On making sense of life…

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What a beautiful fall day – doors and windows are open and the air smells clean and new. Farmers Market is winding down for the day, and Kansas Jayhawk football is happening over on the Hill, the culmination of Homecoming Week here. Kim’s watching the game while he cuts up a bigly mountain of peppers to freeze, a generous gift from our friends Terry and Leigh and their bountiful garden.

Well hey, I started this yesterday and then Calgon took me away. It was a good day all the way through…riding with Kim while he ran errands, napping, walking to Cielito for a margarita and dinner.

And now it’s a sunny Sunday morning, the chef has returned from the PickleBall wars, he’s in his kitchen making ranch omelets, and life is looking entirely doable all day.

These are the things that matter. When everything around us is unending chaos, these are the things that carry us through the days until the outer world seems real again. We have to keep our hearts open to the beautiful and the true in life – the things we can’t afford to lose. Hang onto them like life preservers. It’s the only way anything makes sense.

 

 

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The remains of the day…

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stunned and sitting shocked

fabric is ripping apart

how will peace be found

JSmith 10/02/2017

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You can do it…

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doubt butts into life

and tricks us into sorry

paralyzation

JSmith 09/28/2017

 

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Duty calls…

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“An adventure a day” has been our marriage mantra from the beginning – any time we find ourselves up against a plot twist, we have to figure out how to turn it into something fun, interesting, challenging, or in some other way memorable. Easy-peasy most days, as it turns out, and we have some great little stories to show for our efforts.

We’ve also each carried a desire, over the years, to belong somewhere. Kim’s been looking for it since his growing-up years in SoCal, and I spent a lot of years wishing to feel at home the way I did on the family farm where I grew up, as I felt forever the outsider on my married-into one.

Lawrence is proving to be that safe space for both of us – the vibe, the weather, the manageable scope of our surroundings, the sense-of-new that’s in the air we breathe. Being seated on a jury this past week only added to the knowledge that I’m a real citizen here.

Physically and psychically it was a challenge (aka adventure). Having been a jury member twice now, both criminal cases, it’s my heartfelt opinion that sitting in judgement of a fellow human is the heaviest responsibility this side of bringing home a new baby.

The charge was Criminal DUI, the charged a young Hispanic man. Young white prosecutor, older Hispanic defense attorney. Young white highway patrolman, phlebotomist, and KBI expert. All-white jury pool. All-white jurors, five women, one man. (We learned that misdemeanor offenses require a six-person jury and felonies twelve.) I think I could be an effective jury consultant after watching the attorneys narrow the pool by dismissing every male the approximate age of the defendant and keeping all of us who looked like sisters, moms, and grandmothers.

The charges…

1.) Operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner

2.) Driving 92mph on a 75mph interstate

3.) Driving under the influence of alcohol

4.) Refusing a breathalyzer and a blood test

The highway patrolman’s testimony was articulate and the evidence of speeding was solid. The KBI’s toxicology reports were quite conclusive and delivered in a succinct manner by a young woman who clearly reached her level of expertise by virtue of knowing things. The phlebotomist from the hospital demonstrated serious credibility and provided key testimony about the chain of evidence. In the only nebulous part of the evidence presented, the grainy dashcam video shot at 2am was helpful but not conclusive as to the charge of unsafe driving.

We were the typically assorted crew, and although we exchanged very little personal information during off moments, our personalities were coming out by deliberation time. Our lone guy struck me as neutral, right down the middle, just the facts, please, all in a day’s work. Of the five of us women, one was a no-nonsense Fox News conservative (her words) and not interested in nor affected by any discussion of potentially mitigating circumstances; another was an educator, probably in her 40s, who engaged us in discussing various scenarios and possibilities; there was an adorbs sorority girl from The Hill who seemed to be most concerned about making all the numbers add up so as not to wrongly convict the defendant; then you have me, the eldest in the room, focused on all my unanswered questions; and finally, a young woman not too long out of college and involved in a career. She volunteered to serve as foreman, which surprised me until I saw her in action.

Foreman Woman efficiently and dispassionately took us through each of the charges one by one and we discussed them until we felt ready to vote. We voted GUILTY on three of the four charges, the only logical thing to do in view of the evidence. Even as we filed back into the courtroom, my brain was still trying to work out why the defendant had requested a jury trial for a DUI, and how a conviction was going to affect his mother, who was in the courtroom both days. Nonetheless, it was done, over.

