Friend and Foe

IMG_1596You’ve been here for ages,
Your rages and seduction shared in pages of time.

Rains falling with vengeance,
Increasing the strains on your banks
Along with the pains of change.

Your dark churning water races,
Removing traces of life, love, joy,
Leaving spaces disgracing your allure.

Our brains can’t fathom your destruction –
Physical, emotional,
Individual, communal,
Economical, spiritual.
Hope tied to rejuvenation,
Searching for safety, sanity and

Seized by force or filled with delight – the Jekyll and Hyde of our Current River.

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This was written for my Close to Home column that appears in the local weekly, The Prospect-News,  in Doniphan, MO.

We might be doing it all wrong, being so serious and grown up, fragmenting our lives into family time, work time, play time. Perhaps we think of play as frivolous, unnecessary and unaffordable, feeling immature and irresponsible if we plan for a bit of it in our busy schedules.

The reality is we ALL need MORE play, adults and kiddos alike, as part of everyday routines.
And now the brain can be studied when in a state of play; nothing lights it up more!

But, no, that does not mean putting us in designated spaces and demanding us to play for an allotted time. Nothing dampens fun like being ordered to have it.

Play enhances learning, creates better problem solvers and wears many disguises. Watch mammas and daddies with a newborn. Social play starts then, with eye contact, funny faces, silly noises and lots of smiles. Body play loosens up the nerves and neurons; running, jumping, swinging are timeless activities. Pre-schoolers master rough-and-tumble play early. Too much walking in single file, not talking or touching, would have negative effects.

Imaginative play is a great tool to create positive family interactions and promote healthy fantasy. A child figuring out that just maybe Santa Claus is not real will exercise his brain in ways similar to that of a scientist looking for Alzheimer’s treatments or solutions to global warming by debating the possible versus the impossible.

Storytelling connects us. Some of my favorites are based around family Christmases- candlelight dinners, church cantatas, live Nativity settings, visits to Santa – as a kid and later with mine – drives to see the lights, magical snows, school performances on those scary risers, caroling, sneaking into Grandma’s candy stored in the unheated bedroom and listening to all the laughter.

Spectator/ritual play is part of our lives, too. Consider the Cubs fans; they are not moving on from their fun too quickly, relishing it while they can. Many of us prepare special foods just at this time of year, pull out the old LP’s to listen to family favorites, watch the same TV specials annually, and hide presents to help Santa.

Play is important enough that some corporate research and development departments look at how much employee candidates may have played/worked with their hands. Graduating from elite institutions with honors is not always a valid predictor of problem-solving potential, whereas play is. It took a neuroscientist who studies the hand/brain connection and a high school auto mechanics teacher to increase interest in that link.

If we get some snow, get a little object play in with the kids; have a snowball fight, build a snowman or hop onto a sled. Mold memories with stories and laughter.

Have a blessed, playful Christmas holiday.

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Getting Ready

The persimmons have spoken in agreement with the Farmers’ Almanac and meteorologists who are watching El Nino. Snow is coming eventually, but we all know how fickle Mother Nature can be. Sometimes she waits until spring is knocking at the door before she allows winter to come out to play.

Most of us will stock up in hopes of a white Christmas. Cupboards will have several boxes of hot chocolate mix, a canister of the genuine cocoa, along with marshmallows to dress up this favorite cold weather staple. The supply of coffee and flavored creamers will be supplemented, and just in case the cold settles in the bones, we might stock up on the ingredients of hot toddies.

I will also stock up on recommended readings. Here are a few of mine.

And There Was Light, by Jacques Lusseyran, is a gripping WWII saga, a true account by the author about his personal involvement in the French Resistance. I first read of this autobiography in another reference about Lusseyran’s uncanny ability to know if a speaker was telling the truth simply by sound, a great asset during the chaos that prevailed. A great read for non-history buffs as well; It’s shorter than Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, another astounding WWII account of one airman Louis Zamperini.
If you prefer historical fiction, try All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Doerr did his homework. The factual aspects mirror the accounts in Lusseyran’s book, while giving us a unique though imagined account of personalities on both sides of the WWII conflict. I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction.

On a student’s recommendation years ago, I read a novel by Nicholas Sparks. The movie was out, but she suggested I read the book first. That was the only work by Sparks that I have read until recently, when I grabbed True Believer off the library shelf. Skimming the jacket I could tell it would involve a journalist, paranormal activity associated with a cemetery, small town hoopla, the Outer Banks, and of course, a romantic plot twist. The plus for me was that it did not require a box of Kleenex to read.

The Outer Banks appears as the setting for The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate, an inspirational author who does not back down from the realities of society in her fiction. The main character promises herself to kick a pill habit, struggles to raise two kids as a single mom, deals with the haunts of a broken marriage, seeks solace in the not-always-serene sea, sand and sun in the Outer Banks. I will read others by Wingate.

Some of my friends young and old are into reading a series. I gave it a try with the four by Lois Lowry. It was surprising to find them in the adolescent section at the bookstore. I purchased the set one by one because of the waiting list at the library. When I finished one, I hated the wait for the next. The titles in the series are The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son. This series is classified as social science fiction. A sci-fi fan I am not, but I devoured these four novels.

