Take me home, country roads…

Word on the street has always been that you can’t go home again, and that seems like a wise release-mechanism… you can leave but you can never really return, you have to keep moving forward. In that light, there are places I’ll be okay not ever seeing again, along with the people who determined the atmosphere there. But for about five hours yesterday evening, Rita and I slipped back “home” and it was good stuff. We were with childhood friends… sisters… in a peace-filled house, enjoying beautiful appetizers and wine, talking nonstop, and the first time I thought of the clock it was 6:30… the next, almost 8:30! We picked up where we left off the last time we were together, some seven or eight years ago, and even though we all grew up in and around the same tiny Kansas town, the conversation was far more about life as it is now than about people we thought we knew then, and vice versa. Small towns… where people know or surmise everything you do and say, and consider it their life’s duty to help regulate same. By accepted standards of the times we grew up in, we’re country girls gone wild… tomorrow one sister will fly home to her partner and her wide-ranging interests, and the other will leave for meetings in three different countries. A third sister will keep pursuing goals that have little to do with former dreams and instead are all about the here and now. And the fourth will continue to observe and learn, grateful for another shot at life in a healthy body, and hatching ideas for the immediate future.

We were so busy being together none of us thought to take pictures, which is fine because even a SMART phone couldn’t have captured the essence. Sweet, easy, real, loving… and the kind of acceptance that heals. One of those relationships where you say endlessly “We HAVE to catch up!” and then one day the stars align and it happens… and it’s always worth the wait.

Surrounded by cheap knock-offs of everything in life, it’s reaffirming to see that some things truly never change because they’re the real deal. What solace and joy in this present era.

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For the good times…

Yesterday was amazing. The sun popped over the hill at 6:30am and tracked its way to sunset, never once getting lost in the gray matter. Stayed a little breezy, so never truly short-sleeve weather for this delicate prairie flower, but it was a superb Saturday. We met Rita out at the winery in the late afternoon for Easy G and the Blue Notes, a Cajun & Creole food truck, and smooth local Farmer’s Turnpike White. The food truck, Duke’s Place, is the baby of Papa and Mama Duke, and the aroma of jambalaya, seasoned fries, fried okra, and other wonders was irresistible. Since nobody resists around food, wine, and music, we had the fries. Rita knew Mama from another winery night and the three of us had a fun conversation while things were heating up in the truck, wherein we learned that Papa teaches music at three area universities and earned his doctorate in that subject at KU this spring. I’m guessing he’s late 40s, early 50s, and I’m all respect. And Vanessa (Mama) never stops smiling while she works, so the vibes are cool.

We set our lawn chairs under the trees in the green green grass, commandeered the one little wooden table on the place (it’s becoming a running joke), settled in, and breathed. The day, despite the tiny chill in the air when bigger gusts sailed through, was lovely, and the dozen or so small children in attendance looked to be in kid heaven. Just past the main yard and narrow driveway there’s a little meadow where one girl, maybe 8 years old, held her own against three likely-9-year-old boys and a football – girl’s got an arm. There were four tiny girls and one just past toddler age who flitted around like butterflies, all whispers and bravado. Every once in a while the herd instinct would take hold and all the kids from big to small would run down a path into the woods, only to wander right back in short order. The smallest followed after everyone until her eyes glazed over and she looked like she wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep, right in her little tracks, and this mama’s guessing that happened before they left the driveway. One reason I know is that I slept nonstop until 8:30 this morning and felt positively renewed. NOTE TO SELF: Wine and Cajun fries, fresh air and music at every opportunity.

The evening was like a delicious shot of novocaine after the weekly load of fresh pain, which not only rhymes but is part of a greater rhythm. When you combine benign nature, great food and drink, heart-grabbing music, and the knowledge that likely everyone there would have your back if necessary… you can’t go wrong. The winery is partially the creation of friends of Rita’s… a chemical engineer and his physician wife… and their two little boys made up part of the football/pirate/explorer entourage down in the meadow. Can you say wholesome, boys and girls? Chip and Joanna Gaines have nothing on this place. 😊

People will always determine whether life is good or not, and as much as I try to live without them, it feels better to be around kindred spirits. I think tomorrow I might get to see a couple more and I can’t wait. ❤️ If what we’ve all just been through hasn’t helped us sort out our priorities, we’re not gonna get there, kids. Make it a great week… we’re due for a heat wave here tomorrow!

