Choose kindness and laugh often…

An interesting discovery: Once you own what you’ve always known – that approximately half your world finds you insufferable – the next step is to laugh! And here’s where I’m grateful to people in my life who’ve shown me how to laugh at myself, sometimes at painful expense as the butt of the joke. I grew up among people whose approach to living included plenty of laughter, a grace when all else fails… so here I am, left laughing at the asshole who turns out to be me, and it’s ridiculously freeing.

There, that was a freebie this morning while I absorb the fact that it’s Friday again. I will feel no surprise one day when it’s revealed that we were part of a colossal Truman Show – won’t shock me at all, in fact by now I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what’s going on. It’s okay, Friday means weekend, and the weekend means favorite foods, so keep the cameras rolling, Mr. Director.

Sudden thought: We can be overwhelmed and underwhelmed, but what’s the temperature of the room if we’re simply whelmed, anybody know?

A sweet thing for end-of-the-week from a Twitter contact:

Bless the rescuers, the caretakers… the lovers.

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Since it’s clearly bits & pieces day, here’s a quote I’ve always loved. I stumbled across this well-worn copy yesterday…

Which brings me to an online conversation that happened yesterday, resulting in the following conclusion:

And my goal is to go out laughing.

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A reflection…

Photo Credit Kim Smith 09/05/2021

Today’s guest post, while I celebrate my 74th birthday, is a gift from Suzanne Reynolds…

She Was Told She Was Beautiful

When she was a little girl

they told her she was beautiful

but it had no meaning

in her world of bicycles

and pigtails

and adventures in make-believe.

Later, she hoped she was beautiful

as boys started taking notice

of her friends

and phones rang for

Saturday night dates.

She felt beautiful on her wedding day,

hopeful with her

new life partner by her side

but, later,

when her children called

her beautiful,

she was often exhausted,

her hair messily tied back,

no make up,

wide in the waist

where it used to be narrow;

she just couldn’t take it in.

Over the years, as she tried,

in fits and starts,

to look beautiful,

she found other things

to take priority,

like bills

and meals,

as she and her life partner

worked hard

to make a family,

to make ends meet,

to make children into adults,

to make a life.

Now,

she sat.

Alone.

Her children grown,

her partner flown,

and she couldn’t remember

the last time

she was called beautiful.

But she was.

It was in every line on her face,

in the strength of her arthritic hands,

the ampleness that had

a million hugs imprinted

on its very skin,

and in the jiggly thighs and

thickened ankles

that had run her race for her.

She had lived her life with a loving

and generous heart,

had wrapped her arms

around so many to

to give them comfort and peace.

Her ears had

heard both terrible news

and lovely songs,

and her eyes

had brimmed with,

oh, so many tears,

they were now bright

even as they dimmed.

She had lived and she was.

And because she was,

she was made beautiful.

Suzanne Reynolds ©2019

Photo Credit: Nina Djerff

Model: Marit Rannveig Haslestad

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It’s just Tuesday…

Saturday was a beautiful day so we spent a lot of it on the balcony. Sometime mid-afternoon, Kim said “What’s that fluttery noise I keep hearing?” And then he stood up, looked over the north railing, and muttered “Oh, shit. Oh, holy shit.” My ESPN told me right off we were in trouble but I didn’t know what I’d see down on ground level. Muddy water was gushing out of the ground on both sides of our entryway and from several spots in the parking lot, rapidly coating everything in its path with sand, clay, and silt. When I first looked over the railing I thought the water was pouring out of our lobby doors, and I could imagine it sluicing down the elevator shafts into the parking garage and storage cages, among other thoughts. Kim got our building manager here ASAP and it turns out it was the city’s fire line that broke, which isn’t good but does let us keep our house water on – fortunate, because this will take a while. There was a broken pipe earlier out by the street, so since yesterday we’ve had guys here running fun-size machinery to trench out the whole line, and Pa is entertained. Even with the jackhammering it isn’t all that loud, so we have to wonder how big a sponge the parking lot has become and we hope no one drops a backhoe into a sinkhole.

