composed songs of words with kaona, double-meanings.

The efforts of the infant government to hold onto the power they had seized included threats to newspaper editors and requiring all members of government – from cabinet ministers to teachers, mail-carriers and policemen – to take an oath of allegiance and deny the right of their Queen to rule them.  Those who chose to stay loyal to their Queen were told they would lose their jobs.

Despite these threats, many government employees refused to sign the oaths that forswore their loyalty to the queen.  Among them were all but two of the members of the Royal Hawaiian Band, which had been established in 1936.

Band leaders asked Pendergast to write a mele ku’e for them that would express their passionate conviction and support of the Queen as well as their distress.  She penned the mele at a table set in the family rose gardens.

The poem’s five verses of four lines each have been translated into English at various times.  One of the more recent examples is on Wikipedia:

FAMOUS ARE THE CHILDREN

Famous are the children of Hawaiʻi
Ever loyal to the land
When the evil-hearted messenger comes
With his greedy document of extortion

Hawaiʻi, land of Keawe answers
The bays of
Piʻilani help
Kauaʻi of Mano lends support
All are united by the sands of Kākuhihewa

Do not fix a signature
To the paper of the enemy
With its sin of annexation
And sale of the civil rights of the people

We do not value
The government’s hills of money
We are satisfied with the rocks
The wondrous food of the land

We support Liliʻuokalani
Who has won the rights of the land
The story is told
Of the people who love the land

[The lyrics mention four sacred chiefs that ruled the major islands of the Hawaiian chain at other times in the kingdom’s history:  Keawe of the Big Island of Hawaii, Pi’ilani of Maui, Mano of Kaua’i and Kakuhihewa of Oahu.]

Some people say that the original music for the piece was written by a band-leader, J.S. Libornio.  According to one story, the song was presented as a warrior’s chant and the dance that accompanied it was full of aggressive moves and attitude.  The musical notations for the song were lost in the intervening years.

After World War II, when there was a revival of interest in traditional Hawaiian music, Pendergast’s daughter Eleanor took the lyrics to a professional songwriter Maddy K. N. Lam and asked that she write music for it.  This was subsequently published and copyrighted and has become the standard version of the song.

To my (somewhat irreverent, modern) mind, this seems like taking a slam poem and turning it into a waltz…but, that’s just me.  It is the way the song has been sung ever since.

ON WITH THE STORY….

The queen’s supporters sang the song and it spread, as folk songs do.  It was printed in several Hawaiian-language newspapers and became even more popular.

By the fall of that year there was a massive petition drive encompassing the islands that supported Queen Lili’uokalani and in opposition of the annexation.  These documents, known as the Palapala Hoopii Kue Hoohui Aina (Petition Protesting Annexation), were presented to the U.S. Congress as proof that the great majority of Hawaii’s citizens opposed the annexation of Hawaii to the United States.

For a number of reasons, the petition did not stop the annexation nor was the country returned to the Queen and her people.  The world marched on and for many years the song remained as a poignant reminder of the sorrow and the sense of loss among those who loved the world as it had been.

inverted-hawaiian-flag
Inverted Hawaiian Flag by Jonathan Dresner via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
During the first half of the 20th century, the song was treated with the utmost reverence and respect one shows to spiritual and sacred songs.  It was never included among the repertoire of popular Hawaiian dances.

The song was very rarely danced except on special occasions and only when the audience could understand the full significance of the words and language that was used.

The premier hula dancer and teacher of the time, ‘Iolani Luahine, who was born in 1915 and learned the art of hula through her aunt Keahi, a royal dancer in the courts of King Kalakaua and Queen Lili’uokalani,  was quite firm that the song should be performed by a master hula dancer as a solemn standing hula.  (Luahine died in 1978, a revered icon of the dance.)

The dancers who performed the hula for Kaulana Na Pua back then customarily wore black holoku (a loose, seamed dress with a train) and only their hands were used to interpret the meaning of the words.

It was an especially powerful way to present the song.  When danced in this way, every word and each thought contained in the song could be imbued with emotion and power.  Nothing was allowed to distract from the focus on the words.   This was why it was felt that only a master dancer could perform the dance properly.

