Just the facts, ma’am… page 97

Day 189 – 09/17/2020

Lately I’ve been helping Rita with a big project, meaning she works while I watch and then we get lunch, sometimes joined by Kim. Since it’ll take a month or so to wrap this up, we’ll be spending a lot of hours together, a godsend in a time when we’re choosing to limit everything else. It’s pretty crazy that we landed in the same town for our blue-hair years, and even crazier that we still like each other. And that we have each other’s back – you can’t put a price on that.

My first instinct in life has generally been to trust people, an approach that’s brought me a lot of grief, and yet I persist – I want people to say what they mean and mean what they say. I don’t call myself Pollyanna for nothing. In the course of staying out of the public fray, I still try to engage, keep some kind of dialogue going, have a voice in the daily reality reveal. And so, at least once a day I bump up against fundamental differences with someone I like. Dammit-cwap! Human existence has some hard rules and one is: IT AIN’T ALL ABOUT YOU, SISTAH!

Long months into a multi-headed crisis that’s been drained of language, nearly emptied of emotion, flattened to a resigned “It is what it is,” it’s hard to keep everything sorted. But Kim and I are where we’ve been since the inception – for the sake of conditions and circumstances, we’re opting to mostly stay put until we have better information, a steadily-diminishing infection rate, and possible remedies. Internal memo to everybody else: YOU DO YOU.

The pool-closing out at the Ponderosa is happening this morning, and then PoolBoy will be on hiatus until spring. It’s a bona fide sign of autumn, and I just noticed how much orange is showing up in the leaves outside my window. The yearly melancholy that comes with all of this probably won’t lift until winter, but that isn’t a bad thing – my muse stays close and we work it out.

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Sunshine again… page 93

Day 184 – 09/12/2020

Mist, rain, autumn air… the stuff moods are made of. By September, melancholy starts to scoop me up and set me down in other places, in other times, and the memories are crisp. Every sight, sound, and aroma speaks of the past, distant or close, and the fact of being alive registers in conscious ways. The missing… those who’ve died and those who’ve chosen to absent themselves from me… and the handful for whom I’ve done the same… those losses are still grieved. Acquaintances, friends, extended family… the attrition is never easy and each exit leaves a mark. Endings are hard and they’re rarely the end, so with the arrival of fall every year the goodbyes all have to be replayed, reabsorbed, reconciled… while the beauty of the season both breaks our hearts and renews us.

Over a lifetime, I’ve accumulated a few blues-beaters in my medicine bag, including humor, music, reading, writing, good conversation with people I love… and let’s face it, food and drink. But sometimes the only right response to a stretch of bad highway is sass and sarcasm… and movin’ on down the road.

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Reading the room… page 92

Day 183 – 09/11/2020

As I type today’s date, it all comes back… the planes, the chaos, the unimaginable death toll… the knowledge that we’re as vulnerable to sudden destruction as any nation in the world. And now we know we’re equally vulnerable to another unseen enemy, with the number of dead exceeding the 9/11 count by orders of magnitude. The aftermath of what happened to us on September 11, 2001 is ongoing, but the actual events of the day had an end. By contrast, the pandemic we’re living through carries no expiration date, no terminus, no promise of a return to life as we knew it… and it requires a psychic adjustment every morning.

There are days when “time flits, oh shit,” and others that spool out their minutes in laborious 60-second increments, everything in slow motion, a record played at the wrong speed. I daily replay my role as a barely-sentient lump while my thoughts slam around inside my skull like a trapped moth, and there are only so many ways to diffuse that kind of energy, crying being one, writing it down being another. My old go-to, reading, is there again, to a point. My powers of concentration still leave a lot to be desired, but I’ve picked a few winners lately that have improved my frame of mind.

Fausto Brizzi’s 100 DAYS OF HAPPINESS was stellar. I next tried to read Sinclair Lewis’s IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE, but it’s too close to the bone right now. I started THE LADIES AUXILIARY by Tova Mirvis, which is wonderful, put it on pause to read Michael Cohen’s DISLOYAL, a terrific choice if I’m going to read only ONE of the many accounts exploding onto the stage at the moment, and now I’m returning to THE LADIES… and I’m acknowledging the profound sense of gratitude that accompanies the return of an old friend… one of my very oldest. There’s really nothing to compare with the deep joy of opening the door to another world and falling for the characters I find there. The things we should never take for granted comprise a long list.