Down to about half-force at this point.
Kim & Kevin Cheney (bldg mgr) deciding how to handle the mud piling up against the garage’s overhead door.
Waiting for the City to come shut the rest of it down.
The entry’s boarded up like there’s been a bank robbery, and all the concrete has been dug out of the walkway, so progress. There are bad pipes in there somewhere, and something wonky out in the parking, so hey, free entertainment while it lasts

Speaking of “free” and “entertainment,” I stole a bunch of stuff from my friend Steve Gelder this morning because I can use the smiles and he just carelessly leaves it all lying around on Facebook anyway…

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Seriously.
It’s all in there, I just need a system for accessing it when I want it!
Who of us cannot say the same thing?

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Happy Tuesday! Steve did the work, I did that thing I do (theft), and we can all just smile for a while…

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What a beautiful morning…

It was wonderful waking up in my own sheets this morning after spending the previous three nights in a hospital bed. They have their charms, and cool bells and whistles, but they don’t feel like home. The whole thing was an interesting diversion, starting with 8 hours in the ER on Wednesday, causing me to miss a haircut appointment, which in Girl World is something to write home about. Then upstairs to the Cardiac unit, of all places, for much additional needle-poking, a rat’s nest of lines and cables, and round-the-clock observation. Was allowed up only for a bedside commode, oh joy of existence, so by yesterday morning I was feeling wretched, especially with my scalp full of glue from a brain scan. My everlasting thanks to Mona, who rescued me from the lowdown blues with a lovely chair bath, a shampoo cap, clean sheets and gown, and a brisk walk in the hallway in my cute yellow floppy-socks. She’s going into my binder full of heroes. No conclusive answers yet from various batteries of tests, but after a high of 210/203 in the hospital, my BP first thing this morning at home was 113/67, so maybe we’re getting somewhere.

We decided to retire in Lawrence for two primary reasons. 1) The vibe of the arts community and the university, and 2) the stellar medical community from here to Kansas City. The excellent LMH complex is closely associated with KU Med, so we always have access to the brightest and best, including the latest technology, very reassuring when things go wonky. In the many times we’ve needed medical personnel here, we have yet to encounter a negative experience, which speaks volumes. The help we received and the people we met this week have only confirmed to us that this is home, and it’s a health perk to feel like you belong somewhere. It’s been gratifying during this pandemic to live in a place where people have instinctively grasped the need for health protocols and followed them. It makes all the difference.

As usual, I have receipts:

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My first test in the ER Wednesday was a CT scan for stroke. The second was a rapid COVID test, showing the priority the virus still holds here in town, especially with Delta assaulting us now. The third was a chest CT to look for pneumonia, yet another marker they’re on high alert for. We could help each other so much, all across the nation, just by keeping that bit of 2-way protection across our mouth and nose when we’re around each other. Kids have no problem with it, it’s an “adult” issue nobody can solve, so on we go, slogging through the viral load around us.

It’s a strange world, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. Just for starters, we’re stuck via gravity to a ball of assorted schmeh, spinning through the universe among other large balls of schmeh. Highly unusual existence, except that we don’t know any other, firsthand. Quite probably it’s our very tethered-ness here that makes us bicker amongst ourselves about things like who’s right or wrong and why it matters. We have no Planet B, so there’s no place to take a powder ’til we feel better about life on this one, we’re “in community” whether we wish it that way or not, so it seems a shame we have such a hard time communicating within the human commune. Not all of life is threatening, nor scary beyond reason, and most things we find the grit to talk about lose at least half their power over us. But the talking, the saying of things, turns out to be the terrifying thing we can’t do, so after all’s not said and done our relationships become part of the health schematic we can’t fix.

Therefore… we fix what we can! And we’re fixing to have another healing spa soak on this partly-rainy Sunday morning, and count blessings.

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Week’s end, month’s end…

Sitting here assessing the week just passed, while Kim’s out at the Ponderosa doing pool maintenance. It’s another blazing day and we’re under an Excessive Heat Warning. Still. Some more. It’s July’s last blast and I’m not naive, this is how that works here, but it’s been fairly breathless out lately so a cooler break and some rain would be just amazing.

