Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou saved my life

Maya Angelou saved my life

Maya Angelou saved my life

Posted: 28 May 2014 09:07 AM PDT

Dr. Maya Angelou was greatness personified. I hope the words I speak in this video and the poem I share below help to convey what this woman meant for me and so many others.

This is a love letter
From a poetic son,
To mother of poetry for the human spirit
From South Africa,
To far away places like Southeast Arkanasia
Your words of wisdom touch all humanity,
From a lover of literacy like Oprah,
To a freedom fighter like Nelson Mandela
In a time where fightin' was natural,
You reminded us to never forget
That we are a human family
From the prisoner to the pusher to the poor girl,
Your prose and poetry puts all people on a parallel podium
From the aspiring junkie and the melancholy men,
To a man bigot and the phenomenal woman
You make us run the gamut
From tears of personal pleasure and pain,
To a manageable mourning grace
It's no accident that you have become our mothering blackness,
Nurturing a society suffering from the sickness of senses of insecurity
You write for us,
Who dare not dare to challenge the status quo
And you champion the cause of equality,
Only making ignorance feel insignificant
With you Maya, we saw beyond our seeming
And dreamed beyond our dreaming,
And, in retrospect,
You helped me have the prescience to also promote healing
Oh, Maya Angelou,
Maya Angelou,
May-a-angel-o-u all the blessings in heaven
That you bestow on the often heavy heart of humanity
Avec merci, Mother Maya for your vision,
And being willing to take time out to help us all be free,
And for helping me realize that when I think about myself,
It ain't that bad to me.

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I was Maya

Posted: 28 May 2014 08:41 AM PDT

The first time I read "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", I felt like I had a friend who could relate to my life. There were so many times in my life when i needed an encouraging word, and I found it in Maya's poems, stories, interviews, and books. I am sad, but I am also driven. I want to encourage other people the way Maya Angelou encouraged me. I want to fill some little girl's heart with hope, the way she filled mine.

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Meeting Maya Angelou

Posted: 28 May 2014 08:10 AM PDT

this is a sample of the story of me meeting my favorite poet MS. Maya Angelou

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My tribute to Maya Angelou

Posted: 28 May 2014 08:08 AM PDT

A painting by me that was inspired by Maya Angelou s'


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The Day I Fell In Love With Maya Angelou

Posted: 28 May 2014 07:58 AM PDT

Many years ago, when Oprah Winfrey was a host on the People Are Talking Show with Richard Sher in Baltimore, MD. I was watching the show the morning she first met and interviewed Maya Angelou. I had never heard of Maya Angelou before that morning. I fell in love with her that day and when I read "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" I felt like I knew her. How can you not fall in love with her. I have read and own many of her books and books on tape. I love to hear her tell her stories.
I had the opportunity to talk to Richard Sher a few months ago and I told him how I was introduced to her on his and Oprah's morning show years ago. I shared with him that I used to fantasize that if Oprah ever granted a wish for me, it would be to meet Maya Angelou. Mr. Sher passed this on to Oprah and she sent a message to me via email through him.
I am so grateful to him for sharing my admiration of Maya Angelou with Oprah.
I feel like I am one of Maya Angelou's daughters.
One of my favorite quotes is
"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
I will never forget how Maya Angelou made me feel.

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The great maya angelou

Posted: 28 May 2014 07:21 AM PDT

Clay Gonzalez

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Azerbaijan marks Day of Republic.

Posted: 28 May 2014 03:58 AM PDT

In a sad chapter of its long history Azerbaijan was for all intents and purposes akin to a colony of Russia for a number of years.

Still, the Azerbaijani people never gave up and continued to struggle for freedom and independence.

The 20th century became known in history not only as the age of science and technology but also as the age of liberation from colonization and the establishment of national states.

The 1917 Russian Revolution put an end to the rule of the Romanovs and the saw the collapse of the Russian Empire. Shortly thereafter, on May 28, 1918, patriotic leaders in Azerbaijan founded the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan.

