A simple little story…

art: Autumn Skye Morrison

Sunny but cold. Today feels like one long tunnel. I tried all morning to write a letter, but it isn’t coming out right, so either it isn’t meant to be written, or I haven’t cracked the code of truth yet. For now, this is a better story that somehow speaks to what I was trying to write…

My dad has bees. Today I went to his house and he showed me all of the honey he had gotten from the hives. He took the lid off of a 5-gallon bucket full of honey and on top of the honey there were 3 little bees, struggling. They were covered in sticky honey and drowning. I asked him if we could help them and he said he was sure they wouldn’t survive. Casualties of honey collection I suppose.

I asked him again if we could at least get them out and kill them quickly; after all, he was the one who taught me to put a suffering animal (or bug) out of its misery. He finally conceded and scooped the bees out of the bucket. He put them in an empty Chobani yogurt container and put the plastic container outside.

Because he had disrupted the hive with the earlier honey collection, there were bees flying all over outside.

We put the 3 little bees in the container on a bench and left them to their fate. My dad called me out a little while later to show me what was happening. These three little bees were surrounded by all of their sisters (all of the bees are females) and they were cleaning the sticky nearly-dead bees, helping them to get all of the honey off of their bodies. We came back a short time later and there was only one little bee left in the container. She was still being tended to by her sisters.

When it was time for me to leave we checked one last time and all three of the bees had been cleaned off enough to fly away and the container was empty.

Those three little bees lived because they were surrounded by family and friends who would not give up on them, family and friends who refused to let them drown in their own stickiness and resolved to help until the last little bee could be set free.

Bee Sisters. Bee Peers. Bee Teammates.

We could all learn a thing or two from these bees.

Bee kind always.

~~author unknown

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Confronting reality on a weekend…

It’s a sunny Saturday morning, 27º and headed for the 40s this afternoon. Monday’s forecast high of 55º will be a bit of a heat wave, and if the wind stays down and the sun stays out, imma plan a river walk, brief though it might be. Meanwhile, I’m quickly forming an attachment to the treadmill upstairs and we put in a solid fifteen minutes together yesterday. Gonna go say hey again before KU-KState b-ball this afternoon since the game will have me glued to my chair for the duration.

Lately I’ve been taking weekends off and deliberately emptying my head of thoughts that clamor for expression… but there are fellow humans in every area of life who don’t have that option and might never at any point. Not to play favorites, but if nobody was working at the hospital, for instance, when our weekend emergencies happened, we’d know we were in a world of hurt. The hard truth is, we’re IN that world now, we just don’t have the knowing yet.

We’re in year three of a pandemic that didn’t have to be like this… a disaster that could have been stopped in its tracks in the same way ebola, smallpox, rabies, polio, and the flu were dealt with… and if our early-detection systems around the world hadn’t been dismantled by TFG… or if any real measures whatsoever had been undertaken after we knew what it was… we’d be in a far different place this morning. But since none of that happened, a world more soberingly real than anything we may have imagined is right on our doorstep.

The brave new world that’s headed our way will register on people’s consciousness dead last here in the heartland, but it’s already being felt in the cities. I know someone who at one point was managing three hospital units including her own, and helping another manager with three or four additional units. Another nurse spent some time in a small African country where people in the hospital were lying on the floor, some of them seizing, with people simply walking over them. She knows it’s only a matter of time until the U.S. looks that same way because, to quote yet another RN, “At some point all of these customer service surveys and trying to turn the healthcare experience into a five-star hotel or resort stay will be shown up for the farce that it actually is. You either are dying and get the emergent care that you need and somehow find a way to pay for it, or you die. No more of this ‘my food wasn’t tasty enough, my room wasn’t clean enough, my sheets weren’t soft enough, the nurse wasn’t pretty enough, the nurse didn’t speak to me subserviently enough… ‘”

There’s a level of incivility toward medical personnel from patients and family members that inevitably bleeds over into interactions among staff and departments to the point that structure disintegrates… chaos eventually reigns… and Americans, of all people, sooner rather than later, walk into New York-Presbyterian Hospital to find fellow humans writhing on the floor for lack of beds and/or personnel. It sounds like a made-for-TV movie, but if you’re connected to the healthcare world at all, you know this country is right on the edge.

