Sunrise… page 196

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 01/22/2021

Day 313 – 01/22/2021

I fell asleep last night with a quiet sense of peace that’s been absent for too long – it felt amazing. And when I woke up this morning my first impulse wasn’t to check the news for overnight disasters emanating from Washington DC, specifically one big white house located there. I could get used to this.

All of the other crises roll inexorably forward, but these few days of taking a deep breath are already erasing some of the fallout from what we just survived. President Biden faces a monumental task in raising us out of the COVID pit we were left to wallow in; fortunately, he’s the man for the moment. We’re almost certain to lose another 100,000 Americans by the end of February, if not sooner, and it’s a job for the ultimate experts to get us through this horrendous failure of leadership without our losing hundreds of thousands more. Apparently the production of vaccines was semi-ramped up, with a stingy outlook to the future, and no roll-out plans for getting the preventative into our arms. I checked Douglas County’s COVID information site just now to find that our vaccination status is currently late-spring to early-summer, and that’s just the first shot. By the time we wait the required interval and get our second vaccination, then keep on keeping to ourselves until the numbers drop appreciably, we can count on another year of this. I’ll never forget that it didn’t have to be this way.

I’ve aged in here, from the inside out… by fifteen years at least, and most of it in the past year. My heart has grown a protective crust; I find it harder to forgive; I will not suffer fools; I’m grumpy with the people I love most, and snippy with friends. I’m inattentive, self-absorbed, quite often oblivious to what’s going on with the humans I care about. On the outside, I look more like my Grandma Wagner by the day, my turkey neck rivals Mitch McConnell’s, and I’ve acquired what John called at age four “soggy arms.” I may be stuck with most of that, it just sort of happens when you sit around and get old – but I can shed a lot of the inside stuff, and I can work seriously on doing that now that the air’s been cleared. It starts with being just as real as I always try to play it.

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Snow day… page 190

Day 306 – 01/15/2021

We have blowing snow and cold temps this morning, which calls for biscuits & gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon & sausage, and a spa soak. Sometimes it’s good to be quarantined.

The information spigot is still gushing after the coup attempt, but with our anti-fascist forces, the true ANTIFA, on the J-O-B, my anxiety has taken a dip for now.

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Makes it easier to appreciate good stuff from my friend Steve…

FOUND IN COMMENTS: Fun nerd fact, the candy banana flavor we are all familiar with is based on the Gros Michel Banana. That was the original commercially available banana, which was nearly wiped out by a fungus in the 1950s. We then switched commercial bananas to the Cavendish which was resistant to the fungus and is now what everyone knows as the standard banana. Therefore, artificial banana flavor is based on a banana that almost no one born after 1958 has ever tasted.

As a 1947 baby, I must have known real bananas.

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New Year’s Day 2021… page 181

Day 292 – 01/01/2021

We woke up to fat snowflakes this morning and neighborhood flaws are being covered over hour by hour while I watch from my windows. Perfect way to observe a fresh start when everybody needs that more than anything, and now a little light is filtering through and making the snow look like fondant.

Our neighbors’ balcony

Kim says if he had more chutzpah than good sense he’d go down to the river and take pictures, but since we both know how that stacks up, he’s still here by the fire. Across the street, though, the little 3-year-old is out with his daddy, shoveling porches and sidewalks like a boss.

Our New Year’s Not-Rockin’ Eve was sweetly chill. Kim made Tortellini Bisque and garlic bread, we toasted to endings and beginnings, stayed up past midnight to escort 2020 out the door, shook the dust off our psyches, and burrowed our way into blessed sleep. We celebrated this morning with the Saturday breakfast on Friday, which will mean Sunday breakfast on Saturday, and a waffled-up Sunday morning. These rebel hearts will never be tamed…

Photo Credits: Kim Smith 01/01/2021

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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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Friday smiles… page 169

Day 278 – 12/18/2020

I slept through the sun’s bold appearance this morning and by the time I opened my eyes everything had faded to gray – early bird gets the pageantry. Kim came in after his walk and threatened me with icy fingers but this lump of Zen was not having it. He played PickleBall outdoors at SPL yesterday and they’d planned to do that again today, but the wind’s coming up so he might be trapped… yikes. We may be forced to have another nice soak just to put the day on track.

