Oh look, another episode…

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In this new paradigm where the girl half of the merger isn’t on Facebook or other social media all evening while pretending to keep up with whatever’s on TV, we’re bingeing on Netflix like mad fools and it’s wonderful. We were shockingly behind on the good stuff, so we started with Breaking Bad and took a break halfway through to watch every tantalizing second of Peaky Blinders before coming smack up against their filming hiatus, which is leaving us in a serious state of withdrawal. The incredible cinematography, the soundtrack, the cast, the exquisite level of acting that feels every minute like real life happening in front of us – we’re enchanted, all the blood and gore notwithstanding since art without authenticity fails.

We weren’t quite ready to pick up Breaking Bad again, so we started Too Young to Die, a series of eleven one-hour documentaries about people who were exactly that. The first is Heath Ledger’s story and it was beautifully done so we’ll gradually watch the other ten. And last night we once again immersed ourselves in the world of Frank and Claire Underwood, House of Cards Seasons 3 & 4, which we somehow never finished. Watching now, it seems clear somebody had access to a crystal ball in 2014.

My sister Rita is anxious for us to get into This Is Us and so are we – it’s next. What mini- or maxi-series are on your must-see list and why? I’m hoping a few sleepers will be among the recommendations, titles that don’t show up on everybody’s agenda, so bring surprises.

Annnnd…GO.

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Ignorance is blistering…

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I read a stunning statistic this morning* that blew both Kim and me away – over half of Americans believe it should be illegal for a woman to keep her last name after marriage, WHAAAT??

Of course that represents people who were actually polled, which I’d like to think means half of those surveyed in rural areas, remote hollers, and socially isolated mountain ranges rather than honest-to-goodness 21st Century Americans who know what’s up, because this finding is both laughable and disturbing.

Events until recently seemed to indicate that we were steadily moving toward a better world informed by human equality in every direction, but here we are still fighting the same old shit that first raised our collective consciousness in the 60s. Unbelievable.

A world without women and our influence is not to be contemplated, so why is the focus so rarely on what’s good for us? (Simple question for the Luddites among us, please show your work.) All you pathetic cases of arrested male development endlessly stuck in junior high need a brighter awareness of truth: Women have 100% of the babies. Just the facts, Jack, and your ideal little world starts to go downhill after one generation, so what are you thinking? Oh wait…

This crap is so silly I thought it must be “fake news” but no such luck, so I’m sitting here hoping I don’t know anyone with this attitude and outlook, it would shatter my heart, hyperbolically-speaking.

Prejudices, stereotypes, and backward thinking are buried so deep in our nation’s psyche, how is it we believe we’ll ever dig out, but women are fierce and we don’t quit. That alone should show you what we’re made of, but that’s okay – we’ll keep doing what we do because – what else? Respect is owed, but we’re used to working without it, so don’t give it another thought, you guys all persevere in your empire-building and let us know how that’s workin’ out for ya’. But here’s how it is: Brains are the new tits and you’re falling behind.

 

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* The Name Game

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A throwback to other lifetimes…

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Once upon a time there lived a little farm girl with big dreams – and who knows where that comes from?

Her mother, grandmothers, a grandpa, her aunties, uncles, sisters and cousins were voracious readers so there was never a shortage of books at hand, all of which were free for the borrowing if you thought you were big enough. {Except for that one in the top of the closet – ZOWEE!}  So yeah, big dreams got planted – extra points and a high five for the sweet double entendre, thank you.

She thought she was smart – she was told as much in subtle ways by other smart people, by which we mean her sassiness was nurtured to an appalling degree, thanks, Fam.

Alas, however, a shocking number of pivotal, paramount, life-and-death aspects of life were still unexplored at a juncture when that information would have been so very helpful to our farm girl. Since she was lacking in skills acquired only through knowledge, we’re forced to conclude that she was not nearly as smart as she might have thought. Let’s just say mistakes were made. Or in the words of her farm grandma, “Too soon old…too late schmart.” Sorry, chicky.

The girl grew up, sort of, and did the thing she said she’d never do – she married a farmer. And then a lot happened: a son, a life, a love, beautiful times, ugly times, hard and dirty work, serious illnesses, deaths, near-deaths, caregiving, more deaths, colossal lifestyle adjustments…and she matured, which is not the same as growing up. Our girl continues to reject that as a viable option.

