Try a little happiness…

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Hello blogging buddies. A thought hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks this morning – I used to be the also-proverbial ray of sunshine. A daisy. A Pollyanna, a fixer-upper, a this-is-not-so-bad girl, a “we just need to sit down and talk this out” person who was always about the positives and the possibilities. You too?

Have we disappeared for good, we thoroughly optimistic, cheerful souls who kept the world afloat through sheer determination and plucky grit? We haven’t, right? Not for good? We’re just biding our time until it’s safe to stick our heads out again, right? Because if we’re really over and done, that would be too sad, and I guarantee the world would miss us. They think they wouldn’t, because we’re annoying and always underfoot, but they definitely would, and it wouldn’t take long because life is no good without hope and optimism. People get irritable and touchy, including us feel-goods, and it’s not fit for man nor beast out there, which is right about where I find my happy lil’ ass this morning, so it’s past time for a major attitude adjustment. (I’m starting to sound like a broken record, I’m keenly aware of this.)

I’ve Twittered and Facebooked and coffee’d to the max so far, written a couple of “sorry for that thing I said when I was tired” notes (oh yes, until my dying day), made a mental list of “Miles to Go Before I Sleep” tasks, and thought about a nap at 9am but opted for a little more coffee instead. It’s Monday and the slate is clean so I might tread lightly through my life for a bit just for grins…

Go out there and be happy campers, my fellow believers in the good stuff – the world isn’t expecting you so it’ll be a nice surprise all around. x0x0x0x

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Just me, talking to you…

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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… đź’™

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The accidental sabbatical…

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Things – they happen. The heat. The rude surprises. The unbelievable and the bizarre. The days and nights when the dank Hound of Funk sits on your chest and won’t move. Things – they deteriorate in a heartbeat and leave you with your tongue stuck to the roof of your mouth and your brain encased in glue.

This space has been mostly shuttered for the summer due to the above, not on purpose, it’s just worked out that way one steamy day at a time. I sit here to write, while anything and everything happens but that. For some reason, Facebook and Twitter have to be monitored incessantly, even though they’re primarily what empower the big ugly dog to bring me down. And once the smelly old Funkmeister makes himself at home it’s all about staring out the window with a throat full of tears, marking time until Happy Hour.

Last week something clicked on the inside of me and I was all at once disgusted with myself for being passive and discouraged and lowdown blue over feeling helpless, which made me mad, which ignited some good energy, which scared the Dog, which made me laugh, and I haven’t had to swallow any tears since, nor has the Funk Dog come slinking back. That’s what we’re calling progress around here in lieu of light at the end of the tunnel until we get some.

A friend this morning posted “8 Warning Signs That You’re Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted:”

  1. You Lack Motivation
  2. You’re Easily Irritated
  3. You Can’t Sleep
  4. You’re Having Anxiety Attacks
  5. Small Things Upset You
  6. You Feel An Urge To Cry
  7. You Feel Dizzy And Nauseated
  8. You Feel Detached

I was there on six of them and I have a feeling we could ALL benefit from a stretch of R&R right now. The world’s an unholy mess, that’s a fact. But here we are, against the odds. It’s summer — time to read, have a cold brew or two or a few, enjoy the sun and the water, and love on our babies of every age, size, and description. I’m only one small person – in the end maybe my answer is to better the space I’m in and to do no harm. So okay then, joy to the world and happy sunshine, and I mean that sincerely. We can work this out.

 

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On losing your spark…

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Yes, it’s Monday, which is no biggie since I’m retired, but there are so many of them and they relentlessly click past while sneering at my lack of productivity. It’s demoralizing, not to put too maudlin a point on it, especially since I know the Monday voices are absolutely right.

I was in a conversation thread last week about losing your spark – apparently it’s a thing right now, who knew? Mine died the night of November 8, 2016, and that’s all I’m going to say in that regard except that it’s proving to be a long road back. In last week’s conversation, a beautiful friend who knows whereof she speaks counseled starting small, one thing at a time, racking up little successes, continuing to move forward. She’s right. It works, even when you know you’re still swimming in molasses.

It just got easier. This morning, October 30, 2017, the sense of being suspended in a state of limbo is gone for the first time in eleven months, which is once again all I’m going to say, except that Kim told me at lunch “You look adorable today. You look like you’re feeling better.”

I know it’s still a long road ahead, but I’m content for now just to feel the spark again. I have a project that I want and need to finish and, like other things, the process has suffered from my lack of ability to engage. So while it feels like somebody’s home again, I think I’ll get at that.

