So many clouds of dreariness
Can fill one’s days with weariness,
But the raindrops will fall;
We can do nothing at all
So wipe away the bleariness
And give a friend a call.

Two heads are better than one
For sending the blues on a merry run.
One can sense the smiles
Across many many miles.
So before all is said and done
Pull out those contact files.

Gray skies make the world seem sadder
And the bad stuff, oh so much badder.
We feel mighty powerless
With the world in such a mess.
It doesn’t help to get madder.
Tears do fall, I confess.

In the constant cycles of this life
There will be joys as well as strife.
Blue skies and sunshine take their turn
As bright bold colors return;
Mother Nature is rife
With possibilities, birds the fife.

(I had a bit of fun with rhyme in honor of Dr. Seuss Day,
Friday, March 2, for my Close To Home column in the local weekly, The Prospect News. In honor of this day, read a Dr. Seuss book to a child. Better yet, let a child read one of his books to you!)

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Boomer Tech Addict

I wouldn’t call it a major trend yet, but I have noticed a few Facebook friends taking a break from social media, with a handful deciding to give up smartphones altogether. It does seem the technology is taking over, that we are passive victims. Perhaps with some of the ‘advancements’ that is the case, when old ways bow to the new ones that read voices and prints and eyes, and watch our every move. We are not totally powerless here, much as we might like to blame the digital age for our shortcomings.

My winter weight isn’t gone yet, and here it is, the middle of the active season when some of my favorite clothes should button and snap easily. It hasn’t escaped my attention that I have walked less, moved less, danced less than in summers past.

The number of books I have read all the way through is down. No, it is not that I have stopped reading; it is that I am reading more online. I still can’t fathom reading a novel on Kindle, but I have most likely read the equivalent of several if all the articles I have read on Facebook were combined. Thanks to that advanced digital technology, the more I read of a subject, the more the invisible powers behind the technology throw at me to keep me logged on.

Hooked on reading the latest research about several topics – I will admit to that. Hooked on reading it on my iphone is harder to admit. It’s so easy to read, then play a round of Words with Friends with all my opponents, then switch to check my email, then check on the latest info from friends in the area to stay caught up on local news. It’s way too easy. Maybe I AM addicted.

to combat that, I have begun logging off, disconnecting WiFi, leaving the phone in the car some of the time when I am socializing, or letting the phone settle to the bottom of my purse. If you’ve seen my purse, you would understand that strategy – too much trouble to dig it out just for whizzing through Facebook.

I applaud those who are leading the way in reclaiming their time, their outdoor passions, and face -to-face connections. Even though I can listen/read uplifting material, current events sneak in there. Much of the current news is depressing and intensifies my sense of powerlessness.

It is much easier to experience hope for myself and others – Heartfelt Optimistic Persistent Enthusiasm – when my fingers and eyes are focused on the marvels of the world rather than on screens and keyboards.

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Upcycling Attitudes 

God’s palette is running low on choices, or maybe He needs a second water glass to swish brushes in. Dark colors are running together.

First, fires caused over-sized portions of the masterpiece to be covered with a charcoal black that eventually faded to lifeless brown. Then came Midwest floods with a concentration of colorless skies and muddy waters blotting out Mother Nature’s vibrant hues. 

The striking blues and glowing whites of enticing beaches are diminishing, too. Gray skies and gray seas camouflage familiar sites. The Artist seems unhappy with the process. Chunks of canvas have been ripped away. It’s His project, not mine, to judge.

In the book Outsmart Waste: The Modern Idea of Garbage and Waste and How To Think Our Way Out of It, author Tom Szaky offers this info. “Upcycling is an emerging trend whereby one sees the value in both the composition and form of an object, but not the intention.”

So I am upcycling my attitude.

* Browns and yellows in a forest landscape change with the sun and moon. Pretty cool.

* Intricate silhouettes against the sky form mazes of leaves and branches to get lost in.

* The Artist exhibits expertise in back-lighting! Shades and shadows and glowing forms can be startling even with the absence of cherished color.

* Manmade treasures unearthed in chaos expand history and intrigue experts, and me. 

* The winter canvas can produce oohs and ahhs for magnificent creations with a limited palette.

* Mother Nature will showcase her resilience in the spring. With patience and anticipation, let’s applaud and aid her as much as we can!

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Song lines, childhood jumprope chants, catchy commercial jingles and tantalizing titles pop up randomly in my thinking, sometimes with an identifiable hook, sometimes not.

There is one taunting me at the moment in response to news on the net, radio and in print. It’s a phrase I don’t think I’ve ever written or read; I’ve only heard it though I don’t recall the particulars. My parents and grandparents used similar comments.

JUST DESERTS. That’s it. It refers to deserved consequences, and though it is normally used in a negative way it can describe merited rewards, too. It mimics ‘karma’ we hear so much about these days in the negative, though karma can also be a positive.

Don’t try to tell me I have misspelled it.(I thought that first as well). It IS pronounced like the chocolate cake we eat at the end of a meal, but this word that entered the English from the French in the thirteenth century stubbornly refused the second ‘s’ because of its derivation. JUST DESERTS is probably the only use that remains.

