Monday, April 30, 2012

Poet - Maya Angelou - 'Still I Rise'



Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou

*****

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 4, 1928. She grew up in St. Louis and Stamps, Arkansas. She is an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, stage and screen producer, director, performer, singer, and civil rights activist.

She is best known for her autobiographical books: All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986), The Heart of a Woman (1981), Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (1976), Gather Together in My Name (1974), and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), which was nominated for the National Book Award.

In 1959, at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou became the northern coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. From 1961 to 1962 she was associate editor of The Arab Observer in Cairo, Egypt, the only English-language news weekly in the Middle East, and from 1964 to 1966 she was feature editor of the African Review in Accra, Ghana.

She returned to the U.S. in 1974 and was appointed by Gerald Ford to the Bicentennial Commission and later by Jimmy Carter to the Commission for International Woman of the Year. She accepted a lifetime appointment in 1981 as Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

In 1993, Angelou wrote and delivered a poem, "On The Pulse of the Morning," at the inauguration for President Bill Clinton at his request.

The first black woman director in Hollywood, Angelou has written, produced, directed, and starred in productions for stage, film, and television. In 1971, she wrote the original screenplay and musical score for the film Georgia, Georgia, and was both author and executive producer of a five-part television miniseries "Three Way Choice." She has also written and produced several prize-winning documentaries, including "Afro-Americans in the Arts," a PBS special for which she received the Golden Eagle Award. Maya Angelou was twice nominated for a Tony award for acting: once for her Broadway debut in Look Away (1973), and again for her performance in Roots (1977).



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Poet - John Lennon - 'Imagine"



IMAGINE
by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven


It's easy if you try


No hell below us


Above us only sky


Imagine all the people


Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do


Nothing to kill or die for


And no religion too


Imagine all the people


Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer


But I'm not the only one


I hope someday you'll join us


And the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions


I wonder if you can


No need for greed or hunger


A brotherhood of man


Imagine all the people


Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer


But I'm not the only one


I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will live as one.

*****
Born John Winston Lennon born 9 October 1940 in Liverpool, England. He was an English rock musician, singer, and songwriter, artist and peace activist, who gained worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles. John Lennon along with Paul McCartney formed one of the most influential and successful songwriting partnerships and wrote some of the most popular music in rock and roll history. He played guitar, piano, bass and the harmonica. John was controversial through his work as a peace activist and artist.

After The Beatles, Lennon enjoyed a successful solo career with such acclaimed albums as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine and iconic songs such as "Give Peace a Chance" and "Imagine". After a self-imposed "retirement" from 1976 to 1980, John reemerged with a comeback album, Double Fantasy, which would win the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Less than one month after the release of the album, John Lennon was murdered in New York City on 8 December 1980. He was 40 years old.
He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994

*****

Whenever I read the words to 'Imagine' or hear it on the radio I find
myself singing at the top of my lungs - how about you? :-)


Friday, April 27, 2012

Poet - Ralph Waldo Emerson - 'The Rhodora'




The Rhodora

On Being Asked, Whence Is the Flower?

In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool,
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew;
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.

*****
Rhodora: flowering scrub common to Canada and New England, Rhododendron canadense.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

American poet, essayist, and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in 1803 in Boston, Massachusetts. After studying at Harvard and teaching for a brief time, Emerson entered the ministry. He was appointed to the Old Second Church in his native city, but soon became an unwilling preacher. Unable in conscience to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper after the death of his nineteen-year-old wife of tuberculosis, Emerson resigned his pastorate in 1831.

The following year, he sailed for Europe, visiting Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Emerson's friendship with Carlyle was both lasting and significant; the insights of the British thinker helped Emerson formulate his own philosophy.

On his return to New England, Emerson became known for challenging traditional thought. In 1835, he married his second wife, Lydia Jackson, and settled in Concord, Massachusetts.

Known in the local literary circle as "The Sage of Concord," Emerson became the chief spokesman for Transcendentalism, the American philosophic and literary movement. Centered in New England during the 19th century, Transcendentalism was a reaction against scientific rationalism.

