An important truth… page 145

Day 251 – 11/21/2020

To all the people who get it and have from the beginning… we’ve been here for each other and that matters. Written by my friend Philip Grecian

Y’know…we’ve all been locked down. 

We’ve washed our hands until they’ve cracked.  

We’ve washed our groceries, our mail, our door handles. 

Lots of us have lost our jobs, our incomes…we’ve had friends die and not been able to attend their funerals. 

Trips for groceries have become adventures in survival.  

There has been a good deal of despair.

*****

But one thing I’ve found is this:  I know you better.

I’ve held your hand through the Internet, and you’ve held mine.

We’ve kept each other buoyed up.

You were there at the very moment I’ve needed you…and I’d like to believe I’ve been there when you’ve needed me.

Even as we are farther away…I think we’ve come closer.

We have taken the time to realize how much we care about each other.

*****

Stay safe.

Please.

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Hope on a Sunday… page 122

Day 219 – 10/18/2020

The intrepid PickleBallers are in dire need of a safe place to play indoors, but SPL is open for limited fitness activities only. Our typical short fall is morphing into early winter for now and outdoor play is becoming no bueno. So Kim borrowed my headphones and went for a long walk while I was sleeping this morning, and now he’s playing electric guitar, I’m noodling as usual, and we’re both waiting for hunger to strike and then it’s omelet time. Our high temp today is expected to be 49º so the spa soak will be from HEA-vun!

Less rain this year so the leaves are not quite as vivid and they’re dropping fast. Fall is such a metaphor for what’s happening in the world, and a present reminder that hope carries us until spring… every time. Thinking of all that’s changed in eight months, that’s one thing that remains – hope – and I’m trying to wear it on my face these days. I started realizing a couple of years ago that I have little need for mirrors now – my hair’s a no-effort deal, I bother with zero makeup except on rare occasions, I’m well-acquainted with my face after all this time, so mirrors are slightly superfluous and I forget to look, which naturally follows when one is neither jarring nor arresting to look at.

But the thought that follows from that is this: how much have my countenance and underlying substance been altered by the hours, days, weeks, and months here in my ivory tower? When we finally see our “boys” again, will I catch an “Omigod, Mom!” glint in their eyes before they check themselves? Have I gradually and imperceptibly melted and re-compacted into a zombie-like being who absorbs the hits, one by one, and keeps slogging forward? Or is that just how it feels from inside my head?

Rita stopped by yesterday for some fun catching up – she looks amazing despite her stress and exhaustion, and she’s getting on the downhill slope of things. Spring holds out hope for ALL of us! Odd to be thinking in those terms, maybe, since summer barely ended, but in the words of a favorite author:

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Live right in it… the hope. While the wind blows, the rain spatters, the snow falls and whips around us… live right in the hope. By spring we’ll know what sort of nation we are and what we personally will do with that. By spring maybe we’ll start getting a handle on the current pandemic before the next one hits. Maybe spring will bring some room for healing… repairing and rebuilding some of the vital relationships… putting things back together in this society we’ve made. I hope so.

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Marking time… page 120

Day 217 – 10/15/2020

Without specific markers the hours turn into days and the days turn into each other, but yesterday had its share of markers: Kim pedaled to the courthouse before 8am to see if there was a line yet for early voting and picked up an Einstein Bros. bagel for me on the way back. We voted. We had a working lunch on Cielito’s patio with Kevin for our quarterly review. Kim played bluesy guitar most of the afternoon while I read. We watched the first episode of this season’s Amazing Race. Markers.

Today’s been considerably more rudderless, although I did get a confusing Medicare mixup resolved with the stellar help… again… of Kevin’s people. I made Velveeta Mac for lunch because once in a while you have to say yes to the cheese. I looked at the little stack of stuff on my desk and thought about sorting it, but didn’t.

Reposted something sarcastic on Facebook this morning and it occurred to me that one reason I limit my page membership is that I don’t want to asplain things. I have no energy for the comments. When I post something funny from Andy Borowitz NOT THE NEWS and get back a huffy “OMG that isn’t even TRUE!” it gives my day a kick in the shorts it doesn’t need. If you don’t get it, google it, I don’t want to have this discussion.

It’s undoubtedly because I’m getting what’s commonly referred to as old. Susan H. and I compared notes this morning about voting and how long we’ve been doing it. My first time voting was in 1968 – Nixon v Humphrey. As of yesterday I’ve voted for a U.S. presidential candidate a total of 14 times, none so fraught with intensity as this one. THERE’s a marker.

