Standing on solemn ceremony…

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Three mornings from now, it will be a new year. We make such a thing about restarts and clean slates that it tends to crank up the pressure right off the top, making the crispy-clean observance something less than joyful, so this time I’m proceeding on the basis that 2023 is NOBODY’S year, we’re all simply going to stroll nonchalantly to the door, peek through the peephole, open the barrier a crack, read the room, and hang around the coffee machine until the convo starts to sort itself out.

For me, 2023 says less is more. My plan, goal, thought, intent is that if and when the year 2024 shows its face, every drawer, shelf, cabinet, closet, space will have been scrutinized severely and lightened of its load. I feel guilty and heavy-laden if I’m harboring goods of the world for which I have no legit use, especially when I can envision others getting the benefit instead. Excess only adds to my anxiety, and one place that’s due for a purge is the desktop I’m typing on at the moment. Thousands of images, files, and folders must go in the name of mental health. It could happen… bit by bit, step by step.

Random thoughts and admonishments, curated to take us into the immediate future…

Alternatively, I might assign myself the task of adopting more freedom and flexibility.

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Worth keeping in mind during the months ahead…

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Almost there…

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Peace. Quiet. Insulation from the bitter cold. Isolation from the bitter of any sort. These are welcome qualities embedded in The Day After, and with a steaming mug of Kim’s coffee in hand, parked in front of my space heater, eye on the frigid streets below, where absolutely nothing is happening at 9am… it’s an okay perspective, good for processing.

We did it, boys and girls. We’ve survived 2022 thus far, with enough optimism left over for contemplating yet another go ’round. Every new year, with its staggeringly-blank slate, presents an Offer We Can’t Refuse, so off we toddle like lemmings, eager to test the waters and prove the worth of all those valuable lessons we learned in past contests.

I have no idea what to expect from the year ahead, except that it will most likely play out in ways I could/would never program on my own. And it will undoubtedly be more of same in many ways, so the resulting balance/imbalance will be key as always. What will life look like as 2023 progresses?

In these days between Christmas and the New Year, we’re afforded an opportunity to think about that question in detail, should we be feeling especially brave and bold. How might things continue to change, for better or worse, since change itself is a given…

For me, 2022 was the year life actually did change big-time: I was provided a way to leave behind the nerve pain that had haunted the 50 years of my life just prior, thereby opening doors thought permanently closed to me. The effects are ongoing, with no reason to switch horses or alter plans, regardless of any setbacks, which are part of everything. A bad fall in October slowed me down but didn’t stop me, so we’re still bringing you our regularly-scheduled programming for the foreseeable future.

One thing humans are desperate for is restarts. “Let me try again. I can do better.” And more often than not, we do. I’m 100% for restarts and second chances and the grace to use them well, and I’m ready for lots more of that in the year ahead of us… grace, mercy, communication, comprehension. Connection.

This part of the calendar year is packed with holiday celebrations of every sort around the globe, with something in it for everyone. As we take a little time to wool-gather… reminisce… make a pin-cushion of our thoughts… I hope we’ll each gain a renewed sense of respect for each other and what it takes to coexist in the world. And work on doing just that…

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Still thinking…

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It’s cold and gray again this morning, which calls for another mug of coffee while I stare out the windows some more. I may be slow getting underway but no worries, all the quiet mornings are belong to ME.

Life hack: give yourself 8 to 12 hours of alone time in the morning to mentally prepare for the day. -Roshan Patel

Three’s perfect but I’ll settle for one.

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I feel this in my soul.

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The deep quiet of winter is a boon to anxious humans, soothing like a weighted blanket. [DISCLAIMER: They give me claustrophobia.] If you aren’t personally acquainted with anxiety, it feels like everything-all-the-time-stacked-layered-and-shredded. Your brain runs from one end of the track to the other without letup unless it’s veering off on a side rail or briefly waylaid by sportsing or digital games. And even then…

I have a cousin who’s more of a sister, and we’ve planned since the last time we saw each other… maybe five years ago? … to spend some time on the phone together catching up again. As mom to many kids and grandkids, phone conversations are her life-blood, whereas in my little world they look a lot like this:

Today holds a doctor’s appointment and a Christmas party, one after lunch, one this evening, so of course I woke up at 6am planning for both because they’re mere hours away with nothing between now and then. It makes no sense… but if reason is what we’re after, we can let that go… anxiety doesn’t provide that commodity. Being a neurodivergent bundle of contradictions isn’t a glamorous assignment but I’ve lived to tell you about it so far, which counts as a win every day, and I hope it gives somebody else a spark of optimism. It’s imperative, considering reality, that we pull together any time we can. Life is hard. The more we know, the better.