She tossed those beat up green Ropers out and hasn’t been behind the wheel of a tractor or combine for more than a dozen years – a lifetime ago; however, we’ve all heard the wisdom that says you can take the girl off the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl. That’s truth right there, I don’t care who ya’ are. Here’s another one – you can’t take the dream out of the dreamer – and big dreamers win big.

 

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Honoring Throwback Thursday

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Casting a long shadow at five years old on a San Francisco street corner, little me in her plaid-lined high-waters and namesake tee, a gift from one of my sweet, hunky uncles. I still have that teeny-beany T-shirt tucked away in a box.

I vividly remember entertaining large-scale dreams early on as my wee pudding-brain started jelling – life as a farm girl was simplified down to its essence, but the world felt limitless and open to me, thanks to my mom and my grandmothers who dropped clues I couldn’t miss. The kernel of all those dreams somehow escaped with its life in spite of everything – adolescence didn’t kill it, marriage and family didn’t smother it, loss couldn’t force it to crawl into a hole and die – and now I get to live the remaining dreams on my own terms.  They no longer seem so big – being a published writer isn’t the point anymore, I simply have to write or expire. Having a summer place in Colorado and a winter spot in California sounds merely exhausting. Kim and I fully intended to own a sailboat, sooner rather than later, but we turned down a prime opportunity last year because…that ship has sailed. He’s Navy and a veteran SoCal sailor, but when you own a boat you never run out of work, which sounded heinous in the light of day. Besides, a nest-egg stretches only so far.

What I remember about this Cali trip with my parents, who’d schlepped me to half the states in the union by this time, is that my sister Susan, nine months old, wouldn’t have anything to do with us when we picked her up from Grandma & Grandpa’s house. Broke my widdle heart, but she got over it, after which I undoubtedly started distressing her again. Aw, I hope not.

Incredibly, this photo was taken almost 64 years ago, which gives it the feel of belonging to someone else, and yet my DNA knows it’s from my lifetime. The hope on that little girl’s face, mixed with just a whiff of healthy skepticism, makes me happy this morning. Hope is hard to kill – it will die a thousand deaths before it reluctantly leaves us, and it has the power to keep us putting one foot in front of the other until things get better. The worst heartbreak is to give up too soon – don’t do that, okay?

 

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P.S.  Turns out I’d know me anywhere. Compare my relatively-new face on the left to my relatively-not-brand-new one in my profile pic to the right – a revelation that provides yet another ray of hope today, and I’ll take it!

 

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Things are all screwed up …

You know, you can be operating in full-scale denial mode and still pick up on things pertaining to precisely what you’re ignoring.  For example, I’m noticing a whole subculture in terminology that hadn’t resonated with me until just recently.  Today in the AARP Bulletin {Hey! The smug grin was uncalled for – the rag was in the mail, who can fathom how or why!} this sentence jumped off the page at me – “People think of ‘elderly’ as this gray plane, as if [older people] are all the same and shouldn’t be seen.”  Wow, cold, dude.

So we have da’ yooths, who so far as we know all think and behave alike, and then ya’ got yer generic interchangeable old farts, which why are they even allowed off the grounds on their own?  In the middle we have The World of Everybody Else, a world which neither youth nor old-fartism is expected, nor particularly welcomed, to grasp.  Nothing personal, most likely, in most cases, just a perception – one that’s always existed and probably always will unless future technology gives us ways to read each other’s thoughts and feelings.  People in the know are pretty sure the young and the old are not part of their ranks, a perception that clearly cheats the world to an astounding degree.

I had two remarkable grandmothers who were as different from each other as chalk and cheese, and each of them managed to get across to me the reality that we stay who we are on the inside all our lives while our bodies go to shit around us.  One grandma, forever young, accomplished that by example, the other through stories.  One night in her 80s, that grandma dreamed she was nineteen again and danced all night in a long flowing skirt and a sparkling-white Maidenform bra.  Advertising in the psyche, man, but it was clear how real it all still was in the light of day.  Her disappointment that it was only a dream was palpable even to a self-absorbed cheerleader-head, but the gut-punch was when she said “It was so wonderful – my body was as young as the real ME again!” That one stuck.