COVID and its children have only multiplied and strengthened, regardless what anyone wants to believe. It isn’t slowing down, it isn’t confining itself to the old and infirm, its voracious appetite for living its best life has not diminished. The world’s efforts to be stupidly valiant in its presence are laughable and thoroughly tragic. In my own formative years, we stared polio down and turned it into history, but 65 years later Americans seem to be devolving, most definitely to our own detriment. The vaccine technology that once saved us has become our enemy and I wish I didn’t know that about my fellow man. We are, of all species, most to be pitied, for we so richly deserve our fate. Sometimes you get what you ask for. Probably one of Murphy’s laws…

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What they wanted…

Artist Credit: Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour
"We wanted to help people
We were smart and driven
We loved science and physiology, humans and disease
So we made a commitment
We signed up
It was an honor

We read thousands of pages
Attended hundreds of lectures
Pulled all-nighters
Took more exams than we thought possible
Finals week felt insurmountable
But it didn’t break us
It made us stronger

We learned statistics and biochemistry
Immunology and pathophysiology
We mastered genetics, virology and pharmacology
We read scientific papers and learned how to dissect them
Papers, not videos
It was an honor

We came running when you needed us
Literally, running down the hallway
To the ICU, the trauma bay, labor and delivery
I need help, you said
We can help, we said
It was an honor

There were moments that we thought would break us
Moments that drove us to journaling, to therapy, to nightmares
Broken babies.
Paralyzed children.
Dead pregnant mothers with three kids at home.
The wail of a mother whose son just died.
We bent but we did not break
We returned because you needed us
And we could help
It was an honor

Then there was fear
Fear of walking into our place of work
Fear that we’d be killed by going to work
Fear that we’d kill a loved one because of our work
There were tears and sleepless nights and anti-anxiety medications
But you banged your pots and pans
You sent us pizzas and called us heroes
You needed us
We could help
So we wore our masks, and our gowns, and our gloves, and our goggles
We decontaminated ourselves before going home and isolated ourselves from our families
We almost broke
It was an honor

How quickly the joy turned to defeat
Elation to rage
You’ve learned to do your own research now
You know better than we do
Gaslighting is your language
Your selfishness is astounding
You don’t want our help when we ask you to stay healthy
Yet you arrive at our doors begging for help at the end

You stole our resources
You hobbled our ability to help those who did what they were supposed to do
You killed our patients by filling our beds and using up our ventilators
We can’t help any more
You broke us
There is no more honor”

- Anonymous

A poem written by a physician after reflecting on the veteran who died in Texas because of the ICU bed shortage. 
Artist credit:
Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour

*****NOT A DISCLAIMER: I read yesterday that people are simply done with COVID and all its iterations, finished, through, sick of hearing about it, and I know in my bones that's a fact. But it doesn't change the equal and opposite fact that COVID doesn't care, it just wants to eat, sleep, live, and reproduce, and will for as long as we allow it. Our refusal to deal with facts is bringing our amazing, incredible, unmatched, behemoth of a healthcare apparatus down on our heads and the implosion will be... simply beyond. We've been warned... and warned... and warned... and we do not care. Sars-cov-2 is now part of the warp and woof of human existence, and the cost will be incalculable. "The fall thereof was great... "

There's nothing you nor I can do about any of it now, unless you're unvaccinated. You have the power to do that much and it isn't too late yet. The variants are becoming increasingly uglier, but the vaccinated are staying out of hospitals when they do fall ill. However tired you are of knowing about it, the death toll goes on relentlessly. And the people who once had the tools, energy, and incentive to help are finding other ways to stay alive. May whatsoever gods there be have mercy on us.

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A gift…

From my heart to yours this weekend… for all who read my “working through anger” post yesterday, and all who need the sweetness this morning.

John sent this, saying it makes him think of Kimmers and me, which puts me on the edge of tears before the music starts. Finneas, beautiful soul, is a brother to Billie Eilish and has worked with her from the start of her career. At the end of the video, their family silently gathers together…

How do you know
If you’ve done everything right?
Is it the love you have at hand
Or the cash you kiss at night?

How do you know
If it was worth it in the end?
Did every second really count
Or were there some you shouldn’t spend
On anything but anyone you love?
Was this the life that you were dreaming of?
A movie night, a yellow light
You’re slowing down and days are adding up

So don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s only a while
It’s not worth the anger you felt as a child
Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

I’m unimpressed
By the people preaching pain
For the sake of some small gain
In the sake of someone’s name

I’m unprepared
For my loved ones to be gone
Call ’em far too often now
Worry way too much about mom

Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s only a while
It’s not worth the anger you felt as a child
Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

It’s family and friends, and that’s the truth
The fountain doesn’t give you back your youth
It’s staying up too late at night and laughing under kitchen lights
So hard you start to cry

Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

–Finneas O’Connell

Find your joy this holiday season. Look for a handhold and hang on…

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Anger vs Gratitude…

Woke up yesterday morning processing anger, straight out of a dream… Kim said the growls and grumbling at 6am, which he first mistook for snoring, were truly impressive. I repeatedly ran everything through the wood chipper all day but the fury remains untamed as of wake-up time this morning.