An arresting little “keeper”:

Interesting Times ‘R Us. I hope desperately to avoid the second curse, and I shudder to think what the third might entail in my case. I’m okay with *interesting.*

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Hello Friday already… page 116

Day 211 – 10/09/2020

Oh hey, Diary… you’re still here? You’re wondering about my day yesterday and how many tasks I checked off my list? Two-and-a-half, so get off my back, ‘k? The list is right here, meaning it isn’t over yet, jeez you are so annoying sometimes.

Today started out so mellow it’s hard to feel guilty about much of anything. Kim woke me up at 8:00 with the news that there was fresh coffee and a bagel waiting. Then he pedaled on down to PickleBall town and I’m still here, sitting in sunshine, sipping the good brew. Padding across the room just now for more coffee, the thought hit me full-blown – I like being me. It feels right. I couldn’t have truthfully said that until recent years, and I just haven’t recognized it that clearly until now – life is good, I’m happy, I feel like me and that’s a gift. Things happened very early in my life that pushed me into an adult world before I had any knowledge or skills for coping, and I spent decades catching up… trying to uncover the facts that other people seemed to understand instinctively about life.

It took the advent of Kim for me to latch onto who I am and not turn loose. When somebody smart, strong, and nurturing loves you as is, the doors and windows are flung open and life gets real. I’m glad I got to stick around for this part, I probably wouldn’t have totally believed anyone who told me it keeps getting better – I would have considered it a platitude.

But it does get better… life… in so many ways. The best gifts for me so far are time and quiet. My root anxiety keeps me living on the edge, so not feeling rushed… pushed… hurried… is the biggest luxury I can name beyond the gift of knowing I’m loved. And the sweet silence I get to immerse myself in here is the other half of the equation.

Progress Report: We sheltered on March 12th of this year and I’ve spent 99% of my time since then in basically these two big rooms. Kim’s been in and out a lot, wearing PPE from the beginning, but beyond barbershop haircuts, doctor visits, and time spent with Rita, I’ve mostly been right here. Kim brings food in, and we’ve eaten on a couple of outdoor patios, but not inside anywhere I can think of since March. And most places here still have limited indoor seating, if any. It’s all fine, no complaints here, my Diary friend – it is what it is. And maybe soon… we’ll know what it will be.

Photo Credits: Kim Smith

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The circle… page 115

Day 210 – 10/08/2020

Yesterday’s task with Rita was sorting a six-drawer dresser packed to the gills with old and newer family photos – not ours, but people we knew so not all mystery. This is my seventh household to help deconstruct, the previous six for family members, and the impact is always the same – when life ends, it’s over. Every tiniest object that meant something special… all the carefully laundered and folded favorites… the Post-Its, the bills that keep finding the mailbox, the personal rubble left behind in jacket pockets… nobody’s coming back to see to any of that. It’s over.

So if we’re very lucky, someone who knew us, loved us, cared what became of us, shows up to make things right and tie up the dangling participles.

We were halfway to the bottom of Drawer #4, talking about how good it was to hear from Susan the day before, when we both reached for the same photo… High School Homecoming Queen Susan! The basement chill zinged up to 11 and we celebrated a sweet Twilight Zone moment – just like that, the three of us were in the same room again. Life is weird and spooky and crazy and I like it a lot. It’s good to be reminded regularly that humans aren’t one-dimensional and neither is the world we live in. Susan moved away almost two years ago and we miss the socks off of her… yesterday’s serendipity was a gift.

And just like that, life goes on. In Susan’s sweet face I see our nieces and great-nieces and the little great-great-niece we “met” last week… and Reese and Wagner genes going back as far as we want to explore. Life goes on… the circle keeps turning.

I nabbed Rita’s senior pic out of the same drawer and since I’m the equal-opportunity do-it-my-way Big Sister, I have to put it here for posterity, doubly proving that DNA-by-association has always been on my side. My sisters are my best friends… always were, really… and age doesn’t change any of that, thank the universe. 💙

So Diary… am I good or what? It’s actually Throwback Thursday, a masterstroke of timing, which bodes well for wrapping up the week on a high note. I see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 little jobs I could get done this morning and hardly move from my desk – ask me tomorrow how that went down. I’m still in Coffee & Think mode at almost 10am, so we’ll see…

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Not my circus, but what about all these monkeys?… page 104

Day 197 – 09/25/2020

Plans, they change. Hanging with Rita didn’t happen yesterday, but today worked out and even better. She scheduled pedi’s for this morning, and Kim met us for lunch in Cielito’s courtyard, which was all kinds o’ fun and therapeutic as always.

