I hope you dance…

October Sunrise – Kim Smith 10/23/2022

There are few things in this life so soothing to me as a dark quiet house just before dawn, steaming mug of coffee in hand, a blank page before me. A day begun in peace and solitude generally turns out pretty okay, because it’s all about attitude and it starts on the inside.

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Fall makes me think about school, and school makes me newly appreciate children with their optimism and natural joy. For them, life is real every second.

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We can remain childlike if we never forget the important things…

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We can ask childlike questions…

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We can stay childlike about history…

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We can stay childlike in our hopes and dreams…

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A timely reminder for the adults in the room…

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If we so choose, we can keep a childlike spirit until the end of our days. We simply have to remember how to dance…

I hope you dance.

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Box it up…

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I had a wonderful conversation the other day with someone whose opinion matters to me far more than most people’s, and it ended up being helpful beyond words. I’m pretty sure I’d benefit greatly from talking to a qualified therapist in order to tie up a few loose ends before heading into what I like to think of as the home stretch, may it last forever. There are memories and emotions that have become dead weight over the years and need to be put someplace manageable. After Sunday’s healing convo, I had a better understanding of how this works, and it’s key: Nothing goes away, so it has to be put into its own box and treated with respect, but by its very nature it can’t share daily life with me because it isn’t life-bringing.

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You’re allowed to love everything that makes you who you are. Please do.

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We all know…

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If pain of any kind keeps you from owning your daily share of happiness, deal with it in the present using what you know at the time, put it in the Hurt Box, and walk away… don’t give it life outside the container. The stuff in the box tends to get quieter by the day if we don’t open the lid, and that’s a mercy.

Peace to you in all things on this crisp fall morning…

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Sea change…

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Look at the time, it’s the next-to-last day of summer already! We have a nice cool morning ahead of our 100º high… the sun’s shining, the mowers are mowing, the fresh-cut grass smells like a benediction… and I enjoyed my morning walk before 7:30. We’re supposed to be in the mid-80s tomorrow, and then autumn greets us on Thursday with a high of 61º and rain, wouldn’t that be perfection. Seemed like kind of a short summer, but they all do now, and we’re ready for the loveliness fall brings.

It’s been a week since I sat here and wrote anything, but not for lack of opportunity and effort. I learned early on that my muse does not reward effort… she values only my trust. First and foremost: coffee, preferably Kim’s, which is steeped in love and not tainted by Starry-eyed capitalism. 😊 Next, quiet and focus, which might not be exactly what you envision. I can stare at a leaf outside my window while I write a whole paragraph without glancing at the keyboard. Is that a marketable talent? SPOILER: No. No, it is not. But it’s a good exercise when it works.

And then, when the quiet settles down around me, we talk, my elusive muse and I. She brooks no untruth, no dissembling, no dancing around the real stuff, and sometimes she simply goes away until I’m ready for it. She knows the world is a hard place to be right now if you possess awareness… that double-edged sword of knowledge. She knows other species don’t have to deal with this aspect of life on earth, so she tries extra hard to be kind while tormenting me with things I could maybe think about.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness… what it is and what sort of power we hold over it… and as with all of life, it comes down to balance. Kim gets twitchy-butt if he stays indoors for too long, whereas it’s pretty okay with me in here most of the time. It does get really quiet, though, especially without the talking heads on TV news who used to babysit me. What I’ve realized is that often all I crave is the murmur, the presence of other people, and I don’t even need to be part of the conversation. Times when I’m happy to sit in the corner of a coffee shop with my iPad, on the periphery, listening to the ebb and flow of communal existence while bearing no responsibility for decisions being made around me, simply benefitting from the nearness of others who resemble me. And then I toddle back home, thankful for the grace of peace and silence.

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I think about what it means to be an introvert, an empath, a peacemaker, and a relentless advocate for truth and justice, all wrapped up in one neat little neurotic bundle… and mostly it means that at any given time somebody’s really pissed at me and would love to tell me so, and that my spirit is basically conflicted nonstop… but whaddaya gonna do. Refer to description in this paragraph… by the stars, I never had a chance.

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Life is an endless puzzle, but a bit of awareness and longevity go a long way, and eventually, over years of paying attention, a pattern emerges. Humans are selfish and lazy; therefore, life has only a partial shot at running smoothly at any point in time, and given free reign we will screw things up past all fixing. Are we there yet? Feels like we’re there. I saw this yesterday. It’s real. Feel free to google it.

Dealing with the day-to-day is a contact sport not suited for the faint of heart nor the easily discouraged, and that’s without assholery like the above. Ya’ll can have Orange Jesus 100% to yourselves, thx.

