Spring Dress Code

Gray skies offer an intriguing backdrop for the colors of spring. I am not sure how many shades of gray there actually are – our eyes can detect about 200 variations of white – but the palette of emerging flora dances with changes in the gray tones that enhance it. Gray encourages creativity, evident in the March entrance of whites and yellows in our Missouri landscape.

White is symbolic of birth, and the pure simplicity of the Bradford pears and wild cherries and plums provides a stark contrast to winter’s bleakness as our Ozarks return to life. Yellows are the first colors the human eye grabs. Maybe that is why Mother Nature blesses us with the cheerful stimulation of jonquils, daffodils and forsythia so early in the season. Then she accentuates her femininity as she dons the pinks of the tulip trees, and mystifies us with the purples of the redbuds as their blossoms seem to materialize magically from nothing to majestic color. Soon to follow will be the lavenders and magentas of creeping phlox. As the earth warms, the silver gray skies will darken, brilliantly showcasing the dazzling glow of the dogwood stepping out of the charcoal shadows.

The earth is reborn. Gray skies will be more often blue, considered one of the most politically correct colors in the world, worth noting in this election year, and the perfect background for the color most restful to our human eyes, the greens that surround us. On this green stage red tulips and roses are a powerful reminder of the love that makes this world go ’round.

For this column I referred to an article by Moose Peterson, a wildlife photographer, for his thoughts on the psychology of color.

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Don’t Rattle My Cage

Don’t rattle my cage,
The sun is out.
Grown-up kids my age
Still love spring, no doubt.

Don’t rattle my cage,
The earth is shining!
No longer in a quiet rage,
For winter I’m not pining.

Don’t rattle my cage,
The cat is sunning,
And I’m enjoying this page.
No need to take off running.

Don’t rattle my cage, please,
My temper has short range.
Yearning for return of ease
With body adjusted to time’s change.

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Humble and Kind

Our community has experienced another tragedy. Perhaps you struggle as I do to understand a sadness and pain even with no direct connection to either family, the one dealing with a devastating loss or the one realizing one of their own is involved. We cry for them, not knowing what they need, yet realizing even if we did, we might not be able to provide it.

There is a movie of memories replaying in my heart at the moment. As I drove off to grad school in an old Plymouth I bought from my grandpa, there was that never-altered lecture one more time from Dad that always ended with, “Don’t stop to help anyone.” I knew he didn’t always practice what he preached to me. I was old enough to understand why.

So I told my parents of the times a stranger would go out of the way to help me, but I didn’t tell them of the times I did the same, because things didn’t always go as planned, and they would worry more. They were humble and kind, so I was raised that way. More memories surface of lessons preached to my son, and the tug on my heart as I realized, yes, one more time I am telling him to be careful, and one more time I am hearing him say, “Mom, I’m a grown man now.”

In January, 2016, Tim McGraw’s rendition of “Humble and Kind” was released. It’s a song with a touching message accentuated by a vivid video. If you read the backstory of the recording, McGraw shares that he had a hard time with it in the studio. He could hardly get through a line without crying as he faced sending a daughter off to college. The words hit home.

Lori McKenna is the songwriter of those lyrics. She sang them on the stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry, prefacing it with the light-hearted comment that maybe her kids would be listening. Mom Lori standing alone on a stage, singing the words she wrote with her kids in mind, is as powerful a performance as is dad McGraw singing her lyrics with his own children ever-present in his mind.

What a paradox, to raise generations to be humble and kind in a world that isn’t. Will there be a tipping point?

(Videos of both McKenna and McGraw performing “Humble and Kind” are on YouTube. They are worth viewing.)

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Obsolete

If you are among the population known as the ABB – aging, no, change that to AMAZING baby boomers – you are aware of items once considered essential that are now obsolete. Here is a short list. See what you can add to it.

*Rotary dial phone – It does work as an interesting accessory in particular decorating schemes. But you can’t  ‘press one for…’  so it is useless for many calls made from home.
*Cassette tape – It is amazing the number of younger folks who have never listened to one, so if you still have a stash of them, you would need a…
*Cassette tape player – It doesn’t usually have the best sound, but it is nice to have if you don’t want to get rid of your tapes.
*Ironing boards – A friend of mine thinks this is no longer used by many folks. Hold on, though! I do use mine for two or three items of clothing weekly, its intended purpose. If I had an old wooden one, I might think about making a chalkboard of it, or hang it from the ceiling for a clever primitive touch to my decor, but both of those tasks are way more bothersome than ironing if you ask me.
*digital cameras – Have smartphone, will travel.
*Stamps – Sadly,  more and more are texting and emailing rather  than using these to send snail mail.

* 33’s and 45’s – The big and the small vinyl records we bought so we could hear over and over our favorite songs on the radio. To play the ones you might still have, you need a…

*Record player – Many of us still have stacks of vinyl records, so this comes in handy if a nostalgic mood hits. Wouldn’t want to live without mine, though it isn’t in one of those stereo cabinets that were so popular with our folks.

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That’s a Choice?

These days I rarely plan to watch television – you know, one of those times when snacks are ready, cat is out of the comfy chair, time is allotted. That is how it goes during baseball season when the Cardinals are playing, but not so much right now, except for viewing The Voice. Preparation is paramount; I love that show.