It’s been a good week filled with activity, which is way out of my comfort zone but proving doable one day at a time. “Raise The Dead Tour 2021” is on the road, with at least a dozen dental appointments scheduled for the two of us, since we’ve outlived our original dental work. Yay and yikes. We’re both working our way through necessary doctor’s appointments… Medicare wellness checks, pulmonologist, heart specialist, dermatologist, a mammogram, an ortho, and a consult with a spinal surgeon preceded by a myelogram since no MRI for me. Yesterday I got injections in both shoulders, I’ll be having another lumbar stick soon, and I have an actual appointment to get my fright-wig chopped off. If this sort of thing continues, we could both be feeling like actual humans again one of these days. Kim, after a months’-long dance with the devil in which he’s led the entire way, stays the picture of health and works hard to maintain that, so his rejuvenation process is less daunting than mine except for the walking and PickleBall playing and bicycle riding and keeping all the plates spinning all the time.

We came sliding out of the COVID third wave and started putting life back in order just in time for wave #4, brought to us primarily by Missouri next door, in the form of the highly viral Delta variant. We’re ready for boosters in a month when we’ll be six months out from our second shots, and we hope they’ll be available. After contracting COVID in January I’m still slowly shedding symptoms, and the thought of dancing with THAT devil ever again makes me shiver in my sandals.

COMMENT FOUND ONLINE: “Speaking from a nurse’s perspective, we were finally down to JUST having to wear a mask. We are now back to what feels like 10 pounds of garb for 12.5 hrs. There is a reason medical personnel are beginning to take this a little more personally. It’s one thing when being infected is not your fault, it’s another when you have the means to help yourself but won’t.”

So while some of us overachievers are trying to keep the most valuable thing we have and make it better, there are entire groups of people willfully standing in the way of life and health for the whole nation. It defies logic. Understanding. Acceptance. I can’t.

Since we stopped watching TV news a month ago, I’m finding the inside/outside cleanse and shape-up of ME to be less of an uphill trek. Without minute-by-minute, detail-by-sordid-detail input from the talking heads, daily life takes on a more realistic feel, with far more breathing room. And interestingly, some of the myalgic issues have been sort of on hold lately… hmm. I stay on Twitter long enough to check in with friends… same on Facebook most days, thus avoiding much of the angst that social media has to offer, and that’s another part of the wellness puzzle. The joys of anxiety-linked aging are many, by which I mean don’t count on it, so run like the wind. Really… run, walk, bike, skate, anything your body will let you do, while you can do it. Barring that, use all your mental powers to go and do – that’s where the internet shines, it has it ALL for us.

There are endless ways to be happy and caring during our jaunt through life, and most of them deserve an honest second attempt or three. It’ll keep a person busy.

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Joy is still a thing…

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning, with rain and thunder, and now a peachy glow in the eastern sky. There’s a bouquet on the table and the morning hugs are extra sweet, because today’s our anniversary. Seventeen years ago, on a Sunday, after church, two dreamers made promises in front of many witnesses, and much living has ensued.

Wedding Brunch in the Kids’ Church

Since we walked out that day hand in hand, there’ve been broken bones, surgeries, heavy-duty illnesses and diagnoses, heartaches for loved ones, sad goodbyes… and more pure goodness and joy than any human deserves. The promises we made to each other on July 25, 2004, and repeatedly since, have been kept, are being kept, will be kept, and it’s an occasion to celebrate. Even if both of us DID space it off until yesterday morning!

August 2014

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Frank O’Hara, poet of the NY School & exemplary bohemian, died 50 years ago today in an accident on Fire Island. (Via @deborahsolo)

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Bits and pieces…

The past week has been quiet and weird-feeling, so I’ve been quiet and weird too, and it’s… frankly, getting old. Just in time, there’s a party on the roof this evening to “celebrate summer and get acquainted.” And if that doesn’t shake me out of the doldrums (what are the odds?), I’m determined to catch up with Rita before the week is out. Meanwhile, I hoard to share…

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Humor nails us most accurately.

Distressing realities continue, so just the facts…

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Sufficient unto the day is the existence thereof, and this one looks stellar – sunny and still, and calling my name. Brighten the corner where you are today, boys and girls, the world will thank you. Or nah, it won’t notice, but you’ll feel better.