It’s Friday, which is always fairly stunning now… the days are sometimes endless but the weeks and months disappear like smoke. So… the weekend. All the same stupid, scary shit that was out there yesterday is still there today, only more so, having bred and multiplied overnight… but I’m deciding to subtract it from my conscious existence until Monday morning. I’ll see things, I’ll read things, they’ll simply be none my bidness ’til I say so.

The Jayhawks won last night… by 1 point. They’ll forever be the Heart Attack Kids – they’re like Mr. Patrick Mahomes, who undoubtedly did ALL his book reports on Sunday night before the school quarter ended. Energizing, to say the least.

We finished The Queen’s Gambit… reluctantly… last week, and I’m ready to watch it all over again NEXT week. Stellar production, best overall series in a long time, just too brief.

In the interest of strengthening my resolve to keep on the sunny side, I raided my California-by-way-of-North-Dakota friend Steve’s timeline again…

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Hello, #lfk weekend… let’s do this.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith, Kaw River, 12/18/2020, no editing

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Grabbing for the good… page 162

Day 271 – 12/11/2020

Our weather change has arrived in temporarily-benign form… high of 45º today, in the 30s tomorrow, and 20s on Sunday, with chances of rain and maybe snow throughout. The good-idea man decided that on a wet chilly morning, making the Saturday breakfast on Friday would be just the ticket, and that man was so right. It was perfect, and he knows how to keep me quiet for a while…

Last night we watched the 2010 remake of “True Grit” with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, et.al., which neither of us had ever seen. Wow, what fun. Can’t go wrong with Coen Brothers! And Kim thought he’d seen ALL their stuff. Hailee Steinfeld was luminescent in this one, the writing is stellar, and, well… that cast.

After my usual foray into Facebook and Twitter this morning, and catching up on the headlines, I’m already taking evasive measures against the Blue Meanies, lest they crash my day for me. Cousin Michael passed this along…

Helpful…

The asparagus ferns on the balcony finally succumbed to cold temps and the fact that we forgot to water them, so we cut the planters free this morning and Kim hauled them down to the bin. They went above and beyond this year, and the balcony looks naked without them. Don’t think we’ll be spending a lot of time out there in the immediate future, though, so we’ll get over it.

Borrowing some inspiration from my North Dakota friend Steve Gelder this morning because despite what I’ve seen and read in my first hours awake, I can’t afford to spend today crying.

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Friday… page 155

Day 264 – 12/04/2020

Never know what mood morning will deliver after a night’s sleep full of murky but seemingly significant dreams. I slept well last night but woke up near tears, so who knows. We have sunshine and low 50s this afternoon and Kim’s out west playing PickleBall on SPL’s outdoor courts – and temps through at least next Thursday say that could happen a few more times, depending on wind. I’m never so happy for him as when he can be outside living his best life.

Meanwhile, I’m here looking at a desk that needs attention and hoping today’s energy allotment hits soon. May have to fall asleep to TV news while I wait…

Yeah, that happened. Still don’t hate the condition of my workspace enough to fix it.

Some days, Diary, are just days. And yet not, because life is still out there and things are happening and I can’t stop thinking about ANY of it. I was struck yesterday by this quote:

“Joseph Campbell said that the command to love our neighbor is obviously one of the hardest of all religious concepts. But to recognize our connection to others goes to the core of life’s mystery, and when you live as if it’s so – you are threading yourself into the long-train of history and the fabric of civilization. Perhaps the simplest way to say it is that ‘We’re all in this together. We are all first responders to one another.'” – Bill Moyers

Ended my afternoon with this – joyful, amazing, incredibly moving. Powerful therapy.

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Black Friday… page 150

Day 257 – 11/27/2020

Can’t remember why it’s called Black Friday but I’ve never done one and this year would be an incredibly stupid time to start. Kim said Mass Street was quiet this morning so the stores didn’t open early for sales – maybe #lfk isn’t going to the dance this time around.