THE STORY CONTINUES

But the times they were a-changing.  The hostility softened in time and was mitigated by the inclusion of native Hawaiians in positions of political power in the Territory of Hawaii.  In the interest of keeping the song alive, a number of influential kumu hula, hula masters, led the way in choreographing dances for their schools that included feet that moved to the music.

In the early 1960s Noelani Mahoe and the Leo Nahenahe Singers included “Kaulana Na Pua” in their album Folksongs of Hawai’i.  It was probably the first time the song had been exposed to such a broad audience of people.  (I remember the first time I heard it, a number of years after the record came out.  When I read the liner notes about the song, it blew me away.)

Noelani Mahoe and Ka’upena Wong then sang the song at the University of Hawai’i in 1964. Pete Seeger, a visiting artist and internationally renowned folksinger, was touched by the song’s haunting message and bright music. He asked that it be performed before an international group at a world folk music festival in Newport, Rhode Island.

During the ensuing decades, “Kaulana Na Pua” has been widely performed by Hawai’i’s most prominent singers and artists.  In order to preserve the song’s subtext, which describes the feelings of dispossession and their resolve to stand firm, the artists have often included it on many recording documents, translating the kaona (hidden meaning) of the lyrics for those who might not be able to speak the language.

As a song of protest and resistance, Kaulana Na Pua seemed to come full circle during the Centennial observation of Queen Lili’uokalani’s overthrow which took place in 1993.  Thousands gathered at the ‘Iolani Palace to sing this song.


Header picture credit:  “Hawaiian Beach Stones” by Andrew via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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RADICAL GENEROSITY

RADICAL GENEROSITY

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that generosity is not a down-payment on love.  [Generosity is spill-over when you’re feeling full.]

I am reading a book, LOVE LET GO:  Radical Generosity for the Real World, by Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell.  It is a story about an amazing church congregation in Chicago, the LaSalle Street Church, who received a totally unexpected windfall:  a check for $1,530,116.78.

windfall
“Windfalls” by Rhia via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
The check represented the church’s share of proceeds from the sale of an urban property that they had bought in the 1970s with three other churches.  The land had been used for a desperately needed low-income housing project in the neighborhood, Atrium Village, which had served the purpose for more than 25 years.

The church’s heartful investment had been returned…in spades.

This 2017 YouTube video of a “100 Huntley Street” interview with pastor Laura Sumner Truax, one of the authors of the book, is a kind of a teaser for the book.

As Truax says, the church leaders made a wild, counter-intuitive move that changed the game on a clear day in September, 2014.  The leaders used ten percent of the windfall money to tithe back to the church members.  Each church member received a $500 check with the injunction to go out and do good in God’s world.

The leadership of the church also encouraged the members to participating in the effort to study and pray on how they were going to allocate the rest of the windfall funds, the “Big Money.”  More than half of the congregation spent nine months on the project.

The book tells the story of what happened and what the people involved in this exploration learned as a result.  It was and remains an ever-evolving, extraordinary process and journey, one that makes my heart smile.

a-give
“a:give” by John and Aga Brewster via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE GIVING CHURCH

LaSalle Street Church was built in 1886 in the near north side of Chicago by Swedish immigrants who never once worshipped in it.  The congregation had been left bankrupt by the effort of its construction.

Its history of hard luck and scarcity continued throughout the church’s long history of involvement with a community that is diverse and sometimes volatile.  One of the primary principles the church has always held to is this:  Giving is better than receiving.

They really did walk their talk even though most of the time the church was, like their neighbors, “just getting by.”

Giving didn’t change the church’s financial circumstances but it did change “the way LaSalle wore its scarcity,” as authors Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell lyrically puts it.  They did it with style and their acts of generosity were truly appreciated.

During the 1960s, when Chicago exploded in the violence and vitriol of the race riots, local youth protected the LaSalle Street Church from burning.  The angry young ones who were pressing for change remembered.  They protected the people who helped them through their hard times.

