International Day of Happiness

March 20 is the UN International Day of Happiness, a ‘holiday’ since 2013, with a theme even! 2020’s  theme “Happy Together”  was an unfortunate twisted premonition chosen BEFORE the pandemic was global reality. Staying safe meant isolating from anyone not under the same roof. No more happy times at work or after, on weekend outings – well, you lived it. You know the list of the forbidden went on and on. We may have been in this historic event together, but we weren’t physically so. Those part of multi-person households found themselves together 24/7, forging creative solutions for work, school and family. Brief snatches of solitude became luxuries.

2021’s  theme – “Keep calm. Stay wise. Be kind.” – fits appropriately the aftermath of last year’s unforeseen chaos . Keeping calm forces us to face what we can’t control with a mind free of energy-depleting frenzy. The calmer we are, the wiser our choices/solutions can be. Kindness acknowledges that all are worthy of care and consideration whether or not we know their stories.

Hasn’t our community responded magnificently? I get that teary-eyed, lump-in-my-throat feeling that means I’m happy to live here, though my blubbering is sometimes interpreted otherwise. Our leaders took the reins willingly to lead us through critical circumstances they didn’t create. Residents stepped up to help in a variety of ways. We continue to reap the benefits and are happier even in the midst of trying situations. Helping others boosts one’s own happiness though the focus is on others’ needs. Happiness sneaks up disguised as renewed purpose, broadened perspective, increased optimism, healthy esteem and strengthened friendships while shooing away loneliness and stress. Smile on Saturday 3/20. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”’ Thich Nhat Hanh

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See-sawing Intermission Between Winter and Spring

Remember the first time driving on Missouri highways 160 or 19? Experiencing the month of March is like that. Psyches get a workout.

Anticipation reigns. Driving curvy hilly roads one can’t help but wonder what the view will be at the top of a hill or around an S-curve. Walking around the yard in March is similar. There is a bit of green there. What flower will pop up? Uh-oh. There is a hole. Wonder what was digging here. At sun-up and sundown, the sky surprises drivers and yard workers with kaleidoscopes of colors and patterns.

Doesn’t pay to get too relaxed. About the time a safe speed is decided upon, there is a switchback or a curve/hill combo forcing the feet to change tempo on the floorboard. And one must be forever on the lookout for wildlife using the highway…for dinner, for cruisin’, for explorations of their own. The grudge at having to share the road is mutual. Same with working outside. A couple warm days in a row and out come the rakes to help the phlox and hostas enjoy light and warmth from the sun. But wait. That forecast is hinting at a freezing dip and …what? A chance for frost, for snow? If rakes don’t sit idle, the yard may don all sorts of jars and bags and sheets to protect the flora just as anxious for spring to arrive. The leaves also camouflage fauna to reckon with. Snakes like the cover, so don’t let the guard down. Don’t burn too soon lest turtles are disturbed. Wonder where those peepers safely perch to sing their tunes? Why can’t winter and spring agree on a schedule to make it easier to plan both road trips and dirt-digging?

Exploring winding secondary roads for the first time doesn’t really allow for enjoyment of scenic views, unless one is a passenger and the driver keeps the maneuvering consistently smooth. Lawns and flowerbeds yell for attention before time to bring out the mowers, so any hours that can be spent just sauntering and observing are rare. It’s even wise to let the dandelions be for the bees. Rewards abound for not rushing around.

Don’t forget about the wind and the rain. They have a knack for interrupting scenic drives and flowerbed-tending in a snap. The sky blackens, the wind takes on horrific speed and lightning and thunder warn all to take cover while the elements batte. It can be scary and alter landscapes quickly. Roads get slick as drivers grip the wheel to dodge limbs and trees. Yards can be covered with damaging debris that creates additional workloads. A quote attributed to Mark Twain: “In the spring, I have counted 125 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.”

It’s all part of the see-saw intermission between winter and spring. Enjoy the ride and cherish the sights, scents and sounds of spring settling in. “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’” (Robin Williams)

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With the Aid of the Letter ‘C’

During the recent horrific cold spell,

Lots in my life helped me manage well.

Stuff starting with ‘C’ played an important role

In dipping temps not taking a toll.

Careening across the porch on all fours,

Early day one, going out the front door,

Made me later take much greater Care

When I had to go out, to go anywhere.

Scooter the Cat was great Company,

Chasing away my boredom with me.

Catnip and Chocolate were some of our treats.

We didn’t lack for good foods to eat.

Chili with Crackers and slices of Cheese 

Was a favored lunch during the deep freeze!

Coffee and Cocoa kept me hydrated

And dreaded Cabin fever symptoms abated.

Contacts with Comrades using text and Chat,

(Thanks to Computers, Cell phones and all that),

Allowed sharing and receiving warm love and Cheer,

Keeping at bay rising, unfounded fear.