I’m seeing lots of Twitter comments about crying jags and teary breakdowns on The Day After. I have a feeling we stayed home and did it right, all brave and stiff-upper-lipped, and today the knowledge of everything we’ve lost is proving too heavy. Will there ever be a road back to what we knew and believed to be real?

This day feels ponderous to carry so I’ll have to break it up into livable chunks – sixteen unbroken hours of staying awake for it is unmanageable. Tried not to write about it, but I can’t go all day without breathing. Tried not to talk about it to Kim but he’s the only one here. Looking for a diversion in the bottom of the toy box that will take me outside myself and into the sunlight. Feels like it will be a long winter, with days and days of isolation and uncertainty, so I gotta figure it out, I can’t whine my way through another year of this. And by the time a vaccine gets final approval, a distribution system is in place, and we’ve all received our two shots with a month between, it will most likely take that long. Then we’ll have to keep wearing masks and social distancing until we achieve community transmission reduction. Long haul ahead, Mama, pull up your big-girl undies.

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Ah, sweet limbo… page 144

Day 250 – 11/20/2020

So the Cult of Trump has decided to shoot for the moon, overturn what election officials are calling the most secure election in modern history, impose herd immunity/mentality on the nation, and continue ruling from the minority because they say so. The inauguration of Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris, who have been duly elected by a margin of 6 million votes and an insurmountable electoral total, is constitutionally set for January 20, 2021. It remains to be seen how desperate Donald Trump is to keep that from happening, not a happy thought to entertain since he holds the power to burn it ALL down on his way out.

So far, most of the serious GOP discussions available for public consumption have followed this template…

It’s been hard to sort things out post-election, but a couple of areas stick out to me in the puzzle department…

Actually worth fighting a war in the streets over?
Because those are just words.

We have to recognize that voting isn’t what it used to be. We’d put an X by the person we preferred over the other one, usually two decent human beings, wait for the results, and work to make our party better if we lost. That innocent landscape has changed since I first cast a vote in the 60s, and the current state of the union means that when one candidate is a genuine quality human being and the other is not, our vote becomes a personal statement of our code of ethics and life view and we don’t even have to tell anybody what box we marked – it’s apparent from our choices, our loyalties, and how we live out our lives.

This perpetually-hopeful Pollyanna is more convinced than ever that we’re not only two nations, we speak two different languages and live in separate realities, primarily because we follow two diametrically-opposed news feeds and retain what we see and hear. Trust and respect have been lost between us and we don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.

Hope tells us we could fix it all somehow, but hope seems to have taken a hike and wants no part of it. Even hope can’t breathe without communication, and it’s a slow death. 🖤

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It’s our lucky day… page 139

Day 243 – 11/13/2020

Today is Friday the 13th in the year 2020 – what could possibly go wrong? In truth it feels like a lucky day to me and I’m expecting good things to happen. Or maybe I’ve finally gone ’round the bend and this will be the day the meteor hits. If so, we’ve had a good run.

Our human connections help define us, and without them for so long I’m drifting a little – the people I love help anchor me, and sometimes I miss The Before when some of us didn’t know each other so very well. I miss our three boys and nothing yet indicates when we can be together again. A cousin was going to drive across several states with her daughter for a visit and I had to tell her no, one of the hardest things I’ve done. All because of a “so-called pandemic” that was really only a hyped-up flu, participated in by the entire world as a fvck-you to Donald Trump… that didn’t magically disappear the day after the election like a massive caravan of invaders from Mexico… even now, after all the math says Biden & Harris have won.

Instead, because conspiracy theorists and grumpy-ass naysayers politicized a virus and the idea of protecting ourselves against it, America is in the middle of a humanitarian crisis that’s spiraling out of control. We have a medical system that’s overburdened across the nation and personnel who are burnt beyond even talking about it.

