Thursday, October 31, 2013

THOUGHT MAYBE I'D LOST MY TOUCH

Perhaps, that seems like a strange title for tonight's blog but I was beginning to think I had.  I hadn't written a new poem since I finished my book and I had many attempts.  It could have been that I hadn't had anything peak my interest, or no poetic phrase came to mind that I could go with or, behind door number three...I had lost my touch.  As you age things go like that.  They don't just sneak up on you either.  One day you have 'em and the next you don't. 

But all that aside, something did strike me as poem worthy, namely the commercial readying for the holidays.  When it's barely October and they've got lit Christmas trees laden with ornaments sitting next to the Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations, you've got to say, "Are you kidding me?"  I love the holidays, don't get me wrong, but every year it seems like the retail prep starts earlier and earlier and I'm, frankly, sick of it.

There's too much concentration on the buying of gifts anyway, in my opinion, but starting so early it feels like the wishing and the having of something is being stuffed down our throats.  And the constant timetable, "Only 7 weeks until Christmas, last sale before Christmas, Better get a move on, Time is a-wastin'!"  Nothing leisurely about it, no time to ponder the meaning, just get going.   

And so much is geared to the kids.   Of course, that's just what the manufacturers have in mind, what I call "The More, More, More Syndrome."  What's happened to the giving of a present, not two or three?  Is it any wonder that children feel entitled and are looking for the next gift before they've even finished opening the one in their lap?  We've created self-centered children who expect there will be MORE.  And we can't understand why they're ungrateful brats.  We've played into it all and have created these little monsters.  Shame on us! (Sorry about the soap box tirade.  That wasn't my intent.  Read on. What follows is a much softer perspective.)

WHAT'S THE HURRY?
by Patty Lynn

Say, what's the hurry, it's too soon
It's barely Halloween.
The stores decked out with Christmas fare
With trees and grass still green?

So, c'mon can't we take our time,
Enjoy these days of Fall,
Watch Winter slowly usher in
Our senses to enthrall...

Anticipate the time when we
As family come together,
To take the opportunity
To snuggle in cold weather...

To bundle up in comfy clothes,
All cozy by the fire,
The sipping of hot chocolate is
What freezing hands desire.

Then as the day comes closer still
For thankfulness and praise,
Share blessings, often undeserved,
Not just one, but for days,

To contemplate Thanksgiving Day
And what it really means,
It's much more than too much to eat
And tighter fitting jeans.

But rather taking stock of all
The Good Lord gives each day.
For whether much or just enough
A thankful heart repays...

By giving back, by sharing too,
And in so doing, lives...
A life that's full of untold wealth
That freely loves, forgives.

And from this holiday begins
Our memories of Christ's birth,
A birth much more significant
Than any here on earth.

So often Christmas time is marred
By selfishness and having,
When value's measured by the price,
And bargains by the grabbing?

Why can't our Christmas truly be
A birthday for our Savior,
Who came to give eternity
From heaven to a manger.

Don't you get gifts on your birthday?
Why can't we do the same
By giving presents to the poor,
Ones given in His name?

It seems to me the holidays
The sped up celebrating,
Lack time to ponder everything.
To me it's devastating.

And if the holidays become
Meshed into one another,
We'll lose the meaning, lose the joy.
Can't we go back, uncover...

The hidden jewel of family
Who love to be together,
Who come as one, who come in love,
No matter Winter weather,

Who worship Christ then pause to say
God Bless you on this Christmas day.
We wouldn't rush to buy, to wrap
And not fall prey to retail's trap.

This year I pledge to slow things down,
And savor every minute,
From Halloween to Christmas time,
Find joy and love within it.


Friday, October 25, 2013

THE PUPPET'S POEM

Tonight's blog is my latest poem.  It may seem a strange choice of subject but if you know the reason for it's writing it'll make more sense.  This year for my 3 & 4 year old Sunday School class I've decided to let the puppets take a more active role.  Last Sunday the puppet known as Sprout donned his Moses costume and told the story as Moses complete with a little boy voice trying to sound like a grown up man.  The boys and girls loved it.  Of course, I told them that Sprout was very serious about his role as Moses and they shouldn't laugh but the moment they took one look at him in his brown beard, they all cracked up.  "Moses" did a great job of telling the story and I was thrilled that they really listened with rapt attention to the whole story.

This Sunday Sprout's counterpart, Lilly, will take center stage.  She will share a poem "she wrote" to review the story and add some more details about the trip from Egypt to the Promised Land.  Then the boys and girls will pretend they're God's people on that long journey with empty, growling tummies.  They'll hold their tummies and close their eyes and when they open them they will see what they felt falling from heaven, the manna that God sent. (Really it's a half slice of bread and a few banana chips in a snack bag for them to eat.)  Boy, will they be surprised!  Who do you think is getting a bigger kick out of all of this, the children or me?

Here's the poem that Lilly will read to the class:

MOSES AND GOD'S PEOPLE
by Patty Lynn

Many, many years ago a baby boy was born
His Mom was oh, so very scared because her heart was torn
Because she loved him very much but knew he would be killed
The Pharaoh was the meanest man her heart with sadness filled.

She made a basket for her son, no water could come in,
Then placed it in the River Nile and kissed his precious skin.
But God was taking care of him, that baby that she loved
And sent that basket to someone as He watched from above.