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Oh, I love a rainy day…

The last thing I remember is Kim saying in my ear, “I’m leaving to play PickleBall. It’s raining, so keep sleeping…”

Two delicious hours later I’m awake to gray skies and pouring rain, the quintessential way to start a Thursday in July. There’s even lightning and thunder, bonus for the girl who misses all the nighttime storms without her ears connected. Time is racing since we unquarantined – we’re already at the end of another week and the middle of yet another month and I can’t point to much of anything as a mile marker, but a still, wet, thunderous Thursday morning, with a faint glow on the forest from the sun that’s up there somewhere… is memorable. And thank you, by the way, universe, for gravity.

It’s 10:45 am and some of the streetlights are still on as the skies keep pouring down. I peeked at the weather map and it looks promising for a nicely socked-in day to start the weekend, which here in #LFK traditionally starts at 5pm on Thursday. Or 5Am, whichever comes first.

Since feeling good makes me feel good, I saved some silliness to share, plus a smidgen of seriousness…

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Barns & Stable… Michael Hors

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For Kim, who as a Navy man started in the ship’s galley as a cook and sailed back into port on the bridge as a navigator. It ain’t ALL glory, baby.

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Sunshine and rain…

It’s good that spring and summer were here to greet us as we emerged from our caves after the long COVID winter because doing it the other way around would have been infinitely more challenging. The sunshine and rain, trees and flowers, warm days and kind breezes are just what the doctor ordered and we’re using it all to full advantage whenever possible. There’s apparently more rain coming in the next couple of days, and then back to sunny temps. Life is good, the world is sometimes a hospitable place, and I’m grateful to be here still, in a community that generally embraces the broad spectrum of humanity and the incredibly endless variety offered by this planet.

Yesterday I got to see a friend from the past and it was everything. John came to Kansas just in time to help me jump-start things again after the effects of the virus and the long containment… my friend Lyn showed up and affirmed that I’m not done yet, and she was excellent medicine – it’s healing when someone’s on the same page with us, no explanations needed. Lyn and her husband Rob came to see us here in Lawrence a few years ago, and when I laid eyes on her yesterday it was as if no time had passed since then – we were instantly laughing and hugging and sitting down to remember together, all the good stuff, the crazy stuff, the awful, the unbelievable, the indelible. And to catch each other up on The Intervening Years, the Synopsis. It’s an amazing feeling to be loved by someone who doesn’t HAVE to love us for any reason – thanks, Lyn, you were right on time.

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You know how people are, the minute we feel better we’re full of advice for everyone around us. To wit:

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Lunch is being discussed at the moment…

I hear it’s actually gonna be tuna sammies, fresh-cut watermelon, baked beans, and tater chips. I’m in.

It’s Friday! Again! Wow! Have a super good weekend…

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Friends are for fun…

My clever and erudite friend Steve Gelder keeps me in material when I’m looking for smiles.

To wit:

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HAVE A GOOD DAY!

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A watershed week…

Dear Diary,

It’s been a while.

I found better things to do.

Love ya, mean it –

Me

.

I got my hug(s).
Hugs all around, all week.

The 4-year drought was broken this week when John Latta came to town for a few days, time enough to really connect again, with us and his Auntie Rita. The hours were pure joy, no rush, no big deal, just together. The phenomenon that is COVID has left us all standing, so far, at least… and that’s no small thing, with John working in its midst at the hospital from the beginning, and Rita and I managing to contract it despite our precautions. Kim comes out looking like a star, with his asthma and heart history… out there doing ALL THE THINGS all year, and never sick a day except for that nasty food poisoning. We know it isn’t over, but here we were, together again, and that was huge.

