Saturday, the 4th… page 58

Day 114 – 07/04/2020

Drinking pomegranate tea while fragments of thought pop in and out of my headspace.

It’s a wonky 4th, but I’m two for two so far – the traditional breakfast and a spa soak. The rest of it is gravy.

Thinking of a story I heard a while back about someone who’s managed to alienate their cache of friends and family and now they’re old and not in good health, with few human resources – a pitiable spot to find oneself in, and one I hope to avoid. But I’m outspoken to the max on social media among like-minded friends, so I always hope people who are on another page entirely will either out themselves or find the door… preferably both. They’re not the hearts and minds I’m talking to, and they will inevitably be offended. Oh well… they weren’t gonna come change my sheets at the end anyway, so…

Ray of sunshine here, veritable 4th of July sparkler! It’s those damn morose German genes, and before I bring the house up a little, let me just say this is the most demoralizing Independence Day observance of my 70+ years. If we reach the next one with our democratic system of government intact, functioning, and regaining health, we will be a blessed nation indeed.

So, the good news. The sun’s breaking through the clouds and the humidity is only 74%. The neighborhood is quiet this morning – no mortar rounds going off since last night. The flowers are perking their heads up and taking advantage of the wet air and sunshine to do that thing they do… likely only to get slammed by another rainstorm. Makes ’em strong, right? The day feels lazy and free, so imma celebrate that.

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Remembering…

An edited nostalgia piece from 2013 …

During a nursery visit to replace trees and plants lost to the western Kansas drought and heat (we’ve since moved to the northeast corner of the state), the greenhouse owner snapped off a king-sized rose blossom and handed it to me.  As soon as I caught its scent, my grandma was there beside me and a whole era lined up for review. 

We grew up across a gravel driveway from my paternal grandparents on a farm in the middle of wheat fields and pastures.  There were cows and chickens and a big barn populated by sleepy cats, but the best part of the farm was Grandma and Grandpa’s garden.  It spanned acres, and included most of the veggies you could name — potatoes, carrots, onions, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, sweet corn, peas, green beans, turnips (yucky), strawberries and tomatoes (both of which we were allowed to pluck warm from the vine, with a tap on the salt shaker Grandma kept tucked under the leaves); fruit trees including apple, cherry, and peach; and flowers.  Peonies, mock orange, baby’s breath, tulips, daisies, columbine, cosmos, daffodils, lilies, phlox, snapdragons, roses. Not a complete list.

All of this was surrounded by hedges that my grandpa kept trimmed — a tall one across the back, with openings into the orchard beyond, and shorter hedges along the front and sides with shaped entryways into the three main sections of the garden.  In a corner, close to the cattle pens, grew watermelon and cantaloupe.  And a quarter-mile away, next to an irrigation engine, was a colossal watermelon patch (which became infamous in its own right — a story for another day) that produced enough for all summer and into the fall, including a happy celebration for friends and neighbors in the yard.

Outside the confines of the hedges sat the two-story farmhouse my grandpa built, saturated with decades of living. Between the house and garden a hammock was stretched between two big cottonwoods, and a rope swing hung from a branch.  The clotheslines where we helped Grandma “hang out a nice wash,” as she invariably declared it to be, stretched across the grass.  

There was a cement and brick milk house where our dad and grandpa filtered the milk from the cows, skimmed off the heavy cream, and left it all in glass jars to cool in troughs of ice-cold running water brought up by the windmill anchored next to the building.  A battered tin cup hung on a pipe next to the well so anyone who wanted to could pump a fresh drink of water. (There was no pandemic raging.)   

We (my sisters and brother and I, along with cousins and neighbor kids) spent long hours in that yard, held tea parties under the tall conifers set in the middle of the garden, and built more than one fort among the fruit trees and evergreens out back.  And on occasion, we worked.  

When I think of my grandparents – she born in 1889 and he five years earlier – he shows up in long-sleeved chambray shirt and faded Levis and she’s wearing a homemade housedress and apron, tied at the waist and pinned to the flowery cotton of her dress at the shoulders.  And she never went out, hoe in hand, without a handmade sunbonnet.  A real lady had creamy white skin, and although Grandma had been born with distinctly olive coloring, she tried.  Grandpa protected his head with a well-worn felt cowboy hat that he sweated through in nothing flat.