Some people read my mail, Rita reads my blog – same thing – so she knows how tied in knots I am. We don’t talk much about current events lately, what’s the point, but even if there wasn’t a gut-spilling blog for her to absorb, she’d know. When we couldn’t spend time together yesterday she texted me a shot of encouragement to disallow him-who-shall-not-be-named from taking up room in my head and stealing the joy out of my heart. And to remember that it’s my life and I can willfully choose to cut out the chatter. And that we already know how dire it is, so we have to live every day like it’s our final one – because it just could be. I think my work here is done: the last has become first, the baby sister has the words the big sister needs, and the world will obviously keep on turning.

She’s right. 💋

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Time, yeah… page 94

Day 185 – 09/13/2020

I fronted a smooth face to the world for a long time. But now, thanks to the power of genetics, when I look in the mirror I see all my grandmothers looking back at me, and like Nora Ephron I feel bad about my neck, so – SCREW mirrors. The never-ending decade formerly known as 2020 is aging me from the inside out in subtle but irrefutable ways, something I vowed wouldn’t happen. The joke’s on me… life and time run this show and both are brief and merciless.

One truth that’s emerging from the current chaos is that hope keeps us young and if it starts to fade to any quantifiable degree our remaining store of callow youth goes with it… and you can’t get that back. It’s the age-old story… the tree, the fruit, the serpent, the question, the opportunity… and the choice… to know. Once we see behind the curtain the world changes forever, but without truth nothing evolves upward, especially the difficult truths, the ones we try to avoid, so it all has to be faced. There are things I wish I didn’t know about my nation, my neighbors, and the world… but as all the best people are saying, “It is what it is.” Innocence has been deflowered and total adult knowledge and responsibility have landed on our doorstep. Dammit-cwap.

Perhaps I’ll achieve this venerated state of wisdom…

John said something yesterday that will stay with me. He was updating me on friends whose plans for future retirement are altogether lovely but currently almost beyond reach, and when I showed concern that time and circumstances might keep them from realizing their goals, he put it all into perspective with one profound thought… “Sometimes the planning and hoping is the payoff.” That’s so sweetly true. Once in a while when we’re hanging out on the balcony, talking about the price of cotton and how high the river might rise, Kim and I build sand castles out of ways to spend lottery money… the people we’d share with, the promises we’d keep, the possibilities that would suddenly be open to us just for having several million dollars at our disposal. Our plans are always doable and perfectly reasonable, but actually achieving them would be far more time-and-labor-intensive and less-perfect than the dreaming, we know that… so things are totally fine as they are.

We’re here for it, though, if it ever happens – we’d be just darling as bona fide millionaires.

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Remembering…

An edited nostalgia piece from 2013 …

During a nursery visit to replace trees and plants lost to the western Kansas drought and heat (we’ve since moved to the northeast corner of the state), the greenhouse owner snapped off a king-sized rose blossom and handed it to me.  As soon as I caught its scent, my grandma was there beside me and a whole era lined up for review. 

We grew up across a gravel driveway from my paternal grandparents on a farm in the middle of wheat fields and pastures.  There were cows and chickens and a big barn populated by sleepy cats, but the best part of the farm was Grandma and Grandpa’s garden.  It spanned acres, and included most of the veggies you could name — potatoes, carrots, onions, radishes, rhubarb, asparagus, sweet corn, peas, green beans, turnips (yucky), strawberries and tomatoes (both of which we were allowed to pluck warm from the vine, with a tap on the salt shaker Grandma kept tucked under the leaves); fruit trees including apple, cherry, and peach; and flowers.  Peonies, mock orange, baby’s breath, tulips, daisies, columbine, cosmos, daffodils, lilies, phlox, snapdragons, roses. Not a complete list.

All of this was surrounded by hedges that my grandpa kept trimmed — a tall one across the back, with openings into the orchard beyond, and shorter hedges along the front and sides with shaped entryways into the three main sections of the garden.  In a corner, close to the cattle pens, grew watermelon and cantaloupe.  And a quarter-mile away, next to an irrigation engine, was a colossal watermelon patch (which became infamous in its own right — a story for another day) that produced enough for all summer and into the fall, including a happy celebration for friends and neighbors in the yard.