It’s likely that between now and New Year’s Day most of us will survive the daily requirements plus all the extras. We’ll drift into a fresh calendar with what passes for optimism, and sail on. And we’ll be happy… because we find the stuff of happiness everywhere, we can’t help ourselves. Anxiety as this girl lives it isn’t worry and it isn’t ABOUT anything. It’s about EVERYTHING. The details, timing, deadlines, other people’s expectations, navigating the ins and outs. If you relate, come talk to me in COMMENTS, please.

Sometimes it would be so Zen to be a bug, not seeing every sight, thinking every thought, feeling every feel… until an errant boot heel ended that pleasant reverie, and I’d be quickly reassessing my possibilities for continued existence. Better to stay in my assigned form and deal with what I know, convoluted and incomprehensible as it might seem sometimes. Where are the people who led us to believe we’d have life figured out by age 40 at the latest? Not here are they? I wonder if some of them had an all-encompassing epiphany toward the end and failed to tell us about it. Wouldn’t it save the generations a lot of work if we simply adopted a generous system of file-sharing?

Being an overthinker isn’t entirely bad:

See, not ENTIRELY bad, amirite?

We’ll eventually figure the whole thing out. Or not.

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Sail away…

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We could live aboard a ship

Hip to hip

And lip to lip

And if we ever lose our grip

We’ll go right back

To lip to lip

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And if our anchor doesn’t hold

If we drift and get too cold

If we falter, we won’t fold

We’ll go back to lip to lip

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If we sail for many days

Go too far and get too crazed

I will gladly spend my days

Sailing lip to lip

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Lip to lip

Lip to lip

On a big fat sailing ship

I would gladly spend my days

Sailing lip to lip

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Let’s get aboard a big fat ship

And we’ll go sailing lip to lip

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Composed by Kim Smith October 30, 2020 while attempting to achieve optimum weightlessness in the spa tub.

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On we go…

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One down in the string of winter holidays if we don’t count Halloween in our race to 2023. Turkey Day was nice. We skipped the turkey and went straight for our personal list of comfort foods… Kimmers and me, Rita and a friend. Easy to make, satisfying to eat. We raised a solemn toast to all those displaced from their homes and traditional lands so that we might enjoy the bounty of life, and thanked whatsoever gods there may be for the gifts.

Our unseen and much-maligned fellow travelers before us paved the way for the societies and civilizations we now take for granted… while they became invisible as a people. We did that. We disappeared them. I’ve been thinking since Thursday about what it means to be invisible, undetected by the world’s radar. My body has almost recovered from my fall in October, but my spirit will never forget the cool detached appraisal from that impeccable young woman as I lay there like a bug on the sidewalk. She made eye contact but never saw me, and went on her way without a second thought. That’s invisibility… when someone or something simply does not exist you’re under no obligation to give weight to it. I’ve tried several times over the past few days to wrestle a feeling into words, but I couldn’t get a handle on it until a story this morning spelled it out: A thing unseen never has to be dealt with.

So true. In a flurry of pre-New Year housekeeping a while back, I sat here and wrote down some honest thoughts, and then before I could change my mind I hit SEND. I did hear back from the person it was sent to, but nothing I said was addressed beyond “hello.” That’s invisibility and it feels like being canceled. I’m getting used to it out there in public… my white hair and wrinkles announce my lack of viability and visibility everywhere I go… but I’m not so familiar with it yet from people I once knew. Such a strange disorienting sensation, and one I apparently need to get used to sooner rather than later because it’s happening with startling regularity at this point. When you say or write something, attempting to keep life honest and real, and not even an echo comes back… do you still exist?

