Posts Tagged ‘Maya angelou’

“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman.” ~ Mexican Proverb

I read this and had to chuckle as it is either a statement of profound wisdom or a proclamation made by the Mexican Ambassador to the Lollipop Guild upon seeing the legs and red shoes of the Wicked Witch of the East. Seriously, though, I do feel that women play an important role in the development of nest of home and the heart of any successful business.

Sitting by the fire yesterday evening after having put my sons to bed I found myself reminiscing about the days of my youth. I recalled the great challenge faced by young women my age in high school, namely, that it wasn’t “cool” to get good grades or to appear too smart. How tragic! I don’t know if that paradigm persists, but it certainly placed an artificial limitation on what could have been achieved in school by many who subscribed to that policy.

I am equally thankful for the men and women in my life. Father and mother. Aunts and uncles. Girlfriends and guy friends. All of them made important contributions to the rich nest of home that served as an introduction to me of love and truth.

That said, there were and are certain women I have and continue to be privileged to know. My mother. My childhood girlfriends. My teachers, counselors and professors. Co-workers. My mother-in-law. My wife. Truly phenomenal women. Dedicated. Passionate. Intelligent. Beautiful. Diligent. Devoted. Fearless.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Maya Angelou‘s rhythmic verse describing women, you’re in for a real treat.

Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I would love to hear from you as to what makes a woman a phenomenal woman in your eyes!


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“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” ~ Maya Angelou

My father is a man of quiet courage. I’ve always admired his graciousness and desire to help others, his love of family and passion for life and I wish that every son could have a father as consistent and supportive as he is.

I watched him sit quietly yesterday evening with his granddaughter nestled in his arms and the look in her young eyes said nothing short of: “I have found heaven on earth.” The hushed and tranquil scene gave evidence of a certain quality of peace that emanates from one who is courageous, a peace that both soothes and inspires.

Fatherhood is a bountiful privilege coupled with a sacred responsibility. In my opinion there ought to be specifically designed classes that prepare young men for fatherhood – lessons to ensure that a young man is good and ready to take on the job. The fact that home economics has been dropped from most public and private school curricula is to me a tragic omission that leads to unprepared parents with unrealistic expectations.

Several topics should be covered in such a course:

  • Budgeting
  • What you need in your toolkit
  • Typical home repairs
  • The importance of play
  • How to read to children
  • Encompassing without smothering
  • Protecting without hovering
  • Meal time etiquette
  • Handling pressure
  • Setting routines that change over time
  • Growing with your child

I could go on! Those topics are just a few that stood out to me relative to my childhood and I know that a little thinking on this matter could go a long way to change the world we share over time.

Many people are needlessly and terribly handicapped by their childhoods. They wobble into their adult years with blind spots, flat spots in their skill sets and holes in their character. It’s no wonder the world is the way it is when you stop to think about it. We’re not preparing people correctly. We’re missing the important things in the mad search for knowledge and facts.

I cannot thank my parents enough for the solid foundation they gave me in my childhood and I hope that each one of you, dear readers, has at least one or two things that you truly appreciate about what was provided for you during your formative years.

If so, please share!

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Alone, by Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

No matter how you cut it, we need one another. This is not a new phenomenon, neither is the need likely to become extinct with the passage of time. The need for collaboration, for complementation, is here to stay.

This need is present at every level of society and in every level of organization. No matter if rich or poor, family or nation, young or old, complementation allows for the best use of resources as it unlocks resources that would be otherwise withheld in an untrusting, dog-eat-dog, isolationist and protectionist world. No one can deny the many advances that have come at the hand of the actors in a competitive environment, but even more impressive is the revelation of what is possible when otherwise competitive actors collaborate.

Take the rescue of the Chilean miners, for example. Were it not for the competitive forces of a relatively free market, the drill bit that was loaned to the Chileans by the American private company that developed it might not have been available. Without the recognition of the need to put competition aside for a moment and share technology, the available technology might not have made its way into the right hands. I suppose the challenge is in developing the sensitivity to know when competition is best and when collaboration is most fitting.