The Day of the Republic - the day of regaining state independence has been celebrated as a state holiday since 1990.

Photo by Aziz Karimov

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River Otters

Posted: 27 May 2014 06:55 PM PDT

While vacationing. In Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming we were driving through Hayden Valley when we saw something along the river bank. After getting out of the car and getting a closer look we realized that we were watching a family of river otters playing. The otters never paid any attention to us as we took photos. What a great experience.

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Appalachian Struggles: A Tunnel Runs Through It

Posted: 27 May 2014 03:14 PM PDT

DINGESS, West Virginia — Hidden deep within the coal filled Appalachian Mountains of Southern West Virginia rests a forgotten land that is older than time itself. Its valleys are deep, its waters polluted and its terrain is as rough as the rugged men and women who have occupied these centuries old plats for thousands of years.

Referred to by neighboring communities as "Bloody Mingo," the people of this West Virginia county have both commanded the respect and fear of anyone wishing to cross them, or their mountainous borders.

Despite the rich resources buried beneath their feet, the proud and strong inhabitants of this haunted land have seen neither fortune nor rest. Dating back to the days their ancestors first crossed into this intrepid territory, nearly three hundred years ago, life has been cruel.

I know all of this to be true, because I was born in this bitter region four decades ago.

Three days following my birth, my mother and father made the same passage my dad's parents had taken only a handful of years earlier; a journey over Logan Mountain and back to the same parcel of ground owned by the Farley family for centuries.

The passage home included a drive through a one lane train tunnel nearly 4/5 of a mile long.

Still the primary entrance into Dingess, West Virginia, the story of this tunnel dates back nearly a century and a half ago, back to an era when coal was still king in the West Virginia mountains.

For generations, the people of what is now Mingo County, West Virginia, had lived quiet and peaceable lives, enjoying the fruits of the land, living secluded within the tall and unforgiving mountains surrounding them.

All of this changed, however, with the industrial revolution, as the demand for coal soared to record highs.

Soon outside capital began flowing into "Bloody Mingo" and within a decade railroads had linked the previously isolated communities of southern West Virginia to the outside world.

The most notorious of these new railways was Norfolk & Western's line between Lenore and Wayne County – a railroad that split through the hazardous and lawless region known as "Twelve Pole Creek."

At the heart of Twelve Pole Creek, railroad workers forged a 3,300 foot long railroad tunnel just south of the community of Dingess.

As new mines began to open, destitute families poured into Mingo County in search of labor in the coal mines. Among the population of workers were large numbers of both African-Americans and Chinese emigrants.

Despising outsiders, and particularly the thought of dark skinned people moving into what had long been viewed as a region exclusively all their own, a handful of the residents of Dingess, West Virginia, are said to have hid along the hillsides just outside of the tunnel's entrance, shooting any dark skinned travelers riding aboard the train.

Though no official numbers were ever kept, it has been estimated that hundreds of black and Chinese workers were killed at the entrance and exit of this tunnel.

Norfolk & Western soon afterward abandonment the Twelve Pole line. Within months two forces of workmen began removing the tracks, ties, and accessory facilities.

Soon, silence reigned in the rugged mountains overlooking the area. Gone were the whistles of locomotives and the rumble of cars. Nothing but a long and winding bed of cinders, decayed ties and several steel bridges remained.

For decades the skeletal remains of Norfolk & Western's failed railway line stood as a silent testimony to the region's ghostly ways.

In the early 1960's, however, the resourceful men of the mountains commandeered the former railroad line and built upon its beds a road for motorists to travel upon.

Unfortunately, residents of this impoverished region failed to secure funding from the state's legislature to improve the tunnel and bridges, thus today – over half a century later – residents of this community are forced to drive atop countless one lane train bridges and through a one lane tunnel nearly a mile long.

To the residents of this community, such a drive is just another part of their daily routine, however, for visitors, the notion of driving through a 3,300' one lane tunnel is both a cause for photography and dread.