The Pharaoh's daughter picked him up and loved him like her own,
But Moses' real mom cared for him until he was more grown.
Then Moses lived within the walls of Pharaoh's palace grand.
He didn't know he'd be the one to do the work God planned.

One day when Moses took a walk a bush he saw a burning.
This special bush would not burn up but from it he was learning.
For as he walked up to that bush he heard the voice of God
Who told him to take off his shoes, which seemed a little odd.

And God said, "Moses, where you stand is very holy ground.
Come closer, I have news for you, a job for you I've found.
I've chosen you to lead the slaves, my people here in Egypt.
This job's important, I've picked you and you had best believe it."

Now, Moses he was scared because the Pharaoh, he was feared,
But God said, "Moses, I'll help you, the way for you I've cleared."
The Pharaoh didn't want to let God's people leave the land.
"They cannot go, the slaves MUST stay. Now that is my command!

"You cannot keep God's people here!" was just what Moses said.
The stubborn Pharaoh finally said, "OK, now, go ahead."
God's people left to find the place God promised they could go.
That land was big, that land was rich, where all their crops would grow.

The way long and they grew tired complaining all day long.
"We're hot, we're hungry, sweaty, too, perhaps to leave was wrong.
At least in Egypt we had food, we weren't thirsty either.
Moses, you better go tell God that we don't want to be here."

But God was listening to their prayers and fixed the situation.
He said, "I love you and I've got an end to your frustration."
God sent a special kind of bread from heaven every morning.
This MANNA came for everyone just as each day was dawning.

Their tummies now were finally full but still their throats were dry,
And they complained, and whined some more, "This really makes us cry!"
Then God told Moses, "Take your stick and hit the rock I show you.
Now make it count and make it loud, the sound should go right through you."

So Moses took his stick to strike and God said, "Hit it there."
God's people saw a miracle with water everywhere.
They cheered and ate and drank and thanked the Lord for all He'd done.
God kept His promise everyday, took care of everyone.


Monday, October 21, 2013

THE THEATRE COMMUNITY HAS SUSTAINED A GREAT LOSS

This past Tuesday, Ken Anderson, passed away.  I first met Ken in 1978 when I was chosen to play Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, my first production at UW-Fox.  Our relationship continued through the years with musicals and appearances that Ken directed.  Most recently when my son, Tim Marsh, starred in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at the beautiful new theatre at UW-Fox, I called Ken to see if perhaps he's like to come as my date to see one of the performances.  I was unable to reach him and left a message.  Sadly, I never heard from him. 

Before that our contact was sporadic.  He had started converting VHS tapes of his many theatre productions at UW-Fox to a DVD format and had sent me copies of some of the shows in which I had performed.  There was never a note, not a word, just the DVD.  After the first one arrived I called to thank him and found that things had changed with Ken.  No more the usual effusive conversation laden with details, it was just...off.  Then I received a letter from Ken and when I opened the envelope it was empty.  I didn't know if it was meant for something important so when he called to ask for the address of someone from the past he just laughed about the omission and the short conversation regarding the address was brief.  The Ken I knew was articulate, humorous, on top of it and suddenly I knew that time and the losses of the past few years had taken their toll. 

As a professor at the university there was something going on all the time, people in and out of his office, plays to choose, productions to cast, rehearsals and his famous grief sheets to write. Oh how we loved the grief sheets! The griefs were his notes, notes he made as he watched you rehearse.    He'd tear off each little comment and hand it to you after the rehearsal.  They were his signature.  I still have some of mine.  In fact, after retirement he authored two books on the subject, Good Grief Volume One and Two. 

Ken's style of direction was truly unique and for some, the new ones, frustrating.  Ken left the digging for the character and his relationship to the storytelling up to the actor.  And when you're starting out you're looking for guidance but...it forced you to think, to try, to lament with your fellow actors, to determine who you were to the story.  What you didn't realize at the beginning was that this was Ken's style, his method to get you to live in the character, feel how he felt, move as he would move.  To quote Ken, "To tell the story better than it's ever been told."  Yes, Ken was one of a kind but he was so much more than "the theatre guy" at UW-Fox.

Ken was an athlete, loved sports of many kinds and when I knew him he was in excellent shape from playing handball almost daily.  As with everything, he committed to it.  Furthermore, Ken played an active part in his community and as with everything else, he was a participator, a leader.  He'd often direct little shows providing entertainment for special events and many of us who he'd worked with at the Center were part of that as well. For a while he did a radio show on Saturday mornings featuring performers and interviews, a local show with a little Ken pizazz.

Above all Ken was a proud father and dedicated husband.  He and his wife, Ruth, were always an exquisite team, as far as their family was concerned and their working together as Ken launched yet another show.  Ruth opened their home for rehearsals and helped with costuming.  Ken would probably describe her as "a real trouper."  I don't know for sure but I think when Ken retired, Ruth was a little glad, finally having him all to herself, not sharing him with all those actors and singers.  Though he continued his community involvements it was nothing like the long evenings at the Center.

But then came the health issues.  Ken sustained some sight loss and that took its toll.  Then Ruth fell and broke a hip and while she was in surgery for the hip repair, she had a stroke.  She was confined to a nursing home for 3 years.  Ken spent his days there until she died recently and my thought is that was the final straw.

After I read Ken's obituary in Sunday's paper I realized I knew only part of what made Ken Anderson tick. His accomplishments were far more extensive that I even knew but what I did know was that he was an exceptional person, a man of many talents and someone I felt privileged to know.