A Thursday… page 221

Kim Smith 02/23/2021

Day 347 – 02/25/2021

Saw the sun for a while this morning before a cloud layer dimmed the lights a little. Not a bad day ahead, 40s and low breezes, then 60s again by Saturday, so we’re sloping toward spring by increments.

A year “on the inside” has noticeably lowered my threshold for delicacy, illustrated perfectly by the arrival yesterday of the bamboo back-scratcher I ordered. After shattering my left shoulder and the extensive surgery on the right, my little T-Rex arms reach only so far, along with Kim’s forbearance, so the mothers of invention prevail again.

Every once in a while I remember why I started a blog in the first place, beyond John’s suggestion that it might be a good exercise. I started writing (again) because I was in my late 50s and had a clear sense of life’s brief candle. Dad, Robert, and Daddy had died one after the other, I’d moved, I was into my life with Kim, and it was time to slow the roll and observe the moments. Over the past fifteen years there have been many and I’m glad most of them are here for me to revisit any time. Every good thing in my life is a result of someone’s caring… thanks for this one, John.

If I don’t listen to the continuing clamor from the right, I think we’re starting to heal. What’s denied NEVER heals, so it’s been a crucial beginning for President Biden to bring us together via candlelight memorials and fireside talks, acknowledging that more than a half-million humans living within our borders have died in a pandemic that is far from over. It’s vital for a president to say it out loud, acknowledge what happened, and help us grieve so we can start rebuilding. On this side of the fence it feels like we’re home again, it’s still here, and we can put it right… together.

The turmoil continues outside these walls, especially in the halls of government, but now, with solid moral leadership in place, there are ways to tame the uproar. By the time we get our second vaccinations and wait some more, we might merge back into a society that’s finding its footing again. The thought of that kind of freedom is tantalizing and worth the price it takes on all our parts to get there. I don’t regret staying out of the fray, there’s been no need for me to be out there. Baby sister is fully shot up now, so we’ll be a force in our own minds again soon. Maybe Saturday will at least be warm enough for another walk…

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The thaw… page 220

Kim Smith – 02/23/2021

Day 345 – 02/23/2021

Let the record show that on February 23rd at 10am I walked around on my balcony barefoot and was.not.cold. It’s 66º now at 2pm, I have the door wide open to the fresh air, and I realize I may never have known a year when I was more ready for spring. Rita came by for me this morning, we picked up coffee, and went down by the river where we walked from the Mass St. bridge to the boathouse and back, which has to be at least a mile. Felt amazing and there were quite a few fellow Lawrencians out. We drove around for a while afterward, finding the best route to the river for next time (better parking, closer to the boathouse) looking at historic houses in the neighborhood, and generally frittering away a beautiful morning.

When I got home, Kim had left for PickleBall (I spaced it off) and I was locked out, but that was easily fixed because Leon and Thomas were working on the doors to the trash building and I prevailed on Leon’s kindness for a master key. I love living here… this spot, and #lfk overall – the we-care-about-people vibe comes through, under and over everything else. Rita drove me past the hospital a little way and showed me Lawrence’s tent city for our homeless population through the winter and the pandemic – makes me feel even better about where we are and the humans we live among. They’ve built wooden structures with peaked white-tent tops in a fenced area that seems fairly isolated and safe. And just up the street they’ve broken ground for a rehabilitation center… bless you, my homies.

I couldn’t see for the sun, but I took a few pics anyway… and this is why Kim’s the photographer in the family.

Off the dirt onto the walking path…
A frozen tributary
Somebody’s hooch. Had to squint at the “TV.”
Riverbend…

The next two days won’t be outdoor days, but the weekend looks promising.

And with that, I’m sitting here looking out the window and word comes through that Tiger Woods has been injured in a rollover crash, extracted via Jaws of Life, and he’s in surgery for multiple leg injuries. There’s never been a predictable day of life for any human who’s breathed oxygen… but you really don’t need to try so hard, 2021, to outdo last year.