You can’t convince some folks that people under 18 are, indeed, people, and you can’t break the idea that after a certain age we’re all disposable. But you can try.

 

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Word Salad

Morning kids, me again, here in my Do All Things With CARE CAKE shirt, thinking about the state of the world.  Bwahahaha, I meant thinking about my own personal world — stay sharp.

I have to tell you …

I miss my little Maddie so much it takes my breath away.  It hurts worse than my bones and keeps my heart so raw I’m just marginally safe for human interaction, which of course means here I am on my blog holding forth in public, or the miniscule percentage to which the universe grants me access.  And heard is a sigh of relief from the remainder.

Adding to the joy in the world and subtracting from its woes are the dear ones who heard my pathetic “cry for help” yesterday and offered not only information but viable solutions, as a result of which I have good news:  My private concert continues unabated, but it’s taken on a muted, slightly disgruntled tone as of this morning’s wake-up.  It’s a start, I have to believe that.

“Hope is often bitter, but it drives us, and we cling.” ~Michelle Sagara

This is my first brush with Michelle, but one hopes she herself was driven enough to cling until the bitterness was over, that would only be right.

So, what else … well, I need to let you know that if you should ever become afflicted with auditory hallucinations, which I have learned via those same dear ones is most likely the proper term for my Wurly-Blitz … {and here’s a fascinating article in case your curiosity should happen to temporarily distract you}:

Can’t Get It Out of My Head

… also I was deeply gratified to read this entry in the Journal of Laryngology & Otology …

Case report: A 70-year-old man with acquired hearing loss suffered a whiplash injury in a low-speed road traffic accident, and subsequently presented with bilateral ‘tinnitus.’ On closer questioning, he described hearing orchestral music. There was no evidence of psychosis, delirium or intoxication (emphasis mine), and the patient was managed expectantly.

Conclusion: This patient represents the first published case of musical hallucination precipitated by whiplash injury. We explore the possible pathophysiological underpinnings of musical hallucination and highlight the need for a greater awareness of this disorder. A management strategy is suggested.  (Which suggests to me there might BE such.)

… and where was I … okay, that’s right, if you someday find yourself plagued by earworms, ask yourself if you’ve been taking oxycodone and if the honest answer is yes, Job One is to stop that.  My last was approximately 36 hours ago … and my sweet hope, in defiance of gravity and other realities, is that 48 hours out, the difference will be highly discernible.  It occurs to me that I should have volunteered for a clinical study — it could have been the shining moment in which my brain made an imprint upon the world that wasn’t a skid mark.

So get off drugs if possible, and your next soldier in the battle is music.  I know, music is what started the whole thing, is that not a metaphor for life?

This morning my head has been full of the earworm-crushing sounds of Living Room Songs – Ólafur Arnalds (exquisite — find them!) … the soundtrack from Catch and Release, with its delicious quirk and subliminal voices … and now my brain is swimming in the silky melancholy of Mr. Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours.  There’s nothing like the sappiness of Glad to Be Unhappy for confusing the squirrels, and the classic angst of Mood Indigo puts my parents and grandparents, my smooth Reese uncles and snappy Cousin Chet in the room with me, along with that whole over-romanticized WWII vibe, which is not a bad thing at all right now.  The near-keylessness of Frank’s Ill Wind should finish jangling things nicely — how the hell did he pull that off?

And now I’m treating my ears to The Union with Elton John & Leon Russell –GLORY!! Unanticipated bonus = I can’t sit still for If It Wasn’t For Bad or Eight Hundred Dollar Shoes or Hey Ahab (good god!) and here comes Monkey Suit !! so shoulder therapy is happening.  There is also brazen singing along because Kim is at the grocery store, and I this second realized I can once again snap the fingers on my left hand. You can’t tell me music isn’t the best therapy known to man — it’s loud enough that it feels like it’s coming from inside my chest and if this plus a supply of Yasso bars (find those, too, I promise you’ll thank me unless you’re a salted caramel-hating psycho) doesn’t fix me, I just don’t know what to tell myself.

Holy cow, you’re still here?  It isn’t even morning anymore and this has grown to the length and juice of an overworked stump speech, so for the determined stragglers here’s an ice cream cone for your stubborn devotion.  It’s so beautifully written it left me in tears and I have to share it.  DISCLAIMER: I’m an unapologetic Obama lover — but if you aren’t I hope you won’t let that keep you from this wonderful story.

