A Sunday…. page 62

Day 122 – 07/12/2020

When nostalgia hits (see yesterday), my mental viewfinder fills up with images of family and the farm where I grew up, or at least came of age. If you liked my Memorial Day post, these photos are for you. (Link follows)

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2020/05/23/remembering/

The people in the image above are my Grandma and Grandpa Wagner, my dad and his dog Sarge, in 1933 when my dad was 11 years old. The garden in the story was north of the house but you can see my grandma’s pretty fish pond in the background, filled in before my memory because of the dust off the cattle pens and the hazard to toddler grandchildren. Grandma had plans that didn’t always suit farm living, but she never gave up.

My grandparents, my dad, about 6 yrs old, and his brother Ed, eleven years older. They had a good relationship as adults.
The Dierking sisters – Nora, Ruth, and Clara (my grandma)
My Great-aunt Ruth in flush times
The dugout/livestock barn/root cellar where the three girls grew up, shown during a visit by family in the late 50s or early 60s, long after it had been abandoned. It was outside a little town about an hour SW of where I live now.
Caroline Dierking on the right, mother of the girls – and my great-grandmother – with her sister Emma.
In Sheboygan, Wisconsin with my Great-aunt Emma and a little relative on her right whose name was Colleen.
My cousin Katie, Uncle Ed’s daughter, and I after playing dress-up in Grandma’s big upstairs closet. I was about 5 and worried that my dress would end me as I was navigating the steep stairs.
The Wagner munchkins, Rita, Judy, Susan, and our brother Danny in Grandma & Grandpa’s shelter belt north of the garden. Says 1957 so I was ten years old. And our mom was obviously curler-happy that day.

Tomorrow… barring anything unforeseen… my mom’s people. 💙

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Still isolating… page 53

Day 96 – 06/16/2020

In the past 3 months I’ve been inside public places a handful of times – the barbershop, the ER, my doctor’s office, and a car-service waiting room – and as a downright upright citizen I like our county’s good record on COVID-19 so far – we made page 1 of the New York Times yesterday:

This morning Rita and I met at South Park and enjoyed a walk, by order of the primary care physician we share in common. She’s wise enough to use our sister connection as medicine for whatever might ail us, and it works. The park’s about midway between our houses and it’s beautiful – populated by old-growth trees and eye-soothing flower gardens, smooth sidewalks criss-crossing the length and breadth of the space, and benches for the occasional sit-down. Rita’s a hiker, I’m not, so we strolled this morning, loosening up muscles grown accustomed to a semi-catatonic state, and talking, which is the good juju.

City workers spray disinfectant on all of the picnic tables, benches, and playground equipment in Lawrence’s 50+ parks and green spaces on a rotating basis – those spaces get well-used. Things we once gave little thought to are now part of living together as humans, much of it long overdue.

In the middle of all the insanity around us that’s beyond our control, this little city in a forest has been an oasis of calm. We hope that holds.

Peace to you, wherever you are today. 💙

A blustery spring morning on a deserted Mass Street

Photo credits: Kim Smith

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Riding it out… page 52

Day 88 – 06/08/2020

Life returns, like green shoots across a fire-scorched terrain. Saturday evening we picked up fresh garden produce from friends and spent a couple of hours with them in the shade of their hugemongous back yard, quietly celebrating a birthday and reconnecting. It was affirming and highly comforting.

Yesterday morning we went to Rita’s, McD’s breakfast in hand, to help her with yard work. My help was slated to consist of sitting on the porch watching the big kids, but the mosquitos got wind of it, passed the word, and I had three rather alarming welts before I knew what hit me. My reaction to things lately is whack, so I retreated into the cool dark of the living room to ponder my uselessness.

