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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Spring Picnics

Impulsive and spontaneous. Know anyone like that? Those personality traits are subject to bad raps by those with structured, organized lives. Impulsivity describes more emotional responses whereas spontaneity describes creative approaches. I’m not saying creatives can’t  be organized. Neither am I saying  organized souls cannot also be impulsive and spontaneous; they just don’t seem driven by traits deemed impractical and/or illogical. (This said from the perspective of one who is never considered logical or structured). 

Fate has a strange sense of humor to pair two hearts on either end of that range of human traits. Both develop flexible attitudes to accommodate the individuality of the other. Amidst the sharing, teaching and learning, adventures multiply as boredom shrinks. Even in Ripley County!

The perfect activity that melds two varying approaches to outdoor fun is picnicking. When I was frolicking solo, I had tons of spur-of -the moment picnics – running by a local business to grab food on the go and then heading to a favorite spot or following my nose to discover new ones. I am part of a frolicking duo now. I’ve gained intriguing company without forfeiting impromptu jaunts in our scenic Mark Twain National Forest. Lo and behold, sometimes at HIS suggestion! It’s do-able because he suggested we keep a basket of outdoor dining essentials in the back of my car – like plasticware, paper towels, the ever-present Lysol wipes, two glasses and a corkscrew. (What’s a picnic for two without wine)? Whether we grab-n-go from our fridges or whiz by a grocery, we can be on our way with no fuss. He taught me the practicality of keeping camping chairs with the basket. Some ‘perfect’ picnic settings in Current River country are more primitive but beautiful none-the-less.

Whatever your approach to adventure, try these spots close to home for scenic spring picnicking: Fourche Lake, Ripley County Lake, Buffalo Creek, Float Camp, Deer Leap, Sand Pond and Fourche Creek Conservation Areas, Grand Gulf, The Narrows, Pinewoods Lake, Miller Lake, Big Spring. That’s a short list for starters!

Written for Close to Home in the 4/14/2021 issue of the Prospect-News.

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Redbud Winter

The covers felt sooo good this morning! Technically it was one cover, since I have already put away the warm fuzzy blankets. Knowing how fickle Mother Nature can be, and because I hate lighting it, the ventless heater is still on, so one cover was sufficient with Scooter the cat curled at my feet.     

For the second morning my flower beds look a bit peculiar. Since the forecast was for temperatures dipping below freezing again, I covered my perennials that were just getting brave enough to peek out – one lone lily and several hostas along with some sprouts I can’t name. And my tulips. I have one about to open and three more that are up with no buds yet. That’s like my creeping phlox. It’s all green. No patches of tiny lilac or fuchsia blossoms have yet appeared, odd since they are usually among the first of the colors to appear in my yard.

Maybe the phlox decided to wise up and wait for the passing of redbud winter. Now in early April, the redbud veils along the roadways are stunning, thus the rationale behind the naming of this cold snap. Folklore warns us we may have a dogwood winter later this month when that magnificent tree dots hillsides, trails and roadways with low canopies of brilliant white on distinctive silhouettes.

Blackberry winter was the only spring cold snap I knew of till recently. That one is not until May when blackberries are blooming, not to be confused with the band from West Plains featured on the soundtrack of the film “Winter’s Bone.” Old-timers might  refer to it as linsey-woolen britches winter, when warm undies had to be dug out one more time.  I do recall wearing bloomers that were always put away after Easter. Wonder what today’s young’uns will call those extra clothes yanked on for late winter chills? Lined-leggings winter? Sweat pants winter? Bottoms winter? (pajama bottoms) Time will tell.

Written for Close to Home in the 4/7/2021 issue of The Prospect-News.

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Middle of the Night Online Wanderings

Why is it we cave and do things we’ve told ourselves we won’t? Reasoning is a trait that distinguishes us from animals, or is it ignoring reasoning that is the determining factor? Wait…now I have to know. What is the difference between instinct and reasoning?

See what happens when I awaken after five hours of sleep, my resolve withering as I open the laptop? To soothe my guilt, I fumble for the switch to dim the blinding glare and cram another pillow between me and the headboard so I won’t slouch. My brain stops fussing because it knows I am beyond listening to reason. After all, five hours of uninterrupted sleep was a luxury  in the days of rising and shining to perform chosen professional duties. So, a few minutes to check Facebook in the middle of the night…not a big deal.

But it is. It’s ALWAYS major because I don’t float through social media in a dreamy state chuckling at fluff and awwing at cute cat photos…well…I don’t do ONLY that. I read seriously impactful articles by experts like one I got tangled up in last night on fashion habits that make one look old…er. For instance: don’t wear too-tight trendy pieces, but don’t wear baggy dated ones either;  wear makeup, but not too much, and make sure the shade is not antiquated; same with hosiery – flat not shiny, darker but not like tights; hairstyles should not be puffy, and long is okay, but not too long; jeans are fine (whew). The experts wasted my time on shoes. My feet do not function if I ignore their preferences. Time on accessories also unnecessary because being too matchy-matchy is not a concern of mine. I get a natural high finding an identical pair of earrings. And don’t even attack my bling. I will wear it if I want to, and on any kind or size of purse I decide.

“Instinct seems adapted merely to the purpose of animal existence, while reason is an attribute of progressive mind.” Henri Begson perhaps

This first appeared my Close to Home column in the 3/31/2021 issue of The Prospect-News.

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Forsythia Yellow

This first appeared in my Close to Home column in my hometown weekly The Prospect-News 3/24/2021.

If I went to a local hardware/paint store and asked for a can of Forsythia Yellow, I bet I would get a raised-eyebrow grin as the clerk and I headed toward the paint section. (That’s a look I see often,  mostly in hardware stores since they are pots of gold overflowing with tons of stuff I don’t know the names or uses of. What I think I need is usually there after a treasure hunt).

This is the forsythia that I started in my French Club flower garden outside my classroom at Doniphan High School. Despite the clay, rocks and glass in the dirt, it thrived and is the primary source of the bushes at my residence.

Yellow is my all-time favorite color. The variations are infinite, but not all are as pretty to me as the vibrant pure yellow of the forsythia bush that welcomes spring a bit ahead of the wild fruit trees and redbuds. That yellow is the standard I use to judge the appeal of the variants. To me, the pastel versions on one end of Mother Nature’s spectrum outweigh the mustard, gold tones on either end.

The price of fuel is rising, but I don’t have to drive miles and miles to enjoy forsythia-dotted landscapes. City yards as well as rural ones have eye-catching forsythia displays. Some are wild and natural, others are groomed and pruned, but they are all gorgeous. It took some planning and pruning, then transplanting of cuttings and guarding them from mower blades, but I have several blooming now in my yard. The unruliest one is begging me to get some more cuttings to begin a yellow showcase in the back.

I am going to fuss a bit about my lovely forsythia, though. No matter how many bushes I have to welcome spring to my little corner of the world, that perfect color doesn’t last through the summer. That’s a bummer. The waves of wisteria purple and redbud magenta that follow the greening of the forsythia pacify somewhat as the yellow vanishes.

PS. Davis Hardware has two paints close to the forsythia shade I love: Define and Bit of Sunshine. While sightseeing I spied the sensational forsythias that define the Yates property on 142E.

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