A Sunday…. page 62

Day 122 – 07/12/2020

When nostalgia hits (see yesterday), my mental viewfinder fills up with images of family and the farm where I grew up, or at least came of age. If you liked my Memorial Day post, these photos are for you. (Link follows)

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2020/05/23/remembering/

The people in the image above are my Grandma and Grandpa Wagner, my dad and his dog Sarge, in 1933 when my dad was 11 years old. The garden in the story was north of the house but you can see my grandma’s pretty fish pond in the background, filled in before my memory because of the dust off the cattle pens and the hazard to toddler grandchildren. Grandma had plans that didn’t always suit farm living, but she never gave up.

My grandparents, my dad, about 6 yrs old, and his brother Ed, eleven years older. They had a good relationship as adults.
The Dierking sisters – Nora, Ruth, and Clara (my grandma)
My Great-aunt Ruth in flush times
The dugout/livestock barn/root cellar where the three girls grew up, shown during a visit by family in the late 50s or early 60s, long after it had been abandoned. It was outside a little town about an hour SW of where I live now.
Caroline Dierking on the right, mother of the girls – and my great-grandmother – with her sister Emma.
In Sheboygan, Wisconsin with my Great-aunt Emma and a little relative on her right whose name was Colleen.
My cousin Katie, Uncle Ed’s daughter, and I after playing dress-up in Grandma’s big upstairs closet. I was about 5 and worried that my dress would end me as I negotiated the steep stairs.
The Wagner munchkins, Rita, Judy, Susan, and our brother Danny in Grandma & Grandpa’s shelter belt north of the garden. Says 1957 so I was ten years old. And our mom was obviously curler-happy that day.

Tomorrow… barring anything unforeseen… my mom’s people. 💙

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Got there… page 56

Day 108 – 06/28/2020

On the heels of yesterday’s Pollyanna post, I’m hitting the wall today. It’s like August outside – windy, dirty, and hot. In here it’s a Sunday with no live sports, my computer games have temporarily lost their charm, and my brain still wanders away a few pages into whatever I’m reading. I’ve thought about all the things… I’ve written about all the things… I’m too tired for all the new things. Every. Day.

My spirit is a caged animal but there’s no place I want to go, so I’m pretty sure what I crave is answers… and resolution. A blessed denouement to the chaos of the realm. I do only what’s required to sustain household life, how can I be so exhausted all the time? That was rhetorical.

Apropos of nothing, let me say this:

Also there’s usually another sunrise…

Photo credits: Kim Smith

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Here… page 46

Day 66 – 05/17/2020

So many thoughts, so little to say.

It’s a profoundly lonely time, and we’re all just doing the best we can.

But in the midst of all the “no” and the upheaval of the culture war, last night’s celebration of America’s 2020 graduates was joyous and affirming. Thank you, Lebron James, for your loving gift to the nation. Thank you for knowing what we needed.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/16/2020

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Staying in… page 36

Day 45 – 04/26/2020

We can’t say nothing ever happens around here – yesterday was the best. I cut my hair and had a long text convo with The Kid, both stellar time spent. If I could see the back of my head I’d be dangerous, but the front came out cool and I look like me again. Until I can see my sweet Shelby, it’ll be monkey business in the front and squirrel party in the back.

John has the weekend off and Anthony was out on a mission, so we lazily chatted back and forth ’til we’d caught up a little. Atlanta’s getting slammed now as the virus peaks there, but he said he hasn’t been getting floated to the ER anymore, presumably because he’s one of the few chemo-certified RNs the hospital has left. That doesn’t break this mama’s heart to know because although the Oncology Unit can seem like hell on earth at times, the ER is Ground Zero.

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning and my belly is full of ranch omelet and bacon. Kim has the bug to plant flowers so he masked up and headed for the outdoor lot at Menard’s, list in hand. He also wants to do some upkeep and repair on the rooftop garden while he isn’t doing much else. Good thing he has energy enough for two people, because this half of the team can’t get it together – all my fire goes toward maintaining… my cool, my calm, my healthy bent toward realism.