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I plan to do the same. Hope it works out that way for you, too.

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Still hanging around, what a surprise!

At 7:00 on a September morn, fog hanging in the trees, a cheese Danish and hot coffee in front of me courtesy of Kim… I’m settling into the fact that today I’m 75 years old. It’s frankly weird to find myself at an age that once sounded unbearably old, life over, stick with your comfy chair, lap blanket, and tepid tea, Granny-Face. But I watched both of my grandmothers live past 95, keeping their minds reasonably intact, and this morning I know you don’t shut things down three-quarters of the way through, so on we press.

When Kim and I got married, I was the reverse of today’s number… 57. A full range of life events has taken place in the intervening 18 years, letting me know for sure that life doesn’t hinge on ages, numbers, or our careful plans. I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and be 75 plus a day, and the days will continue to spool out until I reach the final one, whenever it comes.

The gray flannel morning has crept up against my windows, socking me into my quiet corner with only my thoughts for company… just the way I like it. These gentle surroundings are causing me to be highly conscious of a few key factors in making it to this milestone in a positive frame of mind…

  1. After two years of treatment protocols, Kim’s oncology numbers are below zero… success!
  2. With the advent of vaccines, boosters, and a lower transmission rate, John’s work at the hospital is becoming a little safer and more conducive to longterm breathing.
  3. Since Christmas and a spinal fusion via robot, I’ve been without my old companion of fifty years… nerve pain… and I’m walking my tush off on the surrounding sidewalks.
  4. Last week I got new hearing assists with the latest technology… and joy of joys, I can actually HEAR! I’ve been missing so many sounds for who knows how long, I’m having to retrain my ears and brain to tolerate the sheer input of it all and it’s wonderful.
  5. Despite every awful thing at loose on the planet, genuine loving humans give me insane hope for a future that is not dystopian. I texted with two of them this morning… day made! People haven’t called me Pollyanna all my life for nothing.

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Very happy to be a Virgo. Otherwise, I’d have to be someone else entirely.

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Streaming Kansas…

It started raining sometime after midnight and has paused only momentarily since. Down in the parking lot there’s a small truck with a large green canoe lashed over top of it, which is reassuring as we may have need of it by Thursday. All this spring rain is wonderful and will benefit everything… as it simultaneously adds to the general lethargy. I haven’t yet tested the outer limits of my capacity for the Magnolia Network, even on mute, but it’s only a matter of time… perhaps this is the day I quietly go mad and Kim comes home to a mere whisper of the person formerly known as his wife. Anything could transpire as the chill rain pelts against windows that were just this morning professionally washed via power-lift, despite the obvious liquidity of the surroundings at the time. Don’t ask, I am mos def not in charge here. I’m very glad for that fact, and you should be, too.

Being happy in the rain really isn’t that heavy an assignment for a reclusive Pollyanna, and I thank my friend-cousin for this reminder…

…and sometimes a little wine.

We don’t understand until we get there, but all the “wise” things older people have said to us about life? Those people were being brutally honest, and the process only becomes more honest and more brutal as it plays out. It’s all real, and mostly based on our own choices.

This too is our choice… to trust enough not to give up on humanity nor ourselves, and to refuse to lose the things that matter.

The “love unconditionally” part is the kicker and we all know it. Gud luck to us.

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Take me home, country roads…

Word on the street has always been that you can’t go home again, and that seems like a wise release-mechanism… you can leave but you can never really return, you have to keep moving forward. In that light, there are places I’ll be okay not ever seeing again, along with the people who determined the atmosphere there. But for about five hours yesterday evening, Rita and I slipped back “home” and it was good stuff. We were with childhood friends… sisters… in a peace-filled house, enjoying beautiful appetizers and wine, talking nonstop, and the first time I thought of the clock it was 6:30… the next, almost 8:30! We picked up where we left off the last time we were together, some seven or eight years ago, and even though we all grew up in and around the same tiny Kansas town, the conversation was far more about life as it is now than about people we thought we knew then, and vice versa. Small towns… where people know or surmise everything you do and say, and consider it their life’s duty to help regulate same. By accepted standards of the times we grew up in, we’re country girls gone wild… tomorrow one sister will fly home to her partner and her wide-ranging interests, and the other will leave for meetings in three different countries. A third sister will keep pursuing goals that have little to do with former dreams and instead are all about the here and now. And the fourth will continue to observe and learn, grateful for another shot at life in a healthy body, and hatching ideas for the immediate future.