Also, write this down: I DO NOT SNORE. However, my dreams are a wonder to behold for scope and realism. Yikes.

The catalyst for the renewed angst seems to have been a combo of things… fresh statistics illustrating our dismal outlook in the face of COVID and its progeny… the fact that we find ourselves in this position due to humans’ inability to care about other humans… and a heartbreaking article about the burden we’ve placed on the medical world and the toll that’s taking.

The pandemic is as much an industrial-strength shock to the medical community as to the rest of us out here who of course know it all. Those medical people spent long years full of sleepless nights on little food, learning how to save lives, maybe even yours or mine someday. That’s their drive, to make people better and thus the world a teensy bit softer for the landings. And they’re good at it, really good, and they know things, and have seen and done things which you and I do not want to know, see, or do… nor will we, because we don’t have what it takes.

Medical personnel do the jobs they’ve been trained and educated to do on an equal-opportunity basis… pigment, religion, politics, and rude combative patients notwithstanding, they do their jobs. And then one day a snazzy new virus knocks on the door like the skeavy Orkin termite, and the game changes overnight. The breakout quickly becomes the pandemic the world has now been living in for two years, all medical personnel, equipment, and hospital units required for the flood of sick and dying. It’s no longer about “making things better,” there’s no time. You keep the patient on your right alive, if possible, while losing the one on your left. The hours blur while you pull double shifts on your feet, clothed in trash bags and week-old masks because the supply closets are bare, praying you don’t catch whatever this thing is and end up dropping in your tracks. And then you watch that very thing happen to a colleague… and then another. And in a heartbeat, working in the medical field has become more about death than life.

Months have passed, you’re still pulling all your shifts and more, and now the monster has a name… Coronavirus. Or COVID-19. Or just COVID. There are even approved vaccines available… but not for you… because medical people, some of the first and longest-exposed, are not at the top of anybody’s priority list, which should have been an early indicator of where it would all end up. We only hurt the ones we love… or need like air and water.

Now you’re lonnnng months into the process, which feels less like a battle and more like an endurance race. You’ve gone from hero… “Doctor, please, help me!” “Nurse, I need you, please!” … to zero. “No, I DO NOT HAVE COVID, YOU’RE LYING!!” “It’s a HOAX! I can’t die!!” Nurses and doctors have been assaulted, insulted, spit on, screamed at, and blamed for letting people die of a scary disease those same people refused to vaccinate for. In the hopeless melee, the lofty goal of making things better dies a quiet death, and people we desperately need for our own selfish purposes are simply not there anymore. Their own institutions, in many cases, haven’t backed them up, haven’t provided the safety measures needed, haven’t compensated them for their heroic over & above sacrifices. The public, in too many places, has turned on them in ways we could never have imagined. These nurses and doctors see their lives trickling out, day by day, for a goal that no longer feels reachable… and for a populace that wouldn’t know the difference if the landings were made softer… and they’re finding other, less soul-killing things to do.

In parts of our nation where COVID and its variants are rampant, the bright shiny people who wanted to make a difference are walking away. Why risk death for people who don’t in the least mind if you drop in your tracks because they refused the antidote? Or because your employer doesn’t want to pay extra staff. Or “extra staff” is now a figment of the imagination. We won’t comprehend what we’ve lost until they’ve all taken their gifts elsewhere.

The pandemic is nowhere close to being over. Two thousand people a day are still dying in the “greatest nation on earth.” It hasn’t magically disappeared, it hasn’t been prayed away, it’s with us for the duration, however long Mother Earth lets us stay in the nest. As so often happens now, the minority chose for all of us, and life here will never be the same. I’m exorcising my rage today by paying homage to every person in the medical community who has tried, against insurmountable odds, to change the outcome, to save all lives possible, to make a difference. Thank you for BEING THERE and for using who you are to slow our slide to hell. Really, truly… thank you forever.

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Deep thoughts…

Fall… holiday season… perpetual change… bring on the nostalgia. Happens every year, we survive it or don’t and then we put it back in the closet ’til next time. Just for the sake of novelty, I’ve been trying to do the opposite … take it all out of the closet, evaluate each component on its merits and keep or not, according to my conscience and Marie Kondo.

