America, America…

DISCLAIMER: Not a diary post. Entirely opinion-driven content which some call political but I refer to as WTF is going on? My questions are genuine and knowing the answers would go a long way toward reconciling the collective transmogrification of this era. It’s therapeutic simply to ask.

  1. Which character traits found in Donald J. Trump are the ones that inspire trust, confidence, and loyalty in his followers? What do they hear when he speaks, what do they see as he moves through his world?
  2. Why did safety precautions during a worldwide pandemic become politicized? Why this battle over that situation? Does somebody stand to benefit if more Americans die? Is that why the mounting death toll – now more than the sum of five U.S. wars – is refuted and ignored?
  3. We see fascism encroaching on our now-creaky system of democracy… we’ve been watching its advance for the past four years, and far longer underground. Why are Americans who are anti-fascist, as our parents were, now the enemy? And why is that way of life what Donald Trump’s voters want for America?
  4. Will people really buy into four more years of daily chaos because they care about only one issue? How fairly will fetuses-saved balance viable-lives-lost when the counting’s done? And one last time, why are the unborn the only Americans who qualify for the unassailed right to live?
  5. His rallies never took a break until stopped by the virus. Endless political rallies held by the incumbent, who does that and why?
  6. The rallies consistently attract people who seem primed for confrontation, avid for it. Is the primal desire to inflict damage on liberals a general thing in the GOP now? Is that the emotion that drives the narrative?
  7. Why has the angry, armed white man become an icon in this era? What’s the appeal? Is the typical Trump voter really that base?
  8. What are the tenets and characteristics of today’s GOP that motivate an average citizen to align with it? What is it about the interface, the interaction with the public, the perceptions attached, and their code of ethics that causes people to identify?
  9. A homogenous society, pretty same-same, nobody weird, nobody marching to their own drummer, all pigment and cultural backgrounds tame and non-threatening… that feels like the kind of world conservatives want. Will there ever be real communication on all that and more?
  10. Are Trump’s followers good with a country where everyone except white Republican males is a second-class citizen? Where Black citizens live life from cradle to grave dreading THE MOMENT? Where LGBTQ citizens are gradually, or quickly, re-stripped of the equal rights and protections they’ve won, older people are entirely expendable, and truth is something our grandparents valued?
  11. After standing against Russia’s brand of ethics for generations, why does Trump’s base now want to BE Russia? What changed?
  12. For the evangelical world, which helped put him where he is, are there no lines anymore, no principles that matter beyond their agenda? And does the end ever really justify the means?
  13. What about Donald John Trump says “Jesus the Savior” to evangelicals and others? What are the similarities, the places where their reputed characters align?
  14. How do loyal Trump voters see the world in the next four years? Serene, the opposition vanquished at last, society remade into the conservative mold? No visible differentiations, nothing that marks us as a diverse, free, happy, inventive, creative society with the maturity to give and take? Will every aberrant blip, especially in cities now designated Anarchy Jurisdictions, be dealt with swiftly and forcefully before somebody can incite a neighbor? Is our right of redress against what was representative government already dead?
  15. Will Trump’s people and Republicans in general be happy with the spoils if he wins? Satisfied? In a mood to play nice? Or is this forever now? That’s the answer I want most.

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Seasons… page 91

Day 181 – 09/09/2020

It’s misty, windy, and chill again this morning and it rained before dawn. The showers may stick around for a bit, and our highest forecast temp through next Wednesday is 83º so the times they are a changin’.

The seasonal transition to fall is the best, followed by winter-to-spring… everything seems to come ’round right, with new air, different foliage, the desire to FEEL it all again. And even though autumn has delivered a heavy load of melancholy since October 1985, it magically renews me every year like clockwork. In the swirl and murk of multiple crises bearing down on us, my spirit’s been waking me up the past few mornings with a jolt of happiness… anticipation even. Hello, soft muse, I’ve missed you.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith

Since there are good and positive aspects to every experience I’m consciously seeking them out, and one I’m happily aware of is the opportunity I’ve had to get healthy. Among other things I could whine about, I took a doctor-prescribed Rx for about eighteen months that altered my body chemistry or some such for the next three years, and now I have things almost squared away again which produces a fierce sense of gratitude. As recently as March, shortly after we started isolating, I had to give up coffee, of all slings and arrows, but with the advent of cooler weather I braved a trial mug and discovered that we’re friends again. If that wouldn’t make a girl feel better in September, you have to wonder what it would take.