The four of us took a drive around Lawrence so John could be blown away by almost thirty years of growth and other changes on KU’s campus and the town since he moved to Atlanta, and that was fun, but after they’ve seen the big city they’re not all that easy to impress. 😊

The time between Monday afternoon and 9:00 this morning passed every bit as fast as we knew it would, but we packed a lot of good food, great laughs, and even better conversation into the hours. The Oncology RN with hospice skilz and an uncanny grasp of human nature was here long enough to quietly assess the health and wellbeing of the parental units, and he very graciously and seriously answered questions the three of us had about our health in general. It was a beautifully-timed visit, urged into action by the love and friendship of Kevin Bruce, and John’s partner Anthony, who both sensed it was time for the Mama to see Mr. John and vice versa. We agreed today on the way to MCI that we won’t let four years pass again before we see each other, no matter what tries to intervene… little things like broken bones, illnesses, insane scheduling, and pandemics. Meh, mere details.

I’ve been moody and weepy since about March of 2020, right through the election and its aftermath, even as things began to look more hopeful for the world… and I kept wondering when that other shoe would drop… when I’d feel some sort of resolution to the events of the past five years or so… when I might feel real again, with compelling reasons to still BE, and a genuine interest in pursuing all the good stuff in this third trimester of life. The errant shoe found a solid landing this week when John’s plane touched down, and the hours before he boarded again for home were valuable beyond measure.

My deepest gratitude to the people who love us – they help us keep life as it CAN be, at its best.

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The mystery of Monday…

Mondays are ridiculous in retirement because what’s the difference? And yet… our psyches have long been conditioned to know that Friday night to Monday morning IS different, feels different, settles down into us in singular ways; therefore, Mondays feel sleepier and less motivated than most other weekdays, and more susceptible to random naps. I’ll take that…

We have a temporary cool-down outside, from a high of 97º yesterday to a forecast 79º later today – somebody’s dyslexic and it’s very sweet. I wore my granny cardigan on the balcony this morning, but my feet were bare – summer’s here! That doesn’t seem quite real this year, but time doesn’t lie… or so they say…

We’ll have things going on this week and next, and then just like that it’ll be JULY. I remember setting an optimistic goal of July 4th for getting fully vaccinated – and repaired as much as possible – to be ready for life when it returned. It’s happening, we’re here, our community and life around the country are making a comeback, and it feels right and good. The flipside is that too much of the world is still suffering from the pandemic and too many world citizens are still fighting the fixes, but I’m encouraged by the smart people all around me and in leadership, so this Monday morning is going down as a win on the books. I’d rather win every time, I like winning, winning feels excellent. But a friend told me you can’t win ’em all, so some of the victories have to be on the inside. When I kick a blue mood to the curb, when I decide not to think about who’s happy to be free of me, when I feel sorry for myself a teensy little bit and then know I’m an idiot for it… those are wins, dammit, a person can build on those. Watch me. 😂 The sun’s peeking through the cloud cover now, I can do this.

If you’ve ever wished you didn’t care… wished you could make the important things not matter… wished you could turn off, drop out, take a mental hiatus until things come right again… don’t. Don’t wish it, and don’t wish away how it all makes you feel. Life keeps right on going and we’re better off if we go with it, willingly and with some sense of where it might be taking us, though we’re blind in the face of the unknown. We don’t have the luxury of dropping out – life simply doesn’t last that long, even though a random Monday can seem never-ending…

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The weekend…

It’s hot, people, DAMN hot! One evening it was a little too chilly and breezy for the balcony, the next morning it was too hot to sit out there, that’s how it works in Kansas. We broke 100º a few days in a row, which is benign unless you were used to a chill wet spring right up to that point. It’s great, though, it’s exactly what we asked for… sun and warmth… and we’ve been all about it. Yesterday, Rita came over for tuna salad sammiches with all the other good summer stuff, and the three of us spent the afternoon in the pool out on the Ponderosa, doing that thing white people do… getting “a little color.” If Eastern European skin pigment is superior, why do we instinctively know that anything other than pasty white looks and feels better? Make it make sense, universe.

Now we’re slated for a few days of cool-down, and maybe some rain again. Helps when it doesn’t all hit at once without letup, and it feels a little sauna-like today, so maybe there are full clouds on their way.

Speaking of without letup… Arizona ballots from a federal election have now been transferred to a private compound in Montana where they’re being scrutinized for “bamboo fragments” and other imagined irregularities.