With Church, Clubs and Coffees via Zoom,

Confidence was high, feeling less gloom and doom.

Cinema and Cartoons, all Commercial-free,

Made for fun, undercovers movie-watching sprees.

I listened and sang to a ton of rock Classics,

Sipped Diet Coke watching famed YouTube antics,

Enjoyed my books, both in print and on Kindle,

My passion for reading never will dwindle.

For sure, warmth will follow the bone-chilling cold.

My body screamed, “For this I’m too old!”

Season Cycles mean we’ll soon welcome spring,

Along with the birds, with warm joyful hearts let’s sing!


An icy Current River at Riverfront Park Boat Ramp in Doniphan, MO. (Photo by Albert Morrow)

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Spunky Old Broads

It’s February so you can call me an SOB. Had I known a special day was allocated for SOB’s – the first day of February – I would have been more prepared and kicked off SOB month in grand SOB style. I might lack one qualification to be a Spunky Old Broad of the caliber of 99-year-old Iris Apfel since I am only…well, I’m not THAT old…but one can have aspirations. Past Spunky Old Broads of the Year have included Cloris Leachman, Dolly Parton and Katie Couric. Hmm. Maybe I have a bit more aspiring to do beyond just tacking on a few years to be a genuine SOB.

This isn’t a far-out sounding celebration that is simply the result of a bored broad searching for a reason to dress up for a gal’s night out in great company. It has a real inventor, a lady named Dr. Gayle Carson. She trademarked it in 2002. “I started it because I found that once a woman hit 50, she was almost invisible and as a woman who keeps reinventing herself and is very active in business, media etc, I wanted to acknowledge that is not the truth.” She is an entrepreneur, consultant, life coach specializing in women’s issues, a speaker and an author.

Let’s stop a moment and clear up the definition of ‘broad’ as it is used here. Because vocabulary is ever-evolving, the term has gone way beyond the derogatory meaning it once had to now exemplify feisty ladies who push to get as much out of life as possible regardless of circumstances. They live with spirit, humor and optimism. Betty White, Lucille Ball and Bette Midler come to mind as ones who embody the SOB persona. Fame is not a prerequisite, though. Mommas and grandmas, sisters and aunts, colleagues and pals can fit right in with the rich and famous SOB’s.

SOB’s are the movers and shakers in their arenas. They don’t dream dreams; they live them while motivating others to boldly live their own. We in Ripley County are fortunate to have loving, visionary women impacting our communities in grand ways. Not all of them have hit the 50-year mark. Grand SOB’s in-the-making with grand SOB’s to model!

This was written for the February 24th issue of my Close to Home column in my hometown paper The Prospect-News

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Family Trees

Trees intrigue me. To see and ponder seasonal changes, I drive around to check on favorites and find new ones.  When one disappears, it’s sad. I wonder what was wrong.  Did weather create conditions that overpowered it? Did it acquire a disease? Was it in someone’s way? 

It’s a fun challenge to parallel trees and humans. Seeds scatter and become saplings in a small patch of woods having the same makeup as parent trees but with unique traits. If protected just enough while being nurtured by sun and rain and strengthened by winds, the saplings grow to provide shade, food, homes and comfort for a variety of living creatures.

Some scientific studies show that trees communicate. Roots and branches intertwine, nourishing earth and atmosphere, forming fascinating forest environments above and below ground. When one topples, those environments are impacted immediately. With time, root systems and canopies adjust. Their provisions continue, with a difference, still good but not the same.

As it is with losses in our human families. Frank Winford’s passing has created a huge gap in the canopy of life for many around here. Rest in peace, Frank. 1964 – 2021. Loss overwhelms, but adjust we must to resume our lives and enjoy the present  with family and friends. Life continues, but with a difference. Still good, but not the same.

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From DIY’er to DIN’er

I’ve noticed atroublesome pattern in the memories that pop up daily on my Facebook timeline. Anyone reading over my shoulder might deduce traits of my personality that contradict reality. My frequent viewing of these posts has led to a nose-dive in my self-esteem, mainly because I am well aware of the situation.

What is that grim reality? I am a failure thanks to the DIY’ers (do-it-yourselfers). I am not referring to skilled seamstresses, needle-workers, interior designers who know all the rules and which to break, landscapers with encyclopedic knowledge, mechanics, builders, artists in any arena – all those folks with training and expertise in creating, improving and beautifying what makes our world go round.