Fall is about endings so it inevitably holds a hint of sadness for most of us, but its quiet, gentle beauty provides a store of firewood for whatever winter brings. I have a nice little stash going here, gathered from my desk as I watch the leaves change from one day to the next. The arrival of a new season is giving me hope… life goes on, the planet keeps turning, things we couldn’t possibly bear up under have happened and we’re still standing, so my hat’s in the ring until the large female vocalist lets us know differently.

Under everything, always, is this…

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Sweet weather… page 78

Day 146 – 08/05/2020

It was 60º at 7:30 when I went out for a walk and the quiet morning air was sublime. The epidural I had on Monday seems to be doing its thing – I walked for 45 minutes with only a little ache from the steroid, so that’s encouraging. Pain’s such an odd thing… a warning, a message, a universal element of being alive… and it creeps up on you psychologically. After weeks, months, years, it turns you inward and the next crash-and-burn is full-on self-absorption. I was flirting with that state when I ran into a timely mirror the other day, and now I’m gently backing away from the abyss. We absolutely don’t know how we’ll do under compounded stress until we’re there, but the gross stuff we don’t need usually floats right to the top. So score one for the pandemic and train-wreck spines, I guess…

We can hope…
Best Venn diagram ever…

It’s still possible to understand each other as humans, at least on some level, if we’re straight with ourselves and everyone we meet. It’s not half as scary as closing your heart to the world, and I’m glad for this week’s reminder of that.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith – rooftop garden – 08/04/2020

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Sunny clouds… page 70

Day 132 – 07/22/2020

I walked this morning before 7 o’clock while the air still held a hint of cool. Kept moving until my back said “Let’s go in,” and if I could just do that three more times today I’d have 10,000 steps.

Blew some of my allowance on a set of bluetooth headphones which arrived yesterday… and now I’m sitting here with Leon Russell and Elton John, tears on my cheeks, while they deliver The Union. Small mercies, children, I can hear every note and nuance. Beautiful morning…

The book I mentioned on Sunday was consumed in two days and I immediately started another, so maybe the reading logjam has been broken. I’m not me without a good book going so this feels like psychic progress.

Now here’s Leon with “When Love is Dying” and I can’t even, it’s so heart-rippingly exquisite. Ever since I realized my hearing was fading, I’ve wanted to make music sound real and right to me again, and this is the closest I’ve been in ten years. I’ve missed it like pure cold well water. And here come those plummy hair-raising chord progressions of “Never too Old to Hold Somebody” and there’s just no way not to lose it.

Healing comes to us in any way it can – any fissure or crack in the protective veneer and there it is, warm, welcome, filling whatever space we’ll give it. Books and music have done that for me since childhood and it gets weird without either one, so everything’s sunny-side-up this morning even as I type through the tears. You have to hurt good sometimes to feel better.

The boyz are singing to me now about Shiloh…

Gone to Shiloh
For the Union
Shoulder to shoulder
Side by side
Gone to Shiloh
Hope springs eternal
When flags and bullets start to fly

The year 2020 seems to be our Shiloh and there’s nothing for it but to face it, in union, shoulder to shoulder, side by side. Hope springs eternal.

Now, let’s have some Mr. Blue Sky and bring the house up into sunshine range. “Mean Evil Woman” is the second track, how cool is that? “Don’t Bring Me Down” is #4… Ooo-oo rrrooop…. I’m going with that for the day. The calendar tells me this is HumpDay, so let’s all get over it in style. 💋

Photo credit: Kim Smith – Kaw River 07/21/2020

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Hard rain gonna fall… page 64

Day 125 – 07/15/2020

Happening as we speak. The storm hit this end of town with wind gusts that knocked over our swivel rockers on the balcony, and now rain is falling straight down by the bucket. Rainy days… we’ve had a nice spa soak and Kimmers is on the other side of the wall playing blues/jazz/rock with one of his side chicks (of the 6-string description), and we might just roll through another day here.

Meeting challenges from all sides at once makes for a twitchy psyche at times, so a Zen dip in quiet waters is always welcome. It’s tapering off to an easy rain now, but it was timely and cleansing while it lasted.

