I Love You, Life!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Life! 

   I love you as you are,

          Messy, imperfect,

Mixing laughter and joy

   With worry and strife.

***** ***** *****

You have hung around a while,

    Being awesome, teaching,

          Surprising, meddling

In my thoughts, keeping me

     On my toes, with style.

***** ****** *****

You march on with patience

     For those lessons unlearned,

          Ignored, repeated.

At times we both wonder if

     I’ve lost my sense.

***** ***** *****

I’m grateful you’re still around,

     Taking me as I am,

          Messy, imperfect,

Awed by your gifts of touch,

     Smell, taste, sight and sound.

***** ***** *****

I LOVE YOU, LIFE!

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The Joke’s on Me

Fate? Coincidence? Not sure. A random stop at Vintage Village Flea market helped me resurrect a family joke dating back to 1971. I was a freshman at Southern Baptist College roaming around in Walnut Ridge with college pals. At a sale overflowing with colorful Mexican flower pots that everyone used in macrame planters, I found a single, grand, ornate, old-world, gold-tinged maroon and white vase – about a yard tall – that I thought Mom would love! I hid it in a trash bag with my dirty clothes. Dad picked it and me up on a Friday night.

The joke was I was the ONLY one who thought Mom would like it. She did NOT, but I didn’t know that until just a few months ago, when my sister and I wondered what happened to it. My brother agreed that she HATED it, and backed it up with evidence. Apparently it was as out-of-sight as possible until I was to be around. It eventually disappeared, but no one really knows how or when.

The flea market’s backroom had a few items on display. I missed the vase on my first round, but my subconscious must have noticed. I made it almost to the front door before turning around, as in a trance, to tour the room again. There it stood in all its vintage glory, an almost exact duplicate! The damaged handle had been repaired, and the gold and white details had been painted over. It was a bargain at $10 to make my brother and sister each think I was gifting it again to them.

Their facial expressions were hilarious when recognition set in! I like to think it is THE vase I bought, that Mom found someone who did her the special favor of taking it off her hands. It looks as though it has been in a shed for a long while though someone did make the effort to fix it up, if not quite to its former glory. Wonder of wonders if it has been in the area these 50 years!

My brother eyeing the vase for the first time in YEARS!

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National Brownie Day – Dec. 8

Once in a while a conundrum pitches a tent and hangs out until I take action. Since today, December 8, is National Brownie Day, and my most recent challenge was directly related, here goes.

First of all, I don’t remember my grandmothers making brownies. They made cakes, candies, pies and puddings. So did Mom. But brownies? Seems I remember receiving them only in school cafeterias. Lunch ladies create memorable desserts of all sorts, but the brownies are among the most scrumptious. Proof? No one EVER offers to share one. Another plus – eating with fingers is allowed. No fork needed. I have tried eating cake on the run, or sneakily snatching the last biggest chunk. What a crumbly mess! Evidence everywhere!

Brownies are still readily available in groceries and convenience stores. Individually wrapped in crinkly plastic, easy to stack, easy to grab, but not found in a Hostess display. (Uh-oh. Another conundrum)

It’s a quick, cheap and easy confection to whip up for potlucks, parties or the sudden solo craving for the slightly chewy chocolate treat. I’ve never made a batch from scratch, but had I, the query – what makes a brownie a brownie and not cake? – would not be a query of mine.

A FB post offered a way to make EVERY brownie have crunchy edges. Apparently I’m not alone in preferring corner pieces with gooey centers and two slightly crunchy sides. The trick? Use a muffin tin! For the first batch, I added an extra egg as indicated. Large, beautiful cupcake brownies came out of the oven, but they tasted a bit bland and were a tad dry…cake-like. I skipped the extra egg in the next batch and VOILA! Round chewy cupcake brownies with a nice crusty edge all the way around. Magnifique!

Oh, back to the conundrum. It has something to do with the fat-to-flour ratio. (Huh??) Maybe that’s why cakes need ice cream or icing, and brownies don’t. Perfect dessert as is baked in the pan of choice.

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Little Old Ladies – LOL!

When someone holds the door open for me, or speeds up a bit to make that kind gesture, I always smile (if masked, I AM smiling) and say thank you, sometimes repeating it to make sure  my appreciation is heard. I’m off the hook for recalling names in such instances since the aim is not to block a doorway. Back in the car and on the go again.

Driving seems to open the gates wide to random thoughts. There is a particular peculiar one that is popping up more often. Am I the recipient of kind, helpful gestures because I am now an lol –  little old lady? 

I don’t FEEL like one yet. The image of what I will be when I am one keeps changing. Certainly I am older, and it’s getting tiresome camouflaging some of the evidence. When I was a child, there were trademarks I noticed.  I would never wear THOSE shoes when I got old. I have a bit more sense now, and think of comfort and safety, but I haven’t seen any of THOSE shoes in forever. And the dresses. I was not going to own any of those dresses that swooshed. These days we don’t wear ANY kind of dress often enough. Whatever that perfume was, I wouldn’t own any. To combat that, I decided to switch it up…not stick to one. And those cords that attach to glasses to keep them handy. I had to cave and resort to using one, for a while. Cheaper than buying more glasses.