Over the past hour I’ve jettisoned almost fifty draft posts that are no longer at risk of ever seeing the light of day, thank the universe. Hoooo, babies, what I’ve spared you from over the years by not publishing everything I write! That draft folder was a dank place steeped in anxiety going back to 2015, a litany of woes, a broad sampling of idiocy, none of it well done. I have no idea where my head was with some of it… post-surgical opioids?? At any rate, the evidence no longer exists, nor is it a threat to anyone, and you can thank me at your convenience (I like chocolate chip cookies and Michelob).

Amongst the ruins there are treasures to be rescued, always excellent motivation for sorting and tossing…

*****

*****

*****

Men die wishing they could know for sure if they measured up.

Women die wishing they’d known how to own their lives from day one.

*****

There are people — the friends of your heart — who pick up on everything you don’t say — and they put it into a context that fits everything you know about them and everything they know about you. And that’s just real.

And then there are days when a memory shows up and brings Christmas with it… a card from 1955 when Kim was four years old and his sister Joy was five. 💙 Christmas happens in the heart, moment by moment, and I remember thinking last year that I never wanted to see another December like that one. It’s December 1st in the year 2021. The moments start now.

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Sea changes…

Whether we’re true believers, hangers-on, or equal-opportunity revelers, the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Easter exerts power over all of us. It’s hyper-represented, and thus misses the mark every year, by which I mean world peace is yet to be realized, and peace almost anywhere has become a myth.

For someone who likes to imagine herself a communicator, I’ve clearly done a piss-poor job of it over the past ten years or so. I’ve sat here at my computer, thoughts preoccupied with the immediate, and watched the world change, moment by moment, event by event… observed while the prevailing mood of the country rolled from benign tolerance to annoyance, to resentment, to violence… and I still have a hard time believing where we find ourselves at the end of 2021.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “I don’t get it” in the past decade, I’d buy a lovely dinner for the first person who could map out a schematic of what’s happened, and why almost nobody wants to talk about it. I’ve had conversations with a few former stalwart conservatives whose thinking has morphed over the years, and without exception they’ve been happy to tell me what drove their change of heart… things like morals, ethics, concern for other humans, how people are treated around the world, money, greed, blurring of government and religion, crime at the top, and so on. On the other hand, no 2021 conservative I know has shown the slightest willingness to have an adult conversation with me about the world and their take on it. If I ask a question, I’m intrusive and threatening. If I answer one, I’m rude and aggressive.

“I don’t get it” is no doubt a huge tell in the age game, probably a thing boomers say. But I’m just being straight, I want to KNOW. I want to know why we ended up locked in this cage of solid lines, solid walls, a complete stonewall. Everything that happens in the world affects us from womb to tomb, and the past decade has been packed with trauma and upheaval, so why would we think life wouldn’t have changed us in the process as well? There are people I care about who are so transformed as to be unrecognizable, but I still care. If they’re close to me, or were before society started unravelling, I’ll ask them questions… because I want to know who they are NOW. It’s no secret that I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago – life happened and it set me off in all new directions, for which no apologies are owed. Okay… so I’m a different person, you’ve changed, talk to me about what took you down the road you’re on… human things, not statistics, not rants, not I’m-right-you’re-wrong… simply, here’s who I am now, and because I love you I’ll even tell you why.

Somebody a lot of people claim to worship said “You have not because you ask not.” I’ve asked to the point of being summarily kicked to the curb… or I simply know I’ve asked for the last time “Who are you at this age? Can’t we have a conversation?” and if I push the envelope one more time I’ll be locked out and blocked.

How then do we lower some of the walls, open some windows, figure out how to trust each other? I’m hanging out here in the wind, an open book, knowing my liberal friends and family have my back, and wishing those I love on the other side would be straight with me so our relationships aren’t permanently broken. How can a simple two-sided conversation be so threatening? After everything that’s happened, it seems disingenuous to pick up and go on as if nothing has been altered and pretend we still know each other.

Either I’ve asked the wrong questions the wrong way… the right questions the wrong way… or there was never going to be a right way to start with. Communication is by nature at least 2-sided, so I’ve obviously over-talked because what I’m hearing from the other side is crickets. People forget they unfriended me years ago for being liberal-minded, we make a chance connection, they send me a Facebook request, I say yes (oh, Pollyanna, girl… sigh), they see I haven’t altered my worldview since last time they disowned me, they confront me with what are later described as rhetorical musings (with question marks at the end), I answer (being an old bag with a heart o’gold), they take offense, and within three minutes I’m out on my ear again. Will I never learn? No, no I won’t. It’s just how I roll.