MEANWHILE…

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Shelter Me… page 25

Day 31 – 04/12/2020

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

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

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SQ Diary… page 19

Self-Quarantine Day 24 – 04/05/2020

Another day, another conversation with my diary…

Yesterday baby sis, who lives across town, had a story to tell me that was too long for text, so we made the weird decision to use our phones for TALKING to each other. The belly laughs and the sound of her voice were good juju. I needed exactly that.

Sister Señorita Margarita Rita has called me her second mommy a lot of times since 1995, but she’s also returned the favor more than once, and she helped me take something off my plate yesterday that I wasn’t dealing with in a good way. Perspective… wisdom… and somebody with skin on besides Kim, saying words to me, making me laugh, letting me feel the lub. There was peace when I put my head on the pillow last night.💗

It’s sobering to know how much we need each other as humans and how much we generally despise each other, globally-speaking, on a daily basis. Those things are under there all the time, but we aren’t aware of them moment by moment because life streaks on and we make sure there’s no time for introspection, examination of facts, or new doors leading to unsettling change. We’re all so VERY human.

Solitude is my jam, but with the great world hum dampened to a murmur, I’m lonely for voices… life… people. Watching East Lawrence come alive in shades of green, white, and pink is conducive to sweeter moods, but the absence of all the walkers with their dogs and babies, the missing shouts of kids skateboarding, riding bikes and chasing each other down the street, makes the air feel a little ponderous and not quite real.

Not complaining, just observing. We never know what we have ’til it’s gone, and that holds true for all of life. We figure out how much it meant when it isn’t ours anymore. Stupid human pet tricks.

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SQ Diary… page 12

Self-Quarantine Day 17 – 03/29/2020

First things first. Kim checked after sundown last night and our silent visitor had taken leave of us. He/she must have been waiting for the cover of darkness before traveling on – maybe just needed a brief rest along the way. My Black Hills trail-guide friend Mark identified the bird as an American Coot, a little out of its normal range, maybe, but we’re part of their breeding grounds. We both went to bed with lighter hearts knowing our new friend was likely not ill after all, just taking a breather. We’re in love with those amazing feet designed for efficient swimming, and if the story DIDN’T have a happy ending we were spared that knowledge, chickens that we are.

It’s a gorgeous Sunday morning, cool, light breeze, temp headed toward 70º. Kim walked before the sun came up and now he’s on the balcony with his coffee and earbuds, having a workout with Paul Simon. I’m feeling a little better, little stronger, little less coughing every day. Ready for warm days and letting the sun soak into my bones.

A tiny epiphany just pinged my sleepy brain: I’ve spent a lot of the past twenty years saying to the world, in so many nonverbal ways, GO AWAY. Boys and girls, be careful what you ask for.

Just remembered that we regressed further into pioneer mode yesterday – no TV. Modem or box or whatevs likely needs replacing, but not on a weekend from a place that isn’t opening its doors for business right now. We miss the news and our car porn like Roadkill, Iron Resurrection, Mecum Auction. And sometimes the sound of other voices in this space is a bonus. So Kim was wandering down YouTube rabbit holes last night, and I had my nose in my iPad as usual. We will survive.

When hunger strikes, the KIMN8R will come in and make Sunday omelets, and the spa tub will get filled again, and we’ll keep rolling. It’s all fine in every way. LIFE… is good.

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SQ Diary… page 6

Self-Quarantine Day 9 – 03/21/2020

Woke up in the night with an elevated temp and raging sweats.

Out of it all day, sleeping nearly round the clock.

Self-Quarantine Day 10 – 3/22/2020

Yesterday feels like a chimera. Rough day, lots of sleeping, came to toward evening and started psyching for the climb back. Kim changed the sheets, I painfully showered and washed my hair, and I had text conversations with a medical friend about the wisdom of getting tested… or not. She suggested waiting until today, which will no doubt turn out to have been the best answer in light of events. There’s at least one drive-through test facility here in town, so that’s good to know.