This morning’s dawn was wet and gray, much like yesterday’s, and PickleBall not being an option Kim’s out for a bundled-up walk. There are things I could do today… declutter my desk, reorganize the 3-basket cart next to it, sort the remaining odds & ends on the dresser… pay a bill, start a load of laundry, dump computer files… but here’s how it will likely go: I’ll sit right here for another hour writing, reading, and drinking coffee… eventually I’ll pick one thing from the list of possibilities, do it, briefly feel good about myself… and slide into The Zone again. That’s my best guess. Looking forward to the day when I shock myself with an energy burst but until then I’m glad for pages to turn…

Postscript: Kim brought me a blueberry-lemon Danish from Wheatfields’ and delivered it to my desk warm, so today’s showing definite potential. Carpe Diem, chicky.

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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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Is it fall yet? … page 88

Day 173 – 09/01/2020

Yesterday began with increasing darkness after dawn followed by rain into the afternoon, which was heavenly and made everything feel like fall. This morning, despite an 80% chance of showers, it’s overcast but dry with a predicted high of 78º and that only briefly. My heart is ready for autumn with its softer days and crisp nights, long sleeves, and mugs of something hot. I’m not a pumpkin spice fan and I don’t wear socks until the first snow, but fall is my friend.

I’m jonesing for kinder, friendlier days and a stress-vacation. The hours are long, the news is dire, and my psyche responds accordingly, so minute-by-minute reminder to me:

I’m also taking deep breaths and reminding myself that when life’s entirely about the challenges, you have to keep the main thing the main thing at all times…

There’s always a sweeter, more sympathetic side to life if we can remember how to see it, and it makes all the difference. So hello indeed, September – you’re welcome here. 🍂🍁

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SQ Diary… page 3 1/2

Self-Quarantine Day 6.5 – 03/18/2020

Kansas weather changes can give a rookie whiplash, and true to no form whatsoever, the day has turned balmy. The sun broke through the cloud cover for a dazzling minute, and the air feels friendly at 63º.

Kim rode his bicycle to Stabby Dillons for a quick backpack full of groceries, and more vodka from On The Rocks. He isn’t wearing nitrile gloves yet on these errands, but… he’s quick and doesn’t inhale. 😂

His PickleBall buddy and actual friend Marcelo called and said he’d be over to go for a walk, so they’re out there somewhere away from the madding crowds and 6 feet away from each other (ha!) while they talk nonstop. Good medicine.

With the door to the outside world standing open, trees leafing out, birds singing, the approaching gloom has been swept out of the house again. C’monnn, spring.

Where it (officially) stands today… we’re in one of those counties bordering the red one. So yeah, stayin’ in… stayin’ alive…

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New decade who dis?

Hard rain against the windows, turning icy as it hits. Dark and gray, quiet and warm inside, and Kitchen Man has biscuits and gravy in the works. No early-morning walk for him, no PickleBall with the crew. He’ll be here playing guitar while I do that thing I do… that space-off thing.

It’s a cold, cruel world out there this morning. It can be a cold, cruel world everywhere you look… unless you know where to look. Like the story about the six-year-old who’s raised $100k so far for Australian fire relief through the little clay koalas he makes…

Or the rescue on Wednesday of a 68-yr-old woman with dementia, lost for six days in the California mountains, her car covered with snow, who looked at her heroes and said “I’m very cold, I hope you brought a blanket.”

That same afternoon, Massachusetts State Police stopped a car containing an 11-yr-old girl who’d been kidnapped when she stepped off her school bus, in something of a miracle rescue, where she was a total champion through the whole thing and gets to go home and live her life.

So as the little icicles lengthen on the balcony railing, I’m thinking what a nice round number 2020 is, one we’ll not see again in our lifetimes. We won’t make it to 3030 or 4040, possibly this Big Blue Marble won’t either, so plump 2020 strikes me as the year to say what we mean and mean what we say, we don’t have forever.

This feeler has always had a hard time leaving things behind… sentimental trinkets, cards, letters… relationships. But after so many years, Steven Wright’s philosophy comes into play: You can’t have everything, where would you put it?