It’s the dilemma of every older person I’ve ever known. Am I still here? Does anybody see me? Does anyone give a flying fvck? Honest answer: No, the world does not care, get over it and fix it yourself. My inner voice, which becomes louder year by year, has been telling me to go where I’m celebrated, rather than stay where I’m merely tolerated, and I’m sure that’s a solution to keep in mind. I only know that if it costs you your peace, it’s too expensive.

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The world is so full of anger it keeps us off balance. I talked with someone yesterday who’s running primarily on anger fumes right now, and for good reason. We both know we can’t stay this rage-engaged forever, but sometimes it gets shit done from the inside out, where it matters most.

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We are saved by those who tell us the truth… those who come to us bearing gifts of love and grace and an easy transparency that says “I got you.”

Thankful. So thankful.

A special thank you to my husband as we embark on another cold winter, with its lack of sunlight and sometimes unfriendly weather. I’m forever grateful he knew what to do with the grubby old cardboard box full of broken pieces I brought him.

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I hope you dance…

October Sunrise – Kim Smith 10/23/2022

There are few things in this life so soothing to me as a dark quiet house just before dawn, steaming mug of coffee in hand, a blank page before me. A day begun in peace and solitude generally turns out pretty okay, because it’s all about attitude and it starts on the inside.

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Fall makes me think about school, and school makes me newly appreciate children with their optimism and natural joy. For them, life is real every second.

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We can remain childlike if we never forget the important things…

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We can ask childlike questions…

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We can stay childlike about history…

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We can stay childlike in our hopes and dreams…

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A timely reminder for the adults in the room…

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If we so choose, we can keep a childlike spirit until the end of our days. We simply have to remember how to dance…

I hope you dance.

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What’s your favorite season and why is it fall?

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Wrote this yesterday before the day turned irresistibly beautiful… before we walked with friends to a restaurant new to all of us and spent a long lunch laughing and cementing friendship… up the street to Sylas & Maddy’s for ice cream… and a nice stroll home, talking all the way. The Muse tapped my shoulder about this post in the late afternoon, but by then I was far too comfy where I was…

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Favorite season? Fall, hands down for me, for all the reasons. In general, it isn’t too ANYthing… too wet/too dry, too windy/too still, too cold/too hot, just friendly, benign, middle-of-the-road weather while we brace for winter. And never have I been more conscious of the letting-go process fall embodies. The bell tolls, bring out your dead!

*

Uncertain of our significance in the universe, we hang onto everything we encounter in life… we might NEED this experience, this memory, this bit of detritus we never really understood in the first place! And we do need some of those things, but not consciously. They’re all there, influencing everything we say and do, we don’t have to think about it constantly, none of it is going away. Short of a lobotomy, most of us will remember the significant moments in our lives, both good and bad, until death or the dreaded Oldtimer’s claims us. The goal is to no longer be predominantly shaped by the negatives we can’t entirely forget – life is genuinely not long enough for those memories to be left in charge… they rule from a bad motive and muck up things that would otherwise be perfectly beautiful for us, thus the need for fall housecleaning. It starts from a spiritual place.

Yesterday Kim and I took a drive through the countryside, which in Eastern Kansas this time of year is a requirement. The leaves are getting creative in their death throes, everything looks crisp and clean, crops are ready for harvest or soon will be… and there’s no sense of regret attached to any of it. Earth’s inhabitants respond to the seasons and behave accordingly, humans in ways that are hard to define. Autumn is the dying time so we tend to assign an extra portion of melancholy to its days and miss its true essence entirely… that death isn’t always a downer, sometimes it’s required. Industrious as we may be, the house isn’t clean if the stench of old death still permeates the walls… so really… why do we cling so tightly to things that once hurt us, made us question our right to be here, and still hold the power to ruin an entire day if we let them? I think that was rhetorical…

I love all the sweet, poignant, utterly lovely moments fall brings, leading to the kind of memories that save us in moments of uncertainty and that inescapable sense of being alone.

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If you find yourself overwhelmed by loneliness and questioning your place in the scheme of things, remember…

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Also, and this is very important to me…

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Of wolves and wings and sealing wax…

A thing I like about being this age and out of the work force is that nobody’s the boss of us except death and taxes. When Kim got home from PickleBall this morning I’d downed half a pot of coffee but no food yet, so he made the Saturday breakfast on Wednesday because nobody told him he couldn’t, and I like how that works out.

