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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“My Way or the Highway” Attitudes

It’s not an archaic idiom; it’s first recorded use was in the 1970’s. My way or the highway doesn’t usually evoke a positive reaction because it is not usually spouted in a positive way. 

Early in my existence I was introduced to the concept, though those exact words weren’t used since I pre-date the 70’s,  just a little bit.  Not always a cooperative child, I often heard Dad’s no back-talking, no but’s rule. I had to do things his way – period. 

Of course I thought he was unfair. I just wanted to explain.  He was not interested in my if’s, and’s or but’s no matter how enlightened I felt or insistent I might have been. He was interested, however, in peaceful coexistence for those of us living under the same roof.

There are rules we have to accept, like them or not, understand them or not. One that stands out for me is the commutative property of multiplication. The order of the numbers does not matter – period – and even applies to multiplying by zeros, too. My hard head didn’t accept that quickly. I could explain all day long why I thought the rule didn’t apply there, but it doesn’t make my way right.

The my way or the highway attitude seems to be interfering these days in friendships, progress and peace.  I don’t think there is any one among us who owns the sole solution to any struggle and therefore the right to be unkind to anyone whose opinions differ. That creates division, not diversity, conflict, not compromise. For peace and progress, we don’t have to all agree, but aren’t we grown-up enough to hear each other’s if’s and’s and but’s with open minds and hearts? We can’t seem to do that even on social media. Where does that leave us?

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Inauguration Day 2021

What if one tiny little prerequisite was added to the list of qualifications for being a presidential candidate – one that would be anti-discriminatory regarding race, ethnicity, gender? What if a wanna-be leader had to have coaching experience in any competitive sport?

Think about it. In addition to having leadership and communication skills, which greatly appeals to the former language arts teacher side of me, they would also have CPR training and be subject to drug testing and background checks just as players are. They would gain valuable  experience directing team players in honing skills and talents in a way that benefits team progress, not only for individual fame. Candidates would be keen at assigning positions, implementing drills and developing team strategies. Their focus would be on outcomes for sure but  with regard for the welfare of each participant and spectators.

Let’s talk about those referees. A bit like our media, don’t you think? If presidential candidates had coaching experience, then it would be wise for the media to have referee training. That means media specialists would have expertise in the various sports, great vision along with quick decision-making ability and stamina to endure the physical requirements and the pressure that goes with the job. Of course, paramount is the ability to remain unbiased. When it seems refs are unduly directing outcomes, spectators on both sides can get unruly. 

Coaches work hard to win, to develop morale and motivate participants to perform at their best. They win some – realizing so many factors contribute to those wins – and they lose some, learning humility and good sportsmanship. Always there is appreciation for opponents. After all, opponents keep teams on their toes, working to savor celebratory achievements because all play by the same rules. 

The championship every four years – Inauguration Day – would be a true national celebration. Sometimes we would cheer for the underdog, at other times cheering a team with strong records and longevity.  Always, though, the winner would be a team that played by the rules unaided by refs turning a blind eye to affect outcomes, dividing spectators and creating tumult.

COVID-19 has mandated the modification of game rules. If we did not have other grave concerns affecting our inaugural traditions. too, I would be watching with American pride, honoring the winner and the process. Not this year. I will read about it later in the paper.

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If’s, And’s or But’s

It’s not an archaic idiom; it’s first recorded use was in the 1970’s. My way or the highway doesn’t usually evoke a positive reaction because it is not usually spouted in a positive way. 

Early in my existence I was introduced to the concept, though those exact words weren’t used since I pre-date the 70’s,  just a little bit.  Not always a cooperative child, I often heard Dad’s no back-talking, no but’s rule. I had to do things his way – period.  Of course I thought he was unfair. I just wanted to explain.  He was not interested in my if’s, and’s or but’s no matter how enlightened I felt or insistent I might have been. He was interested, however, in peaceful coexistence for those of us living under the same roof.

There are rules we have to accept, like them or not, understand them or not. One that stands out for me is the commutative property of multiplication. The order of the numbers does not matter – period – and even applies to multiplying by zeros, too. My hard head didn’t accept that quickly. I could explain all day long why I thought the rule didn’t apply there, but it doesn’t make my way right.
The my way or the highway attitude seems to be interfering these days in friendships, progress and peace.  I don’t think there is any one among us who owns the sole solution to any struggle and therefore the right to be unkind to anyone whose opinions differ. That creates division, not diversity, conflict, not compromise. For peace and progress, we don’t have to all agree, but aren’t we grown-up enough to hear each other’s if’s and’s and but’s with open minds and hearts? We can’t seem to do that even on social media. Where does that leave us?

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Slow Reaction to Change

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, t that sounds quite egotistical, but I am well aware that word could never describe me 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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Happy New Year 2021

The year 2020 is finally at end

With none of us feeling sorrow.

We’ve many fears to settle, lives and hearts to mend,

Hope for a brighter tomorrow.

* * * * *

We welcomed the decade with pomp and circumstance,

Expecting fun and health and wealth,

Hailing a past century with costumes and dance,

Pandemic approaching with stealth.

* * * * *

Ripley County was grateful for post-flood progress –

Roads, bridges, business rebounded –

“Pandemic proportions” aptly described our mess.

Optimistic plans abounded.

* * * * *

The luck of the Irish didn’t quite protect us,

After St. Patrick’s Day in March

Life became unpredictable and horrendous.

By COVID-19 we were starched.

* * * * *

We quarantined in mystery and confusion,

Worried and masked and sanitized.

Our shortages a convoluted allusion?

Alone, who could be energized?

* * * * *

Sickness and death, countless affected by COVID.

2021? New, improved

To ease sad memories haunting and myriad.

New perspectives, vaccines approved,

* * * * *

Dedicated local leaders, we say ‘Thank you!”

To essential workers – the same!

With hope we look forward to a year that’s brand new,

2020’s out of the game!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021

The year 2020 is finally at end

With none of us feeling sorrow.

We’ve many fears to settle, lives and hearts to mend,

Hope for a brighter tomorrow.

* * * * *

We welcomed the decade with pomp and circumstance,

Expecting fun and health and wealth,

Hailing a past century with costumes and dance,

Pandemic approaching with stealth.

* * * * *

Ripley County was grateful for post-flood progress –

Roads, bridges, business rebounded –

“Pandemic proportions” aptly described our mess.

Optimistic plans abounded.

* * * * *

The luck of the Irish didn’t quite protect us,

After St. Patrick’s Day in March

Life became unpredictable and horrendous.

By COVID-19 we were starched.

* * * * *

We quarantined in mystery and confusion,

Worried and masked and sanitized.

Our shortages a convoluted allusion?

Alone, who could be energized?

* * * * *

Sickness and death, countless affected by COVID.

2021? New, improved

To ease sad memories haunting and myriad.

New perspectives, vaccines approved,

* * * * *

Dedicated local leaders, we say ‘Thank you!”

To essential workers – the same!

With hope we look forward to a year that’s brand new,

2020’s out of the game!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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