Woke up sometime in the night last night, drenched, knowing a corner had been turned, and fell asleep again waiting for morning. I’m a noodle and my pee is orange, but my body knows life’s returning. So far, I’ve dipped toast in coffee and had several ounces of cold water, and that’s holding. Scary timing to get the regular flu in a town the virus is visiting, but the flu was here first so this isn’t a shock.

Kim went to Stabby Dillons to get Emergen-C and a few other supplies – he wears nitrile gloves inside the store. No TP – apparently they’re still letting people grab armfuls off the truck, which is piss-poor management and infuriating. Heard Dillons in Salina is still doing the same thing. Why???

Just need to get my head clear, some food in my belly, more liquids down, and rest. Things are starting to pile up around me, but they’ll have to simmer for a bit…

Please be careful, friends. If the virus is worse than the flu, and clearly it’s deadly for some, nobody wants it.

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Girlfriends…

Updating a piece I wrote in 2013…

Girlfriends.  I’ve always loved the way the word sounds, even though it carries a certain kind of angsty baggage because despite slumber parties and hanging out and all the other things girls do, the intimacy required for besties felt foreign to me.  Growing up on a farm, miles from town, my two younger sisters were my friends.  I didn’t think of them as girlfriends, though — they were my sisters.  And there were the girls down the road but they weren’t girlfriends, they were neighbors. 

When I look back at the young me, it’s clear what a solitary soul I was.  My best days were spent in the hammock stretched between two big trees in my grandparents’ yard, reading a book, thinking my own thoughts, accidentally taking a nap, then combing the garden for ripe strawberries and tomatoes, checking the orchard for intruders, and generally sticking to whatever it took to avoid my mom’s eyes landing on me and assigning me a job.  I wonder what I thought I was going to do on the off-chance that I happened to flush a few snakes, possums, or cross-country bums out of the trees?


Grade school is kind of a blur.  I was a good student, friendly, happy, clueless.  There were other girls, of course, and I made friends … but I can’t think of any girlfriends who’ve carried over from those years if we’re talking people I’ve never lost touch with at any time and with whom I share my deepest secrets and feelings.  High school, with forty-seven of us in the entire place, meant fun, freedom and fraternity … and continued cluelessness.  College brought more of the same.  I was popular, I guess, if you want to gauge it by things like being elected cheerleader seven years in a row and landing a spot in the Homecoming court, but none of that felt quite authentic to me.  I think it took me so long to realize that I could define my own life, I missed a lot of stuff on the way up.


Don’t get me wrong, I have great acquaintances, friends, women I look up to, respect, like, even love. Somehow I’ve just never truly been girlfriend material.  I don’t spill my guts easily, except with my sisters, and it’s always been hard for me to ask for help.   I went through a hellish time ten years ago [17 now] and held most of it inside — not exactly refusing to share my grief, pain, and stress with other women, just not really knowing how.  And without that open-up-and-let-it-all-hang-out mechanism, it’s hard to be a girlfriend, let alone accumulate them.  To my likely discredit I move on easily now, I don’t send Christmas cards, I tend not to do even the minimum amount of work necessary to hang onto relationships, the notable exceptions being marriage and family.


All of this to say that there are women in my life who represent the best of what I always pictured a girlfriend to be, and they’re incredible.  I’m probably still not going to be very good at the gut-spilling thing, but if I ever need it I know they’ll be there.  Life continues to surprise …

JSmith 01/27/2013

My friend Tish and I.
We were BFFs in spite of going to different schools
and seeing each other only a few times a year.

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Be the wild vine…

One thing the years can start kicking out of us is spontaneity. My little sister left me a message one morning last week asking if we wanted to go to a movie matinee with her. By the time I caught it I was knackered from the therapy pool and feeling done for the day so we took a rain check, which we’ll cash in today, Super Bowl Sunday. It’s okay, she’s getting her retirement legs under her and likes solitary movie-going, so my lack of spur-of-the-moment enthusiasm didn’t dampen any sweet family feelings, but I’d prefer to still be a ball o’ fire. My grandma at this age used to ask “Where are we going?” while she was putting on her shoes and grabbing her purse.