Thus they went forth every morning equipped for work, intent upon it, dedicated to it.  Those luscious fruits and vegetables out there in the hot sun were life, and life doesn’t wait.  They did their best to corral us, to slow our head-long summer romp through the garden, to foist sunbonnets upon us and thrust hoes and rakes into our grubby little hands.  I remember thinking I really should help out more, take more of an interest, learn something while I was at it.  But the fork in the big tree behind the milk house was calling my name, my book was still stashed there from the day before, and I was hot and tired and needed a drink of water from the well …. and I never quite found time to own responsibility and discipline in any discernible way.  

There was one time of year, however, when we all pitched in and did our part.  I’m ashamed to say, it had a lot to do with the fact that we got paid for our efforts, but, well ….

Every year in the days preceding Memorial Day, my grandparents would cut armfuls of tightly-budded peonies, wrap them in wet burlap, and store them in crocks of well water in the cool cement-lined root cellar.  The other flowers, too, found their way into crocks, awaiting that early-morning observance at cemeteries around the countryside.  Our job as grandchildren was to take old paring knives and snip daisy bouquets in counts of twenty-five, band them and put them in canning jars in the cellar.  It was a treat to go from the sunny garden to the damp coolness of the pit, and Grandma and Grandpa paid us a nickel a bouquet. We were suddenly rich, and Woolworth’s, McClellan’s, and Duckwall’s were a mere twelve miles away.

Despite our mercenary outlook, we managed to gain a sense of having contributed to something special.  The day before Memorial Day, which was known as Decoration Day in the 1950s, and very early the morning of, neighbors and strangers from surrounding areas started pulling into the drive to collect the big flower baskets and smaller arrangements they’d pre-ordered.  And many, knowing there were always unclaimed flowers, stopped by to see what they might pick up.  The air had a special freshness about it and people invariably seemed happy and intent on their mission.

I remember feeling proud of my grandma for her ability to grow and arrange flowers into spectacular gifts, and a connectedness to all those people coming to embrace her talents.  I started to feel tied to all the generations being honored on those Memorial weekends, and I still remember snippets of stories from the conversations I overheard.

After all the paying customers had retrieved their floral offerings, Grandma let us kids have the leftover daisy bundles to place on the graves of the nearly-forgotten babies from the 1800s in our small community cemetery a mile west of the farm.  It always felt like we’d done something amazing by honoring those brief little lives, and the yearly military ceremony conducted by aging war heroes in a sometimes haphazard and ill-fitting assortment of service garb lent added poignancy.

If my grandparents were here now they would be gratified to know how much I actually did learn through their example and the privilege of living in their shadow.  Things like hard work, respect for the living and the dead, a certain acceptance that no matter what happens life goes on … all of these have stood me in good stead over the years.

As with most farmers of that generation they never became wealthy in a monetary sense.  But the things they passed along to us are beyond price … and worth consciously appreciating as another Memorial Day arrives.

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Shelter Me… page 25

Day 31 – 04/12/2020

Best to everyone celebrating Easter this morning, wherever you are. Our governor mandated that gatherings must include no more than ten people… the GOP legislature voted to over-rule her… and the Kansas Supreme Court handed down a decision last night – by remote – that her ruling stands. We’ll know in a couple of weeks how well people cooperated because any new hot spots will tell the story – we’re now being told to assume that 5 out of 50 people we see, or roughly 10%, are shedding the virus. It isn’t a game.

The morning started out a balmy 58º, with a promise of sunshine when the big red sun popped up behind the trees, but it’s gotten cloudy, the wind is up, and we have a hard freeze warning for tonight. The photo above was snapped by Kim on his predawn walk – Mass Street, Easter Sunday, 2020. The world feels a little chillier and lonelier than usual, but the greater percentage of us are still here, and where there’s life there’s hope. And there will be open doors again…

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Make Mine Chocolate

Speaking of friendship (see previous post), there are people who so seamlessly demonstrate it that we don’t realize how completely we’ve been immersed in its graces until they’ve packed up their toolkits and rolled on down the road toward home. Kim and I are rich beyond measure because we have a few key people like that in our life, and a few are all you need.