I am referring to DIY’ers who concoct fun, functional and colorful complements to daily life out of discards. There are tons of television shows, websites, books (entire library sections) and YouTube podcasts dedicated to doing just that. Why do I feel doomed in this arena?  It isn’t because I can’t do anything. I can read, comprehend and follow instructions – the foundation of any growth and development. I own basic equipment: hammer, drill, paints and brushes, more hot glue guns than necessary (because they play hide-and-seek), an immeasurable stash of supplies and innumerable sources of natural and manmade resources. I have a multitude of folders – both the paper and the email kinds – of mountains of projects within the scope of my skills. I could probably host workshops and provide participants with all the necessary supplies, but I would be learning along with them.

So why am I among the ranks of the DIN’ers (do-it nevers)? (Technically, almost-never because I have proudly completed a couple of basic ones in the fourteen or so years of retirement). If I didn’t drag out any of the quickest projects to tackle during the initial isolation of the pandemic in 2020, it probably ain’t gonna happen. Do I dare plan a yard sale or give my bins away? What if that dooms others to the DIN dungeon? I don’t want to enable so I will wait. Every now and then an authentic DIY’er begins looking frantically for a specific item in the middle of a creation. Being able to provide it is almost as satisfying as doing it myself.

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The January Effect

Are you noticing the January effect as I am? No, I am not scurrying to invest more in the stock market – the usual meaning of that term. I’m referring to the effect January has on moods and outlooks, at least on mine. Dictionary compilers should concoct a definition that addresses it. In the winter blues race, January 2021 will cross the finish line way ahead of previous ones in my experience. At this stage of my boomer hood, time is zooming by anyway, so I work at capturing moments to savor rather than rushing them through, but this month can go ahead and scoot on out. I’ve had enough.

During my childhood, it was different. I had new toys and books to occupy my time while Mom slyly removed some of the old ones. Snow brightened the days. We built crooked snowmen, had snowball fights, ate snow cream, went sledding. My dad, my brother and both Popos have January birthdays, so we created cards and planned surprises. And I could go back to school, my favorite place!

As a grownup and a momma, January days were still bright – not as often brighter by snow, though – because I could play with our son. The return to school – as a teacher rather than as a student – was bittersweet. It was still a favorite place, but home with baby was better. 

Older still, and grateful, I find myself enduring Januaries. Changes in routine to accommodate resolutions quickly revert back to old ways, colorful holiday decorations disappear, outside time is curtailed and skies seem drearier. A good old-fashioned time-stopping snow would be such fun for a change! My snowman would still lean, Scooter the cat might not appreciate snowballs, and my sledding days may never return, but I would certainly enjoy some snow cream again! What a super diversion an eight-to-twelve-inch snowfall would be from virus and vaccine, conflict and division, sorrow and loss.

*Amidst pending sorrows on the morrow, 

*A grandchild’s smile, a glorious gleam of sunshine, a playful kitten’s antics, distract heavy hearts.

*Glimmering memories mold shimmering moments, awaken joy, lighten a soul’s burden.

*Prayerful moments empower the distraught, multiply kinship, diminish fear.

*Music enhances, relaxes minds and bodies to embrace the precious present.

*Words written or spoken work wonders with the weary,

*Silence stills struggles, stirs spirits to share kindness and awe

*Amidst pending sorrows on the morrow.

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Leaning on Tradition

My brain is bamboozled. The end of 2020 looms, and aren’t we ready for that! The holidays are upon us, and even the scroogiest among us finds SOMETHING to smile about, even if only in reminiscing. So why, oh why, is it so challenging for me to come up with a column topic? Maybe it’s because there are tons of (1) causes to support, (2) stories to share, (3) opinions to flaunt, (4) emotions to sort, and (5) recipes to dig out and enjoy during the season.

We probably all have foods that we love, that we grew up believing only our family ate. Why is that, I wonder. Why do we reserve them just for the holidays? Looking back on our family favorites, it might have been partly an expense-related decision to have ice box roll and amagation cake served only at Christmas time. (Note: This laptop did not want to allow ‘amagation’ but I persisted. Yes, it is SUPPOSED to be ‘amalgamation’ but my toddler tongue couldn’t say that, so amagation it is. I win the battle with autocorrect this time). Both the roll and the cake have ingredients that might have been rationed in the early days, so the tradition evolved to make them extra-special by serving only once a year. When I make them, it’s the time I buy all new spices and start fresh with all the ingredients. I need all the help I can get when competing with the tastes I remember from my grandmother’s and my mother’s kitchens.

The recipes together are time-consuming as well as dollars-consuming. Even though the ice box roll is a no-bake concoction, it’s an ordeal to make. When I was young I remember nut-cracking and chopping going on. Sometimes I helped cut marshmallows with scissors before all the ingredients – which included dates and raisins, graham crackers and cream – were put through the food chopper attached to the side of the kitchen table.

The ooey-gooey mess that wound up in the bowl was shaped into a loaf, wrapped in wax paper, then plastic wrap, then one of the prettiest Christmas dish towels. It was stored in the refrigerator to be sliced and served on Christmas eve. That ooey-gooey mess was a marvelously tasty treat. I loved it as much as dad did, so at our house it didn’t last long. The two of us ate most of it.

