Ignorance is blistering…

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I read a stunning statistic this morning* that blew both Kim and me away – over half of Americans believe it should be illegal for a woman to keep her last name after marriage, WHAAAT??

Of course that represents people who were actually polled, which I’d like to think means half of those surveyed in rural areas, remote hollers, and socially isolated mountain ranges rather than honest-to-goodness 21st Century Americans who know what’s up, because this finding is both laughable and disturbing.

Events until recently seemed to indicate that we were steadily moving toward a better world informed by human equality in every direction, but here we are still fighting the same old shit that first raised our collective consciousness in the 60s. Unbelievable.

A world without women and our influence is not to be contemplated, so why is the focus so rarely on what’s good for us? (Simple question for the Luddites among us, please show your work.) All you pathetic cases of arrested male development endlessly stuck in junior high need a brighter awareness of truth: Women have 100% of the babies. Just the facts, Jack, and your ideal little world starts to go downhill after one generation, so what are you thinking? Oh wait…

This crap is so silly I thought it must be “fake news” but no such luck, so I’m sitting here hoping I don’t know anyone with this attitude and outlook, it would shatter my heart, hyperbolically-speaking.

Prejudices, stereotypes, and backward thinking are buried so deep in our nation’s psyche, how is it we believe we’ll ever dig out, but women are fierce and we don’t quit. That alone should show you what we’re made of, but that’s okay – we’ll keep doing what we do because – what else? Respect is owed, but we’re used to working without it, so don’t give it another thought, you guys all persevere in your empire-building and let us know how that’s workin’ out for ya’. But here’s how it is: Brains are the new tits and you’re falling behind.

 

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* The Name Game

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It’s about life…

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Our daily adventure on Wednesday was something entirely new – we were rear-ended twice on 6th Street, by which I mean twice in quick succession, as in BAM!…BAM!! I screamed (ever wonder how you’ll react in a sudden crisis?) because it felt and sounded like we were being run over by a tall heavy truck, which we were not, but if we were I should have been saying “Kim, I love you. Forever. For always. No matter what.” No, I’m not the quick-thinker of the family. Kim – who is – calmly, with a hand over his bleeding right ear, steered us to a safer area, followed by the offending “truck,” a shiny late-model black Lexus, out of which hopped an adorbs young woman saying basically “Omigod, omigod, omigod!!”

She could not believe she hit us, but what she couldn’t believe MORE is that there was no visible damage to either car. Her words were, I believe, “Omigod, and I hit you HARD!! TWICE!!” The sweet virgin backside of our sparkly new red Mazda 6 GT was unmolested except for one teeny-tiny nick in the precise center of the lower bumper which we all vowed never to speak of again. The Lexus may or may not have experienced a miniscule brush with road rash of some sort, which wiped away with a touch. What I’m sayin’ is that they’re both leases and all is well. We’re confident my “whiplash,” and Kim’s eardrum will experience happy endings, too.

Meanwhile, we got to meet Terri, yet another lovely Lawrencian, whose intriguing business card bears this quote from Virginia Woolf: “One cannot live well, love well, or sleep well, unless one has dined well.” Amen, Ms. Woolf, and that’s why most of our daily adventures somehow end up revolving around food…

Final comment before parting ways? Terri told me my hair was cute, which strikes me as so quintessentially #lfk. What was the Love Level at YOUR last fender-bender?

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A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou…

Thanksgiving equalled good…

Prosecco splashed with POM

Brut splashed with POM

Rita’s/Joy’s Cheesy Potato soup with crispy bacon bits

A crusty loaf of whole-grain bread from Wheatfields

Red grapes

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RITA: Grains and tubers will set you free.

KIM: Every 8 hours.

We YouTubed for dessert:

The Judy Chops, Hazzard to Ya’ Booty, The Union, Jeff Lynne – If I Loved You, and Kim and Rita singing ALL the lyrics to Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s Our House because they’re cool like that and know all the same music.