Wishing each of you sunshine, clarity, and peace today…

 

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Duty calls…

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“An adventure a day” has been our marriage mantra from the beginning – any time we find ourselves up against a plot twist, we have to figure out how to turn it into something fun, interesting, challenging, or in some other way memorable. Easy-peasy most days, as it turns out, and we have some great little stories to show for our efforts.

We’ve also each carried a desire, over the years, to belong somewhere. Kim’s been looking for it since his growing-up years in SoCal, and I spent a lot of years wishing to feel at home the way I did on the family farm where I grew up, as I felt forever the outsider on my married-into one.

Lawrence is proving to be that safe space for both of us – the vibe, the weather, the manageable scope of our surroundings, the sense-of-new that’s in the air we breathe. Being seated on a jury this past week only added to the knowledge that I’m a real citizen here.

Physically and psychically it was a challenge (aka adventure). Having been a jury member twice now, both criminal cases, it’s my heartfelt opinion that sitting in judgement of a fellow human is the heaviest responsibility this side of bringing home a new baby.

The charge was Criminal DUI, the charged a young Hispanic man. Young white prosecutor, older Hispanic defense attorney. Young white highway patrolman, phlebotomist, and KBI expert. All-white jury pool. All-white jurors, five women, one man. (We learned that misdemeanor offenses require a six-person jury and felonies twelve.) I think I could be an effective jury consultant after watching the attorneys narrow the pool by dismissing every male the approximate age of the defendant and keeping all of us who looked like sisters, moms, and grandmothers.

The charges…

1.) Operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner

2.) Driving 92mph on a 75mph interstate

3.) Driving under the influence of alcohol

4.) Refusing a breathalyzer and a blood test

The highway patrolman’s testimony was articulate and the evidence of speeding was solid. The KBI’s toxicology reports were quite conclusive and delivered in a succinct manner by a young woman who clearly reached her level of expertise by virtue of knowing things. The phlebotomist from the hospital demonstrated serious credibility and provided key testimony about the chain of evidence. In the only nebulous part of the evidence presented, the grainy dashcam video shot at 2am was helpful but not conclusive as to the charge of unsafe driving.

We were the typically assorted crew, and although we exchanged very little personal information during off moments, our personalities were coming out by deliberation time. Our lone guy struck me as neutral, right down the middle, just the facts, please, all in a day’s work. Of the five of us women, one was a no-nonsense Fox News conservative (her words) and not interested in nor affected by any discussion of potentially mitigating circumstances; another was an educator, probably in her 40s, who engaged us in discussing various scenarios and possibilities; there was an adorbs sorority girl from The Hill who seemed to be most concerned about making all the numbers add up so as not to wrongly convict the defendant; then you have me, the eldest in the room, focused on all my unanswered questions; and finally, a young woman not too long out of college and involved in a career. She volunteered to serve as foreman, which surprised me until I saw her in action.

Foreman Woman efficiently and dispassionately took us through each of the charges one by one and we discussed them until we felt ready to vote. We voted GUILTY on three of the four charges, the only logical thing to do in view of the evidence. Even as we filed back into the courtroom, my brain was still trying to work out why the defendant had requested a jury trial for a DUI, and how a conviction was going to affect his mother, who was in the courtroom both days. Nonetheless, it was done, over.

Afterward, the judge came to the deliberation room and talked to us, and in answering our questions she provided two key pieces of information that have allowed me to let it all go:

1.) Sometimes people request jury trials on the outside chance that a jury might have enough doubt or sympathy to exonerate them.

2.) This was his second DUI offense.

Okay, I’m sorry, nice-looking young man, go do your time and learn some things about life.

And I’m sorry, mister well-trained professional law enforcement officer, that I entertained the slightest possibility of not taking a proven menace off the highways. Wow, he looked so clean and earnest and hopeful, too.

When I met Kim for lunch I realized that I was shaking all over, mostly from relief that all of us together had managed to do the right thing. The heavy sense of responsibility stayed with me into the evening and I found myself crying over silly things on TV.

Alexander Hamilton, et.al., placed a lot of trust in the jury concept – that Americans through the years would retain enough personal integrity to make life and death decisions as concerning their fellow man. This one was fairly easy to own because the solid truth of the body of evidence was overwhelming – we were presented with established facts from credible witnesses. And yet when you walk into the deliberation room you’re hit with the sense of accountability you owe to the entire process, and that’s good – it should never be an easy assignment.