The Dingess Tunnel stands as yet another testament of how life in Appalachia - even in the twenty-first century - continues to be a struggle; an unseen struggle that seems to have been forgotten by mainstream American culture.

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Lessons from a Roller-Coaster-Riding Cancer Survivor

Posted: 27 May 2014 10:07 AM PDT

Carolyn Choate, Nashua, New Hampshire


Lessons from a Roller-Coaster-Riding Cancer Survivor

Who's winning the war on cancer? I am. Well, me and about 14 million other survivors living in the U.S. today according to the American Cancer Society. For the record, on the upcoming 27th Annual National Cancer Survivors Day on June 1, I'm celebrating my 11th "cancer-versary" from a near-death diagnosis that no amount of "preparedness" could really prepare me for. Still, I hope some of the lessons I learned during my cancer journey may be life-saving to others.

At the time, I thought I knew and did enough to stay well ahead of the cancer curve. Despite regular self-exams and mammograms from the age of 40, no family history, an organic diet, maintaining an environmentally friendly household, and breast feeding my daughters long term, fact is, I really didn't know just how conniving cancer is. (Lesson #1: Even under the best of circumstances, no one is immune from cancer.)

But in 2003, three months after I passed my annual mammogram at 45 with flying colors, I noticed that the areola of my right breast had changed, felt abnormal. It was thick and leathery while the areola of the left breast was supple and smooth. I knew something was wrong and called my PCP right away. (Lesson #2 & #3: Go with your gut and, don't wait because timing is so important when treating cancer.)

Another mammogram and an ultrasound came up empty but I still wasn't convinced. My doctor, whom I had chosen to begin with because of his well-regarded medical reputation and because he valued his patient's participation in the process, respected my growing frustration and referred me to a surgeon for more thorough discussion and testing options. The surgeon was stumped. I remained adamant. (Lesson #4: Insist on participating in decisions about your own health care; don't settle for less.)

With exploratory surgery largely gone the way of the dinosaur, he suggested I have several "punch biopsies" around the areola. It wasn't pretty. Imagine taking the eraser out of the metal casing of a No. 2 pencil, its edge razor sharp, and literally burrowing it into flesh much like a cheese connoisseur uses a trier to sample aged cheese. The bad news: it hurt. The good news: so what? They found the cancer. (Lesson #5: While testing can be painful and scary the alternative can be much worse so always opt for a biopsy if given the opportunity.)

One week later this mildly neurotic but otherwise happy, seemingly healthy, fully employed wife, mother to two young daughters, and part-time graduate student, had a radical mastectomy of her right breast – without reconstruction – and a standard lymph node dissection, under the arm pit, to determine if the cancer was localized or if it had spread. The pathology report that followed stunned everyone on my medical team:


Stage 3b estrogen positive, HER-2 negative breast cancer with four lymph nodes involved. (Estrogen was the fuel, if you will, that fed the engine of my particular type of cancer.) Treatment: aggressive chemotherapy, followed by radiation, followed by oral anti-cancer meds. Prognosis: three years maybe. I was paralyzed with shock. (Lesson #6: if positively diagnosed, get a copy of your pathology report and become familiar with your type of cancer and treatment options as an informed patient is better equipped to advocate for him/herself. Lesson #7: Don't do as I did and let yourself become victimized by your prognosis no matter bad it seems.)

As it turned out, intuition was my saving grace. The tumor, the size of a golf ball, had taken up residence for God knows how long against my chest wall, its tentacles maniacally extending in the opposite direction, out my areola. In all likelihood, if undetected for much longer, the cancer would have metastasized or spread to my lungs, my brain, or to my bones. As hard as it was to hear I had Stage 3 cancer, Stage 4 would have been far worse.

Clearly, I was absent the day the teacher told the class something like 15% of breast tumors don't show up on mammograms. Thankfully, over a decade later, cancer diagnostic imaging and technology in general is much improved, detecting ever smaller tumors. In the case of breast cancer screening, for example, some hospitals have cited a detection increase of as much as a 38% using newer 3D Tomosynthesis mammograms over older mammogram technology. (Lesson #8: To my knowledge, no cancer screening test or technology is 100% accurate but that shouldn't be an excuse not to take them or retake them if needed.)