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Monday, but not blue… page 219

Day 344 – 02/22/2021

It was a good weekend. Rita came over and watched the Jayhawks beat Texas Tech with us, and Kim made tamales, street tacos, beans & rice and all the other stuff for lunch – fun, happy afternoon. Sunday was the two of us all day, with the TV on low and ambitions the same. Which brings us to Monday, full of sunshine, and the week ahead is looking like this:

Almost 70º tomorrow, OMG!!

Sunlight changes everything, as Pluto, in its distance, is acutely aware – the sun’s warmth makes everything doable. Not wishing time away, but when spring arrives I’ll feel like I’ve been sprung from the slammer. We get our second shots on the 4th, and two weeks after that we shouldn’t be a threat to man nor beast so a semblance of “out & about” might start happening. Kim’s been out a lot during the pandemic, but not about – just all the shopping, and playing PickleBall under strict guidelines – so things will get better for both of us.

Over the past year, though, I’ve finally settled into the happy loneliness that’s always been who I am, and it’s good.

And the simple truth is…

It’s not that I so value my own company, but I feel better when I’m not inflicting myself on unsuspecting humans.

Haven’t seen much of the ‘rona since the last flare, but my relationship with food is still iffy. I’ll be feeling right as rain, sit down to a meal I love, and my stomach turns on me… but less often every day, and that’s good news because food’s one of the second-best things about life.

Kim has a full day outside the walls and I’ve ticked several things off my list this morning – I’m letting the sunshine soak into my soul, and maybe tomorrow my bones.

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Beautiful day… page 207

Alley of the Long Shadows, where the slow-walkers meet.Kim Smith 01/2021

Day 325 – 02/03/2021

The earth’s tilt and rotation are bringing sunlight to us sooner every morning, my body clock is resetting, and I wake up when Kim does, ready for a day, which feels awesome. Since he finished his walk in full light this morning an earlier start will be in order tomorrow. It’s supposed to be sunny and almost 60º this afternoon, so Rita and I might go out to the Arboretum and walk around the lakes – sounds like a winner to be outside for awhile.

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And it WAS. The lakes and little waterfalls are looking good, and all the benches we checked out were comfy in the sun. Tomorrow starts a 10-day stretch of cold temps so if we’d carelessly squandered an afternoon like this one, it wouldn’t have spoken well for our upbringing.

My happy world has space for only one rant today, expressed in the words of Twitter friends:

A 9-year-old child was treated with more force than the insurrectionists.

Think about that… a child in distress, crying for her father, was abused and pepper sprayed, while those staging a coup took selfies like they were at DisneyWorld and went home unhindered. -Lisa M.

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What is systemic racism? When a 9-year-old Black child gets handcuffed and assaulted with a chemical agent, while the courts decide if the QShaman gets organic food in prison. -Call Me G

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A nine-year-old Black girl has a breakdown and gets handcuffed and pepper-sprayed in the back of a police car.

A grown white woman storms the Capitol during a violent insurrection which leads to five people dying, and she gets a vacation in Mexico. -Red

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It’s all about pigmentation. -JSmith

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But we’ll sing in the sunshine, we’ll laugh every day… it’s in the contract.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 02/03/2021

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Peace is good… page 205

Day 323 – 02/01/2021

Our orbit and trajectory have brought us again to Monday, which differs from the weekend in terms of TV schedules, food, and guilt about being worthless bums… but not a lot else. Some of the irritations that once made me dread Mondays would almost be welcome distractions at this point. Almost. We have plenty ahead of us to think about, so I’m sticking with solitude for some time yet. It’s okay, even curative, and I’m not unaware of its benefits.

We spent a few hours with Rita yesterday in her cozy place, and that was mos def curative – best medicine since Christmas, and she doesn’t disrupt my inner solitude a bit.