Outside the confines of the hedges sat the two-story farmhouse my grandpa built, saturated with decades of living. Between the house and garden a hammock was stretched between two big cottonwoods, and a rope swing hung from a branch.  The clotheslines where we helped Grandma “hang out a nice wash,” as she invariably declared it to be, stretched across the grass.  

There was a cement and brick milk house where our dad and grandpa filtered the milk from the cows, skimmed off the heavy cream, and left it all in glass jars to cool in troughs of ice-cold running water brought up by the windmill anchored next to the building.  A battered tin cup hung on a pipe next to the well so anyone who wanted to could pump a fresh drink of water. (There was no pandemic raging.)   

We (my sisters and brother and I, along with cousins and neighbor kids) spent long hours in that yard, held tea parties under the tall conifers set in the middle of the garden, and built more than one fort among the fruit trees and evergreens out back.  And on occasion, we worked.  

When I think of my grandparents – she born in 1889 and he five years earlier – he shows up in long-sleeved chambray shirt and faded Levis and she’s wearing a homemade housedress and apron, tied at the waist and pinned to the flowery cotton of her dress at the shoulders.  And she never went out, hoe in hand, without a handmade sunbonnet.  A real lady had creamy white skin, and although Grandma had been born with distinctly olive coloring, she tried.  Grandpa protected his head with a well-worn felt cowboy hat that he sweated through in nothing flat.

Thus they went forth every morning equipped for work, intent upon it, dedicated to it.  Those luscious fruits and vegetables out there in the hot sun were life, and life doesn’t wait.  They did their best to corral us, to slow our head-long summer romp through the garden, to foist sunbonnets upon us and thrust hoes and rakes into our grubby little hands.  I remember thinking I really should help out more, take more of an interest, learn something while I was at it.  But the fork in the big tree behind the milk house was calling my name, my book was still stashed there from the day before, and I was hot and tired and needed a drink of water from the well …. and I never quite found time to own responsibility and discipline in any discernible way.  

There was one time of year, however, when we all pitched in and did our part.  I’m ashamed to say, it had a lot to do with the fact that we got paid for our efforts, but, well ….

Every year in the days preceding Memorial Day, my grandparents would cut armfuls of tightly-budded peonies, wrap them in wet burlap, and store them in crocks of well water in the cool cement-lined root cellar.  The other flowers, too, found their way into crocks, awaiting that early-morning observance at cemeteries around the countryside.  Our job as grandchildren was to take old paring knives and snip daisy bouquets in counts of twenty-five, band them and put them in canning jars in the cellar.  It was a treat to go from the sunny garden to the damp coolness of the pit, and Grandma and Grandpa paid us a nickel a bouquet. We were suddenly rich, and Woolworth’s, McClellan’s, and Duckwall’s were a mere twelve miles away.

Despite our mercenary outlook, we managed to gain a sense of having contributed to something special.  The day before Memorial Day, which was known as Decoration Day in the 1950s, and very early the morning of, neighbors and strangers from surrounding areas started pulling into the drive to collect the big flower baskets and smaller arrangements they’d pre-ordered.  And many, knowing there were always unclaimed flowers, stopped by to see what they might pick up.  The air had a special freshness about it and people invariably seemed happy and intent on their mission.

I remember feeling proud of my grandma for her ability to grow and arrange flowers into spectacular gifts, and a connectedness to all those people coming to embrace her talents.  I started to feel tied to all the generations being honored on those Memorial weekends, and I still remember snippets of stories from the conversations I overheard.

After all the paying customers had retrieved their floral offerings, Grandma let us kids have the leftover daisy bundles to place on the graves of the nearly-forgotten babies from the 1800s in our small community cemetery a mile west of the farm.  It always felt like we’d done something amazing by honoring those brief little lives, and the yearly military ceremony conducted by aging war heroes in a sometimes haphazard and ill-fitting assortment of service garb lent added poignancy.

If my grandparents were here now they would be gratified to know how much I actually did learn through their example and the privilege of living in their shadow.  Things like hard work, respect for the living and the dead, a certain acceptance that no matter what happens life goes on … all of these have stood me in good stead over the years.

As with most farmers of that generation they never became wealthy in a monetary sense.  But the things they passed along to us are beyond price … and worth consciously appreciating as another Memorial Day arrives.