Those two opportunities for connection have satisfied my sociable jones for the foreseeable and I’m content to wait for the next great idea someone has. Ready to sit on Cielito’s patio before too long, and see other friends when it feels right. Douglas County is striving to be New Zealand and doing well at it so far – 67 total cases, 0 deaths. But someone in last Sunday’s peaceful march of thousands has tested positive and wasn’t wearing a mask, so the risk has been set loose among us anew.

And the beat goes on. We think, plan, and adapt, working toward a day when we, our loved ones, our community, and the world are safer and life is kinder to the human race.

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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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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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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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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 36

Day 45 – 04/26/2020

We can’t say nothing ever happens around here – yesterday was the best. I cut my hair and had a long text convo with The Kid, both stellar time spent. If I could see the back of my head I’d be dangerous, but the front came out cool and I look like me again. Until I can see my sweet Shelby, it’ll be monkey business in the front and squirrel party in the back.

John has the weekend off and Anthony was out on a mission, so we lazily chatted back and forth ’til we’d caught up a little. Atlanta’s getting slammed now as the virus peaks there, but he said he hasn’t been getting floated to the ER anymore, presumably because he’s one of the few chemo-certified RNs the hospital has left. That doesn’t break this mama’s heart to know because although the Oncology Unit can seem like hell on earth at times, the ER is Ground Zero.

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and my belly is full of ranch omelet and bacon. Kim has the bug to plant flowers so he masked up and headed for the outdoor lot at Menard’s, list in hand. He also wants to do some upkeep and repair on the rooftop garden while he isn’t doing much else. Good thing he has energy enough for two people, because this half of the team can’t get it together – all my fire goes toward maintaining… my cool, my calm, my healthy bent toward realism.

MEANWHILE…

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Gimme Shelter… page 26

Day 32 – 04/13/2020

Chilly morning after a frigid windy night – sounded more like the prairie than the forest.

DEEP THOUGHTS ON A COLD MONDAY: I started training for this years ago, this social distancing, and every day I settle further into what I know is true. Being a loose cannon in a big extended family makes you figure out who you are or get run over, and you learn that self-defense is a waste of energy. It is what it is. It will be what it will be. My goals haven’t changed… live well now, inside myself, and head for a happy old age.

We’ve heard of at least one Lawrence church congregation that met together yesterday. We’ve been at 39 virus cases here for a few days… we’ll see where we are in two weeks…

Churches aren’t being attacked or persecuted, they’re being asked to live out what they say they believe in – love. Care for other people. Solid stewardship in the world. So yeah… what made me stay so long at the fair?

This must be a Monday. I should eat something and go to work on the hours…

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Gimme Shelter… page 21

Day 27 – 04/08/2020

A gentle-feeling morning, with fog hanging in the trees. We have a forecast high today of 84º with wind, so the softness at 7am is nice.

Speaking of nice, yesterday was. Kim had to deliver something across town and invited me to ride shotgun. The ride was welcome after being inside for about a month, but the sights were sobering – brought it all home in a big way. Pretty much nothing is open except for curbside pickup. Mass Street is a ghost town. Saw people on their porches, but not many out and about on foot, and no kids running around anywhere.

Our delivery was the wooden blinds for the balcony door, in need of having a cord replaced and restrung. The storeowner opened the door a crack and asked Kim if he’d traveled anywhere recently. When he said no, she motioned for him to step away, placed a rubbermaid tub outside the door, told him to lay the rolled-up shade on it, and when he was back in the car she reached out and picked it up. Hello, brave new world.

Prettiest day of the year so far – high 70s, little breeze, warm sunshine – felt like a big hug. When we got back from our errand, Kim rode his bike on the levee while I took all my toys to the balcony. He was home in an hour, wondering if 3:30 was too early to day-drink, and the party was on – we watched the pink full moon come up, and did our part to solve the problems of the world. Too bad nobody listens to us…

A gift this morning from John’s supervisor and friend…

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SQ Diary… page 19

Self-Quarantine Day 24 – 04/05/2020

Another day, another conversation with my diary…

Yesterday baby sis, who lives across town, had a story to tell me that was too long for text, so we made the weird decision to use our phones for TALKING to each other. The belly laughs and the sound of her voice were good juju. I needed exactly that.