In a world defined by conflict and upheaval, I know this much is true…

… so yeah, workin’ on that, but when your heart looks like this, it’s all uphill…

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I asked Kim if this is what he ordered, and got the affirmative nod I expected and would have been crushed without…

It’s good to be Queen

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Friday it is… page 202

Day 320 – 01/29/2021

Yesterday lived up to its billing, and the sun’s shining this morning. Life… it goes on. Kev came by last night and we fed him street tacos and got caught up – so good. Next, Typhoid Mary and I need to pick up where we left off, now that we’re both apparently over the ‘rona. I miss her like rock misses roll and I need to laugh at her funny self again.

I put on eye makeup yesterday for Kevin’s benefit, and this morning my peepers are all puffy, red, and teary. So what NOW, 2020-Extended-Version, have I become allergic to eye shadow after not wearing it for a year? Must I present as a lizard for the remainder of my days? Hardly seems fair… I’m such a good kid as far as anybody knows.

Speaking of good kids… I love all of these ones:

And especially today, to every nurse, doctor, medical person, thank you with everything I am for all that makes you YOU. For showing up shift after 12-hour shift, pulling extras when somebody doesn’t make it in… working via smoke and mirrors on little sleep… treating an illness you often can’t make better… most of you in the pressure cooker without tests or shots for the past year… like the rest of us, if we were all under insane stress every minute. I want THIS for you when it’s all over, you brazen caring souls who make it out of the fire day after day:

Also there’s this, so…

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I love sunshine… page 187

Day 303 – 01/12/2021

We have a sunny Tuesday morning in progress, with a high this afternoon in the low 50s, so Kim will be playing PickleBall after lunch. Happy day for him – he turns into a coil-spring when he can’t get out and move.

Not sure what I’ll end up doing today, but if I turn my head slightly to the left I can see several available options, just in my line of sight. Much time will undoubtedly be taken up with, or at least wrapped in, thoughts that never stop.

Six days after MAGA’s failed coup against democratic government, my outrage has only increased. The images, the stupidity, the deaths, the destruction, the total lack of comprehension of what makes us America, the entrenched idea that if you’re white in this country and you ever lose a single thing you BY GOD GET IT BACK IMMEDIATELY!

The terrorists’ representatives in Congress, whose own lives were on the line last Wednesday, are continuing the mantra: The GOP doesn’t lose elections unless we get something very wrong, so we’re saying something’s very wrong and we will reverse this outcome we don’t like, even if it costs us our way of life.

More MAGAs and Qs and general fuck-ups are threatening open assault on all 50 statehouses in the country, and plotting to disrupt Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris’s inauguration.

“Antifa” has also taken a shit in the hall…

And all of the above is sanctioned by a “man” who’s never been told no, never had to lose much that mattered to him, always had a parachute – ’til now. At this juncture, he seems willing to sacrifice everything in his frantic attempt to avoid being outed as a fraud, an abject idiot, a traitor to the United States of America, and a sociopath who has so far allowed almost 400,000 Americans to die on his watch..

What none of the above people comprehend is that on the profound moral questions in American politics — union vs treason, democracy vs autocracy — there is no middle ground. They’ve sacrificed truth for their cause and don’t seem to realize yet that they’re holding nothing but sawdust.

*fewer* points

The good news on a sunny morning is that Rita and I are both feeling better, starting to come up out of the odd haze that is apparently COVID-19. She’s a couple of days ahead of me so she’s been my beacon of hope for better days all along, and once I get past the weak and shaky stage and lose the cough, I’ll claim my win.

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Got ‘er done… page 183

Day 295 – 01/04/2021

Welp, I’ve been ‘rona tested – took a little over an hour this morning and was no biggie – clearly it matters who sticks a big Q-tip up your nose and how, because I barely felt it. Kim was tested before a recent procedure and he didn’t feel it either. And now we wait… and keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing for ten months.

Felt a little odd to be able to drive up and take my turn for something most healthcare people in the country have never received and that’s a coronavirus test. Hospitals don’t have a comfortable supply of tests, so their nurses go without, and most have yet to receive their first vaccination. Don’t let anybody kid you, Donald Trump has broken the United States, just as he set out to do, and right & wrong have been crushed to bits.