I’m relieved and gratified to say that heritage didn’t show up in any way as a topic for consideration – we discussed only the facts and the evidence supporting them as they related to the charges. Each of my fellow humans on the jury surprised me in happy ways and each one taught me something. Thank you, our beloved forebears, for entrusting this important task to simple citizens – we truly are all in this together.

This, for whatever reasons, has been a hard post to write – I’ve been trying to find the words since last Thursday and now I’ve written a whole LOT of them and this has grown long. I keep thinking of what the educator in the room said: “If any one of us were to find ourselves in trouble in a court of law, we would hope for an honest, serious jury who would consider nothing but the facts of our case.” Amen. It matters.

 

 

 

 

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…and a red umbrella…

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rain makes me happy

when the sky cries i feel joy

am i damaged goods?

JSmith 09/18/2017

 

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Sum-sum-summertime!

A nice thing happened last week – one of my sister’s besties shared two pieces from my old blog and it was a huge encouragement for at least two reasons:  1) It touches me that she saved them, since I only vaguely remember writing either one, and 2) It didn’t make me cringe to read them again from this vantage point.

Reposting one here:

Kim and I have been catching some advertising on TV that has us scratching our heads.  The ads are for a well-known outdoor-recreation merchandiser of colossal proportions, touting their store-sponsored summer camps.  The footage shows happy children and their parents sleeping in tents, toasting marshmallows, going fishing, and participating in other fun activities associated with the open-air experience – all of it taking place

INSIDE THE STORE!

I’m all for exposing kids to new experiences and the joys of outdoor living, but somehow the ads only succeed in making me feel sad.  I grew up camping with my family, so I know it doesn’t have to cost big bucks for the real thing unless you require everything to be first class.

First class we weren’t – more like a band of gypsies – but I wouldn’t trade those summer idylls for anything.  My dad was an irrigation farmer, making it difficult for him to get away during the over-heated summer months; however, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Three or four times a year, between May and September, my parents, an aunt and uncle, and a raft of kids would load up and go to the lake for several days of sun, swimming, water-skiing, sleeping under the stars, and eating food cooked outdoors.  There was a little fishing here and there, too, and we were usually joined by other relatives and friends at various points during our stay.

My grandpa had stocked up on Army surplus items when the gettin’ was good (and cheap), so we had access to a big green army tent that was hot as blazes after a day in the sun but did a good job of sheltering us from the elements; kerosene lanterns; cots and smelly sleeping bags; portable cook-stoves; ammo boxes for storage; and most anything else a few days without the comforts of home might require.

After loading the station wagon with everything from soup to nuts, the first stop was the grocery store for all the real food – bags upon bags of it.  Then with everyone crammed into the vehicles we caravanned to the nearest large body of water, an hour and a half away, happy as clams, singing, laughing, and playing travel games, and with much “discussion” over who got the spot between Mother and Daddy in the front seat.

We kept a small ski boat and a big old (with the emphasis on old) ramshackle trailer house in a storage area at Cedar Bluff Lake, towing both down to the water upon arrival.  The boat would be launched, the trailer leveled insofar as was possible, the tent(s) set up, the charcoal grills placed on standby, and all things put in order for an extended stay.  We kids, of course, barely noticed that these things were happening.  We’d either worn our swimsuits on the drive up, or shucked into them the minute the wheels stopped rolling, and we were happily jumping off the dock, dunking each other, yelling, running around … and asking what we could have to eat.

Our mom and aunt seemed to do little besides cook the entire time, when they weren’t busy grabbing a streaking, flailing kid at every opportunity in order to slather him/her with sunscreen, but they were nevertheless visibly more relaxed and laid-back about life than at home.  Everyone who’s experienced it knows there’s something about food cooked and consumed outdoors that enhances its flavor many times over, and we feasted like royalty.  Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and fruit for breakfast, baloney sandwiches, chips and veggies for lunch, grilled hotdogs, hamburgers, steaks or chicken with all the extras in the evenings.  And a steady, day-long supply of cold soda and Black Cow bars, plus anything else we could manage to ferret out of its hiding spot.

The babies played in the sand.  The little kids banded together and pursued their own enterprises of hiking, exploring, sharing secrets, and defending each other from callous onslaughts by the medium-sized kids … who obviously dedicated their time to harassing the little kids.

The bigger kids’ hours were defined by transistor radios, water-skiing, sun-tanning, and keeping a close watch for interesting-looking members of the opposite sex.  The kicker was that our parents preferred going to the lake during the week rather than on weekends in order to avoid the crowds, so the pickings were slim.

