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…

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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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The sleeper wakes…

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Since yesterday fell on a Sunday it was all about grazing, napping, TV sports, and trying to mentally get my poop in a group for starting a new week, which happened today, actually. 

There’s now a handy list of ESSENTIALS taped to my bathroom mirror, providing steady inspiration and focus for being something other than retired, because it’s so hard to stay on task. My happiest day is one where the calendar is a wasteland – a blank slate – but a never-ending string of those can become tedious and full of ennui, so a new LIST and a soupçon of discipline are called for at this point.

There are things I need to get down in words, and that happens best when the crowded house at the top of my neck has been freed from clutter. Working on it…

So for now, my list reminds me to do things like:

  • Get up
  • Shower
  • Accomplish one thing every day
  • Do other stuff

I’ll be chugging down the tracks in no time, because I THINK I can, darn it. Admonitions about writing show up three times on THE LIST, because what else is it about? Getting rid of the crap, within and without, opening blinds AND windows, bringing all fresh air onto the scene…preparing to snuggle in and put words on the page through the fall and winter months. So yeah, thanks for listening… 💋

 

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Stream of consciousness…

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Being retired and to a degree physically limited means I end up with a lot of quiet hours when my brain free-wheels. For instance, today I’m deeply conscious of the fact that Facebook has given us a string of expressive emojis, but as with all things social – and human – we need more. A few helpful suggestions: an icon that means “I agree with your comment but not the meme/link/article attached”; a general WTF choice; one that says “Jeez, I’m sick of this shit”; one for “If I see this post again in my feed I’ll do bodily harm to whomever is in my path”; like that. It would be easy-peasy for the coding gurus and it seems so little to ask in return for our unwavering fealty to their product, amirite?

* Summer truly kicks into gear shortly before it’s over, spring and fall in Kansas are mere blips on the seasonal chart, and winter lasts for freaking ever. And if that seems like a fair deal to you, you’re probably voting for someone I wouldn’t hire to manage a Christmas kiosk.

* Much like summer, life takes its own sweet time getting underway, and some of the most vital lessons aren’t mastered until we’re past middle age and don’t need them as urgently. That strikes me as sad, but I can’t call it unjust – maybe some humans just figure out how to pay attention better and sooner and it’s my bad for being such a happy-go-lucky farm girl and believing most of what I was told, far past when I should have figured it out.

* I thought it would take a lot longer to get old, and the day I own it is theoretically far into the future, but here I am, watching where I place my feet, being aware of my environment at all times, simply because there’s nothing like a broken bone for holding up progress. Not sure how many falls I have left in me before I’m under house arrest, so caution beats impulse now, deflating as that is.

* The trouble with submitting to what hurts – bodily, mentally, emotionally – and sitting down to wait for the pain to end is that the day never comes when it doesn’t make you wince, and it gets worse not better, so whatever it takes you have to do, think, feel that thing until you can work it out the ends of your toes before it morphs into a permanent personality and/or lifestyle change. It takes work.

* The sum total of today’s musings is that if I couldn’t read books and write words I would be verbally frustrated, a big weather baby, a past-dweller who could never move on, and a chronic aging whiner who gave up and let all the chips fall. Writing as therapy isn’t free, but it’s amazingly no-cost in its effectiveness since the toll it does extract is added back to our personal pile at the end, when the results speak for themselves and we’ve managed to acknowledge our own hearts and find some truth. Takes a LOT of work.

* Here’s how much work: I started musing on Monday and we’ve landed smack on HumpDay already! There’s much to be said in favor of having something to show for your work, and this isn’t it, bwahahahahaha!!

* Oh, but look! This morning when we click Farcebroke’s LOVE icon we get a sweet surprise. Think of the possibilities …

Have a happy, whimsical, lighthearted day if life permits…and if your heart is breaking I send you hug vibes and empathy.  ❤️

 

 

 

 

 

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Everyday advice…

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life is brief, don’t let 

a self-regarding turdball

bring heartache to you

JSmith ~ 9/5/2016

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