A poet speaks for me…

The joy found in a cool August morning can’t be laid on too thick… it’s simply glorious. The rush of stepping into another sunrise and striding down the sidewalk, balance pole in hand, everything right with the immediate world for a few precious minutes, cannot be diminished by impending daily-ness. I walked as far as the courthouse this morning before looping toward home… next trip South Park! I saw Dennis scurrying along Mass Street, his arms full of collected treasures… where did he stash his shopping cart, I wonder. As I trekked toward my destination, I noticed two rough-sleepers in doorways on the east side of the street, and outside the Replay Lounge an early riser was singing, dancing, and yelling, so I chose another route home, for simplicity’s sake. Plenty of room for everybody.

I’ve had no success finding the title, but these words from an incredible writer are everything this morning…

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said.. 

A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made.. 

Or a garden planted.. 

Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, 

and when people look at that tree 

or that flower you planted, you’re there..

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something 

from the way it was before you touched it 

into something that’s like you 

after you take your hands away.. 

The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said.. 

The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all..

the gardener will be there a lifetime.. 

-Ray Bradbury

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Get out and touch the world today if you can. Leave a mark. And may your coffee, your pelvic floor, your intuition, and your self-appreciation be strong.

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**The occasional reminder that no one sees your name, including me, but your rating thrills my heart. I feel so seen. 😎

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Helpful, honest, happy family = amazing…

I’m sitting in my 4th-floor perch on a rainy Wednesday morning, observing the dog-walkers and the drizzled foliage while I savor the events of the past week. John booked a spur-of-the-moment flight to check in with the parental units, and his timing couldn’t have been more spot-on… we needed to see and celebrate with him. When he was here about this same time last year, life was feeling markedly unsettled for all of us including Auntie Rita… and much positive resolution has transpired since, so we toasted to every bit of it. On Sunday he treated us to a wonderful 18th wedding anniversary celebration at Basil Leaf… Italian food, wine, exquisite desserts, and the best company we could ever want, while we counted our blessings. Life remains good.

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Between the weather and timing, we managed a handful of walks… and the remainder of our waking hours were spent talking and eating, a true Midwest sojourn for Atlanta man. Tomorrow he’ll return to his oncology unit and we’ll resume our exercise routines in earnest, possibly skip a meal once in a while… and life will go on until we see each other again. The days since last Friday will keep my heart fed for some time to come…

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Until next time.

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The world delivers a load of stress to our doors every day. I’m glad real family, however we manage to come by those people, is there to help us handle it all and move on. I fiercely love and need my people.

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Laziness… the habit of resting before you’re tired

How to tell if something has become a habit… when you feel utterly miserable if you miss a day. Kim woke me up when he left for PickleBall, which I assume was around 6:30, and the next thing I knew it was nearly 8:00. When I stepped out onto the balcony the sun and thick hot air made me duck right back inside to think it over, whereupon I decided some buttery grits with toast and jam sounded more rejuvenating… and here we are.

If every day went according to plan, we’d be robots, but missing my morning walk will stick like glue and I’ll be looking for shade toward evening to make up for it. Seven months ago I couldn’t envision ditching the lifetime nerve pain and doing whatever I wanted to do… so now when I pass up opportunities to DO… I feel it. I’m calling that a beautiful thing while I line up the day… there’s usually enough to do.

I remember scorching summers, some total drought-makers, but the current heat wave feels ponderous even when the humidity is below 50%. In an era when all our chickens seem headed home to roost, I’m not holding out false hope for consistently milder weather any time soon, by which I mean I may never see that day again. Good to be old… I got to see most of it at least once. Live with this we will, kids, ’til we die. The human race is nearly inscrutable on every level, but one thing we know about us… even the gods can’t tell us a damn thing because we arrived here knowing it all.

Not a lot to write home about right now, just felt like checking in with everybody. And I saved another little stack of stuff to share with you…

Right off the top, a commentary on the past couple of weeks:

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In that vein, and don’t let on that I told you, but Kim always wanted to invent a Braille halter-top.

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Self-explanatory.

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This one’s just a freebie.

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I like to reiterate the following on a semi-regular basis to keep misinterpretations to a minimum if possible:

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This is critically important, so don’t skim past it…

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And this… shared by a wonderful friend… because I love it.