One of those people came to our rescue yesterday, on a totally voluntary basis, didn’t have to do it, on New Year’s Eve day, for six hours, as if he had nothing else in the world to do, such as watching the Liberty Bowl game where his beloved alma mater would be playing, followed by a 2020 party AT HIS HOUSE.

The backstory: My desktop computer and Kim’s had been giving us grief all year, and this friend and another one had been helping us baby both of them along while we were all legitimately distracted by other things. In the past week mine started crashing for real, and although it was connected to an external hard drive, it was, um, not good. Our friend and his family were out of town, but he picked the day following the day they got back, came here first thing in the morning (yesterday), drove us to KC, provided backup while we bought two units just like what we had, only newer-faster-better-shinier, turned around and drove us 35 miles back home, and then took the time to get both of us set up enough that we won’t be roaming the streets, wild-eyed and barefoot, before he can get back here. And he was STILL out the door in plenty of time for the big game, Karma sees all.

We’ve so far avoided advanced boomer-hood and it was an adventure we could have managed perfectly well, by which I mean calamity was possible at every turn. Kim’s always cool with driving but we’d have had two questions at the computer store. And once we got home and unpacked the merchandise we’d have been stuck like Chuck and it would be a no go until we found a guru, and good luck with THAT, post-holidays. Instead, thanks to the joys of having a younger friend who loves us and knows our limitations without making making us feel deficient about them, it was a smoooooth experience and a fun way to end a supremely challenging decade.*

*Ignore the random underlining, it won’t go away.

Turns out we were mere weeks from dropping off Big A’s support horizon, where they cease to know you, so those units owed us nothing – still looked new but were old dogs in tech years, and a clean, mean, smooth-running machine is always a sweet thing.

But this isn’t a story about tech for the new decade, it’s truth about friendship for the long haul. The kind that starts out rooted in trust that’s rewarded with integrity; grows for a generation; starts to feel a little like family; and begins to cause people to just *be there* for each other. That kind of friendship doesn’t lend itself to language very well, but it galvanizes me for the new decade because of the sweet goodness under it. Our friend has been through plenty, knows we have too. We’ve often been caught up in the slings and arrows of the boomer years while he’s still back there hacking his way through the forest, so *being there* has been an imperfect effort on our part but the love underneath never wavers.

Yesterday was a gift because it felt so pure. “I can do this for you. Let me do this.” Thank you, friend, sometimes it truly IS blessed to receive, and to know the things we thought were real… really are. I don’t think you set out to show us that, but you did – in the most genuine way possible. Here’s to a clean reboot for 2020. It’s ON, dude ‼️

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Ready to leap?

Once again our little gaggle of planets have turned and rolled and done that thing they do that brings us to another trip around the sun, the great flaming Ra that keeps us just toasty enough to neither freeze nor fry if we have a lick of sense whatsoever, which every trip proves some do not, although many, sadly, don’t have a choice.

Now commences the ritual of preparedness for the arrival of another clean start – those things we do, the purging, the cleansing, the making room for the new. The things we swore this time last year we wouldn’t be staring at again, yet here they are, taking up space, morosely mocking us, flashing a hardly deserved middle finger since they were complicit in the fact of their existence. They called to us, those online purchases, with their suspect but irresistible sale prices. They cleverly rode in on invisible coattails, those ubiquitous email subscriptions that accumulate in stacks on the daily (!!). The paperwork we don’t need, don’t want, don’t have the energy to file but don’t quite possess the total abandon to toss – guess that’s never going away after all, despite our dedicated green-ness. Our shallowness would make me weep, but greater things preceded it and my tears are temporarily dry.

I digress, boys and girls, we’re vamping for 2020 and we’d best be ready – I heard on the interwebs it’s gonna be a lulu. But then, we’ve been training, so…

And what I DID NOT KNOW until this very moment as I was musing on a title, is that 2020 is a leap year, yes it is, so let’s all stay on our toes! Very best wishes to all as we say goodbye to the old we’re not keeping and hello to the new we’re welcoming. It comes to us every year, ready or not, so pull up your socks and let’s go!