Now I need my glasses all the time, so no need for sparkly cords. Perhaps it’s all relative. I may be inviting the ‘lol’ title by continuing to wear tie-dyed clothing, my worn-out jeans and comfy tennis shoes.  Maybe the trademarks of little old ladies have changed, and I am there and clueless. LOL!

(For the Dec. 15 issue of The Prospect-News)

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Longing for Lazy Summer Days

Summer 2021 isn’t officially here but I am already longing for those “Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” described by Nat King Cole in his 1963 hit. Perhaps I adjusted to the slower pandemic pace of 2020 more than I realize. Of course I’m rejoicing at the welcome roll-back of eased restrictions but the options for summer outings seem overwhelming! In Missouri we have the ‘hazy’ mastered, and ‘crazy’ aptly describes the world. What happened to those ‘lazy’ days? My body wants to sit on the porch with “soda and pretzels and beer” while I read, listen to the radio and occasionally swat a fly or mosquito.

I am resisting the tendency to cram all the fun I can into three months – a season that seems to grow shorter and shorter the longer I live. It didn’t seem too short when I was a kid, nor did it to Mom on one particularly sultry summer morning. Because three sulking kids were making the day loom endlessly, Mom “packed a basket full of sandwiches and weenies” and took us to the park. Maybe she hoped a change of scenery would pick up the pace and alter the vibe of the day. Her hopes were high enough she even packed the camera. Her mission to eke out some fun and frolic proved impossible. The evidence? Three cranky faces glaring from an album page of black and white photos.

As a youngster I never wished that “summer could always be here” as touted in the tune. I liked summer but I loved school and as an oldster I’d prefer not to mow and sweat year-round. I will “dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer” for summer, planning my activities to allow for plenty of tunes, books and porch-sitting.

Written for Close to Home column in 6/2021 for hometown weekly The Prospect-News

Floating Current River in Doniphan, MO with KC’s on the Current

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Flipping Over Lipstick

$34.2 million. That amount was spent four weeks this spring (last two weeks of March through the first two weeks of April), JUST ON LIPSTICK! That figure represents an 80 percent + increase in sales over the same period in 2020. As we adjusted last year to drastic lifestyle modifications at home, work and school, the cosmetic industry perhaps accurately measured prevailing moods. Analysis, both economic and psychological, exists for all sorts of industries when millions experience trauma. Example – lipstick sales surged after 9/11. Ponder that for a minute.

Without mulling it over too much, it is simpler to understand the dip then resurgence of lipstick use as pandemic protocols prevailed then eased. At first I slipped into a ‘doesn’t matter’ attitude with a mask covering my bare-lips smile when I could manage one. My eyes enjoyed extra attention until constantly fogged-up glasses made me give up on that makeup routine, too.

Except, that is, when I joined any gathering via Zoom. I put as much effort into applying makeup as I did searching for perfect camera angles and lighting to camouflage my fuller face and extra chins, going overboard to appear on screen as my pre-pandemic self without evidence I was doing that. I was in denial for sure as I struggled to maintain that pretense, reminding myself to plant that smile on my unmasked Zoom presence.

I don’t need reminders to smile these days, and I enjoy, as does my columnist cohort Becky, renewing the ‘have lipstick, will travel’ routines again. My wish is that we also witness a similar spike in overt expressions of kindness. We’ve experienced harsh reminders that losses happen and often without warning; time offers no guarantees. Share kindness and smiles – with or without lipstick – to spread much-needed hope and encouragement to those around.

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Avoiding Frenzy

Boy oh boy, a few minutes of listening to news or skimming through it online can drive us to frenzy! Remember, in times like these:

*The sun shines. A blue sky is bold and brilliant.

*The grass grows. I won’t run out of something to do.

*Nature broadcasts. I can listen to songs of birds, rustles of a turtle in leaves, chatterings of a squirrel eyeing me from a bobbing limb. I can, but I don’t often enough.

*Nature provides infinite images. I focus on the treescape through the car window and count the variations of green in that space. Then I notice the colors against the green foliage and blue sky backdrop. What a palette! ‘Twould be practicing mindfulness if I took just seconds to do this multiple times a day.

*Water soothes. Whether ripples on a lake, gurgles in the creek, currents in a river, I seek chances to relax in serene settings that include it. Even energizing showers or soothing baths can be antidotes to anxiety.

*Music mends moods. With just a fingertip I can tune into a magnificent symphony, a jazz/blues/swing masterpiece, a familiar folk tune or comforting hymn. Singing along multiplies benefits.

*Movement motivates. The first nod, clap, sway or step flips a switch to attitude alterations.

*Connections assure. There are folks who matter to me, and I to them. I work to keep communication current. I vent sometimes; I don’t want to be a chronic complainer.

*Creativity diverts the negative. Amazing talent abounds here – from painting to playing/composing music to sewing to gardening/cooking to writing/photography to designing/constructing, etc.