Then we snuggled in with the fireplace and the National Dog Show – and what could be more quaintly Zen? As the afternoon deepened, the man person Made Football Great Again and the women persons set up camp on the vaguely-temperate balcony and lazily contemplated tradition, the seeming universal angst over life, and how it’s all about change. There was wine, and the man person joined us during half-times and other breaks in the action.

All three of us are pissed at the people who did this…

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…so the holiday we celebrate is not that, because nobody would actually celebrate that. For us it’s about being grateful in every direction for the good, in spite of the bad, every day. If the powers-that-be want to give everyone a day off to be properly thankful, all the sweeter. {For the record, we do not personally know anyone who celebrates the unfortunate bit of history articulated above.}

There is always much good to celebrate, because later there was ice cream – English Toffee Caramel – and our 2nd-Annual-Sometime-Between-T-day-and-New-Year’s viewing of The Producers, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, which makes us cry laughtears every time through. If The Producers turns out to have a shelf-life (blasphemy!) we’ll start on Blazing Saddles.

The Morning After brought The Saturday Breakfast on Friday, a spa soak, lush coffee, and NO SHOPPING. Amen.

I hope your day yesterday held all the things that mean most to you, and that our thankfulness will help carry all of us into the new year and the unknown. Again.

 

 

 

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Let’s talk books!

In the face of life beyond my control I’m currently a prisoner of the music, so I’m exercising my powers of creativity in every way I can.  The only time I don’t hear the squirrel party in my head is when other music is pouring into my ears or I’m asleep.  If I could I would simply go unconscious until this is over as it makes me want to jump out of my skin and be somebody else for a while.

Since none of the above is an option, come talk to me about something dear to my heart — what you like to read and why.  What are you currently engrossed in?  Do you read more than one book at a time?  Who are the authors who speak to you?

My own reading tastes are eclectic to the max, so I’m truly interested in knowing what grabs your attention.  What sorts of things compel you to spend your time reading when you could (should?) be doing other things?

I’m currently enjoying this one:

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And some recent good reads:

Have you read any of these and did you like them?  Another question: If you start a book and can’t get into it do you persist or do you operate by the rule that Life Is Too Short and ditch it for something else?

Seriously, come share your reading world with me.  The life you save could be mine.

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Is the doctor in?

It was nipply out yesterday, but I defiantly sat in a sunny chair on the balcony for a while in my all-purpose jams, paw-print flip-flops, LFK bag-lady sweater and a field jacket. I know you have to get back on the bicycle at your first opportunity, but it isn’t the same without Miss Fireball.  She’s supposed to be out there with me, patrolling the perimeter and yipping at intruders, first and foremost all four-legged trespassers. Every balmy evening this spring and summer we’ll miss her dancing on two legs for cocktail hour treats and zipping around non-stop to see it ALL, while the warm evening hugged us and made the three of us oh so grateful to be in the world together. And Maddie gradually letting herself fall asleep on Kim’s chest or my lap, lulled by our voices and the after-sunset sounds of home. There’s a whole world to miss.

Wonder how long until I stop checking behind and under me before rolling back from my desk.  How long until I can unwrap a cheese stick or a chip bag without cringing that I pushed her feed-me button?  Or until I stop saving loud videos to watch later so as not to disturb her sweet sleep, always right here beside me. Maybe some fine evening me n’ Boo will be laughing over margaritas on Cielito’s patio and the stars will be out and the air will put its arms around us and we won’t cry, and we won’t look at each other and think “We should get back and check on the baby.”  Maybe some fine time that will happen.  Or not.

Thanks for listening, Doc, I’ll leave my 5¢ on the counter and show myself out …

 

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Maddie

 

 

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Family Portrait

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My paternal grandparents, John & Clara Dierking Wagner, and their two sons, Edmund and Daniel (my dad).

