My First Attempt at AI-Powered Writing

Artificial intelligence is all the rage, so I decided to use it to generate my February Word Sisters post.

My request: write a rhyming poem for women 50+ about the joys of aging (though I also briefly considered “the realities of aging”).

First I tried, but didn’t love what it generated, so I turned to chatGPT. In less than 30 seconds, here’s what I received.

As we age, we gain wisdom and grace

Our wrinkles are lines that tell our life’s pace

We’ve lived through hardships and moments so sweet

And we’ve learned that life is a journey, not a defeat

We no longer chase fleeting trends

Instead, we embrace our truest friends

Our bodies may change, but our spirits stay strong

And we continue to sing life’s sweetest song

We relish in the simple things

Like watching the sun set, and what the day brings

We find joy in a book or a warm cup of tea

And appreciate the beauty in things we see

We know that time is fleeting and precious

So we take moments to pause and reflect, never reckless

We find beauty in the moments we share

And embrace every opportunity to show we care

So let’s embrace this new chapter with pride

And enjoy the joys of aging with every stride

For we know that with each passing day

We become wiser, kinder, and better in every way

As a career writer, I’m still pondering how I might use AI-powered writing, but there is one thing I do know: I couldn’t have written a poem so quickly. And while I don’t think it’s a great or even a good poem, I do believe there’s value in not having to start with a blank page.

Have you experimented with AI-powered writing? If so, what tools have you used and what’s been your experience?

Days of Belgian Pie

John, my last living uncle, passed away January 25, on his 90th birthday. One aunt remains and I hope she will be able to be there to say good-by to the last of her siblings. 

It is cold in Wisconsin and my uncle’s beloved parish church may be chilly as his family gathers for his funeral this week. The cold would not have bothered him during his working years on the railroad or hunting with friends and family. When he was a kid hunting was not so much a sport, but a way to keep meat, canned or frozen, on hand to feed seven or eight people. Railroad workers, both my grandfather and uncle, never made a lot of money. My aunt cooked and sewed and gardened while working part-time to help support their family. Raised on a farm, she knew how to work as well as have fun. They both had big hearts.

When my ninety-four-year-old grandfather passed away, he was buried out of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Luxemburg, Wisconsin. It was the first time I spoke at a funeral and shared with my eleven-year-old daughter the traditions of grieving in a small town where families are often intertwined, and most people have a public reputation. 

Women from the parish made the food for my grandfather’s funeral luncheon. One of his cousins, who was also in her nineties, started baking when she heard he had passed. She made dozens of Belgian pies, enough so an entire six-foot table could be filled multiple times with slices of the sweet dough pie with soft cheese topping covering prune, apple, cherry, apricot, raisin, rice or poppyseed filling. It is an acquired taste.

Noise filled St. Mary’s School cafeteria from lunch until we were asked to leave. There were a few photos, but the tradition of picture boards or videos at funerals had not come to Luxemburg. Instead conversations about my grandfather’s life were shared which often triggered laughter. Lots of laughter. For a relatively small man, Uncle John had a large and distinctive voice. His laughter may have been one of loudest in the crowded space. With our parents still alive and doing the job of representing the family, the cousins gathered our children to do introductions and talk about growing up with our grandfather. 

My Uncle John looked a lot like his father. He was fiercely protective of his family, and they reciprocated. Hopefully my cousins, their children, and grandchildren will fill another room with stories of his life and laughter. Traditions like baking Belgian pies for a funeral may have faded away, but the love of family at a time of loss holds.

Stuff’s Happening: FoodTrain

Why is it so difficult to write about what happened in November? The month began with foreshadowing that a health issue would require treatment in a three-to-five-year window. Nine days into the month, tests shortened the timeline to available slots for more extensive surgery the next week. By the middle of November, I had had major surgery, my first time being hospitalized except for delivering babies.

There is a lot I could write about attempting to fill the freezer with food, set up auto-pay for bills, finish a grandchild’s Advent calendar and locate an adult child’s birthday gift within seven days. In retrospect some parts of preparation were successful, and some missed the mark. A hospital rookie, I packed a bag that included a hair dryer, curling iron, underwear, t-shirts, leggings and more than one book. Weak during that first shower I was very happy with clean, natural hair. Nurses didn’t want a t-shirt sleeve in the way of monitors, cuffs or iv’s. My attention span didn’t last through a comparison of humidifiers much less beginning a new novel. 