For intriguing who-dun-it mysteries set right here in Southeast Missouri, try the books by author duo Bill Hopkins and Sharon Woods Hopkins. Retired judge Bill has penned Courting Murder, River Mourn, Bloody Earth, and Unfinished Grave. His expertise guides Judge Rosswell Carew in his compelling drive for justice. Sharon Woods Hopkins also uses Southeast Missouri as the setting for her main character Rhetta’s insightful, obstinate pursuit of truth in her novels Killerwatt, Killerfind, Killer Trust and Killer Ground. As a plus, she patterned Rhetta’s sidekick after a co-worker and Doniphan native, Baxter Hoover.

This first appeared in the Dec. 8th, 2015 issue of the Prospect-News, the local weekly paper.

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One of Those Days


With pen in hand I’m on the brink,
But for some strange reason
My mind’s gears won’t clink.
Today’s motivation can find no link
To words in the air as my heart starts to sink.
No words are coming: this column will stink.

To conjure the Muses I wink and I blink,
But somewhere there smiles a big fat fink
Keeping all the words in an invisible rink,
Guarding them as though a fabulous mink.

Perhaps I need an ice cold drink
To down all my vitamins loaded with zinc.
Then my pen will race into the pink!
But alas! It’s just too darn hot to think!

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Then and Now

This was written for my Close to Home column in our town’s  local weekly paper, The Prospect-News, in October, 2016.

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter away from the human face.” Victor Hugo

Few of us would debate the idea that laughter is good for us, even if the sources behind it might not be considered so. 94-year-old Norman Lear, the brilliance behind once edgy TV programs like All in the Family, freely offers additional longevity tips when asked.

Lear proposed that two words could join laughter as the secret of his long life: over and next.

“When something is over, it’s over…And we are on to next’…And if there were a hammock in the middle between ‘over’ and ‘next’ that would be what is meant by living in the moment.”

Who wants to waste the now stewing over the past or fretting over the future? The precious joyful moments in our present can be so easily overlooked if we aren’t gently rocking in the hammocks of our minds making the effort to notice them.

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.” Virginia Satir

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Winter and Guests

That time of year is once again here.
It strikes strange chords of insanity and fear.
What makes us mad
And what makes us sad?
Thinking will for sure pull up a tear.

First and foremost we consider our weight.
Certainly we’ll decide it’s something to hate
As we reach for the candy
And chips always handy.
We will start that diet before it’s too late.

Next, thoughts about shape really confound us;
We seem to have lost it as the pounds surround us!
Want a smaller size
Without jiggly thighs,
But is all that exercise way beyond us?

Then, should the current trendy hairstyle go?
Or will cutting and coloring cause too much woe?
Do we want bangs?
Do we forget about change?
Oh why can we not just be like J.Lo?

When did we get so adept at cluttering?
It’s a troublesome source of mindless muttering.
What do we toss
And consider a loss?
Excuses lead only to endless stuttering.

Downsizing in body, space, and stuff –
We really do have more than enough –
Would save us dollars!
We’d jump and holler!
Considering to change, though, is super tough.

So at this time of stoic resolution
Let’s halt the impending revolution.
Become a mess
On the way to success
Or delegate change to chance and evolution?

At any rate, 2016 is running out,
Either we’ll diet or we’ll choose to stay stout.
Welcome 2017
Lumpy or lean.
Loving, laughing, learning is what life’s all about.


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What’s the World Coming To?

Fake fur used to be all the rage, as long as one knew it was faux and didn’t pay the ‘real’ fur price for it. Undoubtedly critters applauded from their dens and woodlands – happy for the fashionistas and vice-versa.

Fake fur is one thing, but these days we seem to be in the midst of a ‘faux’ epidemic with no vaccine on the horizon.

Fake news. Used to be one trusted every word, be it print or broadcast. Then there came a time when we had to be wary of omissions creating partial truths that could slant news to serve a specific group, and thiose groups were usually after consumer dollars, not votes.

Fake chicken, oh my! If my grilled chicken sandwich is only half chicken, what is the other half?! YUCK! I eat only all-beef franks now, but can I trust that the beef is beef in my hot dogs? Aren’t those real cows?

Fake perfumes. Not a problem, if it helps me and the folks around me smell better at an affordable price, though nothing beats the clean smell from good ol’ soap and water. Unless…that IS soap in that bar, right?

Fake sunlight. It can lift a droopy mood from weeks of winter dreariness. That’s a good thing. Or it can give you a fake tan that mars your skin years later. That’s not a good thing.

Fake sugar. That stuff can kill you, or make you wish you were dead. Too much of the real deal has its downside, too. So we go organic. Hey, can’t sugar cane be grown organically? Unsweet tea, please, no lemon, unless it’s washed with ‘real’ soap before it hits my glass.

Then there are name changes that are game-changers. High fructose corn syrup has a bad rap sheet, so there is talk to change what it’s called on labels. High fructose corn syrup will taste as sweet – and still clog your arteries – no matter what it’s called. Buyer beware.

So, okay, live off the grid, make your own news, subscribe to Mother Earth publications, forage the woods for edibles and grow your own food. Wait. These are ‘real’ seeds, right? They will grow ‘real’ food that won’t damage my DNA?! You’re sure?

What’s a body to do?

…Oh, yes. This is me. I used a spray tanner. Haven’t been to the beach ever…No, this is the color my hair USED to be…Thank you! I FEEL 40. A little Botox here and there, and it’s so affordable now…You noticed! A bit of spandex and those implants make me feel so much more like myself.

What’s this real world coming to?

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