It was a gray, dreary day, and after it had been settled that we were staying home by the fire, I looked over to find Kim snuggling up by my side…

  • HIM: Would you go out on a date with me?
  • ME: I would. I feel like I’ve gotten to know you fairly well now.
  • HIM: We could go to a movie this week. Same one we’re not seeing today (1917 – we’d both wanted to see it since the first review we read). We could go over to KC and see it in a dine-in. (Something else we’d been meaning to do but never had, can you believe that?)
  • ME: That sounds really nice. I’d LOVE to go out with you as long as you get me home before dark.

Took him five minutes to make reservations on his iPad and we were in for lunch and a matinee the next day. Spontaneity takes a little longer now but we can still pull it off. Give us a little time to think about it, plan for it, sleep on it, and we’ll be spontaneous as all get-out.

“Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art”

― Oscar Wilde

Perfect date, including the part where he opened my car door, took my hand to help me out, started to say something and belched instead. Good afternoon to spend indoors wrapped in the events of another era – gray and rainy outside, gray and grim in the realities of WWI on the big screen – and the movie did not disappoint.

We’re of course sold on the venue: recliners, food, drink, fairly intimate little space – there were eight of us in the theater by the time the main feature rolled. Pretty sure we’ll be genuinely spontaneous about going again.

NOW we psyche up for a house divided – the KIMN8R’s 49ers against the LOCAL FAV KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, YAY!!! (deafening crowd noise!!!) YAY!!!

And this time there WILL be the Little Sister. And food. I was told there’ll be food.

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An epic love story… *

*…but not the one you think

It’s story time, boys and girls, so pull up a sunny patch of rug and help yourselves to coffee.

The soothing Sunday morning sounds washing over me from the other side of the wall are brought to me by a Southern California kid with a lifetime guitar jones. He got enough Christmas cash when he was eleven to buy one of his own and his dad drove him to a strip mall on a Sunday afternoon to see what they could find. He brought home a little Kawai with nylon strings and shut himself in his bedroom to figure it out.

There was no internet of course, no guitar backing-tracks, no online instruction, not even the thought that someone in the immediate area might give private lessons, let alone how a kid might pay for those. He did start at the Boys’ Club woodworking shop with his dad when he was eleven, but that was gratis except for the experience.

Without benefit of social media and the kind of advertising we take entirely for granted now, he was unaware that many famous guitar makers were based right where he lived. Later, thoughts of missed opportunities shot through his brain. Rickenbacker was in Santa Ana, Fender was in Fullerton, he could have walked there! How much would a job at one of those places have altered his life?

He was out making his own money by thirteen washing dogs, then a paper route, followed by Kaplan’s Bakery, the dream of being a guitar player eventually a low-banked fire, as the music scene in Southern California took on a life of its own and he went off to Viet Nam so he could come home with his head held high. When he got back of course, everything had changed and the mood of the country was a little hostile toward dreamers, so first order of business was a responsible job, and from then on life looked like a series of management positions, entrepreneurial projects, marriage and family.

The guitar thing refused to leave him alone, however, and by the time I discovered his presence in the world he owned four of them, plus amps, mics, speakers, recording equipment, the whole nine yards. Our shared love of music conspired to bring us together in a band setting, and for the past nearly sixteen years I’ve had the joy of watching a small parade of beautiful instruments make their way in and out of our house, and of marking his progression from wannabe to still-shy pretty-wow-player. He’s traded and strummed his way from a high of thirteen worthy guitars to a current eight that he lovingly pays attention to, giving them rotating places of honor on stands within reach.

I’ve sat on one of Ed Roman’s black couches in his Las Vegas guitar store (now gone) more than once while Kim played all the incredible guitars he wanted to touch and hold and hear. He hangs onto the blonde Strat that kissed him back – he might never part with her for the way she draws the music out of him, much like the little Taylor he came across last year just as a windfall blew through for him. He picked up an antique lap steel in the same deal and started taking lessons to challenge himself – that’s how a guy keeps rolling.