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Unraveling the threads…

The other day I shared this little story on Facebook and it generated a brief but interesting conversation…

My impression was that I surprised at least a few people in the convo, catching them off-guard with a confessional comment or two… and I’ve thought about it since. We give it all sorts of names and labels… apprehension, disquiet, restlessness, watchfulness… but by any description, anxiety can be crippling. The first two years of isolation after COVID began showed me just how intricately-wrapped I was in the arms of silent worry. That sense of disquiet has been with me since before memory, and the reveal came because the isolation left me with nothing but time inside my own head.

If anxiety lives under your skin you’re likely to identify with some of this…

I’m saving the pertinent details for my bestseller, so on the “how did I get this way” front I’ll simply say for now that LIFE HAPPENS. It’s been extremely sweet to me in certain ways, though, so I’ve had my good moments, stumbling through life, even at times feeling marvelously (and temporarily) in control of my existence. I cherish those times, which are ongoing. But the flipside that we’re not talking about right now never goes away, just hangs out in doorways and dark alleys waiting to trip me up and put me on the wrong side of myself. It takes only a word or a look, an image from the past, a riff of a song, a perceived disappointment… and that other me takes over. I don’t like her at all because all the things I want to be… she isn’t. I keep thinking year by year that we’ll reach a peaceful settlement, she and I… but she’s tricky and has been running the show far longer than the me I really am… the one who’s strong through everything and knows what she’s doing. (For some reason the witchy half of me just laughs when I say that.)

If you’re me, with Anxiety in the driver’s seat, you drag your feet about making plans, even though you want to see the people involved. It’s complicated. You make all your doctors’ appointments for afternoon because you need the whole morning to get mentally ready for it, which includes showering and dressing. Situations encompassing more than four people are anxiety-inducing because despite spending ridiculous dollars on high-tech hearing assists you can’t hear shit… all the voices and background sounds blend together, obliterating consonants from the beginnings and endings of words, which renders them unintelligible. My glued-on but sincere smile and the occasional nod of my head are intended to convey a general sense of understanding on my part, along with the acknowledgment that it doesn’t really matter, I know there won’t be a test, we’re all just being sociable here… as anxiety percolates.

Phone calls are a test of will, mine against the witch under my skin. The anxiousness attached to this one harkens back to the days before I realized I was losing my hearing, I just knew people were talking softer and faster and why was this happening all at once? I’m realizing that it’s really not such a big deal to have a phone conversation, and it’s where these expensive earbuds shine, so I’m on the verge of winning this one. In fact, since breaking out of the prison of nerve pain, I’ve been taking on lots of tiny challenges and winning, which bodes better for the future.

I’ve learned how to be a duck, calm on the surface, paddling for my life underneath, which as it turns out is the definition of adulting. And I’m learning that the world of my thoughts is the true one… as long as I keep them real. When I was little I wondered what people did after 40 or so, when they knew everything. Just read books ’til they died, I figured.

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I don’t know the answer to the question posed in the graphic, but I know I’m a champion at letting things steal my joy. I can break my own heart in record time with conversations that never happened, slights that never came my way at all. It’s crazy.

But never mind, it’ll all be in the book…

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Let’s talk about home and comfort…

Friends will be surprised to hear that I walked to New Jersey yesterday morning. Strolled from 8th to 9th to Connecticut to New York to New Jersey, which kept me on good sidewalks and brought me out at the train station, ready for the return loop home. Went out just after 7am but it was already getting steamy, so 45 minutes’ trekking was about right. This morning I woke up later and it was already breathless outside, so I’ve declared this to be Paperwork Day (why do we still have PAPER work??), while soothing any trace of guilt with iced coffee. Oh, there’s all that laundry, too, of course, good thing I conserved energy right off the bat, so wise…

The days grow ever weirder while that other shoe takes on weight, so here’s some nonsense I saved for just such days…

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I love you, fellow weirdos, we must hang together. Or we will hang separately…

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Thomas Wolfe wrote a whole novel centered around the fact that You Can’t Go Home Again, and someone’s explanation says “If you try to return to a place you remember from the past it won’t be the same as you remember it.” I think it’s the other way around – we can’t go back because the people who never left won’t let us be anything other than the labels we wore then. That strikes me as an important fail-safe… if nothing changes over a lifetime, a society is dying, so home has to be wherever we find ourselves.