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Unsolved mysteries…

Another holiday weekend has passed for three senior heathens sharing a gray chilly Ishtar, complete with Spanish mimosas and good food. Seems entirely apropos and it was indeed perfect. Rita did all the cooking… a small spiral-cut ham, au gratin potatoes, asparagus that she roasted just before we sat down, and jalapeño deviled eggs. Kimmers poured Cava & Pomegranate mimosas until the well ran dry, and a mellow time was enjoyed by all. For dessert, I whipped up a lemon cream meringue pie just like Mama used to make, the complete scratch version, a feat I couldn’t have attempted a short three months ago, and it came out right, go me. Sometime late afternoon Rita went home to nap with Jade, my chair tripped me and held me fast for the next couple of hours, and Kim watched the National Canine Agility Show. When you’re not sure what to celebrate, you can’t go wrong with dogs.

Easter strikes me as one of the weirder Christian holidays, what with its origins in ancient pagan rituals, rites of spring, fertility goddesses, bunny-rabbits and all. Hard to gather up all the pieces and make them fit somewhere… so dogs it is, then!

So many pieces/parts left over every time.

******

In my third trimester of living, I have no answers and know only a handful of things for sure:

  • Life is a gift and we’re here to live it
  • If not for the catalysts of profit, greed, and control, humans could find ways to get along
  • If we don’t make life about truth and love we’ve wasted our time here
  • Human communication is a difficult climb, and that’s entirely because of humans
  • 99.9% of us end up being too soon old, too late smart
  • Karma is a bitch only if we are

******

I believe Finneas gets it right, so I’m sharing his exquisite gift of music with you again…

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Thankful…

Holidays now are ghosts of traditions past, but yesterday felt right. Rita and Kim did the cooking, kept it simple but delicious, and all the feelings were mutual. Three people in one room on the same page makes for a relaxing observance and we enjoyed it all.

In the afternoon, Rita went to a movie with friends and we flaked out with football, isn’t that how it’s done? We missed getting a picture of Kimmers, but he snapped one of us for posterity since the hope of “next year in Jerusalem” is never guaranteed.

*****

And oh wait… here’s Kim on yet another beautiful day this November… 💙

We hope everyone’s gathering was peaceful, all hearts grateful, all ties intact. That’s a lot.

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Joy of Comfort Food…

It’s a gorgeous day! We’re working on a project that has us going back and forth to Kansas City and today was one of those, so we had a short meeting and then hit our new fav spot for lunch, where today’s specials were ham & beans, and hot-beef sandwiches. That big hot-beef plate looked and tasted like what my dad and I used to get at Mrs. Taylor’s Café in Dodge City America when I was in grade school, and that makes three times in as many weeks when I’ve been close to tears over food. Daddy would take me with him sometimes on sale days and treat the two of us to Mrs. Taylor’s on the way to the sale barn, sometimes sharing a piece of pie if cattle prices were up. Sight, sound, taste, aroma, all the things intrinsic to memory, were there today while I devoured the whole meal, leaving Kim shocked and grinning. And yes, good ol’ Wonder Bread, which I hadn’t eaten in decades. Feels like I’ve been hungry for a year but couldn’t make it go down – this was like buttah, and life is good. It was a fun day out, all three hours of it, but ask me how I know I’m in my third trimester of living and I’ll tell you it’s because I’d rather be home than anywhere else on the face of the earth.

Thoughts shared on a Thursday…

********************

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Good times…

Kim Smith 04/16/2021

A good thing to do on a rainy Friday is to make your own fun, so we took Rita to the restaurant where we had the killer roast beast the other day. She and I ordered the meatloaf, trusting that it would be the real deal, and there may actually be a god somewhere because our Aunt Bette could have made this one. Plus real mashed potatoes, brown gravy, green beans… and enough meatloaf left over for Rita to make a nice big sammie later, the best part of the whole meal. This time Kim had warm peach pie ala mode, and I took my requisite bite(s). Yes, it was good… but one day soon I have to remind both Kimmers and Rita that I’m the champion peach-pie maker of all time. In seventeen years I’ve made exactly one for Kim, so long ago he has no memory of it, but it’s the best, write that down, and it needs to happen at least one more time. We had a nice little drive over there in the rain… and back… and now it’s a “destination place.” Kim said monthly, I was thinking weekly…