  1. How is this even real?
  2. How can it possibly be legal?
  3. Bamboo fragments?

And now other red states are clamoring for their own cyber-ninjas and never-ending “audits.” Make it make sense, please.

In the continuing standoff between the science-inclined and the boogeyman-believers, the latter insist that their guy be given credit for a vaccine they refuse to take, and there’s nothing in this world that can make sense of that, so I’ve done entirely enough thinking until at least Monday morning.

Ready for a lazy afternoon. Ready for sammies and beer. Ready for baseball, so bring it, Royals, our golden boys of summer…

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We carry on…

It was a fun weekend, resulting in a train of thought that’s still on the tracks this morning… and the main nugget is that the hum and swirl of American life rises out of a rich network of subcultures thrumming with energy and heart. Some of our societal microcosms are readily visible on the surface, with signs and symbols we know at a glance… service organizations like the Lions Club; religious groupings; a worldwide fellowship for magicians; the Hell’s Angels; and a club for every possible area of human interest under the sun. Saturday night we got to meet a subculture we previously knew almost nothing about – the world of gyms and cage fighting. When you “know a guy,” you go there.

A young veteran we love and respect owns a gym in the KC area with some other people including his wife, and in the interest of positive advertising, physical fitness, and pure badassery, he’s fought his way to professional status and a spot just under the headliner on the card… so it was time we saw the show for ourselves. A sweltering hot evening, long lines of fans, huge fairgrounds pavilion with big open windows, BBQ, drinks, a light-show going on, music that was primarily heavy-duty vibrations felt from the feet up, long tables arranged concentrically with ends toward the cage, and chairs designed by Satan himself for maximum torture. Knew I was gonna be in trouble, but I wasn’t missing this, even though the undercard consisted of something like fourteen fights before it was our man’s turn. And it was great – we were with friends who are family and everything was laughter and hugs and a feeling I’d forgotten over the past eighteen months… belonging. I found myself doing things I vowed I’d “never do again,” like sip a sistah’s drink when offered, shake hands, hug people face to face, laugh and talk unmasked in a public gathering… but almost three months of being fully vaccinated, plus our negligible transmission rate, makes all the difference. The people-watching was sublime – no worries about the generations coming up, America… they’re beautiful.

Kim has taught me a lot about boxing, which was of absolutely no use in this venue – the action is fast and furious, three 3-minute rounds, and there may have been only one match that lasted through two. Most of the amateur matches were over in under a minute, with someone either knocked out or tapping out, followed by hugs and camaraderie all ’round. These guys fight out of various gyms and mostly know each other, and the whole operation, under the glitz and glitter, is squeaky clean, everybody checked again before entering the cage, everything recorded and monitored. That said, there’s a thing in all of us that loves a winner, and we can turn primitive in a heartbeat when that’s on the line. I can still scream with the loudest of them, and I welcomed every chance to stand up outta that chair. A colossal thank you to DM Bruce Associates for their co-sponsorship of the night and their sweet hospitality to us as always.

Our man Deron “The Pharaoh” Carlis won by knockout in the 2nd round and walked away unmarked, so the evening was a total upper, and when we came home after 10:30, 8th Street was all lights and people, with the streetside dining areas full. We hope the city will let those stay open all summer!

When the light goes… when life dies down to an ember… it’s easy to think it might be finished, never coming back, never the same again. But being in that pavilion on Saturday night, with people from all over the NE corner of Kansas, having Deron’s (ridiculously young) parents come over to hug us, and seeing other people we’ve met since moving here, full of happiness and hugs, was a little revelation: I still need other humans, they aren’t all impossible to communicate with, and it feels good to care. Who knew cage fighting could do all that?

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Oh hello, Monday…

Since commenting wisely on the personal bravery and sacrifice that have delivered us to this point in history is above my pay grade, I spent the Memorial Weekend in TV sports, online games, and quietude. We’re living in momentous times that continually threaten to overwhelm us, and sometimes ya’ have to check out for a while.

This morning I’m clearing my desktop and sharing a few things from the past week that got my attention, made me smile, laugh, cry, think. You’re welcome.

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Cara Brown, American watercolorist
“Blush” 2013
watercolour on paper

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