We were so busy being together none of us thought to take pictures, which is fine because even a SMART phone couldn’t have captured the essence. Sweet, easy, real, loving… and the kind of acceptance that heals. One of those relationships where you say endlessly “We HAVE to catch up!” and then one day the stars align and it happens… and it’s always worth the wait.

Surrounded by cheap knock-offs of everything in life, it’s reaffirming to see that some things truly never change because they’re the real deal. What solace and joy in this present era.

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Moving right along…

Strange weather day… foggy and currently in the 50s, with a chance of severe storms after 10am. It’s very still outside, and except for the occasional car passing below my windows I might as well be the only human awake. I like that in a morning.

Lawrence has had her blowout celebrations for the Jayhawks, wrapping up with Sunday’s parade down Mass Street and up Mt. Oread to Allen Fieldhouse, and now the team, coaches, and support personnel are on a quick tour of the state. After KU won the championship in 2008, that year stands as the school’s highest enrollment mark. Stay tuned, we could see a marked increase again this fall. It’s a good place to be.

Can’t find crowd estimates for the parade yet, but the night we won the championship there were approximately 70,000 people downtown, so we can use our imaginations. And there were only three (3) arrests made that night, mostly minor infractions. This really is a good place to be.

So now we move on… to summer and all the outdoor living we can stand. To walking our buns off. To life here in Free State Kansas… it’s all good.

This thought woke me up today…

Therefore…

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Always a challenge…

Shootouts… it’s always something. In the greater world it’s war, hunger, need, and disease that stretch humans past their limits. In the scaled-down version, we obsess over sports and winning… and no apologies for that because a steady diet of pain, injustice, and death does exactly to us as we might expect, so we hang onto the happy for as long as possible. Our beloved Jayhawks made it to the NCAA Final Four and we’re quietly psyched.

It’s five whole days before our game with Villanova… and we’ll survive the wait. Somebody will win, somebody will lose… life will roll on. April 7th is MLB Opening Day and we’ll have a whole different roster of familiar faces to cheer for when the Royals get going. In the fall we’ll turn our attention to the Chiefs and hope for a big season. Maybe by Super Bowl 2023 we will have achieved world peace simply by running away from every unpleasant detail of life. That’s worked before, right?

As with most of them over the past few years, it’s been quite a week. Lots of people saying words, other people speaking with explosives, but is anybody anywhere really listening? The truth is slammed more viciously than misinformation and one gets the impression lots of people prefer the narrative of lies.

It’s a gray day, with a blue mood hovering, so I’ll hustle back to something happy before this post implodes… a photo of my kid celebrating his birthday with three friends. In Iceland. Inside an ice cave. For a midwestern farm guy it would have once seemed slightly inconceivable… and it’s so cool. I’ve never been shy about living vicariously, especially if that was the only option.

The travelers…
Black sand beach…

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It always comes back to real estate… where we’re standing when life happens. Our planet is so beautiful and so tortured. Gonna keep my soul wrapped around the beautiful today if it kills me.

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The official word…

Today is rolling out in Second-Coming font size… the reddest of red-letter days in long years… because life has changed. This morning was my 3-month post-op visit and I’ve been cleared to do anything I feel like doing. Wow, I wonder if they realized who they were awarding carte blanche to — things could get dicey. The x-rays show everything’s precisely in place and healing perfectly, and there were no red flags, so all systems are norminal, and off we go.

My surgeon gave me a great hug, and I got to tell him about Sunday afternoon when Rita and I hiked for 90 minutes on rough trails. His nurse said they have 50-yr-old patients who can’t do that, so I’m humbled, and I’m primed to take advantage of the years Dr. Carlson has returned to me, even though all of it still feels slightly dreamlike.

We’d planned to have lunch at Crushed Red, a favorite KC noontime spot, but it was barely 11am when my appointment ended, so we came home instead. Our entire discussion on the drive back was where to celebrate over food, and we finally settled on The Roost, pulled the car into the parking garage, and walked there. It wasn’t until we were flirting with each other at the bar that we realized we were in exactly the right place… back in one of the prime locations where our Lawrence sojourn started, among people we know, who seemed genuinely happy to see us, making it a true celebration. So far today we’ve marked the occasion with good food and Bloody Marys, and it’s been a day worth writing home about. Guess this blog-spot is home…

And we just got a text that sweet friends are coming to celebrate with us this evening, although they won’t know it’s a party until they get here.

Thank you for hanging in with me through all the times when I’ve come here to vent and whine. On this day, by contrast, I’m full of knowing that at least SOME of the rougher parts of life really can get better, which in turn changes everything. Please don’t ever give up.

