In… page 51

Day 83 – 06/03/2020

Other than a haircut and an overnight in the ER, I’m still sticking close to home for all the reasons, the biggest being that everything I need or want is right here. The hot weather we pined for has arrived… and what were we thinking? Kim has left outdoor PickleBall early the past two mornings because of it, and the A/C’s making up for lost time.

He went for a walk this morning and brought me some alley photos. The one above depicts Gwendolyn Brooks and the introduction to one of her poems: “This is the urgency:  Live! and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind,” along with Oscar Micheaux, Gordon Parks, and Langston Hughes, each of whom had a seminal influence on the character of Lawrence, Kansas.

We’re in awe of this marble bust on Mass Street, not least because of the way it responds to sunlight. It’s an incredible piece of work.

This one painted on tiny tiles next to a doorway took me back to Sunday when we had my sister Rita here for her birthday. Kim’s Mexican Kitchen was in full-on production and the results were Ah-mazing. Alas, so amazing that a picture of the plates didn’t happen.

And the birthday woman, the only pic here I can take credit for. Her blue eyes and beautiful smile light up a room and our lives. 💗

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Hanging on… page 50

Day 78 – 05/29/2020

Hello Diary, I’m still here. The weather was gray and rainy for most of the week, making it more challenging to ward off the sadz – sunshine removes the sting a little.

The ongoing loss of so many fellow Americans weighs heavy in the atmosphere but we can’t talk about it as a nation, deal with its implications now and for the future, or otherwise exorcise our disallowed grief. The deep sadness is always there.

The transformation of America from breadbasket and caring hand to the world, to a hate-filled isolationism that’s ME FIRST from the top down, is discouraging and worrisome, thus adding to the sad stack.

The willful ignorance by a third of the nation, leading to violent confrontation between proponents of science and those of bullshit, is sad-making.

The hateful determination to preserve a “separate but equal” status quo, equal being entirely arbitrary, leading to murder sanctioned by law, is unbearably sad and anger-generating.

The fact that I’m out of sync with people I love while we make our way through this supremely lonely piece of history is the ultimate sadness underlying all the rest, and I’m as powerless to fix that as I am any of the above.

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But where there’s sad… there’s happy. After waking up past midnight yesterday morning in anaphylactic distress, I took a little ambulance ride, did an overnight in the ER and survived to fight another day. I remember very little from when the paramedics put me on the gurney and wheeled me out of my bedroom until just before I was dismissed to come home, but I share this as a cautionary tale…

My hands, when I woke up, were swollen tight and itched so savagely I wanted to rip them off my arms, and the only thing different in my day on Wednesday had been spending about twenty minutes with needle and thread, reinforcing the ear-loop attachments on a mask that wasn’t MADE IN THE USA. The other symptoms were frightening, and I woke Kim up when my tongue started to swell – I know my limits.

Be wise, kids. And always try for the happy.

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Remembering…

An edited nostalgia piece from 2013 …

During a nursery visit to replace trees and plants lost to the western Kansas drought and heat (we’ve since moved to the northeast corner of the state), the greenhouse owner snapped off a king-sized rose blossom and handed it to me.  As soon as I caught its scent, my grandma was there beside me and a whole era lined up for review. 

We grew up across a gravel driveway from my paternal grandparents on a farm in the middle of wheat fields and pastures.  There were cows and chickens and a big barn populated by sleepy cats, but the best part of the farm was Grandma and Grandpa’s garden.  It spanned acres, and included most of the veggies you could name — potatoes, carrots, onions, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, sweet corn, peas, green beans, turnips (yucky), strawberries and tomatoes (both of which we were allowed to pluck warm from the vine, with a tap on the salt shaker Grandma kept tucked under the leaves); fruit trees including apple, cherry, and peach; and flowers.  Peonies, mock orange, baby’s breath, tulips, daisies, columbine, cosmos, daffodils, lilies, phlox, snapdragons, roses. Not a complete list.