The church has always been a major light in the community.  Senior citizens who needed company and a meal, the kids looking for sanctuary and a safe place to go after school and residents who were caught up in a legal system they could not navigate all found what they needed at the church.

This video, which was put together by Faustino Productions in 2015, was published on YouTube by tinogon1942.  It shows the aftermath of the Chicago riots on the west side of Chicago after Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 as the Supreme’s “Stop In the Name of Love” plays.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Chicago officials embraced the concept of urban renewal and started creating high-density, high-rise dwellings like Cabrini-Green and relocated people from the poorer parts of town to these new developments.  The joke going ’round then among the city residents was that the program would have been more aptly named “urban removal.”

In reaction to this government program, LaSalle Street Church’s senior pastor at the time, Bill Leslie, preached a commitment to turf.  La Salle stood at the edge of communities in transition.  On one side, some of the city’s neediest residents lived.  On the other side was some of the most expensive real estate in Chicago.

Leslie thought that the church could be a meeting place where everyone was welcomed.  He and his congregation of fifty-some members believed that at the bottom of it all the church was all about all of us people being in this old mess of a world all together.

The members who were better-off materially saw themselves in their poorer neighbors’ situation.  They understood the struggles and they also believed that they needed their neighbors as much as their neighbors needed them.   They looked for a way to help.

In this they were aided by local congressman Robert L. Thompson, an African-American who was also a long-time resident of the city.  Thompson worried over the impact of urban renewal on the thousands of his constituents who were facing displacement.

When Thompson was offered a bribe of ten thousand dollars to influence the award of the rights to the land occupied by the LaSalle’s row house neighbors, he refused.  Then he called Leslie.

Somehow the congregation found what they thought could be a solution to their neighbor’s problems.  There was a plot of land for sale that sat to the west of the church, juxtaposed against the homes of high society to the east.  It was big enough and near enough for a housing development to which their neighbors could relocate and still be neighbors.

Over the next two months Leslie rallied LaSalle and several other churches to invest one thousand dollars each in a campaign to secure the land rights.  (When you consider that Leslie’s own salary hovered around three thousand dollars at the time, it was a goodly sum of money back then.)

The housing project that grew there, Atrium Village, was the first housing development in the country to be financed and constructed by state, private and church funding.  It took years for all the players to finally agree to the vision of a truly diverse project:  50 percent black and 50 percent white; 50 percent market-rate and 50 percent under-market rate rents.

The first apartment tower was dominated by a nine-story open atrium.  That atrium gave the “village” its name and it lessened a significant fear factor.  The central atrium left no dark hallways in the building.  Light flooded in.

Also, there were glass elevators that allowed light and visibility and the courtyard area around the buildings provided safe places for children to play.

Atrium Village opened to a flood of three thousand applicants.  It became a solid anchor in the community and was a testing ground for finding the best practices for community-based housing.  It was also the first of three building projects the church undertook in the neighborhood, all of which focused on building community engagement among people who were different from one another.

The other two were a building for senior housing and another for a legal-aid clinic.

Here’s a short YouTube video, a for-rent ad for Atrium Village apartments, published in 2012 by apartmenthomelivingA.

THE SALE

In the early 2000s, almost 25 years after Atrium opened its doors, La Salle got word that the primary investor in the development wanted to sell its interest.  The restrictive covenants on Atrium would soon expire without possibility of renewal.  The city was in the process of demolishing Cabrini-Green, the public-housing complex of 30-story buildings that had been a long-time neighborhood fixture.

The new model for government thinking on the public-housing problem was dubbed “scattered site” housing.  Instead of monolithic structures, the vision now was lower-density, low-rise units that served a diverse population – exactly the vision that the people who made Atrium Village happen advocated.

The times they were a-changing…again.

Even though the churches who initiated the Atrium Village project represented only a 15 percent interest in the property, as a voting bloc, they could stop the sale of the property.  Two of the partner churches faced almost certain closure by their denominations because their memberships had dwindled down to mere handfuls.