The downside of not having a CEO is there’s nobody here to ensure that I live my best life except me. Kim’s entitled to carefully-worded suggestions, but I’m the only boss I have and it’s exhausting. I get up by 7am or earlier most mornings, grab a mug of coffee, and sit here for the next hour catching up on news of the world while the two wolves inside me wage a battle over the daily stroll. One wolf’s all about how it’s too hot or too chilly, too windy or too still, you deserve a little break and one day off won’t hurt a thing. The other, the leaner of the two, reminds me how easy it is to break a good habit, how miserably guilt-ridden I’ll be all day if I don’t put my shoes on and go, how righteous I’ll feel telling Kim about where I went and what I saw out there in the greater world.

The wise wolf won this morning’s tug-o-war again, so chalk up another one for health and sanity, she and I have found ourselves out there trekking far more days than not since this past December. And yes, my two Canis Lupii are female, full of wisdom and experience, I only have to be careful which voice I allow through the veil in any given circumstance…

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Rodney Dangerfield had it right… no respect.

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God’s truth. Come visit, we’ll show you.

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If you’re smiling, my work here is done. Have a wonderful Wednesday and remember…

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What we have here… is a failure to communicate!

So far I don’t mind terribly much getting older, there are things about it that are actually almost cool. But FEELING old… out of it… behind… I hate it. Nothing pisses me off faster than trying to do something I knew how to do before technology changed the parameters. I love technology. Technology is my friend. Until it isn’t, and I have to ask for rescue from someone whose otherwise perfectly lovely accent doesn’t play nicely via phone with my hearing assists/brain. And the page he sends me to clearly doesn’t look like the one he’s on because the right questions and blanks are not available; therefore, there’s an impassable hurdle in the form of name/password legalese which I will never get past so I’m hereby resigning from the world and resolving never again to leave the safety of my perfectly manageable home. It doesn’t matter that I can’t get an automatic payment set up online BECAUSE I’M A HERMIT NOW!! I won’t need the thing I’m supposed to be paying for, so stuff it, world!

Sigh. I feel marginally better, thx for listening. On a happier note… and EVERYTHING was on a happy note until that frickin’-frackin’ brick wall… I spent an hour and a half outside this morning, an hour of it walking. Picked up a bagel and coffee and sat in the park again, reading and people-watching. There were at least 50 middle-schoolers, and several adult-types carrying guitars, gathered on the east side of the park, but nothing discernible transpired before I trekked toward home. Looked all squeaky-clean and wholesome, though, at 7:30 on a Friday morning.

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Ope, it was THIS!

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ENJOY THE HECK OUTTA LIFE EVERY DAY!

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Breathe…

She sat at the back and they said she was shy,

She led from the front and they hated her pride,

They asked her advice and then questioned her guidance,

They branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence,

When she shared no ambition they said it was sad,

So she told them her dreams and they said she was mad,

They told her they’d listen, then covered their ears,

And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears,

And she listened to all of it thinking she should,

Be the girl they told her to be best as she could,

But one day she asked what was best for herself,

Instead of trying to please everyone else,

So she walked to the forest and stood with the trees,

She heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves,

She spoke to the willow, the elm and the pine,

And she told them what she’d been told time after time,

She told them she felt she was never enough,

She was either too little or far far too much,

Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too weak,

Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek,

Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs,

And she stopped…and she heard what the trees said to her,

And she sat there for hours not wanting to leave,

For the forest said nothing, it just let her breathe.

Author: @Becky Helmsley

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This breathtaking poem was shared on Facebook without accreditation, which google fixed for me, quickly finding Becky for the documentation she must have. The poem’s title is BREATHE. Reverse Image Search failed me utterly, however, so for now Tree Woman will remain anonymous.

***

The sweet discovery I made, three lines in, is that BREATHE is written in the same meter as Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman to Me.” So yes… you can sing it! And if ever a poem needed to be sung… LOUD… it’s this one.

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Still hanging around, what a surprise!

At 7:00 on a September morn, fog hanging in the trees, a cheese Danish and hot coffee in front of me courtesy of Kim… I’m settling into the fact that today I’m 75 years old. It’s frankly weird to find myself at an age that once sounded unbearably old, life over, stick with your comfy chair, lap blanket, and tepid tea, Granny-Face. But I watched both of my grandmothers live past 95, keeping their minds reasonably intact, and this morning I know you don’t shut things down three-quarters of the way through, so on we press.