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Less is more…

In taking care o’ business this morning, I’ve made a gruesome discovery… Facebook pages do not die a pretty death. Not sure this one’s really gone yet… I sense lurkage in the background. But I brought the sword down and I’m fairly certain no one will miss that little pile of data.

So don’t go looking for that ol’ page, the deed is done. We can hang out here and keep life simple. Thx for always stopping by.

(If you’re new here, I just killed a Facebook page that theoretically led to this blog. Everything’s under control. And hello.)

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Spring arrives every year…

We need the part of spring when the sun and the air feel new

We need that flash of renewal to stay with us and keep us alive

We are so very needy… and why not

The idea that we’re a super race contains flaws. -JSmith 03/08/2022

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Author of “Love After Love”

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This is all random today as the world rages around us, because…

And sometimes understanding accompanies the reruns.

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Time marches on…

(Didn’t get posted yesterday… )

According to the leaf shape, these are daffodils, but they could be jonquils with no argument from me. I like them because they remind me of growing up on the farm. The fence boards are too even and perfect, and my guess is pressure-treated… we were far better-acquainted with hedge posts and barbed wire… but the flowers say spring and my heart says yes. “Hello, March” indeed. You’re welcome here… please be nice.

This week will be tantalizing before temps drop back into the 40s and under:

In my desire to be outside walking every day, I’m done with winter for this go-round… but I’m pretty sure it isn’t done with us. Kansas winters are sneaky, so never turn your back on one. For a handful of days though, we’ll enjoy the heck out of the balcony and what’s out there on the streets, and be fully prepared for spring when it settles.

I can’t remember the farm without thinking about my little brother, who was a Leap Year baby and not happy about it. Three older sisters teasing him about only having a birthday every four years was an annoyance he didn’t need, among many others. He would have been 66 this Leap Year, which is hard to envision as he left us at 29… and it will never not hurt…

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… and yet spring comes every year.

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Necessary bidness…

ADDENDUM: Today is the 13th. On Tuesday the 15th, this is happening. It isn’t a BFD, but check your subscription status before Tuesday if you’re interested. Thx!

Good morning, friends, it’s March 1, 2022. You know what that means. Two weeks from today, the Facebook page titled “Playing for Time” that has hosted this blog will cease to exist. THEREFORE… if the notices for my blog posts come to you via that FB page, you will need to make other arrangements before March 15th.

OTHER ARRANGEMENTS: Click the proper spot on the righthand side of the blog page and follow the instructions in order to subscribe. “Call” me with any questions. Thx.

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Goals…

Since my current objective is to be outside walking every day, I’m hyper-focused on The Weather Channel, and what I’m seeing is a roller-coaster path to spring. Pretty sure it’s that way every year, but this time I’m feeling the nuances. We had 8″ of snow late last week, and parts of it are still on the ground. Today’s high is forecast to be 70º with sunshine, so the remnants should disappear while Rita and I are out “hiking” this afternoon, and I can’t wait. She’s scouting out a path I haven’t taken, just for extra interest and incentive because she’s cool like that.

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That was yesterday. We walked around the Pohler Lofts neighborhood and spent a little time at the Wishing Bench, which someone with a wonky heart on a rough day set on fire some years ago, but which has been refurbished and laden with items dear and meaningful. Next time I’ll take a fresh pic… yesterday we were just there to look and ponder. We went from Pohler to Hobbs Park & Stadium on 11th and looked at the murals… read the quotes by Langston Hughes, who grew up a few blocks NW of there… along with other words from other souls who helped make Lawrence what it is.

Old photo of original bench.
Hobbs Stadium

We love this town, which is still in Kansas but so not like the rest of the state. Our Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, is one of the nation’s most endangered in this year’s midterms… and her GQP legislature has hatched a bill to separate Douglas County, one of two blue dots in the state, from the rest of NE Kansas and stretch our voting block in a straight line across the state all the way to Colorado, 400 miles long and an inch deep. Against our will. Against anybody’s better judgment. Against sanity. It’s crazy-making to be rendered helpless in our own defense, which delights some people no end.

I have a theory, which if proven wrong would crush me. I think you can make #lfk your kickaround dog, poke her with sticks, try to put her nose in the mud… and get virtually nowhere. Digest this in whatever way lines up with your basic philosophy, but a blurb Google handed me says “Lawrence, Kansas was founded in 1854 by antislavery radicals who had come to Kansas under the auspices of the New England Emigrant Aid Company to outvote proslavery settlers and thus make Kansas a ‘free’ state. The city was named for Amos A. Lawrence, a New England textile manufacturer who funded the company’s settlement efforts.”