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Waiting for the Wise Men

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Thoughts of home & family…

Hello, babies, and Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your day and the weekend will surpass what you’d hoped for and the good memories will stay with you through the winter months and whatever lies beyond.

America and all the world rely on tradition to tell us what to do, how to order the months of the year, how to plan our celebrations. It’s been described as peer pressure from dead people, but it holds heavy sway over most of us and proves hard to break with when we try.

This Thanksgiving is unique in our downsized family. Before our mom’s eight siblings and their offspring scattered to the winds, holidays were oversized productions at our grandparents’ house, any work involved taken for granted by kids under twelve, the mountains of food appearing by magic, clean-up accomplished by swanky uncles with shirt-sleeves rolled, children strictly banned from the kitchen.

Those storybook times are long past, but most years since, my two sisters and I and parts of our families have managed to be together, sharing the love and good cooking. This time, for whatever reasons, a perfect storm conspired to keep that from happening, so we deal.

Middle sister and bro-in-love have retired to beautiful but relatively remote environs and their daughters and families are prevented by various circumstances from being with them, nor will they be with each other.

Baby sis has fallen in love, has recently retired, is spending the weekend with her new people, and happiness abounds. We get to connect with her kitten, Big Jade, twice a day while Mama’s away. Baby sis’s kids and grands are on the Left Coast, thus not physically huggable on this holiday either.

Pa and I are here, dead center USA, least traditional of the siblings, he of original hippiedom, I a rebel from jump. One of our guy kids is deep in the heart of Texas, the other two keep Georgia on our mind. The Oncology RN is working, as is so often the case, on behalf of coworkers with families. His other half, one of the youngest in his big family, is trying mightily to be their rock through a stretch of rough road, and it’s likely nobody will even get around to dinner this year.

And how are the non-traditionalists faring? So far so lovely. We made sure the Jadester was safe and warm, first order of business. Loved her up good, then came home and Kim made Belgian waffles in his snazzy hotel-style waffle maker – so right with fruit, syrups, bacon, sausage, lots of excellent coffee. It’s been raining lightly all morning and the fireplace feels wonderful. Right here is where we need to be while I baby my back some more. We could be kind of iffy conversationalists right now anyway, like after the toasts, yikes, wouldn’t be prudent.

And now the day stretches before us, quiet and full of possibility. Kim’s on the other side of the wall playing guitar, I’m here with my coffee, we never lack for books to read or movies to watch. If angst should overcome me, I can always sit back down here, open a vein, and bleed on the keyboard. We might watch parts of the National Dog Show in a bit – it’s becoming a sort of campy tradition with us. Anyway, we’re not allowed to get bored, that would be a crime.

I don’t miss turkey – we could have shoved one into the oven if we’d wanted to. I do miss all the cooking aromas and the happy activity. What I miss for real, though, the only thing that will matter to me, ever again, is my family. I really, this year, miss those hugs, both given and received, those familiar voices, those beloved laughs that are like no one else’s. There’s only one wish in my bucket right now – that at some point in the foreseeable future we could ALL – we three sisters, our amazing men, our kids, their partners, and their kids could be together in one place. And if our brother’s kids and their kids could be with us too – that’s my idea of heaven, which we can choose to make at least a little of right here, right now. Henry-boy, you’re on that list too, kiddo.

That’s where we get our traditions – from the things that mean the most – and now we’ve come full circle, for the non-traditionalists among us.

The sweetest of thankful days to us all. Amen.

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What’s today?

I have a post in progress about the fact that we’re home, but it’s going nowhere, so – WE’RE HOME, KIDS, it’s official. Feeling cute, might make something of it later, but I’m tired of it hangin’ on me. I’m waiting to feel properly inspired to tell you “What I Did On My Vacation,” as it so richly deserves.

What’s on my mind right now is change. We thought a wet spring would never become a hot summer, but the change was like overnight, BAM and wow. It’s the kind of heat that gets you from the inside out when the air stops moving, and this year for the first time I’m wearing a cold cloth around my neck when we move outside for the cocktail hour(s). This delicate prairie flower is feeling the ire of summer, so hot it seems personal all at once. Yikes. (Note: We’re getting a welcome break at the moment.)