If I want to enjoy that Christmas tradition this year, I better get off this laptop and into the kitchen! Thank goodness for packaged walnut pieces and miniature marshmallows!

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Adjusting to Changes

It’s probably a circumstance that a practitioner of Freudian psychology would quickly identify as a trait of a super-healthy ego, but I would argue – a trait of my hard-headedness – that ANYONE’s ears would perk up hearing their name. The radio was tuned in, but my attention wasn’t UNTIL I heard Teresa, or so I thought I heard. Instantly my attention focused on the discussion to see who made the news who shares my name. But it wasn’t a who. It was a phenomenon. (I know, Freud, I know. That sounds quite egotistical, but I am well aware that word could never be used to describe little ol’ me).

The word I heard was hysteresis. Say Teresa with a ‘hiss’ in front of it and ‘sis’ in place of the ‘uh’ sound made by the ‘a’ at the end, and you have it! It is a physics word. (My grade school introduction to physics didn’t include it on the vocabulary list. My teacher was stuck on levers – period). The radio host was not talking about physics at all. His program was about the economy!

It’s tough to listen when your mind chases rabbits. I had to find a definition. Found one, but that didn’t help. I had to find a definition of the definition. Here is my version. Hysteresis refers to the catching up that is needed when an occurrence causes a change in direction. Imagine a troublemaker deciding to switch the direction of a conveyor belt in a chocolate factory, bypassing stop. There would be a slowing down as gears got the message, then a pileup of chocolates, with spillage along with lots of noise, as gears came to a halt before going the other way.

I think hysteresis aptly describes more aspects of our pandemic period than just the economy. Change might be good, but we don’t like it, especially without warning. Sometimes we have to be convinced. Back in March when we shifted gears in every aspect of daily life, there was lots of noise as gears came to a halt before changing direction. And changes were global, not just local or national. Problems galore have piled up. When we decide to change directions again – and in many instances it won’t simply be back to the former directions but in completely different ones, I am preparing for a gradual return to an altered norm.

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Seeing in 2021

Remember the hoopla associated with roaring into 2020? In my mind the anticipation was dimmed slightly by a calendar conundrum: Were we ending or beginning a decade? The tendency to slightly overthink the trivial as well as the profound didn’t overshadow the fun of finding a flapper dress and accessories to dance what I tentatively decided  was ‘into’ a new decade.

I’ve changed my mind. The year 2020 is bowing out on such a low note, I have decided it deserves a ‘decade ending’ label. (We almost made it through the first quarter, though, before the downhill slide started and accelerated thanks to the coronavirus). As it takes its place in history, some aspects will raise eyebrows, defy explanation and maybe even elicit a chuckle or two.

*In a flash we had a shortage of toilet paper. (Why? What news did I miss)?

*Reading lists, online shopping, creative pursuits and waistlines expanded. I must confess that I gave in to reading from Kindle and listening to an audio book or two. Reading print is still my preferred practice, however.

*Comfort topped trends. I’m not complaining. Pulling on leggings is way easier than tugging at shrinking jeans. Those shorter dresses in the back of the closet? Terrific timely no-telling tunics.

*With no place to go and fewer to go with safely anyway, many took drives, snapping photos to share solo adventures on social media. 

*Social media shifted from the focus of sharp criticism to the crux of our work, school, church and family connections. This quote by NYT reporter Matt Richtel says it perfectly. “I think science is beginning to embrace the idea that some technology is Twinkies and some technology is Brussels sprouts. If we consume too much technology, just like if we consume too much food, it can have ill effects.”

*To survive, businesses revamped the whys and hows of service. When pandemic restrictions relax, might some fast food outlets remain drive-thru only since streamlined modifications improved service as well as profits? 

Along the way I have had some personal revelations. (1) More time at home flipped the bra bashing. Now the dilemma is remembering to put it on rather than rushing to take it off. (2) Natural gray rocks; messy buns and ponytails roll, roots rule. For now. It’s been almost a year since I visited my salon. (3) Why did I buy so many boxes of instant potatoes? I had not purchased even one in years and years. (4) Always intrigued by sunsets, I am now catching sunrises, too, since naps are simpler to schedule these days. 

My focus last New Year’s Eve was on fun and food, dance and dress. This year I wore a sparkly tunic, with leggings, prepared some tasty nibbles (ever heard of mashed potato candy?) and listened to the entertainment accompanying the ball drop. And of course I danced in the living room! To the mini-scale fun and frolic, I will add prayer for attitude correction and gratitude reflection. We hope 2021 will be kinder. We may need to help it along by being kinder ourselves.

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