My respect for his desire, determination, and hard work knows no bounds. He’s put in the hours, day after day, year after year, to figure out how to do what he wants most to do. On the flipside, my beautiful little grand piano sits silent while I let body pain and hearing loss keep me off the bench, and that’s all I’m sayin’ about that, life being what it is.

My husband has been my hero since the Easter Sunday he walked into my house to cook dinner for me, decided first things first and kissed me good, then got down to the business of looking out for me because I was so clearly in need of same. He knows what he wants, doesn’t always get it, but has never been afraid to work his ass off for it. So if plump 2020 isn’t the year I put mine back on that bench, it prolly isn’t gonna happen. Pray for me, kids. 💋

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Sunday blues time…

Oh shoot, a Sunday when the blues come down with the rain, so ya’ roll with it, because what else. They’re just the ol’ familiar “Vacation’s Over, I Miss the Highway, Winter’s Comin’ Blues,” and they’re nothing a pot of Kim’s coffee, some introspection, a few tears, and my keyboard won’t play like a sad harmonica simply because that’s how I deal.

When the skies go all gray and weepy, my psyche does inventory to see what we haven’t felt bad about lately, haven’t cried bitter tears due to the rank injustice of, and we let those bad kids out to dance a fugue or two. The pathos is so satisfying – we were wronged, yes we were, there it is, so clear anyone could see it…

And from that silly exercise this rainy morning, an insight: being a farm kid carries with it an inherent amount of social isolation, especially for girls, in key ways. Because I rarely got to hang around in town after school, by the time I started high school I didn’t know the code, and my whole life has subsequently felt that way, like trying to catch up to a world the insiders knew about but I didn’t. 💡 This thought is multi-faceted and I still need to flesh it out, but I did promise you I’d keep working on this knot of letting go…

I grasp at my core that the base knowledge of belonging is seminal – it informs everything else. But in the end, we give ourselves permission to be – no one else holds that power, so we can be bold and SAY who we are and where we belong, if we decide to. However, the flip side is that it doesn’t matter who you decide your community is, it’s made up of individuals and those individuals can turn on you, or fail to support you, or leave you out of the loop at any time and it will no longer feel like your place in the world. So if you unexpectedly found yourself on the outside looking in, would you have a place to go, another community that might not only take you in but where you would want to go and would at some point fit in and feel at ease? Or would you care?

Would you maybe be old and settled and formed enough by then to decide your family and your books and your online friends were all the comfort and companionship you really wanted – and trusted? Would that be sad or wise? If it were informed by experience would it be logical? If it were, by that point, based on available energy of all the varieties there are, it would have to be acceptable, and finally, forgivable, am I right?

Different strokes for differently-wired folks, and I’ve written myself unblue. There’s even a bit of sun glowing through the clouds.

Gloriously, at last, we belong only to ourselves, which answers so many questions no one else can even name for us. They’re ours to think about. Namasté.

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Oh, the places we could go…

It sounds so cliché and yet what IF? We all, if we’re lucky, live several lives from our beginning to our end. Our “tinyhood” is first, when we’re so new and unset that things mostly roll over us, leaving only small traces of what took place… if we’re lucky. Those memories fade as we move through other lives – our youth, our high school and college years with their general trauma, relationships, marriages, families, beginnings, endings, the pneuma – the creative energy – of life.

But all of it, as we roll or slog or trip or struggle through the panorama of our lifespans becomes part of who we are at any given time, a lot of it hard to shed, some of it buried pretty deep, most of it just outside the grasp of our conscious awareness, so how would we even start to deal with it? In simpler terms, how do we stop toting around all this pneuma? Just because we’ve accumulated it, is it forever ours by default?