Change is afoot in #lfk, as is likely true in most small cities with rich histories and distinct personalities up against a shifting tax base and somewhat changing demographics. While we were away, a change or two took place that I assume will eventually require some sort of mediation in order to arrive at a resolution. As much as any of us may vow that we like change, it rarely arrives easily or smoothly. And most of us are in some way lying as to how we feel about it.

Change has been underway in the lives of my close family members for the past few months and it’s been a happy thing to see. And sometimes good change for the people we love opens new doors for us, too – bonus!

A lot of change is happening right now in the building we’ve called home for seven years, where the lofts are owner-occupied. People moving out, people moving in, common in rental situations, but not at all here until recently. I’m getting the message – people moving out of our lives will be how this works, more and more. Thanks, reality, you’ve been a delight all year – I could use a break for a while. Let’s talk vacation again…and how cool is that, we’ve accidentally segued into a 4th of July post. Clever, no?

Be happy and safe today, friends, and aim for good change in all the ways you can – it’s what keeps things moving forward.

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Catharsis is good…

Here we are in the doldrums, the no-man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s. Nobody ever knows what to do with it – do we have our employees work? (Mom & Pop shops) How many hours CAN we crank out of our employees? (NOT Mom & Pop shops). It’s clearly a dilemma for all concerned, and for me personally it just feels weird. The world outside my windows looks gray and listless, like everything’s shut down, but maybe that’s only because it’s 13º out there, all things considered, and I’m a drama queen. I’m sure I can find bright shiny things to get me through until December 31st, I’ve managed every year until now, and as soon as the KIMN8R gets home from the gym it’s all good anyway – he brings the party with him, yes it is that way, that’s why we got married, to spend all of our best minutes together.

Just for grins, I could get an early start on the resolutions I will knowingly break in 2019. I’ll fail to measure up in various categories throughout the year, but with these I’ll squirm when it happens, having named them publicly. Sooo, off the top, and in no particular order…

  • Stop letting email pile up in folders. You are NOT going to retroactively deal with a fraction of it.
  • Stop procrastinating. Do it now. It’s not like you have carte blanche on the future, so face reality NOW.
  • Stop NOT playing your piano. PLAY it. Like every DAY play it.

I see three stop signs I put up there that are really GO signs, so for starters, today will be about (the process of) dumping several thousand emails (again, yes) and also taking the cover off my beautiful little concert grand. It’s a story inside a story inside yet another story, but for now I just need to sit down and play it because since I first learned how to make a melody happen, that’s been my truest form of catharsis.

Whatever makes you feel better and frees your heart to hold more happiness, start doing more of that and less of whatever doesn’t make you feel that way. So simple, and it has nothing to do with failing or succeeding. Whatever’s ahead for all of us is on its way, and it’s good.

We’re going with that until further notice, tribe.

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Peace …

Best wishes for peace and joy to you and all you love throughout the holiday season and the new year…

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Happy Day…

Wishing all of my blogging community a lovely Thanksgiving with nothing but love, good food, and rest in your spirits. And maybe you’ll get to help someone else along the way…

 

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Just me, talking to you…

YBA_How-to-Make-the-Most-of-the-End-of-Summer

The world sucks, doesn’t it. Life and everything about it. The news is dire. Social media is awful. Humans are horrible. Things happen on the daily that make us want to go back to bed and forget we belong to a race, any race, especially the human one.

Except. Except every day something beautiful happens. Every. Single. Day. If I extricated myself from the morass that is Facebook I’d miss the wonderful things my friend’s son with speech apraxia says and does every week now – funny things, amazing things, things that make me laugh and cry with both of them. I’d miss the twins another friend’s daughter had just the other day, one boy, one girl, so sweet and tiny on their mama’s chest, her eyes full of tears from the overwhelming emotion of it all.

It’s a little quiet over there these days on my feed – people don’t really know what to say while we wait for the other shoe to drop, and we’re hoping to still be friends after the world ends or doesn’t. There are people I’ve known forever and people I’ve never been near in person, and they all mean something to me so I’m staying cool, posting a few laughs, keeping things friendly, sharing something from my side of the fence once in a while but on the down-low so as not to disturb the balance too much while maintaining my right to be me.