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I hope your heart feels at home today.

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The arc… bends…

We’ve made it to HumpDay of yet another engaging week in the life of the USA and smaller environs, including my hideout. After just short of a year’s fast from televised news, I’ve been compelled to tune in to the 1/6 hearings because although history does repeat itself, it happens only once in the flesh. Before I tuned out of news-watching, I was an MSNBC girl, mostly by process of elimination, the same process that took place Monday morning before the start of the second hearing. I was early by fifteen minutes, so I clicked the remote, looking for a spot to land. Tried C-SPAN first, three ancient talking heads droning on as to what the imminent proceedings might portend. Looked at CNN, chose not to stick with the panel in place. Stopped by the networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, moved on. They were all still ensconced in the bubble and squeak of their Hello-America-How-Are-You morning fare, instantly reminding me that there’s a too-casual way of addressing world news. So I settled in with my old friends at MSNBC, remarking to Kim, now home from PickleBall, on the changes since we’d last seen the gang. Nearly everyone looked younger, shinier, more rested, which speaks to the reduced political angst they’re tasked with tracking every day, and it’s clear that things are changing for the better, even when we can’t see it happening. So that’s encouraging, as is the fact that no one can stop the truth. It comes out.

A footnote from the first morning’s hearing…

I watched most of the Watergate hearings in 1973 on a little black & white TV while my 3-year-old played and napped, and the names and shenanigans are still vivid. Shenanigans is precisely what they were, as opposed to the sedition that was being fomented by the Trump administration. In fact, by comparison there is no comparison. The recent series “Gaslit” provided a good look back at the quaint and silly misdeeds of the Nixon administration, and a timely contrast with the treasonous crimes of Trump’s. I can’t wait for the remainder of the current hearings. I assume they’re mostly preaching to the choir, but even the choir likes a good schematic.

Onion Choir agrees

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So yeah, if you’re goin’ back in, might as well dive deep.

All things considered… Russia’s war against Ukraine, racial and political unrest in the US, gun violence off the charts, economic uncertainty [I could do this all day]… our inability to accept each other will end us more efficiently than any of the above. I wish we could get it together, but with age comes realism. I get along with Kim as seamlessly as any experience of my lifetime, but words are as tricky for us as for all other humans and we can mistake each other’s meaning in a heartbeat. In light of that reality, why do we harbor the fiction that the world can learn to get along? It’s an impossible assignment… and yet, what else is even worth fighting for?

The week is not over. Finish strong.

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Time and other variables…

The seasons press on, and just like that it’s 420 again… how time flies when you’re having fun! Quiet morning here, overcast, showers possible, even storms. It’s like silent mood music outside my windows, and sweetly healing, so here are a few of the recent best from my Share-It file…

First a timely reminder. (Aren’t taxes supposed to be a little late?)

Gud luck to ya’…

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I’ve developed a new system, which works in all situations for obvious reasons, and I highly recommend it…

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It’s a fact of life that the world is at war unendingly, despite the intense wish on all sides that fighting could cease. Turns out the military industrial complex owns us and must be sustained at all cost, so enterprising humans have to work at achieving harmony in more inventive ways, such as getting to know each other and learning to appreciate what every person brings to this experience of living. It remains a worthy goal.

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Something the COVID pandemic continues to teach me, and it adds to my sense of peace…

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And this is for everyone who needs it this morning… keep rocking that survival thing.

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A random clearinghouse…

Sounds like a subscription sweepstakes, but it’s merely a semi-regular purge of the rubble that accumulates in the general vicinity of my brain, most of it unrelated and not worth hanging onto. It’s all there though, like eye floaters, drifting around, mingling with the legit workings of my mind, coloring what I still refer to as thinking, and gradually mucking up the works. At least once a quarter it becomes necessary to assess, evaluate, kick a few things to the curb, and remember the good stuff.