My company is one actor among many in the health care industry. Making the world a better and healthier place is our primary goal, and more often than not we find ourselves sharing and contributing in ways that are perhaps better described as collaboration than competition. We value transparency, synergistic relationships, the sharing of ideas and experience and our emphasis in all matters is to add value.

Early in my professional career I worked in the financial services industry and I recall how shocking it was to see co-workers undermine one another in the spirit of competition. It was an unhealthy environment and those who participated were clearly suffering and I could hear the moan. That personal experience gave me an item for my “To Not Do” list, one that has remained in the top ten ever since.

Competition, the drive to give your best, is healthy. When integrity is compromised, however, competition quickly turns ugly. Look at any race for political office, the shady business of bringing new pharmaceutical drugs to market or the shocking things young actors and musicians are forced to do to promote themselves and generate sales.

One of my great hopes is that we can find the ways to rebuild a foundation of integrity in the body of humanity in a way that competition can once again be healthy. The recognition that no man, family or nation is complete unto itself is a starting point, but we must look to foster the spirit of collaboration in every sphere of human activity if we are to disperse the storm clouds described by Ms. Angelou.

Together, all together
All, yes all
Can make it out here together.

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Dr. Maya Angelou

I couldn’t resist one more post about Dr. Angelou.  Her charm and wit have captivated me for years and I feel compelled to share her insightful work with my fellows.  This poem was written following an experience she had while visiting a local health food store.  The store had a small diner that served the usual healthy dishes, but Dr. Angelou noticed that she rarely noticed anyone smiling in the health food store, especially her waitress on this occasion.

She was so moved by the results of fanaticism – even though it was in relation to supposedly healthy things – that she wrote this pleasant and humorous little poem called “The Health Food Diner.”

No sprouted wheat and soya shoots
And Brussels in a cake,
Carrot straw and spinach raw,
(Today, I need a steak).

Not thick brown rice and rice pilaw
Or mushrooms creamed on toast,
Turnips mashed and parsnips hashed,
(I’m dreaming of a roast).

Health-food folks around the world
Are thinned by anxious zeal,
They look for help in seafood kelp
(I count on breaded veal).

No smoking signs, raw mustard greens,
Zucchini by the ton,
Uncooked kale and bodies frail
Are sure to make me run


Loins of pork and chicken thighs
And standing rib, so prime,
Pork chops brown and fresh ground round
(I crave them all the time).

Irish stews and boiled corned beef
and hot dogs by the scores,
or any place that saves a space
For smoking carnivores.

If you’ve been “thinned by anxious zeal” at times in your life this poem is probably worth re-reading.  Fanaticism with respect to anything quickly erodes the experience of life.  Look at any example of extreme nationalism or perhaps the more dogmatic branches of religion and you see that zealotry constrains to hatred, isolationism and self-destruction.

On occasion you might benefit from letting your karma run over your dogma.  Even if all that you get out of it is a good start to a country song, it’s better than the alternative.  Loosen up a little, try something new.  Do the little things in your day slightly out of order or with a different hand.  Treat those around you with a new and genuine deference.  Do anything to limber up the tense and rigid areas in your mind and heart so that life can again course through your veins without constriction.

Wellbeing is not a static state obtained through steely determination.  True health is the result of constant adjustment, continual adaptation to the circumstances at hand.  It is not a fixed and rigid place devoid of pleasure.  Neither is it achieved through gluttony and hedonism.  Wellbeing is found not at the extremes, but somewhere in the middle.

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I had the great pleasure of hearing Dr. Maya Angelou speak at the International Spa Association’s annual conference several years ago.  Her words were some of the most inspiring and profoundly important I have ever heard.  Take a moment to bask in the light of her brilliant poetry…    

In another interview Dr. Angelou gave this encouragement: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.  Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud…Be certain that you do not die without having giving something wonderful to humanity.”

Have a wonderful day, my friends!

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