Meet the man …

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Fall, indeed, has fell.

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PROCLAMATION:

Be it known that on this 29th day of September, in the year 2015, I did don a sweatshirt for the first time since storing it last winter.  

Because while out running errands, in thin t-shirt, floppy shorts, and flip-flops, I came this close to freezing my buns off.  Pretty sure the temp was only in the high 60s, so …  And the breeze was chilly on the balcony, in the shade, so hey, sweatshirt weather, fall is here!

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Halfway up the block I had to peel out of it, but it happened!  It’s official, my favorite season is gracing us with its presence.  I’ll shed the flip-flops by first snow.

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The wagon, in its autumn sweetness, was a part of my farm for as long as I lived there and many years before.  I don’t know where it is now, other than in my heart, but I still love it.

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Various and sundry nonsense … everything about the season brings it to the surface …

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Old women are merely little girls with wrinkles …

The  recent photo sorting with my sisters has yielded much treasure, all of which I appreciate infinitely more than the first time I saw those pictures.  Some I’d never laid eyes on before, and I do a little dance over each one.  We’ve tossed bags full of bad pics — exceptionally bad pics of blurry armpits and floors and the back end of a cat — that nobody ever bothered to weed out, but we’ve glommed onto anything of interest, everything that sparks memories and smiles.  Today’s little collection has been making me smile all morning, so I’m sharing …

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My great-grandmother, Caroline Fuhrman Dierking (looking outward), and her sister Emma.

On the back, in my grandmother’s handwriting:  “Caroline Fuhrman, my mother, was born in Germany.  The family emigrated to America in 1872, with eight sons and two daughters, my mother being one of them.  Aunt Emma was born in Atchison County, Kansas after they came to America.  My mother and her sister loved each other very much.  This is at Aunt Emma’s Camp Creek home in Atchison County, sometime around 1920.”

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DugoutCaroline Fuhrman married Louis Dierking and after living northeast of Emporia for a time, they moved to this dugout northwest of Bushong in 1894.  Several sons were lost at birth or in childhood, but daughters Nora and Clara (my grandmother) survived, and after the move to the dugout, Ruth was born in 1896.  

This photo was taken when my dad, brother and grandmother went to a Camp Creek family reunion in 1966, and shows the house my great-grandfather Louis Dierking built onto the front of the dugout.  Pretty sure the horses, and whatever other livestock they had, lived in the lower part made from rock.  

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The daughters of Louis & Caroline Dierking, Nora, Ruth & Clara, Christmas, 1917

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Ruth Dierking Cox in 1920 — clearly things had changed a bit in three years’ time,

although my grandmother’s comment was

“I believe her car was a Studebaker.  Always breaking down or out of fix.”

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And now we’re back to sweet Great-Great-Aunt Emma, with pretty little Colleen, who was in some way my cousin, and 2-year-old me with my naked doll and a scowl.  Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1949.  Life is both long and unbelievably short.  



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Moving on …

Life progresses in loops and whorls, never backtracking but occasionally slipping into neutral.  Gearing up again and finishing a few things is always a thrill, so we’re celebrating the fact that after eighteen months and a half-dozen or more 600-mile round-trips, the condo is EMPTY — and if there are still two things there for other people to get, nobody told me about it, I know nothing.  We’ve re-listed the property with a different agency and an agent who from all indications is a winner — selling the heck out of the town in all price ranges and she’s fabulous to work with.  Keep a good thought for us — this is the last piece of the “Move” puzzle and the only one that didn’t drop into place right away, due entirely to the housing market there.

Rainy and chilly today and we’re in recovery mode.  Kim turned gray at one point yesterday while we were hauling stuff up the stairs, and I’m perpetually not much help at all, in fact “if you need to sit down that’s great but you can’t stand there” is mostly what it’s about for me.  An inhaler fixes his problem but not so simple with mine such as they are.  And Madison, for the first time in our experience, got carsick on the drive home.  Riding in her backseat bed, watching the landscape roll by, head on her paws, making eyes at us and smiling … when we turned around again she was curled in a ball looking like a sad bedraggled little weasel.  Luckily we caught a break in that she never did upchuck the googly bits we shouldn’t have been sneaking her from the road-food bags, and happily this morning her lethargy and ennui have passed.  She’s doing tricks for treats again, and she’s had a bath — there was really no choice, she’d picked up so much dust and dirt while she was “helping” she looked radioactive.  The little mop is sleeping it off now, after giving me the stink-eye about the bath — she loves them but didn’t appreciate shivering and considered us hard-hearted, I’m totally sure.