“Antislavery radicals” sounds so… judgmental, don’t you think? When we go to Free State Brewery… Free State Dental… any number of clearly freedom-loving spots in town… I just think how fresh the air feels. I am for sure anti-slavery, but isn’t everyone? Wait… that’s the “radical” part, isn’t it. From what I can gather, John Brown was a nutty old scarecrow who knew his beans, knew right from wrong, knew people weren’t livestock, and he left an indelible imprint here, as we continue to ask ourselves “WWJBD?”

Abolitionist John Brown has been famously depicted in a mural done by Kansas artist John Steuart Curry in the State Capitol building in Topeka, completed in 1940. The mural portrays Brown almost as an Old Testament prophet, a Bible in one hand, a rifle in the other.

Mr. Brown did his rabble-rousing in the 1850s, coinciding with #lfk’s infancy and likely setting the tone for future dealings with the surrounding world. Then in the 1860s, as Civil War devastated the country, William Quantrill contributed his bit to history:

“The Lawrence Massacre, also known as Quantrill’s raid, was an attack during the American Civil War (1861–65) by Quantrill’s Raiders, a Confederate guerrilla group led by William Quantrill, on the Unionist town of Lawrence, Kansas, killing around 150 unarmed men and boys.

The attack on the morning of Friday, August 21, 1863 targeted Lawrence due to the town’s long support of abolition and its reputation as a center for the Jayhawkers, who were free-state militia and vigilante groups known for attacking plantations in pro-slavery Missouri‘s western counties.” -Wikipedia

Quantrill couldn’t burn most of the native stone buildings on Mass Street and elsewhere, but he did his damndest to scorch the character and reputation of Lawrence. And how many people today can even tie his name to this place in history?

I may have been too mesmerized to take pictures yesterday… I haven’t been out much ya’ know… but it’s all still there and we’ll go back. Not today, however, when the high temp will be 28º, a 40º drop from yesterday afternoon’s balmy stroll. Overcast. Gray. Glad I got out and shook hands with Monday while the gettin’ was good. I’m more thankful for a little sister who never whines about slowing her “veteran hiker” pace for the old girl with the hardware onboard. Wait… she has plenty of same, so she knows.

Thought I was seeing ghosts slipping along the sidewalks… all that talk of Quantrill’s Raiders and John Brown and how we got here. Turns out it’s snowing, and now the flakes are gathering mass and acting all sassy. I get to stay in here all day, and walk or no walk I’m loving it. I’m wishing all of us a cozy day bathed in peace and freedom…

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Dear Diary…

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 is a day for the record books, by which I mean mine personally. We saw my neurosurgeon today for my one-month follow-up and all is well. He removed all my staples and stitches, which alone makes for a comfier existence, said everything is on schedule, and told us that the surgery could not possibly have gone better. I was hoping for a spa soak, but that’s still another month out, so I’ll get over it and press onward. I’ll be walking, walking, walking until the 3-month mark when he’ll reassess and decide what to assign next. For now, I think he’s given me ten extra years, and I thanked him for paying the price to be where he is, doing what he does, because he’s changing lives.

Time has lost all meaning over the past two years, but especially in the sequence of events we just experienced. By all rights I should still be at least three weeks out, waiting for surgery, but since the KIMN8R (on a hint from Rita) asked that I be put on a wait-list I ended up having my first consult with Dr. Carlson six weeks sooner than my original appointment, and then a woman scheduled for my exact procedure cancelled, with surgical team in place, so I inherited her spot. Thus, surgery was already done and I was home from the hospital a week ahead of my originally-scheduled visit. Therefore… we missed the main onslaught of Omicron and made it back to the cave before the devil even knew we were out.

There are things in life that really are supposed to happen, and once they get rolling you could barely stop them if you tried. It feels like I closed my eyes on fifty years of pain, surrendered my body to science, and woke up in a world I’d almost forgotten. I dropped the opioids at the end of week one, parked the walker, and haven’t looked back… life is never over until it’s over and I’m ready for more of it. Only time will tell if the pain’s going to move up my spine to the other wonky disks, but for now the real problem’s been fixed, the nerve pain has disappeared, and I’m moving unless something stops me, which doesn’t seem quite real yet, although black & white does have a way of bringing things home…

TRIGGER WARNING: Bones and hardware

So that’s how things are looking at L5/S1 around these parts, folks, and we’re callin’ it progress. Hoping for an early spring…

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