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New decade who dis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reality bites:

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

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

~ Mary Oliver
In Blackwater Woods

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(S)he had a face like a blessing… Cervantes

Last year a friend added me to a Facebook group, an action that would ordinarily raise the hair on the back of my neck except for who connected me and to which group. I like to be asked first, but if I know and love you, you might slip that cheese past me without an implosion. Oh, but the misguided adds I’ve quietly tiptoed out of!  What was it about my posts over the past ten years that revealed a secret affinity for Home Canning groups, Fundie Prayer-Chains, or a support page for Nursing Mothers?

This new page, though, is serendipity – all about women and faces and selfies.  One of those things is not like the others. Women and faces = good. Selfies = I suck, both at taking them and accepting the results.  But happily, this is all ABOUT acceptance – for ourselves and other women. Without camouflage, before coffee, after a run, in sadness, elation, frustration, other women’s faces are endlessly beautiful to me and seeing them every day is showing me more about genuine acceptance of my own than anything I’ve encountered until now. If they can all be real, why would I think I couldn’t? When someone shares a shot that’s possibly less than bare-faced, I think “No, please, show us your genuine, natural, beautiful self, the one who can trust her sisters.”

Over the past decade or so my body has been trying to quit me, but even at that we’re better friends than back when my pudding-brain thought I was such an irresistible speck of humanity. I’m getting pretty comfortable in this body with this face on it, but my selfies still shock me every time. “Hello, Me, this is what we really look like now from the outside, can you believe this shit?” I choose to blame it on Bad Inanimate Face because Resting Bitch Face sounds so judgy. Pretty sure two things are at work here to make me uncomfortable with my own shots:

  • It’s MY face in the viewfinder.
  • Selfies allow me to study my face in a way that invades my personal space and hurts my feelings.

But…sigh…the suggestion is that we each post a selfie every week for a year and write something positive about every photo we share, which I think is delightful advice in theory.  I’ve managed one so far – for now I’m busy drawing from other women the inspiration to be as naked as they are. Faces, guys, naked faces. As you were.

And being real at every stage of life is all that counts.

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” – Abraham Lincoln

Author’s Note: This post, and the two that precede it, are edited repeats of pieces I’ve published before, a fact that I’ve neglected to mention. I’m going back to fix the preceding posts.

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Known only to me…

When I am old I shall wear purple and every damn color I want, probably all at once. I’ll be just like every other dried up old malcontent you’ve encountered, but different in ways known only to me, thus this brief Manifesto of Independence for whoever ends up having to deal with me, most likely husband then son, not that life ever follows a script.

IN CASE OF FUTURE FULL-ON FOSSILIZATION, BREAK GLASS TO READ:

  1. If I’m hungry, all efforts toward anything else are futile until food happens – I more and more don’t have the capacity to maintain sanity during hangry spells. Good news: the devil within is easily placated, provided we like what we’re being bought off with.
  2.  I still hear music inside my skull from the ice fall that winter and it can get overwhelming in a way that loosens my hinges a little. It may never go dormant, so please factor that in when trying to reason with me.
  3. If I’m certifiably demented, don’t try to reason with me at all. It’s too much like arguing with the proverbial porker – only serves to frustrate you and irritate the pig. I’ll probably be fine in whatever world is current for me at the time, so don’t waste precious resources trying to talk me out of it.
  4. Likewise, if intractable pain can’t someday be addressed with legal medical-grade cannabis – the thing that stops it – then pain awareness will have to be a fixture in the equation, too. I hate that, it sucks, I’ll be doing my best to stay sweet and not cause anybody trouble, but there it is, the big whiny elephant in the room.
  5.  It will be in everyone’s best interest to keep #’s 1, 2, and 4 from happening simultaneously. Good luck to ya’.
  6.  A great set of Beats headphones and Elton & Leon’s “The Union” will keep me out of your face for days – use it. Joshua Radin, Jennifer Warnes, Jason Mraz, the soundtrack of Catch & Release, The Lone Bellow, The Milk Carton Kids…  Merely a sampling – I’ll try to keep the playlist updated* until check-out – it will always be eclectic.
  7.  I don’t require much for survival, but two must-haves beyond music are books and a way to communicate. Even if you think I’m past reading, leave a book or two around because…you never know. No fluff, no bodice-rippers, best no serials. Poetry is good, a lot of niece Krista’s, please. Give me an inactivated iPhone if it seems to provide a sense of being in touch with somebody, but if we’re all fortunate I’ll simply slip into a world where none of it matters to me anymore except the good times and die with a smile on my face. Or get hit by a bus. We never know.
  8.  Apparently women are programmed to eventually grow an increasingly disgusting amount of extraneous hair on our faces. If you leave that shit intact I promise I will come back after I die and sleep between you and your significant other until the end of your days. I mean this.
  9. If I have to live in a care facility for the good of all concerned, please try to find one that operates like a highly tolerant family – one where eating and sleeping are managed individually rather than institutionally – that would be huge. Also, of course, where no one will hurt me, whether on staff or in residence – that’s huge, too.
  10. The age baseline changes imperceptibly with the decades, but I will never not want to look and smell as good as reality allows. Please don’t subject me to the pitying faces of strangers without helping me look as much like this still-me person as anyone could expect. And while I’m here – please universe, no diapers, ‘k?
  11. After I’ve made my presence felt in my immediate world for as long as I can and something takes me out of here, give me a smokin’ hot body one last time and pack my ashes to the coast – pick one – for a sweetly drunken campfire and whatever you want to say about me. Talking to you of course, Kim and John and whomever you’d like to bring along.
  12. In the past few years since I started writing again, I’ve put a body of words out there in the cloud that may or may not survive in one jot or iota. As long as the synapses fire I’m sure I’ll keep contributing to that pile of thought-turned-words that will, odds-on, prove to have been solely for my own rescue. That’s another thing we never know about – where it all goes when we do. Kind of pisses me off that I won’t be around to see if any of my sentences end up on Google Search. What I’m saying is, you two guys can do what you want with what I won’t be taking with me. Big Kev knows how to get to my passwords – that’s for the wording, the bits and pieces of ME. The rest of it…you know what to do.
  13. Anyway, thirteen points being my style, that’s about it. Keep it simple, keep it all about love, keep Karma in our corner. Plus all the things I’ve ever said, ever meant to say, never thought to say – take that with you. And did I mention the love – you know all about the love. 💙💜

I have no thought that anybody might need this vital information any time soon. But if you don’t write it down when it’s now, a day comes when you can’t say it anymore – you’re no longer your own advocate. And everybody needs one.

*Also Tracy Chapman. Keb Mo. And Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours,” the album.

*A previously published piece, lightly edited for re-post.

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Make Mine Chocolate

Speaking of friendship (see previous post), there are people who so seamlessly demonstrate it that we don’t realize how completely we’ve been immersed in its graces until they’ve packed up their toolkits and rolled on down the road toward home. Kim and I are rich beyond measure because we have a few key people like that in our life, and a few are all you need.

One of those people came to our rescue yesterday, on a totally voluntary basis, didn’t have to do it, on New Year’s Eve day, for six hours, as if he had nothing else in the world to do, such as watching the Liberty Bowl game where his beloved alma mater would be playing, followed by a 2020 party AT HIS HOUSE.

The backstory: My desktop computer and Kim’s had been giving us grief all year, and this friend and another one had been helping us baby both of them along while we were all legitimately distracted by other things. In the past week mine started crashing for real, and although it was connected to an external hard drive, it was, um, not good. Our friend and his family were out of town, but he picked the day following the day they got back, came here first thing in the morning (yesterday), drove us to KC, provided backup while we bought two units just like what we had, only newer-faster-better-shinier, turned around and drove us 35 miles back home, and then took the time to get both of us set up enough that we won’t be roaming the streets, wild-eyed and barefoot, before he can get back here. And he was STILL out the door in plenty of time for the big game, Karma sees all.

We’ve so far avoided advanced boomer-hood and it was an adventure we could have managed perfectly well, by which I mean calamity was possible at every turn. Kim’s always cool with driving but we’d have had two questions at the computer store. And once we got home and unpacked the merchandise we’d have been stuck like Chuck and it would be a no go until we found a guru, and good luck with THAT, post-holidays. Instead, thanks to the joys of having a younger friend who loves us and knows our limitations without making making us feel deficient about them, it was a smoooooth experience and a fun way to end a supremely challenging decade.*

*Ignore the random underlining, it won’t go away.

Turns out we were mere weeks from dropping off Big A’s support horizon, where they cease to know you, so those units owed us nothing – still looked new but were old dogs in tech years, and a clean, mean, smooth-running machine is always a sweet thing.