Emerson's first book, Nature (1836), is perhaps the best expression of his Transcendentalism, the belief that everything in our world—even a drop of dew—is a microcosm of the universe. Emerson wrote a poetic prose, ordering his essays by recurring themes and images. His poetry, on the other hand, is often called harsh and didactic.

His best-known addresses are The American Scholar (1837) and The Divinity School Address, which he delivered before the graduates of the Harvard Divinity School, shocking Boston's conservative clergymen with his descriptions of the divinity of man and the humanity of Jesus.

Emerson's philosophy is characterized by its reliance on intuition as the only way to comprehend reality. Emerson was a steady optimist.

Ralph Waldo Emerson died of pneumonia on today's date, April 27, 1882.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Poet - Erma Bombeck - 'If I had My Life to Live Over'


IF I HAD MY LIFE TO LIVE OVER...
by Erma Bombeck

I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less when reading - and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance
in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said,
"Later. Now go get washed up for dinner."

There would have been more "I love you’s"… more "I'm sorrys"... but mostly, given
another shot at life, I would seize every minute...look at it and really see it...
live it...and never give it back.

• In memory of Erma Bombeck

*****

Erma Louise Bombeck (February 21, 1927 – April 22, 1996), born Erma Fiste, was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life humorously from the mid-1960s until the late '90s. Bombeck also published 15 books, most of which became best sellers.

Erma Bombeck wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns chronicling the ordinary life of a midwestern suburban housewife with broad, and sometimes eloquent, humor.

Erma Bombeck was born in Dayton, Ohio. She grew up in a working-class family. Her father, Cassius Fiste, was the city crane operator; her mother's name was also Erma.

In 1942, Bombeck began to work at the Dayton Herald as a copygirl, sharing her full-time assignment with a girlfriend. She completed high school in 1944. While in college she began to write for the university publication, The Exponent and she graduated in 1949, with a degree in English.

In 1949, Bombeck also converted to Catholicism, from the United Brethren church, and married Bill Bombeck, She remained active in the Church the rest of her life.

Doctors told the Bombecks that having a child was improbable, so they adopted a girl, Betsy, in 1953. Erma decided to become a full-time housewife, and relinquished her career as a journalist. Despite the former difficult diagnoses, Erma Bombeck gave birth to a son, Andrew in 1955 and she stayed home for the next ten years.

She continued writing and by 1969, 500 U.S. newspapers featured her "At Wit's End" columns, and she was also writing for Good Housekeeping Magazine, Reader's Digest, Family Circle, Redbook, McCall's, and Teen magazine. Bombeck and her family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to a lavish hacienda on a hilltop in Paradise Valley.

By 1985, Erma Bombeck's three weekly columns were being published by 900 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada and were read by over 30 million readers, She was also making twice-weekly 'Good Morning America' appearances. Bombeck belonged to the American Academy of Humor Columnists.

Erma Bombeck was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. In 1996, she was brought to a San Francisco hospital for a kidney transplant, which was performed on April 3. However, she suffered complications following the procedure, and died on April 22.

Her remains are interred in the Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio, under a large rock from the Phoenix desert.

*****
I read Erma’s columns during the years of raising my children. She always gave a very amusing slant to typical everyday family situations and I could relate to so many of her stories. She had such a great sense of humor that she was able to capture with words.

peacesojourner



Sunday, April 22, 2012

42nd Anniversary of Earth Day - April 22, 2012



The Earth Flag was designed in 1970 by Earth Day founder
and pioneer John McConnell



Treat the earth gently


Earth Day promotes environmental awareness and calls for the protection of our planet.
Sunday, April 22, 2012.

Earth Day is a name used for two different observances, both held worldwide annually. While some people celebrate Earth Day around the time of the vernal equinox, others observe the occasion on April 22 each year. Earth Day aims to inspire awareness of and appreciation for earth's environment. It is currently observed in more than 140 countries around the world.