The church memberships had watched the Cabrini-Green towers come down, knowing that the retail developers were also watching it happen.  Condominiums that cost upwards of half a million dollars were being planned.

The churches, all of whom were like LaSalle and framed their ministry on being bridge churches, understood that their neighborhoods were changing.  They finally reached an agreement to sell their interest while negotiating hard for more units set aside for the working poor.

They were supported in this intention by the Chicago city tax assessor, their local alderman, and various community groups.  Any redevelopment plan would be required to have 20 percent of its units available at below-market rate.

THE REST OF THE STORY….

And so it happened:  the sale, and then the check, and then the tithe from church to its people.

You’ll have to read the book to get the rest of the story.

An interesting history of the church building and the neighborhood provides a glimpse at the background for this story.  Here’s the YouTube video, “130 Years – History of the LaSalle Street Church Sanctuary Building,” which was put together and published by the church in 2016.

Here’s a poem:


A GREAT BLESSING

A great blessing

When good people

Try to help

Correct another mistake

In a long

Line of mistakes.

 

A good feeling

When the world

Rallies ’round one

Who is hurting

One who is

Not as strong

As other ones.

 

Thank you, nakua….

Thank you, world….

Blessings and thanks.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Crater Sunrise,” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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BE TOO BOLD: An Un-Seeing Exercise

BE TOO BOLD: An Un-Seeing Exercise

Ah…here it comes again.  Another Un-Seeing Exercise.  There’s THAT question:  Who am I to be so bold? 

The story you tell yourself about what you “cannot” do can hurt you your entire life.  This question, in particular, can tie you up in all kinds of knots and keep you stuck in suck.

WHY BOLD?  WHAT IS BOLD?

“Lemme tell ya, cookie,” as an old, rasty rascal of a friend used to say, “it’s supposed to be bold.  What are ya?  Some kinda snail?”

Jan (Arny) Messersmith published that sky-diving image in the header of this post in his Flickr stream in 2010.  He tells the backstory in a long rumination in his image notes.  He also includes one of the best definitions of “bold” I’ve ever seen.

He says, “Boldness is the exercise of one’s beliefs accompanied by a certainty that positive and well-considered actions will produce desirable outcomes.”  He continues, “Timidity and fear are not compatible with confidence and trust.”  It’s a truth, that.

This INBOUND Bold Talk, “From Suit to Seal” was published on YouTube by HubSpot in 2015.  It features Phil Black who hung up his suit as a Goldman-Sach minion to become, of all things, a Navy Seal.

“Be bold,” Black says at the end of his talk.  Bold is the first step to following your dream.

TAKING THAT FIRST STEP

How do you get to bold?  Some counterpoint questions might help.  How about these?

  • When you are 80, are you going to regret that you did not take action and believe in yourself because you were scared?
  • What message will you give your kids and your grandkids?  How are you going to authentically encourage them to follow their dreams when you stop yourself from following your own?

The saddest comment I have ever overheard was one from an elderly grandmother telling her grandson, “Go do your dream, bebe.  Me, I too old for dream now.  I can only wish.”

Another take on this is the advice in this spoken poem, “Everybody Dies But Not Everybody Lives” in this YouTube video by Richard Williams, better-known as American rapper and spoken word artist Prince Ea.

Prince Ea published the video in 2016.  It was a collaboration between the artist, who calls himself a “Futurist,” and Neste, a Finnish oil refinery company that, besides producing and marketing petroleum products, also produces “renewable diesel” which is produced in a patented vegetable oil refining process. The upcycled vegetable oil works well as an alternative fuel in diesel engines.

PRETEND THERE IS NO COUNTDOWN

The Real is that being bold isn’t all that hard to do.  Major tip:  Forget the countdown.  Never mind “a-one and a-two and a-three.”  Just go.

Practice will help with that.  It gets easier every time you do something that makes you scared and nervous.

scared-but
“Scared BUT” by vivek JOSHI via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS

Bold can also get easier if you can follow along the trails of adventurers and explorers who’ve gone on ahead of you.