Sister Señorita Margarita Rita has called me her second mommy a lot of times since 1995, but she’s also returned the favor more than once, and she helped me take something off my plate yesterday that I wasn’t dealing with in a good way. Perspective… wisdom… and somebody with skin on besides Kim, saying words to me, making me laugh, letting me feel the lub. There was peace when I put my head on the pillow last night.💗

It’s sobering to know how much we need each other as humans and how much we generally despise each other, globally-speaking, on a daily basis. Those things are under there all the time, but we aren’t aware of them moment by moment because life streaks on and we make sure there’s no time for introspection, examination of facts, or new doors leading to unsettling change. We’re all so VERY human.

Solitude is my jam, but with the great world hum dampened to a murmur, I’m lonely for voices… life… people. Watching East Lawrence come alive in shades of green, white, and pink is conducive to sweeter moods, but the absence of all the walkers with their dogs and babies, the missing shouts of kids skateboarding, riding bikes and chasing each other down the street, makes the air feel a little ponderous and not quite real.

Not complaining, just observing. We never know what we have ’til it’s gone, and that holds true for all of life. We figure out how much it meant when it isn’t ours anymore. Stupid human pet tricks.

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SQ Diary… page 16

Self-Quarantine Day 21 – 04/02/2020

Dear Diary,

Can you help me?

That’s okay, I just came to talk, you don’t have to do anything…

Sleep – never my best friend, always kind of a flirty elusive thing – is messing with me again. We became BFFs after I married Kim sixteen years ago, and I slept nine or ten hours a night like magic, plus an afternoon nap. My brain shut off when my eyes closed, no worries, and out I went. Not liking this new normal where I lie down and my brain and body fight me and each other for the next foreseeable hours. So yeah, just thought I’d get that off my list…

I keep expecting to wake up one of these mornings and find that my focus has come back, some oomph, a hint of drive, but the opposite is happening… my give-a-shit is experiencing technical difficulties. Write a few words, read a page or two in a book, play Words with Friends, again, some more, work a jigsaw puzzle, stare out the windows. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure there are a couple of bills buried on my desk, or on the dresser whose load never lightens while the little stacks become bigger stacks and get overly friendly with each other until nobody knows what’s what anymore. It was still looking slightly purposeful before all this hit, so I could pretend not to see it, but it’s time to sort it out…

Starting to sort the metaphysical aspect. It is what it is. It will be what it will be. People have made their choices, from the top down, and the wheels are in motion. No amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth will slow its roll. A Mariana Trench full of human tears won’t alter its course. The only unknown is how bad. Saw this morning that the Pentagon has ordered another 100,000 body bags.

Beyond a couple of trusted news people, the only voices I care to listen to are Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Fauci. Governor Cuomo’s calm measured tones, telling us the truth morning after morning with no varnish on it, are like a security blanket. He makes me cry every day because he’s a real human, taking responsibility, trying to protect his people, speaking TRUTH. I can handle just about anything if you give me the facts and get out of the way. Once you lie to me or show me you’re all about the cya, I’m done. The governor is respecting his fellow humans by giving it to us straight in a low-key way, and he’s a life preserver.

Thanks for listening… it helps.

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SQ Diary… page 15

Self-Quarantine Day 20 – 04/01/2020

Slept more hours than not last night, so there’s that. I’ve awakened my Sleeping Sciatic by spending most of my time at my computer, because sure, why not, so it has a say in everything right now including in the middle of the night. Would it kill me to at least FEEL good?