I make enemies because I care and I won’t shut up. I lose people from my life because I talk to almost everyone the same way… I say my truth and I don’t dilute it to a ridiculous degree to keep from offending. What I should have been saying to people I love is “Don’t talk to me about your politics or who’s done what and how much you hate it. Tell me what you care about, what keeps you getting up every day, what life means to you now… and talk to me like you want to be there. I’m not being confrontational, I just miss you.”

And then I remember that I’ve done it too… I’ve dropped people like they were hot after the second time they slammed me in front of the gods and babies on Facebook… and I doubt that felt right to them either. Doesn’t seem quite like comparing apples to apples, but I’ve been impatient and unkind plenty of times during this challenging era.

From birth we know who we feel safe with, who we want to be around, who our people are, where we find comfort and peace. We of course also know who we don’t trust, who makes us clam up and be an observer, whose views scare the daylights out of us, who makes us feel less-than… and ain’t nobody got time for that.

You wouldn’t think a person would forget a thing like this, but it slips my mind that there are fellow humans who genuinely dislike me, disavow me, and have no interest in hearing my name again in this lifetime. None of what I’ve said is about those people… they have personal freedom to stay off the path I’m on, and that’s how that works.

The world has shifted under our feet and relationships we once thought couldn’t be broken are in ashes. It feels necessary this morning to acknowledge that, accept it, and keep moving. I’m sorry for my part in the brokenness… but I don’t give up without a fight when something matters, so I’m sure I’ll continue to annoy and disgust people I don’t even know are looking.

For now… let’s think about holiday lights.

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Life forces…

No force on earth holds the power of a single word

spoken in haste from the human heart,

no blow strikes so sure

no arrow so deep.

.

I love you, says DNA, tho I do not like you

so let’s speak no further lest we uncover truth that will end us.

Mayhap someday this core we’re protecting will acquire a name…

a bold new label for the ages.

.

For now we call it personal choice, my world my rights, freedom,

as it divides and plows asunder

the stuff of life that won’t be regained once gone.

Labels will not cover it.

.

Becoming the predominant species has not in turn

prepared us for being fully human, for living, for crossing boundaries on our way home.

Our spirit of adventure has been jaded by the journey

and we settle for the dull, the well-worn… the safe.

.

As a winning animal we are shabby and embarrassing, an unworthy victor.

Octopi outdo us for sensitivity and gentleness…

Crows and elephants care more deeply for their dead…

Nurse ants lick the wounds of fallen comrades.

.

Humans have evolved beyond such weakness

and we are right or we are nothing at all.

The Proud are highly amused by our

acts of love and goodwill…. all weakness and lies…

.

No force on earth holds the power of a single word

from the mouth of one esteemed.

Nothing after will hold the power to restore what is lost

in that searing terminus.

.

No force on earth holds the power…

so we disarm the words by assigning better motives

cutting slack

dissembling…

.

… and surrendering our inherent dominance,

we let the words gouge, stab, wound, and defeat us,

while the power of unconditional love goes unspent, unused, unemployed

in the pursuit of happiness… and freedom.

JSmith 11/14/2021

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Thoughts on a weekend…

  • The weekends disappear as fast as they ever did, but without that pit of dread at the end.
  • Wish the Jayhawks could have made it into the Sweet 16… but they gave it what they had to give. Onward.
  • Spring teased us with early warm temps and now she’s keeping it all under wraps… just chilly, cloudy, and breezy enough to encourage me to stay inside. Tomorrow = 75º and WINDY so… a compromise.
  • Last week held the most disturbing revelation so far of what we’re becoming: a bill signed into law by Georgia’s governor making it illegal to give water to voters standing in line… for eleven hours or longer in the heat and humidity because most of their polling places have been removed, but only in the Black neighborhoods.

The Bible Belt has lost the plot, boys and girls…

Hauling a golden image of their Christ-figure into the midst of their convocation… outlawing a cup of cold water given in kindness… canceling and thwarting the rights of any demographic they don’t like… it’s hard to see the appeal unless you’re a Nazi at heart.

Sunday Homily 03/28/2021

Overcoming and halting our slide toward fascism will require massive determination and a full cognizance of reality.