So, what is the deal, interrupting my showtime with politics? It is far removed from my love of fairy tales and happy endings. Fiction rules in my spare time, certainly not politics.

Until I heard Charlie Rose interviewing Lieberman as voting results were projected, that is. I think I heard one of our nation’s leaders say something like, and I am paraphrasing here, “We are facing crazy vs. dishonest, and dishonesty always wins.”

WHAT?! Did I hear that right? Rose must have had the same thought, because ensuing questions produced the same response. Now, I am the offspring of parents who had definite leanings toward one party in my formative years, as gleaned from round-the-kitchen-table discussions at voting time. Then, lo and behold, they changed their leanings about the time I moved out. That pretty much explains my interest until now. I can hear the kitchen-table rants THAT comment would have created!

We wouldn’t settle for crazy vs dishonest in, say, our doctors, or our car mechanics, our food producers, our manufacturers, our media, our food service institutions, our pastors, our friends, our beloved significant others, our pets. Or would we? Do we? Maybe we are not witnessing a trickle-down effect but the seeping-in effect.

The way I see it, with just a smidgen of untrained, non-political analysis, the outcomes are pretty much the same in crazy vs. dishonest – disastrous. Crazy might get us there faster. Dishonest might keep us in the dark a while longer and catch us unprepared. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, however, suffer in either scenario, since it seems contradictory that crazy or dishonest would work to protect our unalienable rights. Homeless, tempest-tossed Americans might become
the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free from within these hallowed shores.

Going to the dogs might be preferable. They love us and their motives are transparent.

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Obsolete

If you are among the population known as the ABB – aging, no, change that to AMAZING baby boomers – you are aware of items once considered essential that are now obsolete. Here is a short list.

*Rotary dial phones – It does work as an interesting accessory in particular decors. But you can’t ‘press one for…’ so it is useless for many calls made from home.
*Cassette tapes – It is amazing the number of younger folks who have never listened to one. If you still have a stash of them, you would need…
*Cassette tape players – It doesn’t usually have the best sound, but it is nice to have if you don’t want to get rid of your tapes.
*Ironing boards – A friend of mine thinks this is no longer used by many folks. Hold on, though! I do use mine for two or three items of clothing weekly in spring and summer for sure. If I had an old wooden one, I might think about making a chalkboard of it, or hang it from the ceiling for a clever primitive touch, but both of those tasks are way more bothersome than ironing if you ask me.
*Cameras – Have smartphone, will travel.
*Video recorders – Have smartphone, will travel.
*Mini-flashlights – Have smartphone, will travel. (I still have one.)
*Address Books – Have smartphone, will travel.
*Calendars – Have smartphone, will travel. (I still love them and use them. Does that make me obsolete?)
*Road maps in the glove box – Have smartphone, will travel. (I prefer a road map even if I never get it folded back correctly!!)
*Stamps – Sadly, more and more are texting and emailing rather than using these to send snail mail.
*33’s and 45’s – The big and the small vinyl records we bought so we could hear over and over our favorite songs on the radio. To play the ones you still have, you need …
*Record players – Many of us still have stacks of vinyl records, so this comes in handy if a nostalgic mood hits. Wouldn’t want to live without mine, though it isn’t in one of those stereo cabinets that were so popular with our folks. (Have smartphone, will travel?)

What can you add? And I just wondered if a glove box was ever really used for gloves.

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I Hear Ya!

Try this experiment. It lasts only 3 minutes. (Right now you have had that instant switch from, well, only 3 minutes, to THREE MINUTES?!) Remember the days when a glance at the clock showed three minutes to bell time? Those three minutes took f.o.r.E.V.e.r. Yes, even teachers can feel that way. Then there are other times when the minute hand twitched and skipped the last thirty. We’ll bypass all that Einstein, time -is- not- linear stuff; it boils down to attitude.

Back to the experiment. Turn off everything. Sit at the table or on the porch. Set the timer on the phone. Now, don’t just wait. LISTEN. At first it might seem like there is nothing to hear but that darn chainsaw in the woods, but it can’t completely cover up the various birds chirping in the yard, across the road, by the bridge. A squirrel running up the loose bark that crinkles a bit. A car going by on the highway. And what’s that? Oh! The cat taking his spit-bath. Rustling of pine needles. Chair creaking under shifting weight, shoes scraping the concrete just a bit. The jolting crack of the tree being cut.

It’s a three-minute exercise to create better listeners. Listening is THE most important factor in authentic conversation. Authentic conversation is necessary for connection. Connection is paramount for life and well-being.

Roll your eyes and paddle the air waves to help me get to my point faster. We do that sometimes, don’t we, inwardly if not outwardly? But there is a whole lot of self between the start and the finish. To rush through diminishes the speaker, cheats the listener and short-circuits the connection.

We are so spoiled to automatic. Touch a key, the screen produces. Screens are silent thieves stealing precious moments, creating a population ceasing to seek connection, instead seeking instant gratification and validation in an ear-plugged world growing increasingly void of eye contact, touch, smiles and conversation.

The gift of connection – I have been on the receiving end recently, so I have been reminded how important it is to be a giver of such. Listening is key. I will practice.

(Reality check. It takes about 2 minutes and 20 seconds to read aloud the 361 words in the column above).

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