What do people do?:
The April 22 Earth Day is usually celebrated with outdoor performances, where individuals or groups perform acts of service to earth by planting trees, picking up roadside trash, conducting various programs for recycling and conservation, using recyclable containers for snacks and lunches. Some people sign petitions to governments, calling for stronger or immediate action to stop global warming. Television stations frequently air programs dealing with environmental issues.

Background:
The April 22 Earth Day, founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, was first organized in 1970 to promote ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.
In 1978, American anthropologist Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, founded by John McConnell. She stated that the selection of the March Equinox for Earth Day made planetary observance of a shared event possible.

Symbols:
"The Earth Flag is my symbol of the task before us all. Only in the last quarter of my life have we come to know what it means to be custodians of the future of the Earth - to know that unless we care, unless we check the rapacious exploitations of our Earth and protect it, we are endangering the future of our children and our children's children. We did not know this before, except in little pieces. People knew that they had to take care of their own ... but it was not until we saw the picture of the Earth, from the Moon, that we realized how small and how helpless this planet is - something that we must hold in our arms and care for."
Margaret Mead, March 21, 1977


The Earth Flag was designed in 1970 by Earth Day founder and pioneer John McConnell, an early leader in the international peace movement. Inspired by the striking first photographs of the whole Earth taken during America's historic Apollo 10 space mission in 1969, this symbolic creation attained immediate world-wide recognition, including a lifetime association with renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead. Dr. Mead carried what she called "the flag for all people" with her wherever she appeared from 1969 until her death in 1977.
The Earth Flag is proudly waved at Earth Day celebrations throughout the world. The Earth Flag now flies as a matter of course in hundreds of American cities, as well as numerous countries in North and South America, in Europe, in Africa, in Asia and Japan.

So what can you do to take part in Earth Day?

Here are some opportunities for Volunteering. Why not get in touch with them and get involved. One thing that I can guarantee is that you will meet some wonderful human beings and you just might have some fun while you are helping.


Earth Team Volunteers:
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/feature/volunteers
The Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service needs people 14 and older to help reduce soil loss, protect water supplies, and more.

EPA Earth Day Activities :
http://www.epa.gov/earthday/events.htm The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds local events to celebrate Earth Day.

Forest Service Volunteer:
http://www.fs.fed.us/fsjobs/volunteers.html
Volunteers are the heartbeat of the USDA Forest Service. Your talents and skills are matched with your work preference to satisfy you and fulfill the mission of the Forest Service.

Take Pride in America:

http://www.takepride.gov/
Help maintain our natural, cultural and historic resources on public lands.

National Youth Service Day:
(mid-April each year)
http://www.ysa.org/nysd
The largest service event in the world, mobilizing millions of young Americans to identify and address the needs of their communities through service

USA Freedom Corps:
http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov
Find service opportunities that match your interests and talents in your home town, across the country or around the world.

Volunteer.gov/gov:
http://www.volunteer.gov/gov
Find ways to volunteer with government at all levels.

Don't just sit there - do something to make a change in your own yard, your community, state, nation, the world. Whether you work locally or globally
you and others will benefit from your efforts.

peacesojourner


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Poet - Thomas Campbell - The River of Life


Thomas Campbell (1777-1844)


The River of Life

The more we live, more brief appear
Our life's succeeding stages;
A day to childhood seems a year,
And years like passing ages.

The gladsome current of our youth,
Ere passion yet disorders,
Steals lingering like a river smooth
Along its grassy borders.

But as the careworn cheek grows wan,
And sorrow's shafts fly thicker,
Ye stars, that measure life to man,
Why seem your courses quicker?

When joys have lost their bloom and breath,
And life itself is vapid,
Why, as we reach the Falls of Death
Feel we its tide more rapid?

It may be strange—yet who would change
Time's course to slower speeding,
When one by one our friends have gone,
And left our bosoms bleeding?

Heaven gives our years of fading strength
Indemnifying fleetness;
And those of youth, a seeming length,
Proportion'd to their sweetness.