  • In the nine years since we moved to NE Kansas, the Royals have won the World Series, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, and this year the Jayhawks are the nation’s college basketball champions. NOW what??
  • Ten years out from retirement, it gets trickier to fill the hours every day and feel productive. Realistically, there are only so many options… but I’ve thought of several just this week so it isn’t a forlorn situation to be in. Walking is first on the list… and I can sit at my piano bench and play again! Since writing is the only real passion I’ve ever attempted to make friends with, maybe I’ll give it more weight and respect moving forward. When you start looking for windows the light shines through.
  • Since the early days of the pandemic, quite a few people I know have been taking advantage of various forms of personal therapy and benefitting greatly. Now that my body is free of nerve pain I think a few conversations with a therapist I’m drawn to could be severely helpful. I’ve entertained the idea for a while, and believe it or not it’s been SUGGESTED to me more than once… what was THAT about, OMG! But I knew that any reference to “picking myself up and getting on with it” … “working past the pain” … “living my life as though I felt well” … “being resourceful, focusing outside myself, helping people who are less able” … and I wouldn’t go back, because I can’t lay my heart open to someone who doesn’t get it. Kinda wanted to save it for a time like NOW, when I can better hear and receive what’s offered to me in the way of wisdom. Counsel coming from someone I have reason to trust, at a time when they aren’t trying to reach me through a wall of pain, could help… meh, we’ll see.
  • Early on, I realized I couldn’t stay in touch with every person I encountered in life and furthermore wouldn’t want to, but I see people doing it. How does that work? Where does that kind of psychic energy come from, what drives the relentless body count? I can’t even maintain the polite minimum with family, let alone acquaintances. There are people all over the world I once fancied myself close to, but in defense of both parties, we barely knew each other at the time. In the case of extended family, the advent of adulthood brought awareness, and with it choices. I choose peace, therefore mostly solitude by default. I don’t make for a good friend, or cousin, or mentor, and I fully admit it’s due to selfishness – I choose personal peace nearly every time.
  • First World nations seem to be plowing headlong into fascism, and why is that? Do people get tired of living well and having their rights respected? Do madmen recognize that itch and rush in to scratch it? The pendulum never stops its arc.
  • It’s good that humans are given a life span longer than that of a gnat, but it’s still far too brief a time for figuring out the meaning of existence, so what are we supposed to do with all these half-formed ideas and incomplete concepts of how things are? It seems like a lot of responsibility for no more information and training than we’re provided, and the failure rate is piteously high.
  • In light of the above, I’m inclined, at this late stage in the game, to adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward absolutely everything. “You go ahead, life, have it your way. I’ll be over here eating what my body wants, sleeping when I need to, observing the world, drawing my own conclusions, and living ’til I die. The whole thing seems not to be so very complicated after all.”

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So that’s how that all is, thx for listening. A psychic purge, in order to be legit, must be validated by witnesses, and you’re it.

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Life in its third trimester…

Longevity is a thing in my gene pool. My two grandmothers both celebrated their 95th birthdays in their right minds… some of my great-grandmothers lived into their 90s… one of my uncles is 92, in shape like the Marine he was, and still living an independent life. Other relatives have beaten the odds as well… kept their faculties about them… lived long and prospered. I consider that a positive thing, as I enjoy living and prefer to do it on as healthy a basis as possible.

“Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” -William Saroyan

Since embarking on my 70s almost five years ago, life has changed in both subtle and clear-cut ways. It’s getting easier to stay mellow, partly thanks to the solitude of the past two years, partly due to the changing character of American life, which has taken on a set-adrift sort of feel.

“These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all… “

But in other ways a mellow state of mind is a total reach, so it’s healthier to feel, experience, vent, exorcise… and move on. “So strange, the world of social media. We think we’re negotiating the rapids just fine, and then with no warning we’re hung up on the rocks of somebody else’s bad day. Or our own.” -source unknown

Being misunderstood… misperceived… misjudged, is a fact to be dealt with for the duration of life, but it’s always jarring when it happens. I’ve never managed to solve the mystery of someone else’s misguided disapproval, so I tend to ignore it instead, which works just fine most of the time, but does add to a general sense of social malaise. Human interaction… for as educated, experienced, and sophisticated as we like to see ourselves… still swings wildly between love and hate… peace and warfare… acceptance and exclusivity. We lack the courage of our convictions so we lamely defend them ad infinitum, with less than positive results. When it comes to human communication we’re a consistent contradiction, our facts in disarray, our feelings spilling over, our frustrations fully on display. Everything’s a competition, an opportunity to be offended, a place to stake a claim. It’s exhausting and simply reinforces my reclusive lifestyle… the energy available to me can be better used elsewhere.