We get older, hopefully we get smarter, we learn how to forgive and to let go of resentments and old scores. But whether we know it or not, the seed of every wound, every piercing, every time someone was able to make us feel less-than is still in there somewhere ready to trip us up if we let it. Maybe we have somehow been strong enough not to give it roots, but we don’t know exactly how to find it for full extraction, so it lurks and hides, the partial remains of who we were.

It would be so satisfying to dig up all of that accumulated rot and get it out of there – all those markers signifying “I go this far and no farther, so DON’T PUSH me.” “Here’s where the bad person/people hurt me, embarrassed me, shamed me, failed to love me enough.” “I can’t get rid of these, they’re my security blankets, my hedge against big-time pain, against things I never want to feel again. They help me remember where the lines are drawn.” I know, you probably hoped I was going to tell us both how to do that, how to ruthlessly excavate. So did I, but the answer didn’t miraculously appear as I typed the words.

And so the remains remain. But oh, what we could be and the places we could go if we could figure this out. It’s a worthy goal because it would change everything. I’m holding out hope to get there in my lifetime, sooner rather than later – while I still have time to enjoy the fruits. I’m still thinking about this…

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Into the confessional…

This must be some kind of record, even for me. Six weeks into the new year and I’ve cemented my status as (oxymoron alert) a genuine phony. Did I burst onto the scene January One, fresh as a daisy, determined to slay the dragon of procrastination once and for all? Obviously not. In fact, things aren’t going well at all in that regard so you’re looking at part of a conscious decision to “do better.” Can ya’ stand it.

It’s wonky and off that this is my first post of 2019, and it’s important that you know I haven’t neglected you, my Faithful Reader, out of any malice aforethought, far from it. I say honestly, with no hint of whine in my voice, that it’s been an existentially tough winter, and the times I’ve wandered or marched into this space with intent to say what’s in my heart the words haven’t happened. Nothing personal, I promise, and everyone’s probably lucky the werding stayed dammed up until I could filter and tame it a little.

As of last week, I’m introducing my being to the wonders of Tai Chi and can already see its residual benefits starting to make themselves known. There has to be a starting place – I’ve tried several disciplines, always with hope – keep a good thought for me with this one, as it seems to hold promise.

One more thing for now: My piano – I’ve played it only once since New Year’s Day. Please help me hold myself accountable to turn it into a habit (again). I promise not to throw anything at you for nagging me. Bonus, my aim is truly awful.

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A disclaimer?

Something you discover when you start scooping sand into boxes as raw material for sand castles, aka readable pieces of writing, is that if you’re writing for yourself the content can get rough for others to wade through at times. Therapy is rarely pretty or pleasant, but instead of locking the door and writing alone in the dark I leave the choice to my readers who’ve signed on – stay or go, read or skip, understand or drop by the wayside – because it helps me to think I’m bouncing those thoughts and feelings off someone who might be persuaded to care.

I know it’s been increasingly dicey here on Playing for Time over the past couple of years as I’ve clawed my way through a mountain of shock and disbelief at the changes in the country I’ve always called home and tried to reconcile what I know with what I see happening out there. I’ve undoubtedly stepped on toes and caused offense, as haven’t we all, in trying to feel our way through a labyrinth we don’t recognize as familiar territory anymore. In a gene pool rife with bipolarism I’ve experienced for the first (or maybe worst) time the heavy hand of actual depression, not to the point of requiring extra meds, but a far streak past The Blues. 

That glow out there on the horizon this week – I want to think that’s end-of-the-tunnel-quality light, but I’ve finally earned my Cynic’s stripes so I’m not holding my breath. I do think democracy is going to win this one and that we’re eventually going to heal. I believe important things will have been won – and a few crucial ones will have been lost – by the time the smoke clears. We have risked much in being so willing to square off and choose sides – things we may miss as a semblance of normalcy returns – but we’ll survive this, I believe that now; whereas, there’ve been moments when I was none too sure.

If you’ve been here since early on, that’s cool and I thank you. If you’re a newbie, that’s cool too. If you take a quick romp back through the archives you’ll see that I’ve written about the most eclectic of subjects, so I could hit yours eventually. 

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