Afterward, the judge came to the deliberation room and talked to us, and in answering our questions she provided two key pieces of information that have allowed me to let it all go:

1.) Sometimes people request jury trials on the outside chance that a jury might have enough doubt or sympathy to exonerate them.

2.) This was his second DUI offense.

Okay, I’m sorry, nice-looking young man, go do your time and learn some things about life.

And I’m sorry, mister well-trained professional law enforcement officer, that I entertained the slightest possibility of not taking a proven menace off the highways. Wow, he looked so clean and earnest and hopeful, too.

When I met Kim for lunch I realized that I was shaking all over, mostly from relief that all of us together had managed to do the right thing. The heavy sense of responsibility stayed with me into the evening and I found myself crying over silly things on TV.

Alexander Hamilton, et.al., placed a lot of trust in the jury concept – that Americans through the years would retain enough personal integrity to make life and death decisions as concerning their fellow man. This one was fairly easy to own because the solid truth of the body of evidence was overwhelming – we were presented with established facts from credible witnesses. And yet when you walk into the deliberation room you’re hit with the sense of accountability you owe to the entire process, and that’s good – it should never be an easy assignment.

I’m relieved and gratified to say that heritage didn’t show up in any way as a topic for consideration – we discussed only the facts and the evidence supporting them as they related to the charges. Each of my fellow humans on the jury surprised me in happy ways and each one taught me something. Thank you, our beloved forebears, for entrusting this important task to simple citizens – we truly are all in this together.

This, for whatever reasons, has been a hard post to write – I’ve been trying to find the words since last Thursday and now I’ve written a whole LOT of them and this has grown long. I keep thinking of what the educator in the room said: “If any one of us were to find ourselves in trouble in a court of law, we would hope for an honest, serious jury who would consider nothing but the facts of our case.” Amen. It matters.

 

 

 

 

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…and a red umbrella…

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rain makes me happy

when the sky cries i feel joy

am i damaged goods?

JSmith 09/18/2017

 

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Blue-gray Saturdays…

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gray flannel morning

melancholy permeates

in here and out there

JSmith 09/16/2017

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Creative escapism…

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These are strange times, so strange that every day brings something we haven’t had to deal with in quite this way before.

I’ve been thinking about the “feel-goods” we latch onto when life turns tentative, like when a horse named Seabiscuit raised the spirits of the whole nation by winning against all odds.

Reading and writing are always my first means of escape, but I’m gung-ho about the sportsing, too. I’m awkward, I have no depth perception, and no athletic abilities whatsoever, so I sign up to clap and cheer because I genuinely love most all of it. It’s soothing to watch the fluidity of trained athletes using their bodies to full effect, smoothly doing the things I can’t, winning and losing battles that aren’t life and death but feel somehow meaningful.

PGA tournaments are wonderful for watching and sometimes napping, but there’s also major league baseball, college basketball, and professional tennis, my favs. I have a love/hate relationship with boxing and football, both of them damaging but also full of spectacle, ability, and sheer bravado. I’m not sufficiently motivated to figure out how soccer, rugby, and their cousins work, so I tend to space those off. Ice hockey is sanctioned brutality, and bowling on TV is out of the question – I’ve never been that bored, no offense to bowlers. Olympic years are like dessert, the best saved for last.

What’s your preferred method of escape? I’m always looking for new ways to win at life, and running away from it is how I relax. 😇

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Um…what was I saying?

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Good morning, friends. I woke up to sunshine and a stack of birthday greetings, so I’m currently fortifying my brain and bones with coffee and preparing to meet myself at age 70 before the day’s over. It feels odd to own that milestone, but my primary emotion is thankfulness – I’ve outlived my mother by three years now, and I like not dying yet, so here we go…

Kim’s playing PickleBall for a couple of hours in NoLaw, and when he’s home and showered we’ll walk through the alley to The Roost so I can have potato pancakes like my mom made. This evening will be dinner at Basil Leaf, with serious fasting between the two birthday meals. Some industrial-strength healing is in order as well – over the weekend Kim narrowly missed getting slammed by a bronchial event, and yesterday I picked up where he left off. It’s been years, I have no idea how many, since I’ve had a cold or flu, but this thing is trying to kick my butt. Razor-blade throat, cough that won’t quit, head full of gack. My stubborn intention is to feed it, drown it in good coffee, sleep it off this afternoon, and otherwise ignore it to every extent possible.