Things happen every day to remind us that the world is a cold and crazy place, that values vary among individuals… and the challenge inherent in human existence to care about each other becomes ever more… challenging. Sometimes there’s a sense that no genuine caring is left in the world and it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves. But when I think about the people I love, and who love me, or at least value my personal welfare… I know I’m inundated by the good life and I’ve never had it better. Perspective is everything.

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Heyyy, guess what day it is… ??

Here we are at HumpDay again, boys & girls, always an opportune time to assess where we’ve been and where we’re going. Any given week has the potential to end better than it started, so a word of hope… or solidarity… or humor can make all the difference.

Week #50 in the Year 2021 has held these bits of knowledge so far…

The pandemic unleashed by a deadly virus and multiplied by earth-dwellers who refuse the antidote, colors every part of daily living now. And the “greatest” nation leads the civilized world in death and suffering. We are an incomprehensible species, set on our own destruction. ‘Splain that, Lucy…

“We’re not taking it because we have no idea what’s in it.” Fair enough, provided all of your bodily choices are based on similar information.

A related thought:

And a point that neatly sizes up our current situation:

Our plates are full, here at the end of our second pandemic year, with much to sort and discard and much to reconcile with what we knew of truth. It feels better not to drag the same ol’ ratty stuff into a shiny new year. A head-on look at everything that’s transpired in the last twelve months is likely to grab us by the nose and take us down a rabbit hole of feelings, so there’s that, but since truth and facts are prime, it’s necessary to make the trip.

And then, for the sake of health, happiness, and that other thing… rhymes with health… we disengage from it all… and breathe… separate the truth from the litter and keep moving. I say it a lot… “Keep moving.” Life doesn’t stop for us, it doesn’t care, it’s not made that way, so we go with it or find ourselves hauling the ass-end of it all the time.

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She let go…

The other day, scrolling online, I saw a concise little 30-day challenge, formatted in such a way as to enable us to dump all our angst before New Year’s Day, and I didn’t even save it to my False Hopes folder because…

  1. those things always seem a little too pat
  2. I get halfway through and wander off
  3. more failure… who needs that??

Better that my conscious self show up in the right place at the right time to get precisely what it needs.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely,

without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a

book on how to let go… She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analise whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

Here’s to giving ourselves the gift of letting go…

There’s only one Guru ~ you.

―Rev. Safire Rose

Oops, found it. See? Entirely too perky for present company.

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Deep thoughts…

Fall… holiday season… perpetual change… bring on the nostalgia. Happens every year, we survive it or don’t and then we put it back in the closet ’til next time. Just for the sake of novelty, I’ve been trying to do the opposite … take it all out of the closet, evaluate each component on its merits and keep or not, according to my conscience and Marie Kondo.

Over the past hour I’ve jettisoned almost fifty draft posts that are no longer at risk of ever seeing the light of day, thank the universe. Hoooo, babies, what I’ve spared you from over the years by not publishing everything I write! That draft folder was a dank place steeped in anxiety going back to 2015, a litany of woes, a broad sampling of idiocy, none of it well done. I have no idea where my head was with some of it… post-surgical opioids?? At any rate, the evidence no longer exists, nor is it a threat to anyone, and you can thank me at your convenience (I like chocolate chip cookies and Michelob).

Amongst the ruins there are treasures to be rescued, always excellent motivation for sorting and tossing…

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Men die wishing they could know for sure if they measured up.

Women die wishing they’d known how to own their lives from day one.

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There are people — the friends of your heart — who pick up on everything you don’t say — and they put it into a context that fits everything you know about them and everything they know about you. And that’s just real.

And then there are days when a memory shows up and brings Christmas with it… a card from 1955 when Kim was four years old and his sister Joy was five. 💙 Christmas happens in the heart, moment by moment, and I remember thinking last year that I never wanted to see another December like that one. It’s December 1st in the year 2021. The moments start now.

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Hey… it’s Wednesday

Here we are at HumpDay once again, boys and girls, on the downhill run to the weekend.

WHY I LOVE WEEKENDS, by some pore ol’ retired thing

  1. They do not contain medical appointments.
  2. The already Zen pace on my side of the equation slows to an imperceptible crawl.
  3. The weekend menu is outstanding.
  4. The trace of guilt over being lazy goes totally underground for a couple of days.
  5. Sometimes weekends mean seeing actual people… and we know there’ll be more of that ahead.