When Kim and I got married, I was the reverse of today’s number… 57. A full range of life events has taken place in the intervening 18 years, letting me know for sure that life doesn’t hinge on ages, numbers, or our careful plans. I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and be 75 plus a day, and the days will continue to spool out until I reach the final one, whenever it comes.

The gray flannel morning has crept up against my windows, socking me into my quiet corner with only my thoughts for company… just the way I like it. These gentle surroundings are causing me to be highly conscious of a few key factors in making it to this milestone in a positive frame of mind…

  1. After two years of treatment protocols, Kim’s oncology numbers are below zero… success!
  2. With the advent of vaccines, boosters, and a lower transmission rate, John’s work at the hospital is becoming a little safer and more conducive to longterm breathing.
  3. Since Christmas and a spinal fusion via robot, I’ve been without my old companion of fifty years… nerve pain… and I’m walking my tush off on the surrounding sidewalks.
  4. Last week I got new hearing assists with the latest technology… and joy of joys, I can actually HEAR! I’ve been missing so many sounds for who knows how long, I’m having to retrain my ears and brain to tolerate the sheer input of it all and it’s wonderful.
  5. Despite every awful thing at loose on the planet, genuine loving humans give me insane hope for a future that is not dystopian. I texted with two of them this morning… day made! People haven’t called me Pollyanna all my life for nothing.

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Very happy to be a Virgo. Otherwise, I’d have to be someone else entirely.

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Hello, starshine…

It might sound odd, but I miss you when I stay away for too long and fail to write down every thought in my head as OCD, ADHD, and anxiety demand. Beyond an incredibly faithful core of readers, I have no idea who sees my words… but there are days when I can feel benevolent forces just behind the wall… this wall I’m scribbling on now, defacing it with my own brand of graffiti… and I’m glad you’re there. Makes me wish for words of wisdom to impart, something that would make your day a little shinier, your heart a bit lighter. Alas, it turns out I’m here mostly to bitch and moan and call for backup, so may the gods bless your heart for sticking around.

This morning was undoubtedly one of the most perfect of my lifetime, and that’s saying a lot. The temp and humidity were just right and the sky was pure sunshine, a Chamber of Commerce kind of day. I walked to Einstein’s to get a bagel and coffee, then to a picnic table in South Park where I enjoyed a quiet breakfast while I read my book via phone and watched Larryville wake up. Not a leaf was stirring in the massive trees that must have already been standing when Quantrill and the Boys came through during the Civil War, trying to burn everything to a cinder.

There’s no way I could reach across this, let alone around its circumference. There be giants.

A couple of people wrapped in blankets on the hard floor of the gazebo were gradually letting the sun’s rays wake them up, and I hope someone provided coffee after they came to life.

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As we inch our way toward the season of the long shadows, I’m storing sunshine and benevolent days… we’ll need every bit of it.

Kim Smith self-portrait, August 2022

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I’ll leave you with this… and if you know the translation, please share it!

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It’s Friday…

Kim woke me up at 6:15 with the words “I brought you a bagel,” and the weekend was on… it’s a random surprise I love every time it happens. Oddly, however, for the first morning since I started walking the sidewalks and byways of Larryville, my brain said no. Wasn’t sure I was hearing right, so I gave it time and asked again. Still no. The body’s drug its feet a few times, but today it was my head saying nope, not going, let’s do something else just for shits & giggles.

So I put a load of towels in the washing machine, made the bed, broke down a small stack of boxes growing roots on the bedroom couch, sent all the detritus to its proper destinations, and even ventured into Kim’s kitchen space long enough to “tidy oop” a little. And I’ve formulated a secret plan for this afternoon, rain or not, so nothing lost and much gained… I can feel my anxiety nodding off as we speak. And now it’s pouring rain and flashing lightning, so my much-maligned brain and the barometric pressure are clearly in sync and working on my behalf.