Equilibrium, essential in any crisis, isn’t always easy to maintain. Visualizing events and their factions from a drone’s-eye view helps – getting above the fray – but it’s hard to stay up there when life-and-death is happening nonstop on terra firma – hard to divorce myself emotionally from the various upheavals going on when they all directly affect people I love more than life.

So yeah, the flipside of loving rain is the melancholy – the losses wrought by 2020 in its first half are feeling more permanent and the acceptance of them more difficult. But I’m a strange duck – an optimistic German with Irish angst – and it’ll be a good day because I will make it so. This beautiful life is not to be trifled with.

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Scaling HumpDay… page 60

Day 118 – 07/08/2020

This morning when I headed out for a walk my friend Shirley was in the parking lot so she did the rounds with me while we caught up. She lost her husband last year and is learning how to live alone, so we made two trips around the block and three around the building while we compared notes and shared encouragement. It was a much-needed serendipity to start the day, and a reminder that all of us are by ourselves in this experience called life since nobody can inhabit our thoughts with us.

This remote and solitary feeling grows daily as world events spiral out of control and human interaction becomes more and more of a minefield. There’s no safe topic anymore between one-time friends, no comment that doesn’t have to be weighed against a potential shitstorm. Every word carries the likelihood of being misinterpreted, misapplied, misquoted. If I knew who considers me an adversary on Facebook – where I post only to “friends” – I’d cut them all loose just to break the tension.

It’s July, hot summer, but other than the temps, there’s little to define the days, so I have to be intentional about mood in order not to get plowed under by ennui, a sense of suspended animation, and grief. The outdoors has a static vibe, the indoors is safe and cozy but also fairly changeless, food is a pain in the butt – what to eat when you do next to nothing and your throat feels like a pinhole…

Some days the cumulative losses of 2020 have their way with me. Tomorrow will be better.

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In… page 51

Day 83 – 06/03/2020

Other than a haircut and an overnight in the ER, I’m still sticking close to home for all the reasons, the biggest being that everything I need or want is right here. The hot weather we pined for has arrived… and what were we thinking? Kim has left outdoor PickleBall early the past two mornings because of it, and the A/C’s making up for lost time.

He went for a walk this morning and brought me some alley photos. The one above depicts Gwendolyn Brooks and the introduction to one of her poems: “This is the urgency:  Live! and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind,” along with Oscar Micheaux, Gordon Parks, and Langston Hughes, each of whom had a seminal influence on the character of Lawrence, Kansas.

We’re in awe of this marble bust on Mass Street, not least because of the way it responds to sunlight. It’s an incredible piece of work.

This one painted on tiny tiles next to a doorway took me back to Sunday when we had my sister Rita here for her birthday. Kim’s Mexican Kitchen was in full-on production and the results were Ah-mazing. Alas, so amazing that a picture of the plates didn’t happen.

And the birthday woman, the only pic here I can take credit for. Her blue eyes and beautiful smile light up a room and our lives. 💗

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Still… page 48

Day 69 – 05/20/2020

A milestone – Kim got a haircut this morning at seven and came home with the swagger of a new man. As long as I get there before my dr.’s appointment a month away I’m good, but my goal is Monday or so after the desperate have had their shot at it all week.

Otherwise just maintaining. It’s been a windy spring and not consistently warm yet by any means, but we’re outside on the balcony for all the benevolent minutes we can catch. East Lawrence is in its glory right now – green as far as the eye can see. In the photo above and the one below, you’re looking at hundreds of houses and thousands of people but you can’t see them. The top photo is our view from the south corner of our balcony, and this one is directly across the street – in both directions a house on every lot, cleverly camouflaged by Mama Nature. The yards are like cocoons and seem especially inviting to stay home in this season.

Feels good to be here. Covid-19 cases in our county, which rubs elbows with Kansas City, are currently at 61, with 53 recovered and no deaths, which tells me people here in this university town take their science seriously. Kim rarely sees a shopper or worker without a mask when he goes for necessities. That feels soothing and reassuring, along with the way Mass Street shops are creating safe environments in which to do business. The barbershop we both go to apparently has it down to a science already, go Lawrence. It’s good to call you *home.*

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Staying in… page 38

Day 48 – 04/29/2020

Some mornings I feel almost lighthearted when I wake up, but today isn’t one of those. I finally broke down and had a long cry in the spa tub because it all stacks up after awhile… the sense of division most of all. The sides in our current civil war couldn’t be more clearly drawn, but I wanted to believe we still found common ground in the middle concerning life and death for the people we love. Guns in the streets, and large male types waving them in the faces of medical staff, yelling at them, breathing on them, threatening the general citizenry, and being praised for it because FREEDOM… it’s too heavy.