Haven’t yet worked my way past the basic divide in the pandemic issue… one side says it’s about people, the other says it’s about money. What’s being done to our medical community here in the U.S. is heartbreaking, infuriating, crazy-making. All I can do for now is try not to inflict myself unnecessarily upon the world until I can swallow the deeply-entrenched cruelty that’s been awakened in our society – lots of awakenings this morning, huh…

Maybe I just need to cut ’em slack? This from my friend Mylène AF in Quebec:

“Reading some people’s posts, I realize how many have not grasped the severity of this situation. The fact that we are in a time of exceptional circumstances where NONE of the old rules apply and only exceptional measures will do. Everything has changed forever. The world we knew before is gone. Let it go. Those rules don’t apply anymore. Move through the stages of grief if you must. There is a definitive before and after line here.”

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Jeff Bezos isn’t intellectually challenged, though, so this makes no sense. It strikes this farm girl as a no-brainer… If almost 9 million dollars per hour rolling onto your side of the ledger isn’t enough to take care of the people who make that money for you, there will never be enough. It will never happen. The poor(er) among us will never be cared for, ever. Today there is no one poorer among us than Jeff Bezos – I wonder if he’s even slightly embarrassed about telling us that.

But perspective helps. Kim’s been sending lush guitar notes through the house for the past hour and now he’s making the Saturday breakfast on Wednesday – he knows how to get me to make actual food part of my day, and the flavors are a mood-lifter – sloooow food, with the love cooked in, as my sweet cousin Lonnie Joe always said. Feeling better already.

So yeah, some food, more coffee, sunshine, birds, balcony, Kimmers is going for a walk after breakfast… I’ll accomplish one thing I can point to as participation in living… and we’ll find ourselves at the end of another day. We have only so many chances to get this right, by which I mean everything. We’ll either figure out how to help each other and survive as a species or we won’t, end of story.

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SQ Diary… page 14

Self-Quarantine Day 19 – 03/31/2020

Yesterday was Crash & Burn day. Encountered asshole-ishness all over social media nonstop, and by bedtime I gave in to the bruises and cried myself to sleep for the first time in about seventeen years.

My Pollyanna heart can never retain the fact that at least a third of my fellow citizens don’t want what I want. They prove in a crunch that what they want is chaos and license, and they’re making it harder for the rest of us to survive. And while we do what we can to protect ourselves and the people we love most, other Americans are calling us liars and accusing us of ganging up on their president.

Things like this don’t happen here, dammit, this is America. So somebody must be hoaxin’ us, right? Can’t be real.

SOMEthing real is happening. Medical personnel are dropping like flies – at least 51 doctors in Italy alone, I don’t know the current U.S. count – while they try to save the rest of us, without the tools they need. Wearing week-old masks (regs say to change after each infected patient) and draped in trash bags, slogging through hospital hallways clogged with patients on gurneys, hoping to save more people than they lose, and dreaming of just a couple of minutes to sit down somewhere. Or to pee – who knows when that last happened? Food? That was so two days ago.

The mean-spiritedness from the doubters is incomprehensible. Somehow it’s the fault of the medical profession that we’re all leaderless and stumbling in the dark? It’s OUR fault as ordinary everyday citizens that we allowed ourselves to be lied to without end?

The worst part of the pandemic so far – until the body count shocks everybody out of their shoes – is getting to know who we share a planet with. The philosophical/political/cultural divides are revealing more than we may have wanted to know. We don’t all share the same values, that’s being made painfully clear, and we’ve forgotten how to lay the differences aside for the good of all.

We can’t seem to communicate with each other – the two conversations never come together. It’s all about anger and suspicion and ideologies that simply can’t mesh – there are things unleashed in the nation that are tearing us apart at the seams, things that can’t be reconciled with the concept of a republic, a democracy, a united group of states. Unity has been shattered and replaced with a veneer of arrogance, an “I’m right, you’re wrong” approach to all of life.

It all feels unbearably sad. An ignominious end to a fairly good idea. We’ll still be a nation when this is over, in some bright tomorrow… but we’ll never be the same. That’s either the best possible news or the worst. Hope we all get to stick around for the ending…

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