Lunch was one of those sweet little chunks of life when everything feels right, which doesn’t happen nearly often enough. We’re in a new little town, in an establishment new to us, twice now, but we haven’t felt new there the way you do in some places. We might be chagrined to know that we’re sitting bold-faced in a roomful of dyed-in-the-wool MAGA faithfuls, but it doesn’t have that vibe at all… in fact, I just realized that I haven’t seen a single red cap there so far, and everyone comes in masked. Just this week alone, the news from the camo-and-neckbeard side of society has been crushing beyond words, with one after another Black unarmed citizen, often underage, shot on sight by police who are either terrified by the specter of black skin or it triggers an urge to kill… or both.

And Pam Bondi called Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha killer, 17 years old, “a little boy.” Depends on which POV you’re trying to sell, I guess. Whatever it is… it’s.too.much.

********************

I’ve totally fasted from the news today, which I’m highly recommending to myself as a repeat event – it’s made that Old Home Week lunch settle delightfully.

Sweetness being at a premium, we tend to soak it up like flowers in the rain, and today has been nurturing. I’m looking out at the light rain still falling, and how green the world is, just since yesterday, with leaves already obscuring the neighborhood… and reminding me to appreciate… everything. Especially the guy who leadfoots us around the countryside to seek adventure and do exploits, while listening to our nonstop blather without hearing most of it.

That guy asked me about Ramadan the other night and what it entails. I told him that among other things it’s an entire month of fasting from morning ’til night, and then people gather at sundown to celebrate with food.

HIM: Oh, that’s why they’re called Ramadan Noodles!

ME:

HIM: And the people stay in Ramadan Inns, right?

ME:

********************

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Wow, it’s Wonderful Wednesday…

Kim Smith 04/11/2020

It’s a beautiful day and Kim’s on his way to Menard’s on his e-bike to research a project – he wasn’t made for indoors so spring is especially timely this year. Just when I think I couldn’t love him more it’s another good day, and yesterday was one of those. After a morning meeting, we had lunch at a Bar & Grill new to us and got our socks blown off – wow. The menu is amazing, and we weren’t surprised that they were nearly at COVID-restriction full-capacity before we left. The specials were meatloaf, chicken enchiladas, and pot roast, the last of which we glommed onto before the waitress could walk away, and it was… OMG, so good. Fall-apart roast beef cooked with carrots, brown gravy, mashed potatoes, and cornbread… with real corn in it and a bit of streusel on top. Felt like coming home to a big Sunday dinner and we couldn’t stop grinning at each other. We had no room for any one of the four desserts listed, but there’s always next time.

It’s been a heartbreaking week, and with more deaths and assaults of young Black men, I lack the stomach for watching the defense of George Floyd’s murderer. It pains everything I’ve got when people tell us we didn’t see what we saw, nor hear what we heard, nor do we recognize the evil that wears the killer’s skinsuit. It’s too much, all of it. Why do all the “accidents, mistakes, and errors in judgment” happen to Black people? A taser (8 oz.)… a gun (2 lbs.)… all same difference unless it’s a white person in the line of fire – then it matters. The anguish of Black mothers is gut-ripping, and even loving Anthony like I do I cannot register the depths of his mother’s love for him and his brothers and sisters, nor know her sleepless hours. It’s too much.

“I need to drive my two-year-old to daycare tomorrow morning. To ensure we arrive alive, we won’t take public transit (Oscar Grant). I removed all air fresheners from the vehicle and double-checked my registration status (Daunte Wright), and ensured my license plates were visible (Lt. Caron Nazario). I will be careful to follow all traffic rules (Philando Castille), signal every turn (Sandra Bland), keep the radio volume low (Jordan Davis), and I won’t stop at a fast food chain for a meal (Rayshard Brooks). I’m too afraid to pray (Rev. Clementa C. Pickney) so I just hope the car won’t break down (Corey Jones). When my wife picks him up at the end of the day, I’ll remind her not to dance (Elijah McClain), stop to play in a park (Tamir Rice), patronize the local convenience store for snacks (Trayvon Martin), or walk around the neighborhood (Mike Brown). Once they are home, we won’t stand in our backyard (Stephon Clark), eat ice cream on the couch (Botham Jean), or play any video games (Atatiana Jefferson). After my wife and I tuck him into bed around 7:30pm, neither of us will leave the house to go to Walmart (John Crawford) or to the gym (Tshyrand Oates) or on a jog (Ahmaud Arbery). We won’t even walk to see the birds (Christian Cooper). We’ll just sit and try not to breathe (George Floyd) and not to sleep (Breonna Taylor). These are things white people simply do not have to think about.”David Gray

“Today’s policing is nothing more than modern slave patrols.” -Bishop Talbert Swan

It’s.Too.Much.