I’m a face-it-head-on person, but this I can’t deal with, so I turn into a little mouse during waking hours and lose myself in computer games with their fantasy worlds. If I could fill our spa tub with all my tears over a lifetime, they would overflow to the downstairs neighbors, and I’m just tired of crying. I’m tired of feeling… but if I could change that I wouldn’t be me anymore.

Got hit with an onslaught of ugliness first thing – my mistake for looking. Tomorrow will be better, right? I wish peace for you… don’t let your day look like this, ‘k? Never let the bastards get ya’ down.

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Shelter me… page 33

Day 41 – 04/22/2020

I’m starting to shelter from social media for great swatches of the day – in times of crisis and conflict it has a way of reaching out and grabbing me where I’m most vulnerable. Two distinct and disparate value systems are going headers against each other while everything else conspires to kill us, and the images are seared into my permanent record. This one has followed me around for a couple of days…

It isn’t photoshopped.

Eugenics, pure and simple, and we actually find ourselves at this point in history.

I’m the weak for all the reasons… Kim’s the weak because asthma and a heart attack/bypass… John’s the “weak” for potential lack of PPE while on shift. Most everyone I love falls into the category of THE WEAK for one reason or another – who decides who to treat… or not? Death panels, anyone?

A heavy attrition rate in nursing homes, prisons, poverty-stricken communities, minority populations, and among the aging would help the economy recover… that seems to be the mindset at this point. We have met the enemy and he is us. Gives the concept of shelter a whole new meaning – I’m picturing a cave in a remote location, the sooner the better. We old survivors are becoming prey.

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Gimme Shelter… page 28

Day 34 – 04/15/2020

Would THAT be far enough away? ^^^

Likely no internet, so yeah… maybe. We have the technology, but does it have us? Or were we possibly more human before we knew everything?

Make it four-and-a-half and counting…

It’s in the 30s, but we have sunshine this morning, Kim’s had his walk and brought me a bagel… so c’mon, coffee, let’s DO this…

… even your own.

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SQ Diary… page 8

Self-Quarantine Day 13 – 03/25/2020

Some sunshine this afternoon and a chance for fresh air, with the balcony door open. Kim’s heading off on a bike ride.

Our friend Ryann brought us two jars of Tacos Jalisco salsa from a trip out west, so Kim made the Saturday Breakfast for HumpDay. It tastes as good on Wednesday as Saturday, and we had a nice spa soak after because why not?

Still coughing, feel like an old sock, but life goes on. Everything’s relative… sooo very relative now.

Talked with John this morning ahead of his return to the hospital tomorrow. Lots of things we aren’t saying… and that’s okay. We are all here —-> X … and we’ll deal. He has a job to do and his skills are sharp. The mama’s job is to sit with it, and to hope he and his colleagues will have the tools they need.

2:30pm. Kim will get back here by four and we’ll sit outside while the temp holds. We’ll chop vegetables for the steamer, we’ll have a couple of drinks, we’ll catch up on whatever we haven’t watched yet… we’ll say words and think thoughts… and it will be nighttime and we’ll shut it all out to await another day.

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A progress report…

My good clean non-sparkly reboot for 2020 is going along pretty well so far, disregarding, as one must, what the world at large chooses to do with theirs. Attitude…good. Outlook…okay. Energy…looking up. Less sarcasm…it’s a reboot, not a makeover.

Happily, I’m back to the nice warm therapy pool, on my own schedule, with my own routine, since things just seem to go better when I’m the boss of me. Spending time in the pool again takes me back to water aerobics classes, so while my muse and I canoodle fresh ideas for the new year, here’s a little repost from that time a few years ago…

Summer water classes started on Tuesday so this chicky is in the swim again. It’s more exercise-y and less dance-y than my initial plunge at another facility, so this could work out. The instructor is easy to like and it’s all friendly women plus one shy husband. Other than a few younger women we’re all approximately from the same era, including our badass teacher, so there are Susans, Paulas, Lindas, Nancys, Judys…

Other commonalities include hearing loss, bad backs, arthritis, shaky balance, a laundry list of challenges. There’s a certain comfort in knowing I’m not the only person my age who’s falling apart, but it’s even better to know that everyone in the class, including Token Man, cares about her/himself or they wouldn’t bother showing up. I see it on all the faces.