It’s overcast this morning, with only a slight breeze, and it feels like the world’s at a standstill… everything static… to remain this way forever. But hark, what do I see from my window? People and dogs. Gird your loins, folks, life goes on.

Case in point…

And the trees know when it’s time for change…

Just about when we think we can’t stand the status quo another minute, we look around and our immediate situation has morphed into something else entirely. In light of what looked like an endless slate of dental appointments, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I have only one left… this time around. Friday we see a neuro about my back. Patience… patience… and the world turns.

Maya Angelou’s profoundly simple statement of fact will stay with me…

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But did you die?

Things… they change. Having taken a step back from the abyss lately, I’ve been dragging my psyche into fewer angst-ridden areas of life, but I’m nevertheless acutely aware of the controversy swirling around Simone Biles and other Million Dollar Babies of the sports world this year, and particularly this week. Apparently some round-headed pretender who likely couldn’t pull the trigger on a chin-up has called Simone Biles “a selfish sociopath” and “a shame to the country” for putting her health and well-being ahead of gold medals. According to Charlie Kirk “We are raising a generation of weak people like Simone Biles.” She’s so embarrassingly weak she does death-defying gymnastic moves nobody else in the world has ever thought of. What a taker.

So hey, if you live through it, no harm done, right? Everything for Mother America. That sounds a little 3rd Reich to me, so I’m giving Byron Heath a guest-essay spot this morning…

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This realization I had about Simone Biles is gonna make some people mad, but oh well.

Yesterday I was excited to show my daughters Kerri Strug’s famous one-leg vault. It was a defining Olympic moment that I watched live as a kid, and my girls watched raptly as Strug fell, and then limped back to leap again.

But for some reason I wasn’t as inspired watching it this time. In fact, I felt a little sick. Maybe being a father and teacher has made me soft, but all I could see was how Kerri Strug looked at her coach, Bela Karolyi, with pleading, terrified eyes, while he shouted back “You can do it!” over and over again.

My daughters didn’t cheer when Strug landed her second vault. Instead they frowned in concern as she collapsed in agony and frantic tears.

“Why did she jump again if she was hurt?” one of my girls asked. I made some inane reply about the heart of a champion or Olympic spirit, but in the back of my mind a thought was festering:

*She shouldn’t have jumped again*

The more the thought echoed, the stronger my realization became. Coach Karolyi should have gotten his visibly injured athlete medical help immediately! Now that I have two young daughters in gymnastics, I expect their safety to be the coach’s number one priority. Instead, Bela Karolyi told Strug to vault again. And he got what he wanted; a gold medal that was more important to him than his athlete’s health.

I’m sure people will say “Kerri Strug was a competitor–she WANTED to push through the injury.” That’s probably true. But since the last Olympics we’ve also learned these athletes were put into positions where they could be systematically abused both emotionally and physically, all while being inundated with “win at all costs” messaging. A teenager under those conditions should have been protected, and told “No medal is worth the risk of permanent injury.” In fact, we now know that Strug’s vault wasn’t even necessary to clinch the gold; the U.S. already had an insurmountable lead. Nevertheless, Bela Karolyi told her to vault again according to his own recounting of their conversation:

“I can’t feel my leg,” Strug told Karolyi.

“We got to go one more time,” Karolyi said. “Shake it out.”

“Do I have to do this again?” Strug asked.

“Can you, can you?” Karolyi wanted to know.

“I don’t know yet,” said Strug. “I will do it. I will, I will.”

The injury forced Strug’s retirement at 18 years old. Dominique Moceanu, a generational talent, also retired from injuries shortly after. They were top gymnasts literally pushed to the breaking point, and then put out to pasture. Coach Karolyi and Larry Nassar (the serial sexual abuser) continued their long careers, while the athletes were treated as a disposable resource.

Today Simone Biles–the greatest gymnast of all time–chose to step back from the competition, citing concerns for mental and physical health. I’ve already seen comments and posts about how Biles “failed her country,” “quit on us,” or “can’t be the greatest if she can’t handle the pressure.” Those statements are no different than Coach Karolyi telling an injured teen with wide, frightened eyes: “We got to go one more time. Shake it out.”