I have projects to finish and about a million books to read, so Job One is to stick around and do life right. There are people to meet, family to embrace, music to cry over, beauty to fully appreciate, and love to hand out like candy, so I hope I get to stay here with all y’all a good long while.

Experience is worth everything and I happily own the lessons it’s taught me – I’m genuinely liking this part of life from 65 to whatevs. Things have kind of smushed together by now and squeezed out the excess baggage, so I mostly deal with only what really matters, and that works super nice.

Hey, I’m feeling better already. An excellent week to all, and come talk to me. 💋

 

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Songwriters are good at this…

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Haiku by Kim the night before the eclipse:

the soft suffocation of
a hot august night
earth heaves and tumbles with life 
.
.
one bat two bat fast bat gone
silent sonar song
masters of the inky night
.
.
many paths are crossed today
astral planes above
we achieve totality
.
.
Kim Smith 8/20/2017

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A Nation In Jeopardy

For my blogger friends around the world…please know that not all of us in the “United” States have drunk the Kool-Aid. Here’s someone who knows how to articulate that for us:

Social Justice For All

My husband and I just returned from Iceland — what a sad return. While away from the United States, we tried to be unplugged regarding the ever hastening downward spiral of the American government under Trump. Sadly, we could not escape, as the whole world is watching this “reality show” — this buffoonery. What is profoundly sad is that it is not a reality show. Our journey to another country, visiting with some really lovely people from around the world, only confirmed what I already knew. We are now being led by a fascist government that denies climate change and dismantles every agency created to aid people living in this country — which is further normalizing homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, anti-Semitism, and racism. We are a nation in jeopardy and the whole world is watching our decline.

The first week away we learned that Trump was threatening North Korea. His threats…

View original post 849 more words

Hurting people hurt people.

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Do you know how it feels to want to hurt someone? Hurt them so bad they can never get over it but they still have to live life in their own skin? You do, I know you do, because almost no one skates by without incurring collateral damage that nobody ever apologizes for. I loathe how powerless I am when events happen and life heads south and the person who instigated every bit of it is untouchable and not affected in any way by my heartache, indeed could not be less aware of my existence.

The fact that someone who will never lay eyes on me (it is to be hoped) holds the power of life and death over everyone I love seems deeply unjust. Unless we begin life as a proverbial Bad Seed we grow up wanting to do right and BE right. And then in some of our lifetimes a cataclysmic event changes us and sends us down paths we never would have chosen on our original trajectory. Inevitably, the world around us also swirls and heaves and splits at the seams, making it a challenge to find our footing again after the storm subsides.

My loved ones – a bigly number of people – were doing just fine until monsoon season hit, and it angers me that the current atmosphere is causing personal safety to once again be in question. It’s anger from way down, and it’s a new thing, and it scares me a little because I can’t afford to morph into a nasty bitter old woman, so my choice is to laugh at everything and everybody until life seems real again. Because right now – and I want to be very careful how I say it – this is horseshit.

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but listen…

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Seriously. I don’t get it.

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A post from my original blog, written August 13, 2012. A friend brought it to the top, and I was gratified to find that it still stands as written, with the exception of adding “freedom OF also means freedom FROM.” Here, at a five-year remove, is how it was…

Less than a month from now I will be eligible for Medicare and by that standard I’ve lived long enough to learn a few things, one of which is that it’s counter-productive to fret overly-much about what anybody thinks of me.

I’m well-read.  I’ve ventured outside the confines of the United States.  I am no longer a candidate for having the “Kick Me” sign hung on my back.  But there are any number of things that baffle me, make me shake my head, cause me to say “I don’t get it.”

I don’t get why a friendly conversation is so hard to come by in the public arena these days.

I don’t get how a sweet little girl sacrifices her entire childhood in favor of incredibly rigorous athletic training, rises to the top of her field, and wins gold – twice – at the  Olympics, only to be made the center of controversy over her HAIR, of all things, and the color of her leotard.

I don’t get what people mean when they say we need “a real American” in the White House.  Are they indicating that they want a Native American Indian for president?  Because obviously, the rest of us came from somewhere else and thus are not “real.”

I don’t get why it’s a point of controversy when the First Lady (as is traditional) chooses childhood obesity as her personal cause, since obesity in general is a huge thing in this country (pun definitely intended) and our children are suffering.  Somebody has to care that this is happening.

I don’t get why people continue to insist that the United States is officially a Christian nation, when the framers of the Constitution made it abundantly clear in the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Free exercise means ANY and ALL religion. Or none.