Humor is how boomers roll, because without it you stop rolling. I advise maintaining a healthy personal space between yourself and humor-challenged people – they’re too tiring, and if you happen to be a *feeler* like me, you’ll haul the sand from every encounter until it all finally sifts out through your sandals. Our class is populated by people who like to laugh at themselves – how does anybody keep putting one foot in front of the other without that? Yikes.

Okay, imagine you’re out of school for the summer and you’ve signed on as a lifeguard at the aquatic center to impress babes. And then you draw the short straw to work during Senior Water Aerobics. 

Their little downcast faces are enough to break your heart.

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A list of happy…

***Another spring flashback for new friends…

Our clean quiet loft

Sunlight slipping through the wooden blinds and striping the bed

Half a pot of coffee staying warm until after I talk myself into

A hot shower and day-jams fresh from the dryer

French Open in full murmur on TV

Cold milk, crunchy cereal, and a flawless banana

Endless selection of great art on the internet, to be transformed into jigsaw puzzles that let my brain freewheel in a world of words and ideas, sometimes for hours (I was always a fairly cheap date)

Friends, with their unique ways of showing me I’ve been seen and heard and I don’t have to be cautious with my words

Plans that carry me forward and remind me I’m not finished yet

Lunch with my husband, after listening to him play guitar for an hour

A soothing pedi

Projects that lay hold of my attention and validate the future

A town and living space that nurture my humanity and affirm that life goes on

NOT THE END

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Homesick?

Depends on what you mean by home. The place where I grew up was true home for me – native sod broken out by my grandpa, walking behind a one-or-two-bottom plow and a horse or team. The harnesses and all the tack for that and various conveyances still hung on heavy nails up the stairway to the barn loft when I was a kid, harboring that good dusty leather aroma. Grandpa set all the corner posts in cement on what was then just a quarter of land, and poured a low cement border around the entirety of his and Grandma’s multi-acre yard and garden, half flowers, half produce, backed by rows of fruit trees and evergreens. The man meant to stay, he made that clear, and stay he did, until a sudden stroke in his late 70s stopped him in his tracks – I saw it happen – and the farm life he’d built went on because of my dad and my brother, and none of us had to leave home until we were ready to go.

I was fuzzy on the details, but I always knew I’d go somewhere, somehow, sooner rather than later, and I blame my mom, with gratitude. She read to us from the beginning, took us to the Carnegie Library Children’s Department at a reasonable age and turned us loose, gave us free rein in her personal library if we thought we were big enough to handle the subject matter, so there was always a world out there to know about, and we were indirectly invited to explore it without limits on our attitudes or ability to accept people where we found them.

There’s no going home now, and that’s okay. The farm of my childhood belongs to other people and is being lovingly cared for. The same is true of the farm where I spent my first marriage and raised my son. My life takes place far from both in every way and I don’t yearn for either as a destination – I haven’t so much as driven past either one in many years. But as age prepares to have its way more and more with my body and my mind, I heavily miss some of the people who shared life with me in those places, who left their mark on me, whose memories live inside my soul.

This is a different animal from nostalgia. It feels more like a need. In an upside-down time when truth has been losing some important battles, I need to sit down in my grandparents’ big farmhouse and hear old-fashioned wisdom from my grandma’s store of experience, hard work, perspective gained; her next-generation memories of family stories from The Old Country, The Ocean Crossing, Homesteading, I need to hear it all again and let it be at home on the inside of me.

I need to hear my mom’s quietly positive take on life again – just being with her always made me feel better, which says so much because her own heart was unsettled a lot of the time. She was serene on the surface, paddling like hell underneath, and able to be most things to most people, which took far more strength than anybody knew. I need to hold her and tell her that she was a more than excellent mother and person. And then I need to ask her all the things I didn’t know to ask when she was here…

Home is the people and places that have made me who I am, and short of a fateful blow to the head I couldn’t shed all of it if I tried. That knowledge gives me extreme comfort and a genuine sense of security. Kim, too, is home now, in both spiritual and tangible ways, as are John and Anthony, my sisters, other people in my life. So as it turns out, it isn’t so very tricky after all to get back home. I was “this many old” when I learned that.

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