But this isn’t a story about tech for the new decade, it’s truth about friendship for the long haul. The kind that starts out rooted in trust that’s rewarded with integrity; grows for a generation; starts to feel a little like family; and begins to cause people to just *be there* for each other. That kind of friendship doesn’t lend itself to language very well, but it galvanizes me for the new decade because of the sweet goodness under it. Our friend has been through plenty, knows we have too. We’ve often been caught up in the slings and arrows of the boomer years while he’s still back there hacking his way through the forest, so *being there* has been an imperfect effort on our part but the love underneath never wavers.

Yesterday was a gift because it felt so pure. “I can do this for you. Let me do this.” Thank you, friend, sometimes it truly IS blessed to receive, and to know the things we thought were real… really are. I don’t think you set out to show us that, but you did – in the most genuine way possible. Here’s to a clean reboot for 2020. It’s ON, dude ‼️

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Thoughts of home & family…

Hello, babies, and Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your day and the weekend will surpass what you’d hoped for and the good memories will stay with you through the winter months and whatever lies beyond.

America and all the world rely on tradition to tell us what to do, how to order the months of the year, how to plan our celebrations. It’s been described as peer pressure from dead people, but it holds heavy sway over most of us and proves hard to break with when we try.

This Thanksgiving is unique in our downsized family. Before our mom’s eight siblings and their offspring scattered to the winds, holidays were oversized productions at our grandparents’ house, any work involved taken for granted by kids under twelve, the mountains of food appearing by magic, clean-up accomplished by swanky uncles with shirt-sleeves rolled, children strictly banned from the kitchen.

Those storybook times are long past, but most years since, my two sisters and I and parts of our families have managed to be together, sharing the love and good cooking. This time, for whatever reasons, a perfect storm conspired to keep that from happening, so we deal.

Middle sister and bro-in-love have retired to beautiful but relatively remote environs and their daughters and families are prevented by various circumstances from being with them, nor will they be with each other.

Baby sis has fallen in love, has recently retired, is spending the weekend with her new people, and happiness abounds. We get to connect with her kitten, Big Jade, twice a day while Mama’s away. Baby sis’s kids and grands are on the Left Coast, thus not physically huggable on this holiday either.

Pa and I are here, dead center USA, least traditional of the siblings, he of original hippiedom, I a rebel from jump. One of our guy kids is deep in the heart of Texas, the other two keep Georgia on our mind. The Oncology RN is working, as is so often the case, on behalf of coworkers with families. His other half, one of the youngest in his big family, is trying mightily to be their rock through a stretch of rough road, and it’s likely nobody will even get around to dinner this year.

And how are the non-traditionalists faring? So far so lovely. We made sure the Jadester was safe and warm, first order of business. Loved her up good, then came home and Kim made Belgian waffles in his snazzy hotel-style waffle maker – so right with fruit, syrups, bacon, sausage, lots of excellent coffee. It’s been raining lightly all morning and the fireplace feels wonderful. Right here is where we need to be while I baby my back some more. We could be kind of iffy conversationalists right now anyway, like after the toasts, yikes, wouldn’t be prudent.

And now the day stretches before us, quiet and full of possibility. Kim’s on the other side of the wall playing guitar, I’m here with my coffee, we never lack for books to read or movies to watch. If angst should overcome me, I can always sit back down here, open a vein, and bleed on the keyboard. We might watch parts of the National Dog Show in a bit – it’s becoming a sort of campy tradition with us. Anyway, we’re not allowed to get bored, that would be a crime.

I don’t miss turkey – we could have shoved one into the oven if we’d wanted to. I do miss all the cooking aromas and the happy activity. What I miss for real, though, the only thing that will matter to me, ever again, is my family. I really, this year, miss those hugs, both given and received, those familiar voices, those beloved laughs that are like no one else’s. There’s only one wish in my bucket right now – that at some point in the foreseeable future we could ALL – we three sisters, our amazing men, our kids, their partners, and their kids could be together in one place. And if our brother’s kids and their kids could be with us too – that’s my idea of heaven, which we can choose to make at least a little of right here, right now. Henry-boy, you’re on that list too, kiddo.

That’s where we get our traditions – from the things that mean the most – and now we’ve come full circle, for the non-traditionalists among us.

The sweetest of thankful days to us all. Amen.

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Sunday blues time…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oh, the places we could go…

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

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

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

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

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

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