This would have been in the later 1920s.  There may have been a smiling shot but we didn’t find it and the sober expressions in this one are striking to me.  My grandpa’s eyes look resigned but determined, my grandma’s merely resigned.  Life was a challenge every day and nobody emerged unscathed.  My Uncle Ed lost his right eye very young, the result of a misguided attempt to cut through an old inner tube with a pocket knife, thus the inadvertent leer.  I would guess my dad’s age at somewhere between five and seven — he still has that baby-soft aura.  Uncle Ed left the farm at seventeen and made his own way ever after, retiring from the U.S. Military after a career that could have involved spying for all I know, and I totally hope that’s the case.  My dad stayed and farmed with Grandpa … you’ve heard some of those stories, Faithful Reader.  There are others …

You know who my heroes are right now?  The people who invented and developed photography.

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Forget throwbacks …

Throwback Thursday offends my sense of independence so here’s one for Friday — the house where my paternal grandpa was born, near Corydon, Indiana.  In the picture are my great-grandparents George and Salome (Sally) Wagner, my grandpa John, his sister Annie and brother Otto, and their half-sister Teena (always called Teenie, although she never was).  I’d heard stories about the house “all my life,” and when I was in college I drove my grandma there as part of a road trip to visit relatives in several states.  Grandpa had died several years earlier, and on her own after more than 60 years married, Grandma was in want of an adventure.  On the Indiana leg of our trip we took our time locating the house, and found it beautifully cared for by its current owners, much to my grandma’s relief.  The descriptions and tales from my relatives made the yard and outbuildings feel sweetly familiar to me, and the cistern at the bottom of the slope out front where my Wagner kindred stored their perishables was still being fed by the same ice-cold spring.

We humans are so connected to our roots.  Whether we understand it or not, there’s a longing for where and what we came from. Other than not having Grandpa in the car with us, the trip with my grandma was a full-circle experience.  And driving her cross-country broadened my knowledge of her, her life, and her family relationships.  This was highly beneficial for a college girl who didn’t know quite everything yet.

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I don’t remember dancing …

Did we dance on Tuesday?  I don’t think we danced on Tuesday …

It isn’t an insignificant omission, is the thing.  Because life really IS a dance and if we let the silliness fall off our cracker even once, we could be setting ourselves up for a lifetime of resting bitch face.  Yeah, see, we meant to have fun but we forgot.  And then our faces got bored with smiling and now we feel powerless to, you know, like, fix any of that.

Seriously.  Okay, the rules have changed then — we’ll just dance ANY old day and preferably EVERY day, and even if we happen to forget once in a while, RBF won’t have time to set in!  It’s important, and I’m thinking this could be a breakthrough.  Register your opinion in comments!

 

beautiful story

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A story for the new year …

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Μaybe old people were never children, like we claim with Mrs. Bentley, but, big or little, some of them were standing around at Appomattox the summer of 1865. They got Indian vision and can sight back further than you and me will ever sight ahead.”

“That sounds swell, Doug; what does it mean?”

Douglas went on writing. “It means you and me ain’t got half the chance to be far-travelers they have. If we’re lucky we’ll hit forty, forty-five, fifty. That’s just a jog around the block to them. It’s when you hit ninety, ninety-five, a hundred, that you’re far-traveling like heck.”

The flashlight went out.

They lay there in the moonlight.

“Tom,” whispered Douglas, “I got to travel all those ways. See what I can see. But most of all I got to visit Colonel Freeghleigh once, twice, three times a week. He’s better than all the other machines. He talks, you listen. And the more he talks he gets you to peering around and noticing things. He tells you you’re riding on a very special train, by gosh, and sure enough it’s true. He’s been down the track, and knows. And now here we come, you and me, along the same track, but further on, and so much looking and snuffling and handling things to do, you need old Colonel Freeleigh to shove and say look alive so you remember every second! Every darn thing there is to remember! So when kids come around when you’re real old, you can do for them what the colonel once did for you. That’s the way it is, Tom, I got to spend a lot of time visiting him and listening so I can go far-traveling with him as often as he can.”

Tom was silent a moment. Then he looked over at Douglas there in the dark.
“Far-traveling, you make that up?”

“Maybe yes and maybe no.”

“Far-traveling,” whispered Tom.

“Only one thing I’m sure of,” said Douglas, closing his eyes, “it sure sounds lonely.”