I don’t get why people insist that a single verse from Leviticus must be obeyed to the letter, while totally ignoring the remainder of that particular passage and so many more.

I don’t get how certain things become labeled as being “liberal” or “conservative.”  For example, recycling – why is that seen as an inherently subversive thing to do?  We have just one Earth, and so far no one has discovered a viable alternative, so it seems only wise to take care of this little spot in the universe.  The relatively conservative farm boy with whom I spent 34 years of my life went out and bought Rubbermaid tubs the week the big recycling plant opened in Meade, America, and we faithfully salvaged everything reusable from that point forward.  His vastly more conservative parents did the same in their small town, and proudly delivered their newspapers and other recyclables to the collection shed on a regular basis. Every time someone looks askance at me for doing my tiny part to help preserve the integrity of the planet, it makes me shake my head.  It doesn’t, however, deter me from what is by now an ingrained habit.

I DON’T get it … but I probably DO get it … and here’s what I think is going on …

I think friendly conversations are becoming fewer and further between because life is all about change, more so now than ever, and people are running scared, which makes them cling ever more desperately to their personal points of view.

I think Gabby Douglas’s hair is considered fair game because it’s somehow “foreign,” “other,” “not like us.”  And I think Fox News gets by with slamming her simply because she’s “that” brand of “different.”

I think our President is threatening for those same reasons, even though he is as much “white like us,” as he is “different.”  He had white grandparents who adored him and a white mother from Kansas, of all places.  An ordinary girl, an ordinary family, an ordinary life, all of which came together to produce an extraordinary man.  But because he lives inside black skin, was given a scary-sounding foreign name through no fault of his own, and was uppity enough to run for president and win, it becomes necessary to invent a “back story” in order to justify why we choose not to like him.

Our First Lady — scary, other, different?  I think you have to stretch pretty hard to make those labels stick, other than the fact that she, too, resides inside black skin that blessedly doesn’t look like ours.  I think her tremendous education level and innate intelligence, as well as those of the president, are intimidating and threatening to a certain segment of the population.

I think people insist on making this an officially “Christian” nation because that makes it feel safer and more “ours”.  And it makes it acceptable to persecute and call out and label and denigrate … and kill … Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and anyone else who is different … other … thus, somehow threatening.

I think it’s out of ignorance and fear that people carefully extract and selectively interpret the portion of Leviticus that enables and sanctifies their hatred of an entire group of people, while ignoring ALL of the other injunctions, primarily the ones that command us to

“Love thy neighbor.”

I think that ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds hatred, and hatred breeds violence.

I think that more than two hundred years of societal evolution, education, and exposure to the way the rest of the civilized world views things have brought us very little in the way of maturity, wisdom, kindness, and human progress in this country.  Willful ignorance and backwardness sadden and trouble me beyond words, and for all the indignant claims on the part of “Christians,” I think we get it wrong on SO many things.  I honestly believed we’d moved past all of this years ago.  Silly me.  Call me naïve and slap the “Kick Me” sign on my backside when I’m not looking.

I think one of the greatest joys of having a personal blog is the freedom to say exactly what I think.  And that the blowback that results from honesty and the willingness to speak up is inevitable and a natural part of the process.   I get that.

Obviously, I think a lot of things.  But if you get why recycling is scorned as an intrinsically “liberal” activity, please give me a call.  I don’t know WHAT to think about that one.

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Leavin’, on a jet plane…

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This morning someone I love flew home to her family and I miss her already. We said our goodbyes last night, five days after she arrived, and 40 years after we’d last seen each other.

Katie grew up in Michigan while my environment was the western Kansas landscape. She was a city girl, I was a country mouse trying to keep up and to figure out what made her so incredibly cool.

We were together only a handful of times over the years, but there was a bond that made us sisters as well as cousins. Life happened, of course. Katie birthed seven babies in eight years and added an eighth baby just for good measure, so she got a little too busy for letter-writing. I was preoccupied with the details of my own budding existence, so we gradually lost touch.

Enter Facebook: something I posted moved Katie to call me with the news that she was coming to Kansas to see my two sisters and me – and three days later she did. Four decades of involuntary separation melted away within seconds and we were sisters again. The hours flew by, as they do when we’re having fun, and it was over too soon. The memories are for keeps, though, so no crying – just plans for seeing each other again, sooner rather than later.

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Rita, Susan, Judy, and Katie

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Down to the wire…

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august has arrived

summer is quickly waning

have some fun right now

JSmith 08/01/2017

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