Kim picked up Rita’s grocery order this morning and left it on her porch, so he’s out there on behalf of the sisters, thank goodness. Remains to be seen what this is, but I feel like crap. However, since that’s nothing new for this fibro-wracked body, it could be anything. Or nothing. Might try to sleep for a while…

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Christmas Day… page 175

Day 285 – 12/25/2020

When you’re feeling old, tired, and beat up there’s much to be said for simplicity, and after the butt-wippin’ known as 2020, the simpler the better. Subscribing to that point of view, Rita made a yummy breakfast casserole and brought crescent rolls and champagne, with fresh raspberries for muddling. Kim made a skillet apple crisp served with vanilla bean ice cream and warm caramel sauce. Delicious, fun, and clean-up took mere minutes. Preston was not in a mood to be adventurous and get out of the car, even for a potty break, so Rita took him home around 2:00 and now they’re napping. Elma FaceTimed her while she was here to show her all her gifts and I got to see and say hi to Matt. It’s been a sweet day, a little microcosm of connection.

John’s habit since he started his nursing career has been to work on December 24th and 25th to allow a colleague with kids to be home with them, so that’s where he is today. I miss him so much my heart feels shredded, but he’s right where he needs to be and it’s all okay. He made sure to have his own celebration, which makes this heart a little happier. Missing lots of family… the holidays bring it to the surface in ways you can’t say no to and I’m sending a little prayer out into the universe that Christmas 2021 won’t feel like this one.

We create our own happiness, our own sweetness, our own peace, and we did a good job of that today. Rita always brings the joy, and great food, and the love. Life is good. 💙

As we get ready to close out a year we can’t wait to see the backside of…

A silent salute to all we’ve lost in 2020…

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Christmas Week… page 173

Day 282 – 12/22/2020

Sunshine again this morning – always a sweet hook to the day. I have enough laundry to keep me right here for the foreseeable so I’m glad I got out of here yesterday – it was time. Rita and I caught each other up on such news as there is, and then she loaded sleepy Preston into the car to snooze in a safe spot while we walked for an hour at the old sports complex/arboretum out near Clinton Lake. And by walked I mean I kept stride with Rita for the first 500 yards or so before Left Hip said “Who authorized this shit?” The next 500 saw the pace totally FUBAR’d… then there was a bench! After that it all went pretty great, in that I arrived back at the car under my own steam, still standing. Next time we’ll start with one of the little lakes at the arboretum… then on a third walk we’ll add the other one. Smaller bites. Some of the sidewalks were leaf-dappled and in a shadowed spot Rita stepped on a fat round twig which flipped her heels over head, whereupon she landed expertly turtled-up on the concrete without scraping anything or hitting her head or hands. It looked like a soft landing but her tush-bones and an ankle might be sore this morning. I was horrified but impressed with her mad skilz, holy moly, that was an expert tuck & roll.

Kimmers and I didn’t walk out into the dark last night, although we could have… but somehow you feel it.

And now we begin our roll to the sunny side, knowing this is when winter actually starts for us, and looking toward spring again… the greening of life.

Meanwhile, the tantrum at the center of government continues unabated but doesn’t merit the time of day…

Shameful and terrifying.

Holding my breath until the inauguration… ready for the grown-ups to steer the ship. I’m navigating on a raft woven of Christmases past… and we will feel safe again.

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The halfway point… page 172

Day 281 – 12/21/2020

It’s the Winter Solstice already… and here in the bleak midwinter we’re getting a handful of nice days. Kim’s likely to play at least four hours of PickleBall today between the two parks, so his Monday’s looking good. I just might put on actual clothes and go hang out with Rita for a while…

Mr. Dan Rather and I are entirely on the same page today. Seeing Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, et.al., step to the front of the line for their COVID-19 vaccinations has been odious when millions of frontline healthcare workers, living in the midst of the virus for nine months, have not yet been protected. Same for teachers and ALL essential personnel. The person in the presidential seat of power, despite his denial and chicanery… I’ll begrudgingly give you that one. Incoming electeds, for sure. But these congressional a-holes who consider it their god-given right to always be first have shredded any willingness on my part toward forgiveness, let alone respect. They’ve done nothing but obstruct, cut funds, cut corners, blatantly lie to America, remain silent to this day while the virus wreaks havoc in the nation, but have the gall to say “I’ll take mine NOW.” They’re beneath contempt.