*****

THOMAS CAMPBELL was born in Glasgow, Scotland, July 27, 1777, and he died at Bologne, July 15, 1844, at the age of sixty-seven. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

At an early age he gave proofs of his aptitude for literary composition, especially in the department of poetry; and so strong was his addiction to these pursuits, that he could not bring himself seriously to adopt the choice of a profession

In 1799, his poem, "The Pleasures of Hope," was published. For more than three-fourths of a century, the poem has increased its popularity.

Campbell went abroad, and passed some time on the continent, without any definite aim. His finances were soon exhausted, and he was reduced to extreme poverty. Returning to Britain, his reputation soon gained him literary employment, but his tardiness in fulfilling engagements placed him in bad repute among the strong publishers, who hesitated often in offering him work.

But he was constantly popular with the public, and an occasional poem from his pen found its way into print. In 1803 the poet moved to London, and devoted himself to literature as a profession. He married, and in 1805, through the influence of a friend, received a government pension.

In 1809 he published "Gertrude of Wyoming, a Pennsylvania Tale." This was the second of his great poems, and it was exceedingly admired. Campbell settled down at Sydenham, in England. His home was a happy one. The society in which he moved was of the most refined and intellectual character, and he enjoyed the personal friendship of many of his distinguished contemporaries.

In 1820 he accepted the editorship of the "New Monthly Magazine," and acted in that capacity until he resigned it to take charge of the "Metropolitan." Many of his minor poems appeared in the "Magazine;" and one of these, "The Last Man," may be ranked among his greatest conceptions.

In 1824 he published "Theodric and Other Poems;" and though busy in establishing the London University, he was, in 1827, elected lord rector of the university of his native city.

It is on his lyrics that the future reputation of Campbell must principally rest. They have taken their place, never to be disturbed, in the popular heart; and, until the language in which they are composed perishes, they are certain to endure.




Thursday, April 19, 2012

If it is Thursday it's Going Green - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Paper


Remember the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle





This weeks topic is on ways to reduce, reuse and recycle paper.

Does this stack of papers look familiar in your home, on your desk or kitchen table?

Reduce:

Try to reduce the amount of paperwork that you generate. If you have access to a computer consider changing to paperless finances. Every electronic transaction that you make – direct deposit, automatic bill paying, and online portfolio management – is a paper saver.

- Credit card companies and banks often sell customer names and personal information to direct marketers; it is one of the reasons your mailbox is constantly stuffed with junk. Call all of your credit providers and tell them you do not want your information given out to others; it will cut down on the amount of unwanted mail that you receive and toss.

- Avoid placing your address on surveys, and product warranty cards. If you do write your address or phone number, write alongside it “Please do not sell or distribute my information, nor add to mailing lists.”

- DO NOT GIVE YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS WHEN YOU ENTER A RAFFLE - ESPECIALLY AT A STORE – THEY INTEND TO FOLLOW UP WITH YOU!!!!!!!

- Save paper by printing documents only when you really need a hard copy. Print on both sides of your paper to reduce your consumption. Or, even better, store files and e-mails on your computer, so that you are not using any paper at all.

Reuse:

Keep a stack of scrap paper handy for use when printing drafts and personal documents. Print on both sides.

Recycle:

If every American recycled just one newspaper a week, about 36 million trees a year would be spared. Making recycled newspaper takes half as much energy as producing virgin newsprint.


If you do receive junk mail, do one of two things about it. Recycle it immediately, or call or write somebody about getting off the list.


Keep a recycling bin or trashcan by your mailbox or wherever you sort mail.


Don’t forget, together we can make a difference.



Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17h - War Tax Resistance Day

Many Anti War Tax Resisters will gather at the IRS building in Washington, DC today to give away resisted federal taxes to some worthy organizations that are working to alleviate some of the ills of the world. The demonstration is one of dozens around the country being held today on "Tax Day." War Tax Resistance protests have been going on at IRS HQ since the 1960’s.