Of course, there's lots more to tell about my roller coaster ride with cancer. But I'm far from the only one to walk away from the surreal carnival alive. After the initial shock of diagnosis wore off, I became angry that my cancer took so long to find. Years, perhaps? That phase was quickly followed by one of abject helplessness as I ticked off the days I thought I had left; exacerbated by the "sick as a dog" period during chemotherapy, not to mention the emotional devastation my husband and daughters experienced seeing me in that state, bald and emaciated.

Slowly but surely, I began the steady climb out of that deep crevasse and with it came a new found sense of fight and grit in spite of numerous and terrifying complications due to chemotherapy. All my fingernails and toenails turned black and fell off. My tear ducts spouted like Niagara Falls 24/7 for years. I had my ovaries removed to reduce my body's estrogen production which plunged me into menopause overnight. One month after surgery, I began taking an aromatase inhibitor for five years, a revolutionary class of drugs developed by Dr. Angela Brodie at the University of Maryland that neutralizes estrogen in the body. I'm convinced this drug was key to my survival as well as perhaps millions of other women. (Lesson #9: The adage, "one day at a time," truly describes the life of a cancer survivor; sometimes you really don't know how you're going to get through another day but you do.)

One year passed and all my scans were clean. In 2005, not only did I feel strong enough to return to graduate school, I doubled my course load so I could complete my Master's Degree in 2006 before my so-called three year "expiration date." That goal -and seeing my daughters graduate high school - kept me focused. And so very hopeful. (Lesson #10: Hope, I have learned, comes from within; you needn't depend on others for it.)

Years four through 11 – 2007 to 2014 - have been the most precious years of all; the years I took for granted before cancer but never thought I'd enjoy after diagnosis. Birthdays, family vacations, college graduations, gardening, that puppy I always wanted, my first triathlon, our 25th anniversary in Tuscany . . .


In 2012, I opted for a prophylactic mastectomy of my remaining breast, again, without reconstruction and with the total love and support of my husband. Far from seeing it like the tragic circumstance of 2003, I was excited for the wonderful, life-changing, life-affirming opportunity it offered. To live free from the worries of recurrence in a body I've come to believe in, appreciate, respect, and challenge. I love the way I look and feel. (Lesson #11: If you're like me, you won't trade the lessons you'll learn surviving cancer for anything in the world.)

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Navy Brother Surprises Sister at Graduation

Posted: 27 May 2014 09:22 AM PDT

Robyn Cornejo saw something she did not expect when she walked off the stage at her high school graduation.
Her brother, a U.S. Navy flight engineer Daniel Cornejo, was there to surprise her.
The two have not seen each other in more than one year.
After some hugs during the unexpected reunion, Robyn and Daniel made it to their seats.
"I'm in shock right now," said Robyn. "My graduation wish was for him to be here. To watch me, to be here, to experience it with me."
Robyn's father requested and received special permission from Deer Valley High School officials for Daniel to hide behind stage so he could surprise his sister during the ceremony Friday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Robyn's father said she excelled academically in high school. She attained the Presidential Scholarship and has been involved in the dual enrollment college program for two years.
Daniel has been in the U.S. Navy for ten years. He has orders to deploy again next month.

All the siblings (except the older brother) we surprised at the same time Robyn was. They sat in the stands cheering for their sister, when all of a sudden they see a sailor offer to escort her down the stage stairs. They processed the action quickly and immediately broke out with tears of joy. Parents, Dave & Ruby could hardly keep their planned surprise within. What a great joy.

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Tiananmen’s Wang Dan to Beijing: Democracy, or die

Posted: 27 May 2014 06:50 AM PDT

Tiananmen's Wang Dan to Beijing: Democracy, or die

By Neal Moore (CNN iReport)

Twenty-five years ago, in early June 1989, as the People's Liberation Army's tanks began to roll and automatic weapons fire rang out, the international media, gathered in Beijing to cover a visit by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev for a rare Sino-Soviet summit, found themselves in the midst of a different story.