Kim sent me the link to an independent study done after WWII, a search for the human WHY. As now, the seeds of destruction were planted long before that war and its ghastly consequences, and as the article says “… the steady movement toward tyranny is measured as drips, not as a flood.” The people interviewed for the study had strikingly similar comments: The changes happened so gradually, but so relentlessly, that we woke up too late and our freedom was gone.

https://gen.medium.com/this-is-how-it-happens-c289765df373

What do you do if you’re Nazi Germany and you’re wrong and losing the war? A chilling answer from the article:

“We have to justify our having injured those we have injured, or we have to persuade others to our guilty view in order to implicate them in our guilt.”

History confirms that statement. And the article at the link is pleasingly brief but chock full of insights. Good read.

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Insurrection… page 184

Day 298 – 01/07/2021

My overriding emotion this morning on awakening to the reality of yesterday’s chaos is one of sadness – the inconceivable has happened in our nation’s Capitol and life in the United States is broken. Those who know Donald Trump told us in 2016 that the story would end this way – and the one prediction yet to manifest itself is that he will trigger a thermonuclear device on his way out the door. Anybody know where those codes are?

Reports say four people died in yesterday’s terrorist attack on our Capitol, same number as when Benghazi happened – there will be endless probes, hearings, and recriminations, right? Lumpy will sit for eleven straight hours of testimony before this is over, right? Justice will prevail after the great unwashed stormed the barricades, scaled the walls, shattered historic windows, smeared blood on statuary, urinated liberally everywhere, ripped nameplates off the walls, sat in personal offices and at the dais of the Senate with their feet up, taking photos of paperwork, walking away with items, fomenting insurrection with every act, right? Justice will prevail. I guess the Capitol police and reinforcements were saving their rubber bullets and tear gas in case any Black people showed up – in fact, had this event had a color key the Black version would have looked like this:

For the people inside, the roar of the mob came first, then the sounds of doors and windows being breached. A few highlights of the day:

How it started… with Chamber assistants bringing the Electoral College ballot boxes. Staff had the presence of mind to grab the boxes when the mob broke through.
Teach… your children well.
Just an ordinary Wednesday in America. Little troll behind Wolfman Jack has already been fired. Wore his work badge to the riot.
Dropping in…
That’s a big hammer, son, whatcha’ got in mind??
History smashed.
How’s your aim, senators?
Close your eyes for naptime, kids, it’ll be over soon.
Democratic representatives comfort each other.
Arrest this asshole.
And this one.
I also saw confederate flags yesterday – explain that, America.
America has lost the plot.
If these are your heroes, unfriend me, unfollow me, block me out of your life – I don’t know you.

On another note, remember COVID? Almost 4,000 people died in this country yesterday as a result of it. My test came back negative, but since I still feel like dog shit and have all the symptoms of the virus I’m gonna stay right here ’til morale improves. Sense of smell and taste are gone and the sweats and body aches are like a rollercoaster ride. Maybe the swab has to actually tickle your brain in order to get the goods, who knows? It’s a plus if I don’t have it, especially for Kim since there’s no way not to expose him – in which case, this feels like something that needs its own vaccine.

But that was a bridge too far for survivalists.

Meanwhile, the Flight Attendants’ Union says their employees will not staff planes on which the terrorists from the unmasked superspreader try to fly home. Good luck on the DC streets, MFs.

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Touching the past… page 167

Day 276 – 12/16/2020

Kinda frosty this morning – Kim’s hands were icicles when he got back from walking, despite gloves. Now Frosty the Snowman and gingerbread are on my mind, not because I want to DO ALL THE THINGS!! again or go back to an era when that was a big part of life… I just want to remember it all for a while. There’s very little from those times that remains untouched, unsullied, unbroken, and I need to pay homage to that remnant of Christmas joy.

The concept of *HOME* is extra-heavy on my mind today after hearing news from Dodge City, America, my old proving ground… (back-arrow returns to blog post)

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/i-do-not-feel-safe-kansas-gop-mayor-resigns-after-n1251334?cid=sm_npd_nn_fb_ma&fbclid=IwAR0UVHatp9DkrPhRDOZo_PJVVVSCbb_m09DDzLdm_TykEPPZWaqbBx-8Oow