War Tax Resisters are people of conscience who are saddened by the government's continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. In refusing to pay part or all of our federal taxes and re-directing that money, war tax resisters are intentionally violating the law to withhold our support of the illegal, immoral and unjust wars--as well as untold future wars our government may lead us into.

They join together at the IRS to publicly declare that they will not cooperate with our government's policy of advocating and enacting violent responses to international conflict. Not in our names will the U.S. government continue to uphold a military system that all too often threatens and takes lives around the world, while government programs that meet human needs are routinely cut or eliminated.


The current Military Budget is $1.3 trillion

Many of us will continue our war tax resistance until our government prioritizes human needs, peace, and social justice over international aggression, war and violence.

We say “NO” to war with our money. No to the continuing war and occupation of Iraq. No to the war in Afghanistan and no to drone attacks and increased fighting in Pakistan.

We say “No” to billions more dollars buying thousands more deaths and injuries, both military and civilian. There are people and programs that could benefit from a small percentage of the money that is spent by all governments on war.

War Tax Resisters have decided that we cannot wait for governments to end war. We are cutting off our individual connection to war by refusing some or all of the federal tax dollars that fund war.

  • Some of us are living on low incomes so as not to pay for war.
  • Some of us are refusing $100 in protest.
  • Some of us are refusing 100% of any federal income taxes owed.
  • If the government won't cut off the funds, we will.
  • We mourn the loss of untold numbers of lives that have been lost in these wars.

*****

I am a pacifist and I take comfort in knowing that I do not personally give financially to the war effort. I made the decision to become a War Tax Resister 11 years ago. I deliberately have an income that is lower than the minimum rate before one pays tax. I live a very frugal lifestyle and I take advantage of almost every free cultural event in the community. Life is good.

One of the benefits of being a War Tax Resister is that I meet some of the kindest, compassionate people every day.

*****

"War tax resistance is a way of keeping at the front of my mind the killing and suffering wrought by the government's policies, and of voicing my profound disagreement with those policies."—Juanita Nelson (a War Tax Resister since WWII)

"War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today." - John F. Kennedy

6,422 Military Troops from the United States have been

killed in wars since March 19 2003.

peacesojourner


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Poet - Langston Hughes - 'Mother to Son'




Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor.
Bare.

But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.

So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now.

For I'se still goin', honey, I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

*****

Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

*****

Langston Hughes

James Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a small child, and his father moved to Mexico. He was raised by his grandmother until he was thirteen, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband, before the family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

It was in Lincoln, Illinois, that Hughes began writing poetry. Following graduation, he spent a year in Mexico and a year at Columbia University. During these years, he held odd jobs as an assistant cook, launderer, and a busboy, and travelled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman.

In November 1924, he moved to Washington, D.C. Hughes' first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature.

Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.

Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer in May 22, 1967, in New York.

In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem, New York City, has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed "Langston Hughes Place."

*****

These are two of my favorite poems which I used to read to my son when he was young.


peacesojourner


Friday, April 13, 2012

Triskaidekaphobia - is the fear of the number 13



POEM - It's Friday the 13th Tomorrow

It's Friday the 13th tomorrow.
A black cat just leapt in my path.
I'm not superstitious, but this might
explain why I'm failing in math.

By chance I walked under a ladder
a teacher had placed by the wall.
In class my umbrella popped open,
and that's why I tripped in the hall.

The salt spilled this morning at breakfast.
While walking I stepped on a crack.
I took off my shoes on the table.
It looks like my future is black.

This evening I busted a mirror
which means that the next seven years
are due to be filled with misfortune,
catastrophes, mishaps and tears.

With all the bad luck I'm confronting,
it seems that I'm probably cursed.
It may be the 13th tomorrow.
But Thursday the 12th is the worst.
--Kenn Nesbitt (student)

When I was a child, the adults in my family would quote all of the common superstitions. I decided that I would not pass the superstitions along to my children as I did not believe them. This week I was driving and a black cat ran across the street in front of me, my immediate reaction was "Oh no, bad luck." Why, if I don't believe it can that thought still be in my subconscious ?