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It’s throw-back Thursday, let’s throw pictures …

Don’t ask about the migrating pile of paperwork, I don’t want to talk about it.  Spoiler alert: today’s list doesn’t look discernibly different from yesterday’s, subject closed.  And if it mattered I’d feel guilty or something, but as the boss of me I’m shockingly indulgent — all the hurry has leaked away and it’s heaven.

I found a little slice of Throw-Back-Thursday heaven … my mom’s cousin Chet … in the Philippines … WWII era.  Enjoy while I think of something to do with this mix of have-to-keep and need-to-toss that won’t go away.

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Still slightly displaced …

… but here’s a Thursday Throwback while we wait — my Great-Grandma Cummings holding little me.  That, of course, was my I-am-so-done face, which may or may not resurface from time to time.  I love my GG’s wonderful outfit and her sweet face.  And after seeing this photo a kazillion times, I all-at-once get who she reminds me of — Mrs. Doubtfire!  I love that.  I love it so much.   

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This Thursday’s Throwback

Say hello to two of my great-grandmothers.  Of the four I was blessed to have, the lady on the right is the only one I remember.  Great-Grandma Cummings was the mother of my WWI soldier grandpa, and she was as sweet and wonderful as they make them.  Great-Grandma Somerville on the left was a midwife and ran a boarding house and she too was amazing.  The grandbabies they’re holding may be my Uncle Bob and Aunt Bette — waiting for Baby-Aunt Barbara to weigh in on that.

Great-Grandma Somerville used to tell her new mothers, when she helped them bathe, “I’ll wash down as far as possible and up as far as possible, and you can wash Possible.”  She makes me think of Rose Kennedy without all the money.

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A sweet little throwback …

Remember the story about my grandfather last week, and the fact that he and my grandmother raised nine children?  (Link below.) Here’s a photo of their eldest and youngest, just two of their six sons.  This is my Uncle Bob, home on leave, holding his baby brother Roger, probably around 1944.

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https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/12/04/a-fairytale-for-throwback-thursday/

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A Fairytale for Throwback Thursday

Once upon a time, there lived a handsome young man of steel who told a little white lie about his age, joined the Army at seventeen, fought at the front during The War to End All Wars on many fields of battle, came home intact in mind and body, swept a lovely fifteen-year-old store clerk off her feet, married her straightaway, and started a dynasty.  Thus reads the CliffsNotes version, you may thank me after the test.

But before that, a lot of other things happened.

And while those things were happening, the young man was growing steely because clearly he had good genes plus a step-father who was certifiably unhinged.  When the lad in our tale was less than twelve years old, his step-dad took him to the barren plains of eastern Colorado to “prove up a claim” and homestead it, worked him like a dog, left him there and went home to Kansas.  But not before taking a pot-shot at him off the porch that put a hole through his hat and knocked him flat in the hard Colorado dirt.

The boy lived out there in that little shack by himself, with the heat and the wind and the wildlife, until somebody came for him.  Whatever steel he wasn’t born with must have crawled into his bones in those months, and it never left him.  I know this because he was my grandfather and I know he never lost his metal, his discipline, or his looks.  He and my grandmother raised six sons and three daughters, all worth knowing in their own right.  Grandpa knew how to do everything and Grandma knew the rest, so there was always food on the table and a good roof on a house full of voices laughing, crying, arguing, singing, talking, yelling, but mostly laughing.  Smart funny people, this dynasty.

It’s my favorite fairytale to slip into on cold gray days because it’s all true.  And a thing to love is that with everything Grandpa survived in his years, he never got smelly and mean-spirited and old on the inside. He and my grandmother both figured out how to stay alive and BE alive and how to pass that on.  Pretty cool.

 

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Throwing it back to love …

The night Kim and I found ourselves engaged …

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