Presence of Mind

“If only I’d had the presence of mind to” obviously enters my thoughts when it is too late to do or say what would have been an appropriate response to a situation at hand. Usually it’s a string of words to undermine or belittle me or my efforts – one of those smarmy statements intended to release its true meaning at the same rate the speaker makes an exit.

But what’s a clever comeback without an audience? I don’t know the proper translation of the twitches of my cat’s ears when he hears my delayed retorts. Is he saying, “Well, if you want a punch in the nose, say that. Go ahead.” Or does he mean, “You wanna sound like a bloomin’ idiot?” Or maybe he is thinking, “They’ll haul you away for that one. What will they think of you?”

I have always been slow thinking of sarcastic cuts, till lately. When I was younger,  that filter, “What will they think of you?” created a maze my thoughts worked through before they found the words they needed. As I get…more experienced….I care less about that than once upon a time. I have the words quickly now, to undermine and belittle at the same intensity I feel either, but the difference is that now I DO care what I think about myself.

Now I pat myself on the back for thinking of an equally potent comment, and then pat myself again for ‘having the presence of mind’ to keep my mouth shut. But a dilemma looms. I recently read that Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the brink of creating a way for my devices with internet access to cue in to my thoughts – when I talk to myself – to get information from that device. AI ALREADY seems to ‘listen’ more than it should…seeming to make more prevalent additional info about topics I have been thinking about and researching, predicting need based on my habits. So soon it won’t need to see my search history. AI will just listen to the voices in my head.

How long will it be before AI listens to the voices in my head and responds to the voices in yours? Will my mind  be present at all? 

“Be silent and be thought a fool, but speak your mind and remove all doubt.” Do we stop AI, if that’s even possible, or do we applaud its advances? Does it matter? Are we fools regardless?

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Becoming My Mom

Headlines circulate that moms become THEIR moms around the age of 33. Since I am now a grandmother and way beyond that magical age, I have reflected on my life at that time of supposed transition from myself to my mother. At 33, I had a seven-year old son, was returning to teaching after working as a payroll clerk in a brake lever factory following eight years in the classroom, was divorced and returning to the town where my parents lived.

At 33, my mom had three kids, worked sporadically in a shoe factory in St. Louis and was living about four hours away from her parents. She would have said she was nothing like her mother, though she would have quickly quipped that her first-born daughter (me) had that covered. I even have the fair skin and reddish hair coloring of my maternal grandmother Ardieth Turpin Bizzell. Mom was a brunette with olive skin.

Being born in the midst of the Great Depression did not mean mom hung on to anything. I do. We both graduated from high school at 16. She went to work and married at 18. I married after college. She wanted to be a teacher. I lived that dream for her while she worked as a bank teller. She could sew and embroider, can and freeze summer bounties, and always had a spotless house. All beyond my skill set. Mom was a classy dresser, preferring muted colors and suits. Not that I can’t be a lady, but I grew up in the hippy era. Give me bright colors and comfortable fits, and I love my boots. Did mom even have any except the galoshes she wore over her shoes? She could indicate to me and my siblings that we were in big trouble just by raising one eyebrow. I never mastered that technique so good thing my son seldom needed corralling in that manner.

Mom loved flowers, especially coleuses and hollyhocks, and all sorts of wildflowers. Similarities shine here. Our city flowerbeds were lined with her favorites, but with all the oak tree shade in her eventual country residence, she preferred the haphazard looks of all the wildflowers she could name as they appeared each spring. I tend to those now, and get the same pleasure in discovering them each year. 

When I visit my younger sister, I am struck by the familiar expressions I see on her face and mine as we laugh and reminisce. Perhaps growing up in an era when one bathroom per residence was the norm explains the way my sis and I both apply makeup as our mother did, even using some of the same products. Mom will sometimes wink back at me when I am trying to get my lipstick on just so.

My voice is a clear connection. I hear mom, sometimes in exasperation, sometimes in surprise or happiness, sometimes in a hello or goodbye, sometimes in conversations with my son, sometimes in a “Well, I’ll be,” that I recall mom saying. She grew up in the Bootheel, with Appalachian ancestry perhaps to explain other countrified expressions that come out of my mouth from seemingly nowhere.

At 33 I might have rolled my eyes at being compared to Ruth Evelyn Bizzell Pearson, but not now. Miss you, mom. Wish you were here. Maybe you are.

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Pedal Pushers, Popsicles and Swimming Pools

Even though this week’s weather is rather cool, 

Thoughts are of pedal pushers, popsicles and swimming pools. 

Summer had arrived; there was no more school,

Our backyard barbecues were reason to drool.

Bowls of cereal then out the door,

We had games to play and runs to score.

Long hilly bike rides made muscles sore,

But didn’t matter – next day we’d do more.

Little square pools with corner seats, 

So refreshing in the city’s summer heat.

The Bom Pop Man offered a chilly treat, 

We’d race to catch him down the street.

Sun-up till street lights we were on the run,

Playing and laughing and soaking up sun.

Even sitting on the curb was lots of fun

While winding down when day was done.

Constant contact with mud and grass

Meant for sure I had one dirty -*-*-

The pedal pushers on this tomboy lass

Could always be washed so Mom gave me no sass. 

I own a pair of pedal pushers or two,

When I put them on, no way to feel blue.

I make my own popsicles without sugary goo,

But swim in a pool? Not in anyone’s view. 

As I ponder while waiting for summer,

(Give me a break here) it still can be funner

If one doesn’t think old. What a bummer! 

As a boomer I have to play smarter, not dumber. 

There’s still time to create more memories,

To travel and frolic however I please. 

I’ll be extra careful with these precious knees

And watch not to eat way too much cheese. 