All of this was surrounded by hedges that my grandpa kept trimmed — a tall one across the back, with openings into the orchard beyond, and shorter hedges along the front and sides with shaped entryways into the three main sections of the garden.  In a corner, close to the cattle pens, grew watermelon and cantaloupe.  And a quarter-mile away, next to an irrigation engine, was a colossal watermelon patch (which became infamous in its own right — a story for another day) that produced enough for all summer and into the fall, including a happy celebration for friends and neighbors in the yard.

Outside the confines of the hedges sat the two-story farmhouse my grandpa built, saturated with decades of living. Between the house and garden a hammock was stretched between two big cottonwoods, and a rope swing hung from a branch.  The clotheslines where we helped Grandma “hang out a nice wash,” as she invariably declared it to be, stretched across the grass.  

There was a cement and brick milk house where our dad and grandpa filtered the milk from the cows, skimmed off the heavy cream, and left it all in glass jars to cool in troughs of ice-cold running water brought up by the windmill anchored next to the building.  A battered tin cup hung on a pipe next to the well so anyone who wanted to could pump a fresh drink of water. (There was no pandemic raging.)   

We (my sisters and brother and I, along with cousins and neighbor kids) spent long hours in that yard, held tea parties under the tall conifers set in the middle of the garden, and built more than one fort among the fruit trees and evergreens out back.  And on occasion, we worked.  

When I think of my grandparents – she born in 1889 and he five years earlier – he shows up in long-sleeved chambray shirt and faded Levis and she’s wearing a homemade housedress and apron, tied at the waist and pinned to the flowery cotton of her dress at the shoulders.  And she never went out, hoe in hand, without a handmade sunbonnet.  A real lady had creamy white skin, and although Grandma had been born with distinctly olive coloring, she tried.  Grandpa protected his head with a well-worn felt cowboy hat that he sweated through in nothing flat.

Thus they went forth every morning equipped for work, intent upon it, dedicated to it.  Those luscious fruits and vegetables out there in the hot sun were life, and life doesn’t wait.  They did their best to corral us, to slow our head-long summer romp through the garden, to foist sunbonnets upon us and thrust hoes and rakes into our grubby little hands.  I remember thinking I really should help out more, take more of an interest, learn something while I was at it.  But the fork in the big tree behind the milk house was calling my name, my book was still stashed there from the day before, and I was hot and tired and needed a drink of water from the well …. and I never quite found time to own responsibility and discipline in any discernible way.  

There was one time of year, however, when we all pitched in and did our part.  I’m ashamed to say, it had a lot to do with the fact that we got paid for our efforts, but, well ….

Every year in the days preceding Memorial Day, my grandparents would cut armfuls of tightly-budded peonies, wrap them in wet burlap, and store them in crocks of well water in the cool cement-lined root cellar.  The other flowers, too, found their way into crocks, awaiting that early-morning observance at cemeteries around the countryside.  Our job as grandchildren was to take old paring knives and snip daisy bouquets in counts of twenty-five, band them and put them in canning jars in the cellar.  It was a treat to go from the sunny garden to the damp coolness of the pit, and Grandma and Grandpa paid us a nickel a bouquet. We were suddenly rich, and Woolworth’s, McClellan’s, and Duckwall’s were a mere twelve miles away.

Despite our mercenary outlook, we managed to gain a sense of having contributed to something special.  The day before Memorial Day, which was known as Decoration Day in the 1950s, and very early the morning of, neighbors and strangers from surrounding areas started pulling into the drive to collect the big flower baskets and smaller arrangements they’d pre-ordered.  And many, knowing there were always unclaimed flowers, stopped by to see what they might pick up.  The air had a special freshness about it and people invariably seemed happy and intent on their mission.

I remember feeling proud of my grandma for her ability to grow and arrange flowers into spectacular gifts, and a connectedness to all those people coming to embrace her talents.  I started to feel tied to all the generations being honored on those Memorial weekends, and I still remember snippets of stories from the conversations I overheard.

After all the paying customers had retrieved their floral offerings, Grandma let us kids have the leftover daisy bundles to place on the graves of the nearly-forgotten babies from the 1800s in our small community cemetery a mile west of the farm.  It always felt like we’d done something amazing by honoring those brief little lives, and the yearly military ceremony conducted by aging war heroes in a sometimes haphazard and ill-fitting assortment of service garb lent added poignancy.