Rain is part of the forecast off and on all day and we’re here for it. And after this front moves through tomorrow, we’ll see Howard Mahan at the winery, with sister Rita, lovely cheese and the whole nine yards. Gotta appreciate when a stress-free plan comes together…

More than a year in, I’m still reading the daily news rather than watching it, and this week has mos def been one ‘a THOSE. So in an effort to place focus elsewhere for a hot minute, I’ve saved a few things with you in mind…

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Workin’ on it…

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DISCLAIMER: You’re not actually required to get high.

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Kim always says he’s shallow, but he nailed this one from the starting line.

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Friday’s here. Brighten the corner where you are, and have a terrific weekend…

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Yes, Diary, me again…

Don’t know what’s up with Ms Muse these days but she will not stop with the subtle impulse to “write it down.” And as I verbalize that, I know it’s because I’m on the downhill slide to a finish line of sorts, set on fully owning myself before 75. Almost there, and mulling every year of it, just to be all milestone-y, although it would be fun to match my grandmothers’ records and stick around past 95 with my head still on straight. Seventy-five is no kind ‘a stopping place!

Kim and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary last month, and on nearly every Sunday morning of those years he’s made me a ranch bean omelet to die for. I’m still here though, having just consumed yet another exquisite offering that made my taste buds cry for happiness. On Saturdays it’s fried eggs and Kim Smith hashbrowns, on Sundays it’s the omelets… hundreds of each by now and never a chance of getting tired and jaded because it’s new all the time. He’s a trained institutional cook with a gift for making a meal for two taste like heaven, and I’ve really only bragged on breakfast. Everything he makes gets constantly upgraded as he goes along, so yeah, I’m a lucky girl and I have to stop talking about him now or he won’t want this going public. Let me just remind you, though, that he came to me precisely the way I ordered him: “I’m not getting married again, but if I did, he’d have to be younger than me and love to cook.” Be careful, little mouth, what you say, your heart just might know what you want.

When the world starts taking pieces of you from little on up, it becomes the seemingly small things that keep life worth doing. Beautiful walks, music that says what we can’t, people who love us enough to care for us, the grace to wake up and be us again for another day, year, decade, or more…

As an inveterate Pollyanna, I’m glad there are people who keep promises, who do everything in their power not to disappoint or hurt us, who are fully present. I think that’s what my invisible friend had in mind this morning… paying homage to the people who make life good. They don’t have to, it’s just who they are.

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**No one, including me, sees your name when you click a star rating, but it does make my day, so thx.

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Morning check-in…

Necessary diary entry this morning after realizing a longterm goal: To get up one fine morning and stroll to Einstein’s for a bagel and coffee outside. This was that morning and it did not disappoint. I simply put on real clothes, slid my iPad into its sleeve, and went there. Zero breeze, 70º and sunny, a few other early-risers to share the morning with. I love the old-guy walking cadres, whose members seem sheepishly happy to be seen doing something athletic and aren’t stingy with the smiles, which is cool. A couple at a sidewalk table nearby, he Black, she maybe trans, with possibly all their belongings in the pack next to them, clearly an intrinsic part of the Mass Street neighborhood, were enjoying the morning with me as they greeted all the street workers and vendors, making me part of the scene with their “How ya’ doin’? Havin’ a good day? You be safe now.”

Taking my time on the walk home I could see myself in the plate-glass windows, and it struck me that although I usually feel no more than 21 on the inside, I’ve somehow survived to become a silver-haired 75-year-old human less than a month from now. By all reckonings in our society I’m an old woman, good for not much at all, taking up space, using resources. That’s okay, stand back, I’m not done yet, apologies for any damage wrought heretofore. Looks like a hot weekend, then we’re back into a nice 80s groove, so be forewarned… I’ll be out there on my feet somewhere.

Sooooo…

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Fairly certain I was a cat in a former life.

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We’ve all made it to Friday, which is entirely worth celebrating. Be very good to yourself this weekend, and do something to make somebody else smile, too… the reward is so sweet. I know a lot of people are too cool or too shy or too distracted to interact, but I got smiles from high school kids this morning just by being there. I wear this silver crop like a badge because it opens doors for me… get out there and use what ya’ got, like me and the guys in the walking clubs. We’re still here, we have to do SOMETHING.

Enjoy a sweet weekend, and remember the school kids and teachers…

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Humor at the Speed of Life

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A Humor Blog for Horrible People

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