The crackdown on civilian and student protestors at Tiananmen Square, also known as the June 4 Massacre, would leave hundreds, if not thousands dead. The government's response against unarmed activists was beyond brutal, and it played out on television screens and newspaper front pages worldwide.

Twenty-five years later, on June 4, 2014, the world will pause to remember.

Wang Dan was the most visible leader of the Tiananmen Square protest. You might remember him. He was the one with the big glasses, slight build, and the bullhorn. After the massacre, Wang was No. 1 on the Chinese government's "most wanted" student list. He was captured, and served four years in jail before going into exile – first in America, where he earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, and then to Taiwan, where he has taught cross-strait history at National Chengchi University and National Tsing Hua University.

I caught up with Wang Dan via an email interview, and asked, in light of the 25th anniversary, if he could remind people of the message he was trying to deliver to the Chinese Communist Party at Tiananmen Square.

"We had two appeals," Wang told me. "No. 1: Dialogue directly with the government, and No. 2: To modify the April 26 editorial of the People's Daily."

The April 26 editorial, titled "The Necessity for a Clear Stand Against Turmoil," was broadcast on national radio and television in China, and appeared on the front page of the People's Daily, a Beijing-based mouthpiece of the Communist Party. The editorial, penned by deputy chief of propaganda Zeng Jianhui on behalf of paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, deemed the protestors part of "a well-planned plot … to confuse the people and throw the country into turmoil." The piece effectively changed the party's attitude toward the protestors, based on misinformation. The students had not called on the government to step down, as alleged in Jianhui's editorial, but for a dialogue of reform and openness first initiated by Deng in 1978.

Tiananmen Square remains a pivotal, game-changing event in the history of modern-day China. Although the students lost their bid for freedom, their argument for a voice carried weight with the rest of the world, and shaped how the world would view China, as well as themselves, in the foreseeable future.

In retrospect, 25 years later, I asked Wang what lessons he believes China, and the world, have taken away from the Tiananmen Square protest?

"The world needs to believe that from 1989, even Chinese people look forward to democratization," he explained. "Anytime they think they have a chance, like in 1989, they will not hesitate to stand up."

In 2011, protestors on the streets of 13 major Chinese cities did just that in the form of loosely synchronized demonstrations dubbed the "Jasmine Revolution" – the first sizeable, coordinated protests in China since Tiananmen Square. At the height of this dissent, in late February 2011, I interviewed Tiananmen Square protest leader Wu'er Kaixi – – who told me more about the short-lived "revolution."

"The brave Arabic people in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya – they have reminded Chinese people, shocked Chinese people, encouraged Chinese people," Wu'er Kaixi said. "And that has a strong impact. That is one of the main reasons why the Jasmine operation took place in China. … It triggered a chain reaction. It's coming back to China."

And so the world watches and waits. Will China enter into a dialogue of openness suggested by Deng Xiaoping in 1978? Will it carry out "political restructuring" as promised by Wen Jiabao at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010? Or will it stay the course and straddle what some observers refer to as a Leninism-plus-Consumerism strategy?

According to Wang Dan, the choice is simple. My final question was what he would like to say to the leadership in Beijing today.

"Think about the party's future," Wang replied. "There will be only two choices: Democracy, or die."

This interview was conducted by Neal Moore exclusively for CNN iReport. Photo courtesy Wang Dan.

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Twins at any age

Posted: 26 May 2014 07:59 PM PDT

My mom always dressed my sister and me alike-even though she was six and a half years older! This is only part of my family there is an older brother and a middle sister who never seemed to be around during picture time! We were four girls sharing one bedroom and a family of seven sharing one bathroom. I don't think that would go over very well today, but I loved growing up in a full house! It definitely shaped my sense of humor and my patience-especially when standing in line at the ladies room!

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