If my grandparents were here now they would be gratified to know how much I actually did learn through their example and the privilege of living in their shadow.  Things like hard work, respect for the living and the dead, a certain acceptance that no matter what happens life goes on … all of these have stood me in good stead over the years.

As with most farmers of that generation they never became wealthy in a monetary sense.  But the things they passed along to us are beyond price … and worth consciously appreciating as another Memorial Day arrives.

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At home… page 49

Day 71 – 05/22/2020

That’s one of Kim’s side chicks up there, the one he falls asleep with in his arms most evenings while we’re watching TV. The blonde Strat is another – she kissed him back the first time he put his hands on her. No jealousy here, my life has a soundtrack and all is well.

It’s been pouring rain this morning, with lightning and thunder, so we’re happy lil’ cave dwellers. Kim’s plants on the balcony and the rooftop garden are loving it and so are we. There’s something about the arrival of dawn followed by rapidly-increasing darkness that thrills my dreamy soul. When you add the drama of a thunderstorm, the day becomes memorable.

Since a rainy day is automatically a “day off” in this house, there will be less progress in evidence than usual – I feel I’ve already overreached by jotting a diary entry. Everything I need is right here, so Friday Zen it is, kids. Brighten the corner where you are!

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Still… page 48

Day 69 – 05/20/2020

A milestone – Kim got a haircut this morning at seven and came home with the swagger of a new man. As long as I get there before my dr.’s appointment a month away I’m good, but my goal is Monday or so after the desperate have had their shot at it all week.

Otherwise just maintaining. It’s been a windy spring and not consistently warm yet by any means, but we’re outside on the balcony for all the benevolent minutes we can catch. East Lawrence is in its glory right now – green as far as the eye can see. In the photo above and the one below, you’re looking at hundreds of houses and thousands of people but you can’t see them. The top photo is our view from the south corner of our balcony, and this one is directly across the street – in both directions a house on every lot, cleverly camouflaged by Mama Nature. The yards are like cocoons and seem especially inviting to stay home in this season.

Feels good to be here. Covid-19 cases in our county, which rubs elbows with Kansas City, are currently at 61, with 53 recovered and no deaths, which tells me people here in this university town take their science seriously. Kim rarely sees a shopper or worker without a mask when he goes for necessities. That feels soothing and reassuring, along with the way Mass Street shops are creating safe environments in which to do business. The barbershop we both go to apparently has it down to a science already, go Lawrence. It’s good to call you *home.*

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In… page 47

Day 67 – 05/18/2020

My baby sister, Señorita Margarita Rita, lives ten minutes from me but we hadn’t seen each other since March 10th. I put on actual clothes, shoes, and eye makeup and she came over today bringing the sunshine. Wow. Needed that. It was time to feel like a person again and enjoy the perks pertaining thereto. It was time to laugh a lot.

We distanced – no hugs, spaced apart – but that’s a distance I can live with since it was the only one in evidence. It’s affirming and gratifying when the people you love get you.

Because I have sisters, I will always have friends.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/17/2020

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Here… page 46

Day 66 – 05/17/2020

So many thoughts, so little to say.

It’s a profoundly lonely time, and we’re all just doing the best we can.

But in the midst of all the “no” and the upheaval of the culture war, last night’s celebration of America’s 2020 graduates was joyous and affirming. Thank you, Lebron James, for your loving gift to the nation. Thank you for knowing what we needed.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/16/2020

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In here… page 45

Day 62 – 05/13/2020

A vacation within a vacation was a good idea – I accomplished more on Tuesday than in the preceding 60 days put together and there’s a short-list ready for the next time motivation strikes, but it’s been chilly and gray this week so that could be a while. Far easier to sit in front of the TV with the sound off and play my games.

We’re in this for the long haul, all of us, those who realize it and those who don’t. Life has changed in basic ways and there’s no going back any time soon, if ever, to what we had. There’s no place I’m yearning to go unless we could see our guys, so it’s knowing how different things will have to be, and for how long, that’s weighing heavy, along with grief over so many lives lost – a quarter of them, needlessly, in America. And we’re facing all of these things as polar-opposite forces straining in a tug of war that portends bloodshed in the streets by August.