(Ray Bradbury, “Dandelion Wine”, 1946)

… grateful to my friend Angela Petraline for sharing

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We wish you a Merry Day-After-Christmas …

My blog just texted me that it was lonely.  (And it spelled out each word because it’s, you know, my blog.)  I feel awful — less than 24 hours after the kindest, splooshiest day of the year I wander off and forget the ones who mean the most.

But I’m back with a vengeance, launching bizarrely-benign torpedo-thoughts … configured sort of like my old paper airplanes … into what’s shaping up to be 2015.  For my Faithful Facebook Friends, today’s post will be an instant rerun.  Whatevs — can’t get there today, hope you didn’t have to work either!!  (And sorry, because I know some who did.)

Blessed

I Share

 

 

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My Brother’s Keeper

“Mom, can we have a baby brother?”

What second-grader with two younger sisters seventeen months apart hasn’t asked that question? My dad, born a farmer, always a farmer, seeing nothing but estrogen in his future, might have thought about asking, too.

My mother was probably all for it, as long as she didn’t have to make it happen.

It happened. A brother was on the way! But things went cataclysmically wrong during his birth and he was delivered stillborn at full term. His name was Dennis Lee, and his funeral service in my grandparents’ farmhouse living room, his tiny white casket placed on a lamp table, was the first time I ever saw my dad cry. My mom was still in the hospital recovering from emergency C-section, so she couldn’t even be there. The room was a blur of tear-streaked faces, and my little sisters were in that circle somewhere, being held by neighbors. My grandparents’ grief-twisted faces seemed foreign to me. The only familiar face I could really see was my dad’s, and he was shaking with sobs. It was somehow a greater loss of innocence than the realization that the flawless little doll in white satin was my brother and he was dead.

The next year, when I was eight years old, Susan about four, and Rita somewhere south of three, it happened for real. A boy named Danny Lee arrived full term and in a hurry, bypassed a mandatory repeat C-section, came home from the hospital and instantly belonged to three older women — me, Susan, and Mother – but mostly me because Susan was little and Mother needed rest. Rita was not in a helpful mood, end of story. After our dad got our mom and the bundle settled in the living room, Susan and I jostled each other for a first peek into the bassinet. Wow, another perfect little face. Rita was across the room in the kitchen doorway with a comforting finger in her mouth, so Mother asked if she’d like to come see her new baby brother.

Finger pop. “I can see him just fine thrum here.”

Pretty much took that as a no.

So for a while, Danny Lee was my baby, sort of.  I got to warm bottles, feed him, rock him to sleep, don’ know nut’n ’bout no diapers, though. Made him laugh, teased him, made him cry. And then the next day he was out of grade school and I was getting married. Meanwhile, my lucky sisters got to grow up with him. Big-sister angst is a thing, people! I knew the baby, the toddler, the sometimes-annoying grade-schooler, and the beginnings of the awkward adolescent Danny Lee. My sisters lived with all that, and then got to spend far more quality time than I did with Danny the adult.

Danny Lee was a quiet boy.  Danny the man was that way too, with subtly-increasing layers of gruff for protection. Today’s social scientists might label him a conflicted introvert.  Tenderhearted, easily wounded, cursed with three idiot older sisters. Talented, gorgeous, funny. Not us, him. Clever and hysterical almost from the start. Cornball humor was his forte, but puns, riddles, and goofy magic were also part of his medicine bag. AND standing directly around the corner from whichever sister was on the stylish black wall phone with the two-inch cord … farting … and walking away.

Susan had her own unique relationship with Danny, in fact they ended up practically related to each other. Oh wait. No, no worries, this isn’t one of those “farm boy and cousin” stories, I hate that crap. Okay, put down the cheese log and give me your undivided because I’m only going to say this once. My brother married a girl whose brother was married to my sister. Not Rita, the other sister. So you can pretty much deduce which sister was a sister-in-law to her own brother.

Rita wins the Sisterhood of the Traveling Overalls, though, because she worked side by side with Danny on the family farm. They got to sweat, laugh, get muddy, cover for each other’s mistakes, hatch ideas and be farm-kids-who-aren’t-really-kids-anymore hilarious. That’s blue-ribbon stuff right there, I don’t care where your state fair is.