Perhaps Larry Nassar is receiving just deserts with a 175-year prison sentence, if one can consider ANY sentence just enough for his crimes.

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When Tragedy Strikes

When a community experiences yet another tragedy perhaps you struggle as I do to understand a sadness and pain even with no direct connection to those dealing with a devastating loss or to those realizing one of their own is responsible. We cry for them not knowing what they need. Even if we did know we realize we might not be able to provide it.

In light of recent events, my heart struggles to find ways to be prepared for the unimaginable yet live life with joy, hope, dreams and pass security on to our nation’s youth. I see posts about when to run, when to crouch, when to hide, about turning backpacks around so books serve as shields. Visibly armed security personnel, appropriately trained, patrol a slough of public institutions in our country. It is beginning to seem absurd that it is not common practice at our schools.

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 the admonition not to stop and 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.  Things don’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.  There was a tug on my heart as I realized that there is always one more time that I remind him to be careful.  One more time I hear him remind me that he is a grown man now.

Tim McGraw’s rendition of “Humble and Kind” was released in January of 2016. It’s a song with a touching message accentuated by a vivid video. In 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.

Now we might worry now about sending our kids off to schools down the street. Our nation had its fair share of potential tragedies when I was in school in St.Louis in the 50’s and ’60’s, but I don’t recall feeling fear and dread in my classrooms. We had scary tornado and fire drills, not drills for intruders and lockdowns. Had I been subjected to what our kids are these days – even if it’s not in their own schools and neighborhoods, they are bombarded with instant news of horror in other schools and neighborhoods – I can’t say how much learning might have gone on, or how I might have coped. I do know I failed miserably in my thirty-plus years in a classroom at preparing my students for the world as it is now. I didn’t see this coming.

Lori McKenna is the songwriter of the lyrics to “Humble and Kind.” 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 strive to raise a generation to be humble and kind in a world that isn’t. We need a tipping point. The increase in disconnection and the escalating disregard for life are complex issues we can’t pin to a single cause in our eroding society or continue to ignore.

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It’s THAT Day!❤️

Guys, if you don’t remember, this is your hint. Today is February 14th. Yeah so, you say?

I’ll spell it out. It’s V-A-L-E-N-T-I-N-E’s Day, fellas. There is still time to get flowers, chocolates, cutesy stuffed animals or romantically mushy cards at the fully inflated prices before day’s end.  Even though your significant other might not let on, she will know you almost forgot. Females never forget THIS day, though she might hold on to her gift for you until you produce one for her, to keep from embarrassing you and creating undue drama.

And IF she told you, when the February page flipped up on the calendar, that she didn’t want or expect anything from you, to save your money, that you need a trailer hitch or another gun, a box of ammo or a sixth hunting dog, DON’T BELIEVE HER. It’s a trap she doesn’t even realize she’s setting. She just THINKS she means what she says.

So, get a card, quick. Oh, please do remember to SIGN it, and on this day don’t forget to put the ‘L’ word by your name cause it’s a given you are not gonna write a sentence or two. Remember, YOUR name goes on the inside and HERS goes on the envelope. And no, No, NO! A text message or e-card is NOT okay.

After you hand it to her, and you are seeing the look that means – “Well, at LEAST he got me a card” – you can whip out the surprise ‘just for her’ that you grabbed at the gas station or grocery store as you scrambled after work; you didn’t do the smarter thing – skipping lunch to shop before the selections were picked over.

Depending on your choices and the gap in significance between what she handed you and what you gave her, you gave it your best last – minute shot. Fingers crossed for you that the rest of the day goes well.

Let the good times roll! (Oh, wait! That was YESTERDAY)

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The Day After

img_7723The day after Thanksgiving finds many either longing to sleep in or rising early for Black Friday mayhem. Though my mind is still a bit foggy from all the food I ate yesterday, a theme IS emerging from my befuddled gray matter, however. Brief snippets of dialogue heard from an NPR program, a few paragraphs read from a book on the brain, and several lines of diary scribbles pop up, all touching on the pursuit of happiness.

No easy task, defining a term many find elusive. Science deems it worth researching. It’s a relatively new field so results are not conclusive, but here are several ideas gleaned from yesterday’s brief times away from the table.

*Happiness might better be explained as a cluster of qualities describing a state of well-being.

*It is not to be confused with pleasure, which is directly affected by time and circumstances. Take pumpkin pie. I love it!  But just a slice or two, and only at holiday meals. If I ate a whole pie…YUCK . And if I ate it year -round it would lose its appeal. A pleasure constantly repeated can lead to repulsion, cravings or addictions.

*We humans arrive with an innate sense of cooperation. Society’s obsession with competition whittles that away.

*Observing with compassion the needs of others and working  cooperatively to eliminate them, even on a small scale, has a positive effect on well-being of both sides.

*Money doesn’t buy happiness unless it is given to others regularly or largely. Generous folks are among the happiest.

*But, an act of generosity that is done solely for the warm fuzzy feeling will not do the trick.

*Authenticity matters in the pursuit of happiness.

(The illustration of the book cover is one published by MIT Press.)

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