We’re sort of a melting pot here, but realistically we’re more like stew, with the bits & pieces staying definitive and people kicking the onions to the edge because they don’t like them. That attitude and the history that instilled it goes back to the beginning when white men first put a foot on this territory and began to declare themselves free from rules except those they instituted. We’re looking forward to the “Barkskins” saga, which traces that history, although I can’t imagine that it will be as sweeping as the book since the disclaimer says “Limited Series.” There are a lot of things to know about ourselves as Americans that brought us to this place – all events have origins.

It’s Wednesday. We’re here, we’re weird, and we have one rule besides the first one, which is BE NICE.

RULE #2: WE’RE ALL JUST DOING THE BEST WE CAN

And there’s this…

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Still in here… page 44

Day 60 – 05/11/2020

Dear Diary… I didn’t forget you, I just took a 4-day weekend to contemplate the error of my ways and re-visit my anger issues, which may or may not have required generous amounts of alcohol and endless games in the virtual worlds I haunt.

A thorn-in-the-side I am… I’ve never learned to dissemble and pretend matters of life-and-death aren’t real, which irritates the stuffing out of people. Everything’s SURreal – in the middle of a plague that requires social-guideline cooperation from the global community, Americans are now SOLDIERS, fighting a WAR, and we must buck up and march into the maw – who do you think makes billionaires their money, for goodness sake?

No allowances are made for grieving – its heavy pall across the nation has never been addressed by the general running this war – and his loyal troops shame us if we try to put a human face on any of it. “Chin up, keep marching, there’s no crying in war, slacker!” chant the Right-to-Life people as they again force us to ask, WHOSE right?

It’s a challenge to corral the cognitive dissonance and mash it all together in a livable form.

But we won’t grieve if we don’t care, so… NEW RULE:

Standing by for peace in our time …

Photo credits: Kim Smith – 5/10/2020 from our balcony – rainbow cloud

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Staying in… page 43

Day 55 – 05/06/2020

I wandered into a beat-down yesterday and I’m still processing the whole thing. I clicked a notification from a friend’s page and commented in the thread… my comment was repeated back to me in a version that was the direct opposite of what I said… I got a heavy-duty lecture on military moms and moms who care about oh-so-many things… and shamed for caring overly-much about John and his fellow nurses around the country, which wasn’t part of my comment… and then I was immediately unfriended by both her and her husband. These are people I’ve known for years, and I didn’t know we were on opposite sides of the war until I was drop-kicked like I was hot.

I realize I’m the Rachel Maddow of my timeline – I’ll render you insensate with the facts surrounding things I care desperately about. And I’m sure I need a reminder once in a while that there are other things to think about… but from someone who loves me, okay?

I wish someone had loved Donald John Trump enough in his lifetime, ever, from womb to tomb, to help him grow into a real human being. I wish someone loved him enough now to tell him the truth in ways he could process – it would be a mercy. In my first marriage I had two mothers-in-law, the backup being the aunt whose house we lived in, and the early years were made more difficult by her need to control her world. No one could please her and she was miserable – afraid of everything, turned in on herself, shriveled by what she perceived as lack of love in her life – and it made her a tyrant. I had Lumpy’s number from jump – I know him.

The universe feels like it’s icing over, some days… and then I come back here to blog world and Facebook and my friends on Twitter where some people have taken the time to know me, and it’s clear that they get me. We’re on the same page, for one thing, but it’s relationship that makes the difference. We care about each other and it changes us, even if we can’t really change the world we live in. It would be snazzy if the people who lurk on timelines waiting to pounce showed up in neon, but life’s never that simple, so we should just tell each other the truth at the outset and get on with it. What are we afraid of?

Welp, that’s how that was, moving on. The sun’s shining, it’s a beautiful morning, and we woke up alive, so what’s not to like? Don’t worry, I’m not gonna start singing…

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Staying in… page 42

Day 54 – 05/05/2020

It’s another fresh new morning and the dew was still on the very first hibiscus bloom when Kim snapped the pic. Workers are busy jackhammering the concrete out of our underground-parking ramp, but even they can’t disturb my Zen because…

I accomplished very little yesterday, but it was gray and rainy all day and Mondays are like that, even when every day is Monday. Or Saturday. Hope springs eternal on a sunny Tuesday, though, so we’ll see how it goes with these two little tasks I’ve been kicking around.