Danny had funny lingo for things — a ball-peen hammer was a ping-bong.  He also had a little bug called bipolarism, which runs in our family like … well, what it really does is stroll through at a leisurely pace. Why run, everybody’s gonna be here anyway, unless, of course, maybe they aren’t. In this gene pool if you aren’t clinically depressed, manic, or on the way up or down, you won the lottery.

Danny didn’t draw the winning numbers. In hindsight, a phrase that rarely precedes good news, we can see that he was already living with depression as a little boy. Adolescence extracted its toll, and the illness reached full force in adulthood. Anyone who’s struggled with bipolarism or clinical depression, personally or with loved ones, knows that it’s cyclical — it comes and goes. So a percentage of the time Danny enjoyed life the way we all want to, conceivably feeling what we refer to as normal.

He went into full-time farming with our dad, met the love of his life, married her, and they made three beautiful babies. He became a bodybuilder on his own time, with his own weights, and turned himself into even more of a work of art than he already was. The discipline he applied to that goal was nothing short of astounding. But the illness would not leave him any lasting peace, and he finally had all he could stand of the pain. Depression is a vicious liar that convinces you you’re in the way, you’re hurting other people’s lives by your presence, and everyone would be happier and better off without you. The brother we’d waited and prayed and hoped for ended his life on a chilly October morning with a shotgun shell to the heart, splintering the beautiful body he’d spent so many hours and weeks and months sculpting and toning.  He slipped away from us in the basement of the same house where our first brother’s funeral was held.

There was a brother hoped for and lost — an impossibly small casket. A brother hoped for and found — a tiny bassinet. And then lost far too soon — a ponderous casket that made finality real.

His sweet little family was shattered. It almost killed our parents. There wasn’t anyone who knew him who wasn’t laid low, our legs cut out from under us. For me it was like having all my skin ripped off in one piece and still being required to stand on my feet raw and bleeding, because life doesn’t care, it keeps right on happening. Do I know that Susan and Rita felt the same way? Yes. Yes, I do. We’ve each dealt according to our own individual mechanisms, and come to terms with some of it. But there’s nothing like a suicide for providing your therapist significant other with job security.

I won’t even go into the whole conversation about the whys and hows of depression and suicide. I wrote about it here https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/08/24/challenges/ and I recommend that piece as a companion to this one if you’re looking for some feisty light on the subject.

This isn’t about explaining. It’s about the truth that three adoring sisters, a broken mom and dad, a loving wife and three little kids lost someone none of us could live without. Not and in any way be the same people we were, ever again.

This is longer than most things I write here, but it’s mostly for my sisters, and for me. And for Danny’s kids, Ryan, Jeff, and Kelsie, who were six, five, and eighteen months old when he died. He was 29 and it’s been 29 years this month. It isn’t possible that he would be 58 years old now, because he’ll always be the young Adonis I saw for the last time at a family picnic and didn’t know it was goodbye.

Danny’s funeral service has been an ongoing source of pain to his three sisters. The minister meant well, but he called Danny by our dad’s name throughout his sermon, making it all feel coldly impersonal and needlessly wounding. And his fundamentalist convictions wouldn’t allow him to say the word suicide or acknowledge that Christians with huge loving hearts are as vulnerable to depression and death as the rest of us, so it was a lot of empty words going nowhere.

On this anniversary of his death it feels imperative to try to put something of who our brother was into words, and now I find that I don’t have enough of them. He was a hero to his children and his sisters, the long-awaited son of his father, the joy of his mother’s life, the husband of his wife’s youth. He should have survived so many of us, and there will always be a vast hole where he’s supposed to be. Someone as goodhearted as he was needed to be here forever — those people are in critically short supply.

We love you, Danny, we always will. You were perfect, just the way you were. If any one of us could have known how much your heart was breaking, we would have rocked you in our arms and done whatever it took to keep you here. We know you know that … but we’ll always cry when fall comes and the leaves turn and everything reminds us of inexpressible loss.

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Leaving

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