Things like this shouldn’t happen to people like Joyce and Bill Warshaw, end of story… and revealingly, the threats and ugliness are coming primarily from the church people. Warshaw’s Men’s Clothing Store was part of Dodge City from before my memory and I knew Bill’s parents, Max & Dona, who contributed to the life of the town in positive, memorable ways. America’s idiots are destroying what’s best in the country, and Dodge City is losing two stellar citizens. The sadness that grows from the giant rip in the fabric of our society feels like death, illustrated in macabre fashion by the relentless toll from the virus. Things are being carelessly shattered, with no avenues left open for eventual wholeness, no provision for healing. That’s scary – it kind of says there’s no way back. And after some of the comments I read, the only way I would ever want to see the town again is in my rearview mirror, which makes me sad – Ford County was home to the Wagners from 1905 when my grandpa, 19 years old, rode the train from Indiana to Dodge City, Kansas, bought a cow and some provisions, and walked the twelve miles west to his claim. That whole part of the country is in my DNA… but thanks bunches to my mom, the extremism and racism never made it past my skin. People we thought we knew are ripping their masks off now… and we see the faces of strangers looking back at us.

When this is your aim and you’re virtually run out of town on a rail for it…

We so easily lose sight of the most important things:

What was the pivotal moment when half of America’s population stopped sparing a thought for the other half? Was there some event? Has it been a gradual loosening of moral pinnings, too subtle for notice until here we are? Or were we always like this but never had to admit it until now?

This morning I’m saying thank you to every person working in a medical capacity during the pandemic, many of them since March – for hanging in, staying on the line, shift after shift, week after week, month after month, while they watch people die in spite of every effort to keep that from happening. They have my full focus through it all, and my arms are always around them. I’m grateful that they haven’t yet abandoned us to our own misery, although they must be sorely tempted every hour. I thank them for being who they are and doing what they do, head-on, straight through, because the task is in front of them, they’re trained for it, and they each started out caring mightily about ALL of it. I’m sorry the ignorant stubbornness of so many humans is kicking the care out of them for now. I’m sorry an already impossible job has been complicated and escalated by humans, the race they’re working to save. I’m sorry this has cost so many of them their own lives… I’m so sorry.

Each square in this solid mosaic is a photo of a life lost to COVID-19 in the medical community.

Relative to Mayor Joyce Warshaw’s experience with the anti-mask contingent, this would be my recommendation in all such situations:

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Sunny Saturday… page 156

Day 265 – 12/05/2020

Some morning in the next year… or the one after that… I’ll wake up and check the news and not cry. That’s going to be a good day. Second story I read today was about Kansas health officials walking away from their careers, not because of the 80-hour work weeks but because their families are being threatened with violence. The Reno County Health Director resigned in July after having local police watch his house while his wife and kids were home alone, saying the stress and worry simply weren’t worth it. And he isn’t the only one – in the past nine months 27 Kansas county health officials have left their posts, many because they’ve been physically threatened or politically scapegoated. To quote Nick Baldetti, Reno County, pictured in a red MAGA cap, “By the end of the day, you just felt like you were on an island by yourself,” he said. “Whatever decision I made, 50% of people were going to be upset because it was too ‘restrictive’ and the other 50% were going to be upset because it wasn’t restrictive enough.”

That’s the same ratio that says Joe Biden either did or did not win the presidency, despite the facts, including that the popular vote margin has now exceeded 7 million:

Oddly enough, the half of the country that wants to believe Donald Trump won is the same half that’s threatening not only health officials but medical doctors and other personnel for requiring measures against the virus, and simply for representing something they refuse to deal with. That’s so beyond the pale I can’t believe it’s happening in America’s cities and small communities. So I cry. Every day. I guess it helps… I eventually put on my big girl face and get on with it. But I no longer know, nor feel I can trust, about half the people in my life because of the visceral hatred I’ve seen in familiar faces, along with the lack of any willingness to address what’s happening to us as a nation, a people, a family of humans. The pandemic and political divide are breaking us.

But it’s Saturday, the sun’s shining, we just had The Breakfast, and Kim might get to play at SPL or Lyons today. Our little neighborhood is full of dog-walkers and a tiny house finch is perched outside my window. Time to adult-up and savor the weekend…

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There Are Heroes

My baby sister is my hero. The one our grandpa called Dutch… the child who could fall out anywhere, get puppet-walked to bed and go right on sleeping without missing a beat… grew up to be one hell of a nurse and an even better human being. She doesn’t have an RN behind her name, it’s more of an IC (I Care), but she’s a caregiver beyond measure and you’d be grateful to see her there if you needed help.

She spent three months this summer as angel of mercy to her lifetime best friend (since they were five), taking her to all the doctors’ appointments intended to address her out-of-control back pain before it was finally discovered that she was suffering not from a bad disk, but a spine full of tumors. Fifteen days later Hospice started visiting twice a week while Rita hung in as caregiver as it quickly became a full-time job, pouring love into her friend’s life while she changed sheets and finessed every detail.