Or, in Jeff’s words…

Apropos… Marco Rubio quotes scripture incessantly on Twitter and elsewhere… and that’s pretty much all he does.

The ignorance, willful or otherwise, of those who continue to stand behind them, top to bottom, is stunning. Soul-crushing. How have we not realized the depth and width of the divide until now? It took a madman to show us who we are, and half the country is happy about it. Really scary.

Yup, definitely going to Rita’s…

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The sweetness… page 158

Day 267 – 12/07/2020

Another nice day so Kim played at Lyons Park and I went over to Rita’s for a few hours. Fun time and good to catch up again – she’s still sorting out from the events of the summer and fall but making terrific headway. Preston and Jade both slept the whole time I was there and her cozy house was welcoming and Zen – just what the doctor ordered.

Home now, settling into the evening groove, watching the cars and foot traffic below my window, wishing it wasn’t going to be dark in an hour, tiptoeing through the dusky limbo, waiting for something to pierce the shell and present itself as real life. Kim’s here and he’s real. His 49ers are playing the Bills tonight and that’s real stuff. Life gradually breaks through again.

Reality is sometimes overrated, but I vastly prefer it to delusion even when it hurts. Today we mark the 79th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, where almost 2500 Americans died in a single day. For each single December day leading up to this commemoration, U.S. coronavirus deaths looked like this:

Reality intrudes despite all efforts to drown it out, and sweetness and light can’t exist without it, so when there’s no way back to what was, you go with what is – the good stuff – and the lights start to come on again. A steady hand to hold is a sweet gift while you wait.

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What she said…

Yesterday marked the culmination of a job well done. My sister Rita has been systematically leveling the mountain that fell from the sky and landed in her path back in May, and she finally has it whittled down to a small foothill. There are the inevitable details, formalities, and legalities to wrap up, but what looked like an almost insurmountable task six months ago is coming to an end.

If you’re a regular reader you know that Rita’s lifetime friend Joy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Mets this past May, whereupon Rita became her full-time caregiver. When Joy died in August, Rita began the process of closing out the loose ends of her life for her. She found a realtor, sold the house without having to list it, and started sorting 27 years’ worth of living for a fortunately very organized Joy. She engaged an amazing Lawrence woman to help her sort, stage, and hold a 2-day estate sale on all four levels of the house and in the garage, which wrapped up yesterday. People couldn’t have been nicer or more polite, and only a couple approached the door maskless, which was gratifying after long absence from humanity. And bazinga! Other than a few items left to move, the houseful of treasures we’ve all been looking at for the past several months has been shared to the community. Joy, a truly giving soul, would be happy to know that, and to know that Rita carefully put aside all the things that might have significance to Joy’s remaining family, which a mutual friend will deliver to them soon.

So after the house closes, it’s just Rita and Preston, Joy’s sixth rescue dog, fifth English Springer Spaniel, who’s elderly, probably deaf, and a little crippled up, but sweet as pie. And Jade, Rita’s rescue cat from New Mexico, who’s decided to tolerate Preston. For now.

Time can be friend or foe, but enough of it and things happen, step by step. I’m straight solid proud of Rita for the calm, competent, determined way she’s handled everything from the minute it all started, once she flipped the required internal switch. I know she’s been taking care of situations forever, so I’m glad for a chance to see her in operation. Baby sister, my ass.