The subtext here is: “Our gold medal is more important than your well-being.”

Our athletes shouldn’t have to destroy themselves to meet our standards. If giving empathetic, authentic support to our Olympians means we’ll earn fewer gold medals, I’m happy to make that trade.

Here’s the message I hope we can send to Simone Biles: You are an outstanding athlete, a true role model, and a powerful woman. Nothing will change that. Please don’t sacrifice your emotional or physical well-being for our entertainment or national pride. We are proud of you for being brave enough to compete, and proud of you for having the wisdom to know when to step back. Your choice makes you an even better example to our daughters than you were before. WE’RE STILL ROOTING FOR YOU!

Byron Heath 07/27/2021

*****

I have excruciating memories of Kerri Strug’s sacrifice for those farging bastidges. No one should ever ask that of any athlete.

*****

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March, dun-dun-dun-D’oh… page 224

Day 353 – 03/03/2021

It was Saturday a minute ago, and not only is it somehow Wednesday, but we’re into a whole new month! Just when you think there’s nothing going on, so you fall out for a nap…

Sunshine RULES and we’re scheduled for a lunch meeting in Cielito’s courtyard today. I’m pretty excited about wearing real clothes, sitting (distanced) among #lfk peeps, and eating hot food straight out of a restaurant kitchen. It’ll be worth writing home about.

Tomorrow will be a landmark, with our second shots happening. I felt every day of the year it took to get here, no embellishment needed – I’m ready for the freedom of spirit the vaccine will eventually provide. And I hope someday there’s a test that will tell me what’s been going on inside my system all year… but this is my theory:

We voluntarily sheltered on March 12th of 2020, and sometime within that first week I got sick with body pain, chills, sweats, nausea, and a cough that wouldn’t quit. After three weeks, most of the symptoms fell off, but the cough has persisted all year. When I got sick again the day after Christmas, all the symptoms came back gangbusters, and I lost my sense of taste and smell that time around, both thankfully back now. My first coronavirus vaccine made me ill for three days with symptoms identical to the previous two cycles, which makes me think I had antibodies standing at the ready to fight the invaders because I brought the ugly-ass thing in here with me when we locked down.

The week before we came inside, there was an incident at the indoor pool involving both the water and the dressing room, which had been “taken care of” before I went there the next day. Coronavirus was already in town so my ESPN tells me I picked it up somewhere inside the facility and brought it home with me, because I’d been almost nowhere else – we were already being careful.

I have questions:

  • If the virus (or SOME virus) has been living in my body for a year, WTF has kept Kim immune to it, with his asthma?!
  • Testing wasn’t really a thing here yet when I needed one the first time, and the test I got after Christmas came back negative versus Rita’s positive, yet we had all the same symptoms, down to the oddest details. I didn’t cry or even think about it when the tech swozzled my nose and I’m pretty sure she didn’t get to the goods, so will the past twelve months remain a mystery?
  • If the clear thick stuff that comes up (sorry, Diary) is out of my lungs, what are the future implications? Am I coming to the end of something or the beginning?
  • So okay, something’s not right, will there be a way to right it? Will there be a way to even know definitively what this is? If it isn’t COVID then I should probably see what else they got, ’cause this doesn’t seem inclined to let go. It’s cunning… hits hard for two or three days and then hides again. Taunts me… “Feeling great, huh? Gonna do all sorts of stuff, huh? We’ll see… “

I was more than ready to shelter last year because I GET EVERYTHING, I really didn’t want this one, and I was terrified of Kim getting it. Irony is everything… he zips in and out of places all year and breathes free, while I play church mouse through the whole thing and get the ‘rona or its evil twin anyway. But a thought occurs… since I do tend to attract gremlins, staying out of the social bloodstream has been the best thing I could have done for everybody, me included, for every reason. I instinctively knew it at the outset, but didn’t know all the reasons, not by far, and I’ll never regret taking the guidelines seriously – what if I’d been out there freely shedding virus amongst those I know and love, for months on end? What if? Even masked, I would have been a menace because the coughing does not stop. In hindsight, I’m likely the one who gave it to Rita – she’s almost the only person except for Kim that I’ve had extended closer-than-six-feet unmasked contact with in the last twelve months. And you, Kev – stay well, dude. Wow, small circle!

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