I was privileged to be there with Rita as Joy took her last breath. Such love… sixty-plus years of it… heartbreaking and humbling to witness. It’s a story that’s happening about every 80 seconds in America right now with a virus moving among us, life and death played out, often with no loved ones close by… and every individual story matters. We’re so blessed if someone’s there to hold our hand and say our name and smooth Carmex on our lips as we make our exit. And if it’s from the comfort of our own bedroom with our devoted dog on the bed with us, even sweeter.

I’m so proud of my sister and her friend – there was no word of complaint that either of them had been dealt a bad hand, no going back on promises made, no shirking of the job in front of them… Joy’s to die, Rita’s to be there. It’s possible that humans are the worst thing ever to happen to planet Earth, but there are shining stars out there who pull everything together and cause it all to make perfect sense for a while. You see that circle of love and you know it’s what we live for and that it’s all worth it. In a year when everything hurts and it feels like genuine brotherly love has fled the universe, a hellish experience showed once again that if we’re supremely lucky, love and caring show up where we need them – with skin on.

Being there. It’s what you do when you love somebody.

Quintessential Joy
Rita & Joy
Rita, Joy & Caroline – the Three Musketeers – from Five to Life
Joy Anna

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Hanging on… page 50

Day 78 – 05/29/2020

Hello Diary, I’m still here. The weather was gray and rainy for most of the week, making it more challenging to ward off the sadz – sunshine removes the sting a little.

The ongoing loss of so many fellow Americans weighs heavy in the atmosphere but we can’t talk about it as a nation, deal with its implications now and for the future, or otherwise exorcise our disallowed grief. The deep sadness is always there.

The transformation of America from breadbasket and caring hand to the world, to a hate-filled isolationism that’s ME FIRST from the top down, is discouraging and worrisome, thus adding to the sad stack.

The willful ignorance by a third of the nation, leading to violent confrontation between proponents of science and those of bullshit, is sad-making.

The hateful determination to preserve a “separate but equal” status quo, equal being entirely arbitrary, leading to murder sanctioned by law, is unbearably sad and anger-generating.

The fact that I’m out of sync with people I love while we make our way through this supremely lonely piece of history is the ultimate sadness underlying all the rest, and I’m as powerless to fix that as I am any of the above.

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

But where there’s sad… there’s happy. After waking up past midnight yesterday morning in anaphylactic distress, I took a little ambulance ride, did an overnight in the ER and survived to fight another day. I remember very little from when the paramedics put me on the gurney and wheeled me out of my bedroom until just before I was dismissed to come home, but I share this as a cautionary tale…

My hands, when I woke up, were swollen tight and itched so savagely I wanted to rip them off my arms, and the only thing different in my day on Wednesday had been spending about twenty minutes with needle and thread, reinforcing the ear-loop attachments on a mask that wasn’t MADE IN THE USA. The other symptoms were frightening, and I woke Kim up when my tongue started to swell – I know my limits.

Be wise, kids. And always try for the happy.

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In here… page 45

Day 62 – 05/13/2020

A vacation within a vacation was a good idea – I accomplished more on Tuesday than in the preceding 60 days put together and there’s a short-list ready for the next time motivation strikes, but it’s been chilly and gray this week so that could be a while. Far easier to sit in front of the TV with the sound off and play my games.

We’re in this for the long haul, all of us, those who realize it and those who don’t. Life has changed in basic ways and there’s no going back any time soon, if ever, to what we had. There’s no place I’m yearning to go unless we could see our guys, so it’s knowing how different things will have to be, and for how long, that’s weighing heavy, along with grief over so many lives lost – a quarter of them, needlessly, in America. And we’re facing all of these things as polar-opposite forces straining in a tug of war that portends bloodshed in the streets by August.

We’re sort of a melting pot here, but realistically we’re more like stew, with the bits & pieces staying definitive and people kicking the onions to the edge because they don’t like them. That attitude and the history that instilled it goes back to the beginning when white men first put a foot on this territory and began to declare themselves free from rules except those they instituted. We’re looking forward to the “Barkskins” saga, which traces that history, although I can’t imagine that it will be as sweeping as the book since the disclaimer says “Limited Series.” There are a lot of things to know about ourselves as Americans that brought us to this place – all events have origins.

It’s Wednesday. We’re here, we’re weird, and we have one rule besides the first one, which is BE NICE.

RULE #2: WE’RE ALL JUST DOING THE BEST WE CAN

And there’s this…

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