********************

********************

I read this morning that Lawrence still has some 200 people living outside, sleeping rough, and that efforts are being made to alleviate that, in keeping with the tent city already operating in “midtown.” Living here heals us in ways we could never have asked for.

Safe shelter for those who have none.

********************

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Tuesday-ing right along…

Kim Smith 03/21/2021

Yesterday was an eventful day… I took a stroll over to the barbershop so that’s one thing done for now, and I got an epidural at the Pain Clinic in the afternoon. Had an allergic reaction to one of the cocktail ingredients in the injection because WHY NOT?? but Kim got Claritin and it worked for me in time to watch USC crush the Jayhawks in the NCAA. Since everybody missed out on the tournament last year we’ve been watching lots of basketball this time around and all the games are fun, no matter who’s playing… except for this one. Decidedly not fun… 3rd-biggest loss in Jayhawk b-ball history. But Shelby told me a story while she was cutting my hair: Someone in their family March Madness pool thought the higher the little numbers in front of the team names, the better they were, so she filled out her bracket with 16s… and she’s winning most of the upsets! 😂

It’s been birthday week/month for both John and Kim, and today Kimmers finally became a card-carrying member of my decade, bless his heart. We took Rita Jo with us to Ottawa for his semi-traditional b’day lunch at Luigi’s, which was fun and delicious, not to mention our first dine-in experience in more than a year, if memory serves. And with linens and nice cutlery, no less! Birthday boy got his Shrimp Diablo, so he had a good day. Also there was wine, because it isn’t good to keep things bottled up.

So… yeah… this blog remains a journal until life opens up and starts happening again. Just getting it out there, still, remembering where we’re going so when we arrive I’ll know it. I’m not a writer, I’m a sifter of events and a wise-ass keeper of the record. Poetry and haiku used to bounce around in my head in The Before Time and I hope that will come back soon, along with thoughts that go beyond the same tired old arguments.

We heard babies cry today and squeal from happiness… and watched people doing life together in a way that seemed awfully familiar. And we met the new owner of Luigi’s after lunch, a young woman named Kristin knocking it out of the park in her first week, who took us through the upstairs of the old building, where there’s a dance floor and a speakeasy. It was a good day… rainy and sweet and full of humanity. And Kim doesn’t seem to mind reaching a nice round number at last.

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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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Tots & pears… page 204

Moonset over The Oread – Kim Smith 01/29/2021

Day 322 – 01/31/2021

Here’s to another month in the can and the world moving on, which it seems to be doing. But in this country more evidence of scandal, grift, and greed comes to light every day. Thousands of ventilators have gone missing, likely sold to the highest bidder in a foreign market. Millions of vaccine doses, paid for by our tax dollars, are not there – maybe sold to finance some of DJT’s $900 million in personal loans coming due soon. President-elect Biden’s team wasn’t allowed access to the coronavirus records until the last minute, only to find that the disaster they dreaded is indeed fact, and America pays the price.

Ice holes. Farging bastidges. They let almost half a million of us die and now they’ve walked away to live their self-absorbed lives with impunity. And still people follow them, affirm them, and in DJT’s case, apparently worship him. If I had to unify with any of that I’d need a lobotomy first.

It’s a cold and windy Sunday morning, with good things to look forward to, and I’m here for it, starting with a ranch omelet, which I inhaled, along with fresh-cut pineapple – that’ll work. Kim’s catching the last few of the 24 Hours of Daytona… we’re chillin’/staying warm… writing, reading, drinking coffee, playing music. Life feels so right on so many levels I should be satisfied, but I’m as greedy as those billionaires who make things difficult for us – I want it all. Saying it out loud, I want what we’ve lost. Leaving that right there, Universe.