Returning home was great. Our daughter had stocked individual meals for a few days. She and our daughter-in-law made Thanksgiving dinner. My plan to fill the freezer had dropped off the earlier lists. Something much better happened: MealTrain, coordinated by friends, some from our neighborhood and some from other parts of our lives, created a predictable safe zone as we figured out how to get through each day. 

For two weeks the kindness of friends fed us one hot meal each day. Pasta, soup, quiche, chicken marsala, tacos, pork tenderloin, hot sandwiches, each supplemented with salads, vegetables, and breads. Sometimes homemade bread. Plus our friends believe in dessert. One Sunday brunch was delivered and served to our entire family, an incredible gift on many levels.

My husband received daily notices from MealTrain telling who was bringing dinner and what was planned. These wonderful friends gave generously of themselves showing up every afternoon with food and a few minutes of visiting. They saved Tom, who does not cook much, a lot of stress while making both of us feel supported and inching toward ‘normal’ as we sat at our table eating dinner. 

Stuff happens, some scary and necessary, some amazingly helpful and kind. To all involved, thank you. Take care.

Stuff Happening

Climate change is moving ahead without human intervention. Even the Mighty Mississippi is drying up leaving commercial traffic stranded in low water. Record temps, record rains, record wild fires aren’t as easily resolved as heavy winter snow.

But in the Midwest this fall, that same weather has meant beautiful lazy sunrises and warm days that give us opportunities for another walk, a bike ride, one last cookout. Sitting outside feeding grandbaby a bottle, the late morning sunshine feels even warmer without a leaf canopy. My arms store memories of bottles and burbs and giggles and books read in this chair during the second six months of her life.

All is not easy on this idyllic day. There are difficult physical weeks ahead including the possibility of serious surgery. Except for C-sections and babies, I’ve never had surgery or stayed overnight in a hospital. A date is on the calendar for the initial stage of this process. Part of me is calm, almost relieved to know what must be done and how. Calm until about three in the morning when a busy mind chases down unknown alleys.

Family and friends have had their times under anesthesia in 2022. One was the result of past athletic injuries, another fell, the others faced cancer with chemicals and radiation as well as surgery. For me to have sports-related surgery would be kind of funny. And I’m relieved to not be beginning the cancer battle. Most of us will face a few days in our lives wearing drafty cotton gowns and trying to sleep surrounded by noisy machines. I’d rather be crammed into a tight airline seat trying to sleep surrounded by noisy kids. That was not a choice.

For now the seasonal discussions about who will be at Thanksgiving and what day is best for Christmas festivities have been displaced. Stuff is happening.

Squirrels and Party Dresses

October has a predictable rhythm in our home centered around visits from out-of-town relatives and birthday celebrations with the quiet drumbeat of Halloween building under the other excitement. This year the family has a tiny new trick or treater to help greet neighborhood kids. Somewhere close to this week pumpkins appear on our porch or in the yard, hopefully to last through October 31.

Oak trees have not unloaded acorns this year which may be why the squirrels are treating our first batch of pumpkins like a grand buffet, digging through the flesh and dragging seeds out every hour of day or night. The fluffy tailed evil ones demolish any fun had in mixing and matching ghost pumpkins with long necked gourds around the classic Jack-o-Lantern designee. Foul combinations of hot sauce and vinegar with a generous dusting of hot pepper flakes appears to extend the squirrel vs people struggle until dew or rain washes away pumpkin protection.

Squirrel battles added to an already full month. The huge event squeezed into the calendar is October 15 when we head to the regional Emmy awards dinner at the invitation of Pioneer PBS Postcard production team whose episode on 40 Thieves on Saipan has been nominated for an award in the Historical/Cultural/Nostalgia–Long Form Content category. Joseph Tachovsky is having adjustments made to his tuxedo and a new black dress hangs in my closet waiting for a night in the media world. If like other award programs, we’ll people watch while eating, doing anything until we know how the Thieves’ story fares. Pioneer PBS Postcards crew did an amazingly creative job. And they have an enviable record of earning regional Emmys. Fingers crossed.

Book award programs usually attract people in interesting artsy or nice dress clothes, but television people pull on the sparkles and sophistication when honoring their best programming. Shopping for a party outfit changed the nature of typical autumn shopping for new long-sleeve shirts, a sweater or two, and a new pair of jeans.

Forgetting the squirrel pumpkin conflicts, October looks like a good month.