Reality bites:

  • Only certain things matter on this trip between birth and death.
  • People head that list, family in bold lettering at the top.
  • Energy is finite so I’m sticking with the people who are sticking with me.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones
knowing your own life depends on it:
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver
In Blackwater Woods

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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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Winter’s charms…

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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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Found our way home…

It was lovely, that road trip. Lots of hours there and back, in the car, with my best guy, talking, talking, talking. Or just riding, absorbed in our own thoughts, thrilled by the landscape (in which case we’re talking again), or I’m dipping into social media while trying not to miss anything real and at hand. But not sleeping – I don’t sleep in the car. I don’t do it well so I inevitably wake up with a wonky neck or some such, and if Kim’s going to do all the driving, even though it’s by his choice, I like to provide company and an extra set of eyes.

So down the highways we fly, maniacs on holiday, grabbing road food and snacks, health constraints cast to the wind. And then – DESTINATION REACHED!! The gracious welcome of my younger sister and bro-in-love and their suh-weet mountain retirement place. Days in the 70s and low 80s, nights 50s and 60s, house left open to the soft cool breezes nearly every day we were there. The pace is brutal and not for amateurs – get up when you feel like it…take a coffee mug out back…let breakfast evolve…sometimes Susan cooks delicious comfort food…sometimes the guys bring breakfast sammies or donuts home after PickleBall. The sun climbs, as it is wont to do…the big articulated umbrella is deployed…more coffee happens…and showers…and naps.

At some point a mid-afternoon lunch is discussed and one of the local mini-breweries/pizza-ovens/neighborhood bar & grills is chosen, maybe in one of the little communities a few miles on up the mountain, always tasty, always an experience, and then home to watch for elk from the back patio as they come in for water and treats the neighbors put out. Sometimes mamas and babies bed down right out there for the night, guarded by the bull who claims them as his.

It didn’t occur to us to take any pictures this trip, except of Payson the Dog, and of some of the two elk herds that are currently making that little corner of the huge Tonto National Forest their home. It’s a unique situation and we feel privileged to share that front-row vantage point every once in a while. My sis & bro get to observe it all on a daily basis – the big extended family of noisy crows living in the lodge-pole pines just past their picket fence; the bobcat they’ve seen a few times; the mountain lion that skirts the territory on occasion, widening his hunting grounds or looking for a mate; the coyotes the mama elk mercilessly drive out, running them ragged, keeping them away from their gangly spotted babies; the wild flurry of gray bushy-tailed squirrels, hopped up on hormones and possibly something fermented, holding manic squirrel parties that defy gravity and the limits of brain-wave activity‼️

We’re most definitely going to miss all that until next time, but Susan & JR have much on their plate for the near future. He has a set of electronic drums to continue exploring, and my sweet sister has a new set of knees to pursue. They’re longing for a visit from their second daughter and our baby sister and their significant others, so we must be very unselfish, for goodness sake‼️ Full disclosure, it’s hard to stay away from paradise once you discover where it is. 😎

The love of family is deeply healing in a world gone stupid. It’s addictive, and my heart absorbs it like rain on a hot day, so I tried to soak up enough to last a while, a challenge beyond my abilities, but a worthy goal nonetheless. The older I get – 72 as of this month – the more my family means to me. To say I love them is to massively understate what it is because it’s so much more than that, and now that we all have the time and wisdom to really know each other I want us to spend as much time together as possible while we’re all still here, even as our logistics are once again shifting. We, better than some, know life affords no guarantees.

Part of a harem…
2-yr-old Bull Elk
1st Year Mating
Learning to Manage Females
Keep a Good Thought for Him

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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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Annnnd…

ROAD TRIP, BABIES !!

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At last!

Yes I DO feel this exuberant about the First Day of Spring this year. Winter was long, cold, gray, and wet, and will likely not turn loose simply at the command of the calendar, but I can’t remember ever being more ready for exactly that…

Balcony days, with doors and windows open, pots and baskets overflowing with greenery and blossoms. Sunshine, pool time, cooking outside. Farmers’ Market, summer sounds, bicycles, books, accidental naps. Feeling infinitely more alive, but in slow motion, all the better for savoring the finite moments.

The sunshine pouring through my windows this morning is a reminder that spring does come again, that it does get better, the mood doesn’t stay gray unless you’re a curmudgeon who refuses to lighten up, the grass does get green again and flowers bloom.

The world keeps turning in spite of our doubts – or our certainties that it’s all for nothing, life can’t possibly shine again and bring joy to our hearts. And here I sit, happy as if I had good sense, signing on for a stretch of whatever’s next, because what else?

Happy Spring, friends, we’ve survived another hibernation, we should celebrate. Do you have traditions to share?

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