A woman named Jen posted this on Twitter… and then apologized that it sounded lame. Au contraire, sweet girl, you managed to nail me from the inside out in only a few more syllables than a haiku:

I’m like my aloe plant.

I don’t need much, but when I have what I need, I thrive.

I’m strong but a little bit fragile. 

I don’t look like much on the outside but what’s inside can soothe you. 

I’m thankful for the real people who feed us with love. As for the rest, may whatsoever gods there be judge them justly.

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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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Taco Tuesday… page 159

Day 268 – 12/08/2020

Sunshine again today and we’re soaking it in. Kim gets to play at Lyons Park this morning, and he’ll probably pick up Mexican food on his way home. Meanwhile, maybe the light pouring through the blinds will inspire me to great heights of… cleaning off my desk? … writing something? … doing laundry? … anything could happen.

A couple of people have asked me why my staying in does any good if Kim does things outside the house, and I’ve been giving it some thought…

  • It automatically cuts our risk of contracting COVID-19 in half
  • Kim is swift in his rounds, always masked near people, and instinctively careful
  • Anything that gets him outside adds to his overall good health
  • Circumstances keep me from being similarly active, and home is the well I draw from
  • Since I’m privileged to be able to stay home, this is what I can do to help the cause
  • Somebody has to go out and do the things
  • We knew this pandemic for what it was early on and made a conscious decision to follow the protocols
  • *Safe Zones* are like a peeing section in a swimming pool – we’re all still floating in the same atmosphere
  • It’s far from over, so if anything our resolve to help beat it has been magnified
  • And at this point I’m sufficiently disillusioned with the idea of human kindness to stay in my cave forever
For the record, it’s not me I’m concerned about.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the current administration has blood on its hands, is in fact up to its neck in it. If ALL LIVES MATTER, then an obscene number of them have been sacrificed to ignorance, incompetence, denial, hubris, arrogance, and greed. It didn’t have to be this way…

Pollyanna always has to end on an up note or surrender her Optimist card…

He-he…

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Letting Monday gel… page 151

Day 260 – 11/30/2020

Good weekend, chilly with sunshine. The Chiefs and 49ers both won, and Rita came by for a while on Saturday.

Idle curiosity… we had stir-fry, but wondering how many people smoked a turkey for Thanksgiving?

A recipe I saved for Kim a while back, and you could substitute turkey for chicken…

I’d ask Kim to substitute thin crispy bacon for the thick cut, and less of it, but the rest of it sounds like… crack. Speaking of which, I should get cracking on something, like folding the laundry in the other room…

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Falling… page 125

Day 220 – 10/21/2020

… the rain, the temps… here’s where it gets real, Diary, as the weather closes in and the balcony becomes off-limits – how sloooow can she gooooo? Chill and damp out there this morning, with showers in the forecast. BUT… tomorrow’s supposed to be in the 80s, so I barely have time to whine about this, I just know what comes after tomorrow and beyond…

A few stalwarts are on the courts again this morning, but Kimmers opted to stay in where it’s cozier, playing guitar, which doesn’t make me sad. I’m running comfort-food menus through my head and just got to the M’s. I think we have Velveeta Mac, which is always a guilty pleasure on a cold day. Since we usually think of the same food ideas, we’ll see how that pans out…

We did pick Mac & Cheese for lunch, which I’m pretty sure we just had last week but desperate times call for desperate measures. Kim put Italian sausage crumbles in his today, but I’m always reluctant to harsh the cheesy mellow with anything – it’s therapy. We got a brief hard rain when he would have been playing PickleBall, so he called that, too. It’s gray and drizzly, one of those days where I wander from one distraction to another like a dog who doesn’t know where to lie down. Most of it happens in my head, but still…

I’m tuning in to TV news coverage a little more as we get down to the wire – it’s hard to resist keeping tabs on shenanigans and polls. That practice failed us utterly last time, however, so I’m trying to stick with the highlights and take every last thing with a grain of salt. We’re mostly spazzing out over The Voice… they’re doing such a stellar job of production this season we forget there isn’t a live studio audience. Also The Amazing Race, which is new to Kim and an old friend to me from their earliest seasons, before I spaced it off. And maybe a debate tomorrow night, American entertainment at its nadir. We’ll watch… we ain’t scared.

Adding this so I’ll know in the future where things were right now, two weeks out:

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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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