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Some Rain Will Fall

“Into each life some rain must fall” is a line I grew up hearing, then repeating, then thinking about now and then so I searched for its origin. It is a song title repeated throughout lyrics penned by Allan Roberts and Doris Fisher and popularized by singer Ella Fitzgerald. That is my connection. Mom played the radio often so I am sure I heard it frequently in my early youth at naptime and later from records on the stereo. 

“Into each and every life some rain has got to fall.” We can’t escape periods of sadness and despair. There are times when we wonder “too much is falling in mine” or in the lives of friends and neighbors. 

“But when I think of you, another shower starts” exemplifies remembering a loss or a tragedy. If we didn’t love deeply, we wouldn’t hurt deeply. I don’t want to ponder living without loving as a way to avoid pain. “Into each heart some tears must fall.”

“Some folks can lose the blues in their hearts.”

We must move on to experience the extraordinarily ordinary routines that bind us and encourage us to be patient for the rains to end, for “some day the sun will shine” and we will experience the joy and beauty in its brightness and warmth. 

“I know that someday the sun is bound to shine” so for now I will watch for rainbows, admire vivid redbuds and dogwoods glowing against a darkened sky, enjoy the songs that nature sings and trust in the hope the Son’s resurrection brings. 

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Singularity

Celebrate being single,

Explore chances to mingle…

In real time, face to face,

A fun event, a favorite place…

With no outcomes in mind,

Joy in the journey you’ll find.

#nprpoetry

****^^^^****^^^^****^^^^****

Be prudent, my friend. What settles in your mind

Could make wines of life bitter and wasted.

Cradle one’s choices so later you’ll find,

With grace and love, sweet joy

You have tasted.

#nprpoetry

***^^^***^^^***^^^***^^^***

You fit seamlessly;

My horizons expanding

See no end to us.

#NPRpoetry

I participated in Poetry Month via Here and Now on NPR during April 2019. It was fun reading all the entries and realizing others had read mine. Submissions had to fit into the original 140-limit.

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Life Lines

“Will it go round in circles, will it fly high like a bird up in the sky?” Do you recognize that line from a Ringo Starr melody?  To be a copycat…I got a poem ain’t got no rhyme, gonna share it with my friends. We hear often about the circle of life but our time here on this planet is full of lines from the time we go online till we go offline. 

Bloodlines relate,

Frown lines worry,

Laugh lines tickle.

Hairlines recede,

Jawlines silhouette,

Tan lines mark,

Waistlines expand or shrink.

Hemlines raise…eyebrows

As may pantylines and necklines.

Long lines annoy.

Short lines invigorate,

Invisible lines baffle,

Buried lines mystify.

Fire lines battle

To save timberlines that provide.

Baselines normalize,

Guidelines instruct,

Fast lines motivate,

Slow lines exasperate,

Beelines hasten,

Direct lines bypass,

Lifelines extend.

Fishing lines feed,

Trotlines catch,

Towlines secure,

Clotheslines remind of days gone by.

Outlines summarize,

Staff lines inspire,

Brake lines monitor.

If one redlines, the cops may materialize.

Phone lines connect,

Party lines eavesdrop,

Fiber-optic lines digitize,

Hotlines protect,

Dead lines silence.

Landlines…what are those?

Electric lines illuminate,

Gas lines empower,

Pipelines polarize,

Waterlines saturate,

Highway lines connect,

Roof lines protect,

Skylines dazzle,

Shorelines harbor

And coastlines suffer in hurricanes.

Horizontal lines lengthen,

Parallel lines conform,

Diagonal lines transform,

Jagged lines cut,

Dividing lines impede,

Vertical lines heighten,

Intersecting lines complicate,

Center lines symmetrize,

Smooth lines please

And smeared lines frustrate,

Especially on the lids of eyes.

Lines of latitude and longitude map,

Airlines soar,

Train lines crisscross,

Boundary lines mark,

Borderlines nationalize,

Front lines fight for them.

Headlines notify,

Bylines identify,

Deadlines earmark procrastinators.

Plot lines twist,

Timelines chronicle,

Datelines locate,

Flatlines memorialize.

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Scratching an Itch

“Like an itch I can’t scratch” hasn’t crossed my mind in… like… years. I have heard it and read it, but I don’t remember where. It reminds me of wise words a grandparent would share – one of those sayings that has a superficial meaning as well as a more philosophical one. 

My body is recovering from shingles. There are fading splotches my fingers can’t feel though my brain broadcasts an itchy sensation that I hope means healing is progressing. Topical treatments don’t affect this kind of itch, nor does scratching or rubbing. It can be maddening. Until I experienced this, I thought poison ivy was maddening. Nope, not close. 

Once I thought anything compared to such an itch represented a passion or a craving… like the drive an artist feels pursuing the perfect sunset or that craving for chocolate milk that compels you to get dressed in the middle of the night to go get some. Maybe it refers to something we can’t get enough of – not like an addiction but like an enthusiasm that doesn’t diminish over time. 

Do you have ‘itches you can’t scratch” that propel you forward with a sense of adventure or hope? Thinking about that took my mind off the shingles itch for a few minutes. Here are a few that popped up on my list.

   

    *Reading – I can’t imagine life without it.

    *Driving – In the country, stopping on a whim.

    *Laughing – Turn red, lose your breath kind.

    *Ice cream – My ultimate celebration treat.

     *Solitude – To recharge or do nothing.

     *Writing – Just because.

We could debate the philosophical ramifications of this adage, like the lack of discipline if an ‘itch’ controls you, or the instant gratification concept that is pervading our lives more and more, without thought of consequences. (Or, now that baseball season has kicked in, the impropriety of scratching some itches in front of a camera). That is too serious for today. Maybe later. 

PS. We ‘scratch’ an itch; we don’t ‘itch’ an itch.

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