*Laughter enlivens. I laugh often. I search for it and share it.

Sorry, frenzy. I am trying to reduce my trips.

Published in Close to Home column in 5/2021 in Prospect-News

A favorite spot to chill – Deer Leap Boat Ramp in Doniphan, MO (Ripley County along Current River)

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Changes Here to Stay

This week I made a quick trip – about 26 hours from departure to return – to celebrate a special day at a favorite location with my fella. It was a step back onto the stage of life after an extended intermission. It was plan-pack-drive instead of lights-camera-action as play resumed. The normal we knew may never return. Some of the changes might be here to stay, and that’s okay with me. For instance:

(1) Contact-less welcomes to overnight lodging with reservations made and paid online.

(2) Secure key locations with text – email directions, like a kid’s treasure hunt. Fun as long as it doesn’t turn into mission impossible.

(3) Crowd monitoring. Throngs of folks make me cringe normally, so reducing capacity is a relief. (4) Removal of seating creates spacious lively atmospheres. (5) No more condiment bottles on tables. Servings arrive in individual containers. (6) Pre-order, pre-pay with curbside pickup. I haven’t tried it, but it works for lots of folks. Reduces in-person dining without decreasing sales.

(7) Friendly smiles/nods from strangers entering/exiting doors, holding them for others.

(8) Increased opportunities for outdoor activities. (9) That pump bottle of sanitizer in my cup holder will stay put. I bet they stay put on business counters, too. (10) Spare masks are in the glovebox and purse. I am vaccinated but will honor mask requests wherever I am.

(11) Gratitude for services and activities that have resumed makes for kinder interactions. I hope that lasts.

(12) This one might be more my imagination than accurate observation, but there seems to be more eye-contact these days, with merchants and with fellow customers.

Though I understand #4 above – removal of seating – I sure miss the reading nooks in bookstores. It reduces multiple sources of potentially contaminated contacts. I get that but I miss them nonetheless. I will adjust to that one eventually. Life is good.

Published 4/2021 in Close to Home column in hometown newspaper The Prospect-News

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For May 12, 2021 – Limerick Day

I try to make choices sublime.

I research and fuss all the time.

     The lines get so blurred

     From ‘fact’ to ‘I heard’

That surely I could lose my mind.

*********************************

Eat catfish deep-fried or not so.

I search for the experts, you know,

     But chef or a doc,

     My tastebuds or clock?

My brain flip-flops long to and fro.

***********************************

Take shots or just skip the vaccine?

No matter which way, folks are mean.

      The ‘facts’ both ways sway

       And change day by day!

My patience with ‘experts’ grows lean.

***********************************

The river is calling to float,

By tube or by kayak or boat?

     I may do all three,

     Each time with KC’s.

I’m thrilled river’s not a dark moat.

**************************************

Does Facebook provide all you need?

The newspaper surely you read.

      The PN is great,

       It will set folks straight.

So read it for facts, you won’t bleed.

*********************************

This poem is for fun, hope you see,

For Limerick Day and for me,

     I hope you do smile,

     Don’t think I’m senile,

For sharing some rhyme glee with thee.

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A Mother’s Day Thief

My parents when they were expecting me – child # 1 of 3!

In the far corner of an upstairs closet buried under a mound of shoes, I found a treasure. Dollarwise it wasn’t worth much – just a plastic sewing box with a broken lid. The usual notions camouflaged contents Mom deemed priceless – bits of paper preserving precious gems of her memory. Written there were the names and birthdays of her kids, the date and place of her wedding and the name of the man she married. Other slips noted names of parents and siblings, cousins and in-laws. Among the crumpled papers was one of her gifts from Dad – a ring I thought had been forever lost.

As I mended a skirt for the first day of a new school year, I was struck by the difference in our hands. Mom’s hands, with long slender fingers, were always tanned with polished nails. Those hands could tame a tangled ponytail, peel and fry a skillet of potatoes in a flash and swiftly swing a switch at dancing legs. The special ring had adorned her right hand as sweetly as her wedding band had her left.

This is the mom who fashioned a swimsuit coverup from a bath towel for church camp, and created some stunning 70’s fashions to update my teen wardrobe. Two stand out – a shimmery yellow skirt with matching top and a vibrant purple polyester pantsuit (yep, bellbottoms with matching sleeveless vest). She eventually abandoned even simple sewing tasks, though later she pulled at stray threads in the air, perhaps mending mangled bits of memories she could no longer share. Other times those precious hands would straighten my collar or check my buttons, probably silently fussing at me for not using a needle and thread more often.

My clumsy mending lasted through that first day of school. Afterward, I visited Mom to share my excitement and give her a chance to smooth my skirt and straighten my bangs. I made the day extra-special and wore that ring. Her mind could not give voice to her thoughts, but Mom’s love was there in her touch, her smile and her gaze.

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 9 this year of 2021. Alzheimer’s stole 24 Mother’s Days from our mother. This is in memory of Ruth Evelyn Bizzell Pearson, mom to Glenn, Phyllis and me.

Mom’s sewing box, broken lid and treasures.
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