Common superstitions can be described as beliefs that have no rational basis. Some superstitions may be just for fun while others may affect you deeply enough to affect your choices in life. None of them are based in fact, but many have roots deep in tradition and history. Most of us probably don't even know why we give a little shudder when we see a Friday the 13th looming on the calendar.

Many of our common superstitions come with a colorful history or story that may date back centuries. If you would like to know why you shouldn't walk under a ladder or whether a black cat is really a creature to avoid, read on for the best list of common superstitions that are still a part of our culture and where they came from.

1. Friday the 13th – Bad Luck
A fear of the number 13 is one of the most common superstitions around, and is so that many apartments and hotels omit the 13th floor and some airlines fly without a 13th row. The most popular thought on the origin of this superstition is that Judas was the 13th guest at the Last Supper and that Christ was crucified on a Friday.

2. Itchy Palm – Good Luck
There seems to be a lot of variations on this superstition, but the idea of having an itchy palm generally refers to someone who is greedy or has an insatiable desire for money.

3. Walking under a Ladder – Bad Luck
It's common sense to avoid walking under an open ladder for fear of something falling on you, but there are superstitious reasons for doing so as well. Consider the shape of an open ladder; a triangle that signifies life to some. When you walk though the triangle, you are tempting the fates.

4. Breaking a Mirror – Bad Luck
Most will tell you that the agreed upon time span for bad luck is 7 years. 7 years is also how long it takes to fully rejuvenate the entire physical body.
Since a mirror was thought to be a reflection of the soul, breaking a mirror was harmful to the soul. To counter the ill effects, you can take the mirror outside and bury it in the moonlight.

5. Finding a Horseshoe – Good Luck
Some people believe that this is the luckiest of all symbols, especially if it is found with the open end pointing toward you.

6. Opening an Umbrella Inside – Bad Luck
Umbrellas that shade us from the deified sun are considered magical. When the umbrella is opened inside and out of the way of sun's rays it offends the sun god. It may even signify impending death or ill fortune for both the person who opened it and the people who live within the home.

7. Knock Twice on Wood – Reverses Bad Luck
The origin of this common superstition dates back to a time when some cultures believed that gods lived in trees. When one would ask for a favor from these gods, he would lightly touch the bark of the tree. To say thank you after the favor had been granted, he would knock lightly one more time.

8. Tossing Spilled Salt over your left Shoulder – Good Luck
Salt has always been considered a valuable substance capable of purifying and warding off evil spirits. By tossing spilled salt over your left shoulder, you are driving away the evil spirits lurking with the intent to cause misfortune.

9. Black Cats – Bad Luck
This is a tough one for cat lovers to swallow, but in the Middle Ages it was thought that witches kept black cats as companions. Some people even believed that these kitties could turn into witches or demons after 7 years.

10. Saying "God Bless You" – Good Luck
Blessing someone after he sneezes is actually a common superstition. In the 6th century, people were congratulated for sneezing because it was thought they were expelling evil spirits. Early Romans believed that a good sneeze could release your soul into the world, and a "bless you" would keep it safe.


How Superstitious Are You?
Do you take great care with mirror glass? Would you never even dream of walking under a ladder? Well, aside from seeming eccentric in your avoidance of some pretty harmless things, you're also probably very superstitious. Though some people take certain age old beliefs as seriously as they do the law, there are varying degrees of superstition.

A few other familiar examples:

-The number 13 is "unlucky" and the numbers 7 and 9 are "lucky."
-It will bring you bad luck if you step on the cracks in a sidewalk.
-Finding a four-leaved clover will be a boon to your fortune.
-Triskaidekaphobia [tris-kahy-dek-uh-foh-bee-uh] is the fear of the number 13.
-Paraskevidekatriaphobics — people afflicted with a morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th

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My children have never heard me repeat a superstition to them as I wanted to break the cycle of believing in them. As I write this I wonder if I was successful - I'm guessing that they heard them from other sources anyway. That's how superstitions work!