  • Start a file folder today – either a physical paper one or one on your computer.  Choose a few people who you admire for their bravery and bold actions.  Research their stories.
  • Chances are your heroes started in situations that are no better than yours right now and they made it.  Find out how they did it.  Look at ways that maybe you can do it your own self in your own field.

sahara-footsteps
“Sahara Footsteps” by Rachael Taft [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


I AM NOT HERE TO AUDITION

I’m not here to fill

A role one playwright

Or another put down

To get some constipated plot

Moving this way or that.

 

I’m not here to match

A cast director’s vote

For color coordination

Or for an echo of some

Old star’s past glory.

 

I’m not here to act out

Some director’s dictum

Of the statement I must make

While juggling stereotypes

And tired old clichés.

 

I’m not here to bend

And spend myself,

Reworking every line

To make some producer’s

Wet dream more sublime.

 

I’m not here to audition.

The part is already mine.

Who I am is what I am,

And, on this stage,

I’m the star and the chorus line.

 

Whether I show what’s honest,

Whether I show what’s real,

Whether I am brave enough

To show what I truly feel:

Only I can decide.

 

I’m not here to audition,

And neither, my dear, are you.

On another stage,

On a different page,

For you, it’s just as true….

By Netta Kanoho

Header image credit:  “Fortune Favours the Bold” by Jan (Arny) Messersmith via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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BORN A WOMAN

BORN A WOMAN

Cinthia I. Albers is a fellow member of the Maui Live Poets Society.   She’s a lifelong poet with a quirky sense of humor and her own tales to tell.  She has laid claim to a “poet husband and a poet cat” and has collected her poems in a series of books that are available on Amazon.

I asked her to share a poem that has meaning and mana for her and to tell us why.  This is hers:

“I have always been at war with the ideas of what the world says woman should be. Magazines show us these images and most of us do not measure up.”

we-are-victims-of-this-folly
“We are victims of this folly” by Michelle Robinson via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
“I was at a doctor’s office and picked up a woman’s magazine and thought about all those magazines I had read and discarded over the years.  The idea that what interests women is reflected on their pages seems like a cosmic joke. Women are much more than that.”

les-trois-graces
“Les Trois Graces” (mosaic sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle, part of the New York Avenue Sculpture Project) by David via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
“This poem grew from that. This was published in Maui Muses Vol 4- Equitude (a collection of poems curated by the Live Poets) and in my own collection.”


MAGAZINE

I was flipping through one of those magazines
You know the ones
With the makeup ads
And perfume ads
And Handbag ads
And High heeled shoe ads
Twenty-five haircuts
Just for you
The ones with the articles


How to lose weight
Lose belly fat
Sculpt your thighs
Sculpt your arms
Tighten those abs
Make that butt tight and firm
Those articles about
How to please your man
How to have more sex
How to have satisfying sex
How to declutter your home
How to organize your life
That kind of magazine
That follows the weight loss article
And the sculpt your body
into a fat burning machine
With the recipe for a 10000 calorie dessert
And the five minute meal
That takes three hours prep
And 100 dollars of ingredients
But you’ll be fine
Using their budget tips

I picked up that magazine,
I flipped through
I admired those thin women
With the leather coats
And the hair that flows in the wind
The one where you can smell her perfume
The one that runs in heels and never falls
Looking at them, the perfect make up
The happy homemaker
The husband pleaser
With the decluttered kitchen
And the picture perfect comfy house
I wonder
Being born a woman
How did I fail so badly?
They showed me how
It’s so simple
They told me so
I just have to read
Follow simple instructions
Bat my phony eyelashes
Buy the right kitchen organizer
Use the correct perfume
Take care of my man sexually
And all will be perfect
I will grow the perfect boobs
Sculpt the perfect ass
I will the don the perfect haircut
And I will be able to run
In expensive spiked heels
With matching bag
And fly away coat

Truth is it never worked
I just can’t quite master that image
Who would have thought being a woman
Was so hard to become
Considering I was born one.


Header Image credit:  “Woman in Window” by Beshef via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

[Guest poets add other voices to this thing and they do make the song we are singing more lively.  Click the button.  Come play.]

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