It’s going to be an uphill battle for President-Elect Biden to bring this wholly unnecessary disaster under control, but we know he won’t throw up his hands, slide it off onto states that didn’t vote for him, and absolve himself of any responsibility – because he’s an adult, he knows how this works, and he’s the man of the hour. I cannot wait for sanity to be the standard operating system again. Even with a vaccine on the horizon, we’ll likely be into the 3rd quarter of 2021 before doses can be delivered worldwide and infection rates fought to submission, while the isolation becomes fallout that has to be addressed on its own… and already has. Had America simply paid attention in March… April… May… and taken the guidelines and mandates for what they were – an effort to save lives and our economic viability – instead of interpreting the benevolent wisdom as a ruse to somehow steal their freedom… we wouldn’t find ourselves at this frankly terrifying juncture now.

We’re losing a 9/11’s worth of American lives every two days, and soon it will be 2,000+ people every single day. That should be a difficult statistic for even the most jaded among us. They’re running out of refrigerated morgue trucks in El Paso, turning away car accident victims at Utah hospitals, burying entire populations of nursing homes plus their caregivers, repeated ad infinitum across the nation. Aside from our temporary lost standing in the world, the racial injustice and warfare in our streets, and the wreckage of our economy, a non-response to a global pandemic, with its resulting carnage, seems a very high price to pay for the demand to be right and make the liberals cry.

It’s 10am and the sun’s shining bright on a 33º morning, so I need to soak up every minute of it… the days are short, and losing the light by 5pm lets the melancholy creep in and dim my inner lights for a while every evening now. My optimism is increasing hour by hour and the knowledge that the grown-ups are finally stepping in cheers me, but the flip-side is knowing how much opposition is out there to truth, progress, innovation, freedom of expression, and room and opportunity for every kind of human. But ya’ start somewhere…

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The Wait… page 135

Photo by Patrick Emerson

Day 236 – 11/06/2020

And now, brought to you by The Year of Mondays, the new Tuesday, Part 4…

Maybe today we’ll know something.

And if we win, let’s all remember to be every bit as gracious as they were in beating Hillary.

Featured Photo: Patrick Emerson https://500px.com/p/patrickemerson?fbclid=IwAR0kKbfYBAP-7NfegJG4WqDYn0XYNaBPNFBU2SpBT7hPXMUOITPu6DJ-vsc&view=photos

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Stumbling on… page 133

Day 229 – 10/30/2020

Welp, Diary, I spent yesterday crying. It was apparently my pre-election meltdown, and once the dam was open it was all over, I couldn’t stop – just too much of too much for too long. Cried ’til I was dehydrated like a prune and I hope that’ll be it for awhile – I realize now that it was a slow-rolling panic attack. The shock of 2016 still resonates and I’m afraid I’d jinx everything if I were to easily believe in the possibility of rescue and peace and the milk of human kindness again. If we ever do get back there, we have to safeguard it with our lives.

No crying today, we were busy all morning and the sun’s shining. I was around more people this morning than I’ve seen in seven months, all of them masked and super congenial, and it wore me out! I may need a refresher course for fitting back into society when this is all over. We’ll be occupied again tomorrow, so that’s one more day down, with three to finesse after that. Feels like a long ol’ way back home.

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Marking time… page 127

Day 222 – 10/23/2020

Dark rainy morning. Kim had stuff to do first thing, so I’m sitting in the quiet with my coffee, watching headlights bounce off shiny surfaces below me. No warm-up for a few days now, and Monday’s forecast says 31º and snow showers, with a low of 20º. Whoa, baby…

It was fun to get out yesterday in t-shirts and shorts and roam around in the 85º temps. We saw pretty leaves, ate lunch in the car with the windows down, watched an enormous muskrat nibble on greens next to a creek, drove around KC metro just because we could, found what we wanted, and happily crawled back into the cave four hours later. Not old, just tired…

Watched last night’s debate, so that’s done now. Counting down the interminable hours until we know and trying to keep my head busy. It’s chilly, wet, and windy, so this will be an indoor day, which means working twice as hard at holding steady. We have a freeze warning for tonight, so we might try to huddle the mums together and cover them. They’re so perfect we hate to give them up, especially when there are some warmer temps to follow.