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Hope on a Sunday… page 122

Day 219 – 10/18/2020

The intrepid PickleBallers are in dire need of a safe place to play indoors, but SPL is open for limited fitness activities only. Our typical short fall is morphing into early winter for now and outdoor play is becoming no bueno. So Kim borrowed my headphones and went for a long walk while I was sleeping this morning, and now he’s playing electric guitar, I’m noodling as usual, and we’re both waiting for hunger to strike and then it’s omelet time. Our high temp today is expected to be 49º so the spa soak will be from HEA-vun!

Less rain this year so the leaves are not quite as vivid and they’re dropping fast. Fall is such a metaphor for what’s happening in the world, and a present reminder that hope carries us until spring… every time. Thinking of all that’s changed in eight months, that’s one thing that remains – hope – and I’m trying to wear it on my face these days. I started realizing a couple of years ago that I have little need for mirrors now – my hair’s a no-effort deal, I bother with zero makeup except on rare occasions, I’m well-acquainted with my face after all this time, so mirrors are slightly superfluous and I forget to look, which naturally follows when one is neither jarring nor arresting to look at.

But the thought that follows from that is this: how much have my countenance and underlying substance been altered by the hours, days, weeks, and months here in my ivory tower? When we finally see our “boys” again, will I catch an “Omigod, Mom!” glint in their eyes before they check themselves? Have I gradually and imperceptibly melted and re-compacted into a zombie-like being who absorbs the hits, one by one, and keeps slogging forward? Or is that just how it feels from inside my head?

Rita stopped by yesterday for some fun catching up – she looks amazing despite her stress and exhaustion, and she’s getting on the downhill slope of things. Spring holds out hope for ALL of us! Odd to be thinking in those terms, maybe, since summer barely ended, but in the words of a favorite author:

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Live right in it… the hope. While the wind blows, the rain spatters, the snow falls and whips around us… live right in the hope. By spring we’ll know what sort of nation we are and what we personally will do with that. By spring maybe we’ll start getting a handle on the current pandemic before the next one hits. Maybe spring will bring some room for healing… repairing and rebuilding some of the vital relationships… putting things back together in this society we’ve made. I hope so.

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The circle… page 115

Day 210 – 10/08/2020

Yesterday’s task with Rita was sorting a six-drawer dresser packed to the gills with old and newer family photos – not ours, but people we knew so not all mystery. This is my seventh household to help deconstruct, the previous six for family members, and the impact is always the same – when life ends, it’s over. Every tiniest object that meant something special… all the carefully laundered and folded favorites… the Post-Its, the bills that keep finding the mailbox, the personal rubble left behind in jacket pockets… nobody’s coming back to see to any of that. It’s over.

So if we’re very lucky, someone who knew us, loved us, cared what became of us, shows up to make things right and tie up the dangling participles.

We were halfway to the bottom of Drawer #4, talking about how good it was to hear from Susan the day before, when we both reached for the same photo… High School Homecoming Queen Susan! The basement chill zinged up to 11 and we celebrated a sweet Twilight Zone moment – just like that, the three of us were in the same room again. Life is weird and spooky and crazy and I like it a lot. It’s good to be reminded regularly that humans aren’t one-dimensional and neither is the world we live in. Since Susan’s move to Arizona almost two years ago we miss her every day and yesterday’s serendipity was a needed gift.

And just like that, life goes on. In Susan’s sweet face I see our nieces and great-nieces and the little great-great-niece we “met” last week… and Reese and Wagner genes going back as far as we want to explore. Life goes on… the circle keeps turning.

I nabbed Rita’s senior pic out of the same drawer and since I’m the equal-opportunity do-it-my-way Big Sister, I have to put it here for posterity, doubly proving that DNA-by-association has always been on my side. My sisters are my best friends… always were, really… and age doesn’t change any of that, thank the universe. 💙

So Diary… am I good or what? It’s actually Throwback Thursday, a masterstroke of timing, which bodes well for wrapping up the week on a high note. I see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 little jobs I could get done this morning and hardly move from my desk – ask me tomorrow how that went down. I’m still in Coffee & Think mode at almost 10am, so we’ll see…

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