It’ll be a good day – thus spake Pollyanna. And when the noise stops, we’ll move out here…

A sweet hello from Kim’s morning walk…

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Staying in… page 41

Day 53 – 05/04/2020

Took the weekend off – no blogging, and I moved just enough to signal that I was still alive. The limbo state kicks my butt for all the reasons, while also appealing to my hermit-girl mindset and natural tendency to shift into neutral and stay there.

Good weekend. And a sweet gift this morning – a young relative who shares my outlook and value system sent me a friend request on FB. Feels encouraging in a way nothing else has in a while, especially when the gulf is wide between me and so much of my extended family.

This was our 8th Saturday and Sunday inside, and every Monday I vow to be more “constructive” somehow… the odds for this one are iffy as ever. But it did dawn on me yesterday why I’m currently addicted to the games I play – each of the three lets me create an environment I like, and it’s about being able to establish order and beauty by my own efforts while chaos goes on “out there.”

So… Monday… let’s do this, and may the 4th be with us.

I do kinda need to cut my hair again, but birds aren’t nesting in it yet…

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Sunrise photo by Kim Smith

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Staying in… page 40

Day 50 – 05/01/2020

Things… they change… and yesterday was as sweetly Zen as Tuesday was angst-filled. I’ve survived too many things to let wrong-headed people knock me off my game in this round, so I pulled up my big-girl britches, shook the cobwebs out of my head, and took charge. Sent two people out the airlock on Facebook who were only there to monitor my posts and pounce, and wow, does the air feel fresh in there now. Stay out my way, fools, I don’t have anything left over for dealing with you.

Kim spent his afternoon potting flowers on the balcony, after which we enjoyed drinks and popcorn among the blooms. It was a perfect day far into the evening, and just what the doctor ordered – Doctor Kim, medicine man. Kindness and love and caring are utterly healing and we can put each other right better than anyone else I know.

Today dawned clear and sunny, and we have a forecast high of 82º, so moping will not be tolerated for the duration. Feeling cute, might take a ride later… 😎

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Staying in… page 38

Day 48 – 04/29/2020

Some mornings I feel almost lighthearted when I wake up, but today isn’t one of those. I finally broke down and had a long cry in the spa tub because it all stacks up after awhile… the sense of division most of all. The sides in our current civil war couldn’t be more clearly drawn, but I wanted to believe we still found common ground in the middle concerning life and death for the people we love. Guns in the streets, and large male types waving them in the faces of medical staff, yelling at them, breathing on them, threatening the general citizenry, and being praised for it because FREEDOM… it’s too heavy.

I’m a face-it-head-on person, but this I can’t deal with, so I turn into a little mouse during waking hours and lose myself in computer games with their fantasy worlds. If I could fill our spa tub with all my tears over a lifetime, they would overflow to the downstairs neighbors, and I’m just tired of crying. I’m tired of feeling… but if I could change that I wouldn’t be me anymore.

Got hit with an onslaught of ugliness first thing – my mistake for looking. Tomorrow will be better, right? I wish peace for you… don’t let your day look like this, ‘k? Never let the bastards get ya’ down.

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Staying in… page 37

Day 46 – 04/27/2020

Pretty morning, with rain before sunup. Kim planted asparagus ferns yesterday and they’ve had their first drink of rainwater – always a good omen.

Last night we watched “No Direction Home,” a Scorsese follow-up documentary on Bob Dylan which is likely precisely the way Bobby Zimmerman wants to be remembered. At 3-and-a-half hours it was way worth it for these two old throwbacks – great footage and interviews… and all the remembered things.

I had Kim document my home-grown haircut, which called for a touch of makeup, and when I opened my kit nothing looked all that familiar… like what do I do first? Hadn’t so much as looked at in 50+ days. Here’s my DIY Monkey Business in the front, Squirrel Party in the back haircut, still damp from the shower. My grandparents were pioneers, dammit, I will survive.

And in case you need to hear this today… Kurt Vonnegut for the win… again. 💙

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