Welp, Diary… I’m gonna be boring and tedious for eleven more days and then let’s both hope for a sea change all ’round. Then the next sea change will be when we know we can walk into any restaurant or other business in town, attend any event, gather with friends, without the restrictions imposed by a pandemic. That one will be a pretty big deal, too.

Wow, look at the time… 10am… this day is positively streaking by!

And you thought you’d be getting something new…

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The weeks… page 121

Day 218 – 10/16/2020

Here we are, Diary, closing out another week under wraps, and prospects for a change of venue aren’t looking good any time soon. The KC Metro area, 30 minutes away, is a Coronavirus Cauldron again, with their highest number of cases since the pandemic started, and our levels in Douglas County have been steadily keeping pace… 51 new cases, 97 new cases… zero new for a day… 45 new cases…two days ago it was 704. We’ve had almost 19,000 cases total in the county and more than 200 deaths. Dayum, I am never gettin’ out of this house!

But things are rough all over and I’m not whining. I lose friends when I talk about it, but John & colleagues have been at this for almost eight months nonstop at the hospital, along with all the other active medical personnel around the globe, and a portion of the population despises them for it, maybe because they’re a constant reminder that yes, Virginia, there is a pandemic. Nobody’s coming to make it all better, make it go away, disappear… like magic. It just rolls relentlessly on, taking victims as it pleases, leaving devastation in its wake. And the one thing that could have saved thousands of lives and endless grief – the simple mask – was politicized early on, assuring maximum damage from the enemy among us. It defies belief, the situation we find ourselves in, but it’s real, and thanks for just absorbing all this stuff, my muse…

Temps were in the 30s this morning, have now crested 40, and might soar to 60 and beyond before the day’s over. Too nipply for PickleBall this morning, so we’re both tapping away at our keyboards, listening to stuff, and sighing…

No idea what today will hold, but I saw the Dr. Teal’s Orange Epsom Salts next to the tub, so odds are good that “Calgon” will take me awaaaaayyy after while.

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Hello Friday already… page 116

Day 211 – 10/09/2020

Oh hey, Diary… you’re still here? You’re wondering about my day yesterday and how many tasks I checked off my list? Two-and-a-half, so get off my back, ‘k? The list is right here, meaning it isn’t over yet, jeez you are so annoying sometimes.

Today started out so mellow it’s hard to feel guilty about much of anything. Kim woke me up at 8:00 with the news that there was fresh coffee and a bagel waiting. Then he pedaled on down to PickleBall town and I’m still here, sitting in sunshine, sipping the good brew. Padding across the room just now for more coffee, the thought hit me full-blown – I like being me. It feels right. I couldn’t have truthfully said that until recent years, and I just haven’t recognized it that clearly until now – life is good, I’m happy, I feel like me and that’s a gift. Things happened very early in my life that pushed me into an adult world before I had any knowledge or skills for coping, and I spent decades catching up… trying to uncover the facts that other people seemed to understand instinctively about life.

It took the advent of Kim for me to latch onto who I am and not turn loose. When somebody smart, strong, and nurturing loves you as is, the doors and windows are flung open and life gets real. I’m glad I got to stick around for this part, I probably wouldn’t have totally believed anyone who told me it keeps getting better – I would have considered it a platitude.

But it does get better… life… in so many ways. The best gifts for me so far are time and quiet. My root anxiety keeps me living on the edge, so not feeling rushed… pushed… hurried… is the biggest luxury I can name beyond the gift of knowing I’m loved. And the sweet silence I get to immerse myself in here is the other half of the equation.

Progress Report: We sheltered on March 12th of this year and I’ve spent 99% of my time since then in basically these two big rooms. Kim’s been in and out a lot, wearing PPE from the beginning, but beyond barbershop haircuts, doctor visits, and time spent with Rita, I’ve mostly been right here. Kim brings food in, and we’ve eaten on a couple of outdoor patios, but not inside anywhere I can think of since March. And most places here still have limited indoor seating, if any. It’s all fine, no complaints here, my Diary friend – it is what it is. And maybe soon… we’ll know what it will be.

Photo Credits: Kim Smith

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