Our dads spent their time trying to keep the boat motor running, hot-dogging on slalom skis as a reward for their efforts, and consuming quantities of cold beer.

And our moms, who were known to do a little sun-tanning themselves while catching up on their reading and talking, were no doubt simply thankful to survive it all one more time.

The time always passed far too quickly, and after three or four days of non-stop sun and water everything would be packed into the cars again for the trip home, each and every item either wet or coated with gritty sand, or both.

Unlike on the drive up, there was no singing; there was barely a word spoken.  We were all sunburned within an inch of our lives, AGAIN, and God help the child who inadvertently touched a sibling on any part of his or her person.  We were well-acquainted with the misery of sun-burnt skin and we swore each time that it would never happen again, but nobody in our acquaintance yet knew how potentially deadly the condition was, so we were not nearly as careful as we should have been.  On the way home, the only reason anybody vied for the middle spot in the front seat was because that’s where the A/C blew the coldest.

It was rude, it was crude, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  We loved every minute of it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat … if only to have all those people back with us for one more lazy summer.

Not every child will be lucky enough to experience the kind of summers we did, but I do hope they realize that there’s more to life than a pseudo camp-out in a retail store.

 

Burntside-Lake

 

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As the year rolls…

Dancing-around-the-Maypole

may day came and went

no big romp around the pole

june has better plans

JSmith 05/22/2017

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Thoughts of fears, tears, and ears…

 

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when your fears are not safe in other ears

the sadness is yours and can’t be shared

and it builds and stacks and pools

and spills over

but tears are salt in the wounds

and do not close the cuts

.

go deep into that hollow

where hope hangs on

wrap yourself in it and stand

against what pains and disappoints

the antidote for hurt

may seal the cuts

JSmith 05/08/2017

 

 

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Doesn’t apply, just saying…*

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when it’s down to just

two pancakes topped with cherries

t-shirts are the shiz

JSmith 02/13/2017

* Some days are all about the corn.

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Fragile Blue Marble

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let it be over

the questioning fear and loss

please let it end well

JSmith 01/16/2017

 

 

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The Fix…

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there are remedies

for what breaks our hearts in two

but they are unknown

JSmith 12/26/2016

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When adulting sucks…

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blankets piled in waves

bed still warm and welcoming

must resist ’til dark

JSmith 12/19/2016

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An Accidental Anarchist*

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It’s an odd sort of experience to morph into an activist’s soul late in life’s trajectory, and The Goggle is disappointing me this morning with its lack of historical references, by which I mean naming names. Gimme the skinny, interwebs, I know it’s in there – people who sat on the sidelines for decades, absorbing life’s blows while they found their voices, and finally said, “Oh, so that’s how it is. And they expect me to keep my mouth shut about that?”

Annnd, after a swift kick to the tires, Google spits out a nearly endless list of not only names but faces, all female, because that’s what I asked for: Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Nina Simone, Ida Tarbell, they’re on the roster, along with so many more women whose courageous voices changed the face of our society and moved it forward. I’m privileged to add my own small cries to the weight of what was accomplished on my behalf long before I decided I was brave enough. I hope I will never again be afraid to add my affirmations and my pledge of support for the righting of injustices, toward common goals of love, peace, and acceptance.

Since November, our mutual progress toward those goals, most notably that of the past eight years, hangs in the balance. Crucial change for the lives and futures of LGBTQ citizens may not be fully realized any time soon despite the massive amounts of blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into coaxing the human race into the 21st Century.

People who are NOT Real Americans – anything other than straight, white, Christian males – may be in imminent danger, how much remains to be seen. These people are our friends and neighbors and we have a moral responsibility, and hopefully a genuine desire, to be their advocates in a hostile environment.

Women’s burgeoning independence is mos def at risk, no question. Our silly concept that our bodies belong to us, having gained little to no traction over all the years of constant battle, will be DOA. It’s sobering to look at that roll call of strong women, from young to long dead, and think that we might drop the ball on our watch. What a travesty that would be, so let’s not. I do not want to disappoint the likes of Malala Yousafzai, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dolores Huerta, Audre Lorde, Rosie Batty, et.al., do you? Didn’t think so.

More than ever before in our lifetime we have to be on our game. Women are the heart and soul of a society and much is squandered when our influence and input are rejected. The world needs healing – but it won’t happen without what we know and who we are, so please find your voice and use it, for the sake of the race.

.

*Title borrowed from a fellow blogger – thanks.

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All about the fat lady and a song…

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heart upheavals come 

and go and we are still here

we are made to live

JSmith 11/21/2016

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