Twitter is where I let my bad self out to run around, such as it is. I’m not raw, vulgar, or spitting in the face of authority, but if you’re looking for careful civility you should maybe stick with my blog and my Facebook feed. There’s a rumor that I also have an Instagram account, but I can never remember that or think to log in and take a look at what’s accumulating there in my name.

Summer is trying to switch us over to fall, that melancholy time of endings. I’m ready – fresh out of creative ideas for now, so let’s see what’s next. Change is necessary, boys and girls, so here we go.

I’m so glad we could have this little talk – you’re the best for listening… 💙

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New Year, New Us?

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Do you have New Year traditions? Come share what they are because I’m looking for all the positive input I can find. Pretty sure I could benefit from more knowledge instead of just giving it my best shot every year.

My instinctive go-to in the new year has always been to lighten the load for the journey but these days my OCD is engulfed in love and comfort, and in this last third of life I’m perfectly good with not having every little detail tacked down. I’ll eventually decide whether I want that thing to stay on that table and I’ll store that little pile of whatevers, but it doesn’t have to be today or even next week, which represents a considerable lowering of expectations on my part.

The OCD shows up now primarily in thought form, first of all how to constructively untangle the snake’s nest that was 2017 and move into new territory. My brain feels more at ease when my surrogate gray matter, Mr. Honkin’ Big Hard Drive, is purged of detritus, swept and ready for whatever 2018 has in store, or at least I hope so. Current task = sorting about 5,000 saved Facebook posts into collections, a capability I’ve literally longed for. So satisfying, and it’s far more likely that I’ll actually read, watch, buy, eat, play, write, interact in some way with all the entries. Or not. Doesn’t matter, I just need them organized and out of sight.

I’ve dumped tons of superfluous email, a cathartic exercise if there ever was one, and I’m down to one Gmail account, Facebook email, annnd…guess that’s it. Wow. A bit more slash and burn and I’ll float into the new year light as a feather.

This feels like a great time to thank the souls who stick with me, who faithfully (or accidentally) read my silly attempts to make sense of life. The year of our Lord 2017 has been the most insane of my entire existence – seven decades’ worth – and we have no real clue at this point what its successor is going to look like – but I’d like to think we’re ready for it. A thing I love about humans is our ability to adapt, to roll with it, to come up with a Plan B. Don’t tell us no and don’t underestimate our capacity to survive – it’s been getting us by for millenia.

I’m wishing everyone true happiness in 2018 – a genuine Happy New Year. It isn’t a magic reset button, but we can make it work for now.

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A beautiful holiday season to you…

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be blessed in your celebrations

be kind in your giving and receiving

be hopeful in your plans for the year ahead

be a force for love in all your relationships

be truthful in your words and actions

be encouraged by your fellow sojourners

JSmith 12/25/2017

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All beginnings matter…

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Okay, face to face with a new year, the 69th in a row, and contemplating my place in it, as you do.

There’s a built-in human affinity for new beginnings, fresh starts, do-overs. We know, if we’re lucky, what we want, and we hit it with our best shot, but we’re also embarrassingly aware of our weak follow-through.

There are things in my life I want to change, provided it doesn’t require too much effort, sacrifice, or consistency. I could be a healthier, nicer, more disciplined person, and finally ditch my heinous habit of procrastination, I know I could. And sincere effort will be expended toward those ends, but no promises, kids – I’ve been who I am for far longer than not, so we’ll see.

What a serious look at the past and present, and a trepidatious peek into the future, are telling me today is that a lot of things are within my power to change and influence but some aren’t. If I were to make a New Year’s vow to stop being honest, and stop writing and talking about the things life throws in front of me, I’d be lying from the get-go, so my “resolutions”are all from the do-able stack:

  1. Become an even better friend to myself and love my body like it’s the only one I’ve got.
  2. Keep loving and appreciating the people who make life beautiful, and make sure they know that.
  3. Find the truth in all things and settle for no less.
  4. Never let fear win.
  5. Never back down on what matters.

Fun having two New Year’s Days this year – more sanctioned hours to be bums, and also to gear up for the road ahead. Let’s all meet up next year, same time same place, and compare notes.

 

 

 

 

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