SQ Diary… page 4

Self-Quarantine Day 7 – 03/19/2020

Typing today’s date zips me back fifty years, to a hospital room, a long day of induced labor so we could outrun a blizzard, and a tiny blue-eyed, towheaded little guy.

That kid and his partner had booked a 10-day Paris vacation to celebrate his birthday this week, but the universe made other plans, so they found an alternate hideaway.

Fifty years. Makes me feel lightheaded. It’s been that long since my son was born… and I’d already lived a whole life before THAT happened. How is it possible to sit here in my same skin at 72… same on the inside except chill and settled now, understanding a tiny handful of things, knowing every one of those things in my life really happened, one by one… and acquiesce to a life spooling out. We’re candles.

Pouring rain this morning off and on… drippy… gray. I coughed all night, but that’s calming down now. Pretty sure it’s just from being closed up in this same air for days at a time. Our only windows are on the east side, so air flow is at a premium, and it’s been too cold to leave the balcony door open for very long. If spring arrives this year, it will never have been so welcome.

I wanted NOT to live in extraordinary times, but somehow knew I would… probably because my imagination formed stories from the things I learned, and the possibilities were out there.

And here we are. Making the most of the minutes while we have them.

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SQ Diary… page 3 1/2

Self-Quarantine Day 6.5 – 03/18/2020

Kansas weather changes can give a rookie whiplash, and true to no form whatsoever, the day has turned balmy. The sun broke through the cloud cover for a dazzling minute, and the air feels friendly at 63º.

Kim rode his bicycle to Stabby Dillons for a quick backpack full of groceries, and more vodka from On The Rocks. He isn’t wearing nitrile gloves yet on these errands, but… he’s quick and doesn’t inhale. 😂

His PickleBall buddy and actual friend Marcelo called and said he’d be over to go for a walk, so they’re out there somewhere away from the madding crowds and 6 feet away from each other (ha!) while they talk nonstop. Good medicine.

With the door to the outside world standing open, trees leafing out, birds singing, the approaching gloom has been swept out of the house again. C’monnn, spring.

Where it (officially) stands today… we’re in one of those counties bordering the red one. So yeah, stayin’ in… stayin’ alive…

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SQ Diary… page 3

Self-Quarantine Day 6 – 03/18/2020

We woke up to wet skies this morning and a hint of claustrophobia settling into the corners, but the rain has stopped for now at 7:45 and Legs is out there steppin’ ’em off. My beach bum isn’t used to being under a roof ’round the clock and I’m watching him wind a tad tighter every day, although I’m the only one who could tell so far. Warmer weather will help… he can ride his bicycle on the river levee, or anyplace else people aren’t. And we’ll be able to use our roomy 4th-floor balcony again, above the fray, thirty feet from any other overhang – that’s gonna be a big deal.

Not a lot has changed for me so far. I’m used to living in my head and my peaceful loft, and my books and writing are company enough for long hours. But even I’M starting to feel the effects of necessary distancing – it’s the knowledge that this is REQUIRED for the good of our social agreement as humans – I see I have to guard against feeling that my preset willingness is now being demanded of me. The human psyche is… endlessly revealing.

The weather’s been gray here – fitting for encroaching dystopia, but sunshine would feel like a gift right now. Light. Open skies. Warmth. Maybe a tease tomorrow, so guess I’ll hang in. Forecast shows a high of 73º (!!) and a peek of sunshine, but an 80% chance of continued rain, so… Kansas, yeah.

A few observations, not quite a week in:

  • The laundry sorter fills up very slowly now. Mostly underwear and towels.
  • The spa tub continues to be the best spot in the house.
  • Time is starting to slip its moorings a little. Easy to sleep later, crawl into bed earlier, eat when hungry rather than by the clock.
  • Dealing with the unknown takes everything humans can muster, so even though I’m not fearful, it requires energy to stay on top of this as it oozes forward, and I’m tuckered out by evening. Not a bad thing, just a notable part of the landscape.

And on we go.

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Diary… page 2

Self-Quarantine Day 5 – 03/17/2020

Good morning, morning. Feels exaggeratedly still out… like a state of suspended animation.

Kim walked this morning while I was wrapped in dreams of a different world – his favorite trek, down one side of Mass Street and back up the other. He says most of the restaurants have signs in their windows reading “TAKE OUT ONLY.” Our hearts are heavy for them – how long can they hang on? People we know and love, count on in the community, half the reason we retired here – this very real place is going to hurt BAD. Made me think of this…

I guess statistics and projections caught up with everybody yesterday and Lumpy decided to participate, so the guidelines are changing by the hour now. My New York Times Daily Briefing helps in keeping things sorted as we go along since a pandemic pays no heed to plans or yelling, it just does what it’s built to do – rolls on while we scramble to catch it by the tail.

Watched Governor Cuomo’s stellar Fireside Chat this morning – ostensibly talking to the people of New York, but emerging as the de facto leader of the nation at this point. Clear, concise information, every word absorbable. Facts, possibilities, probabilities, necessary courses of action in order to flatten the curve if that’s still an option. Calm, measured, everything considered and truthful. People like to be trusted – just give us the facts and we’ll do the right thing.

The KIMN8R’s in work mode this morning, staving off the twitchiness. I’m still a cluster of cells trying to process fast enough to reconstitute. Also I’m lazy, so…

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Diary of a Sea Change…

I think a really good person to #SociallyDistance with would be a guitar player who cooks and likes to read. 🖤💙Got one, let’s do this…

Self-Quarantine Day One – 03/13/2020

We stocked up a little today, preparing to shelter in place and stay out of the mainstream. No TP to be found in town, but most things are still available. Came home, ready to do what’s required. Not so different for me, I leave the house two or three times a week. For Kim, no daily PickleBall, and less popping in and out of businesses on errands, but he’ll still walk before dawn unless that much time outdoors becomes a no-no.

Day Two – 03/14/2020

Kimmers went foraging for TP at 6am and scored a 12-pack fresh off the truck. No hoarding, just a gracious plenty for now. We keep remembering little things we need from the grocery store, so the list grows.

When the Sports World went dark yesterday, people started waking up to what’s going on. “Oh crap, it’s real?” Thus, no toilet paper and no hand sanitizer. Panic shows its ugly head…

Day Three – 03/15/2020

Sunday. Starting to get acquainted with life as it now stands. A Saturday…and now a Sunday…with no live events except for an obscure car race. Night-time TV shows run with skeleton crews…and now going dark. Broadway – dark. NYC shutting down. State Governors taking the responsibility to close restaurants and bars. Anti-science citizens still insisting on full participation in order to preserve the economy. Market in free-fall.

Finding straight information on the pandemic takes determination, but it’s out there. The more two people with susceptibilities know about the threat, the more likely we can avoid some of it.

Day Four – 03/16/2020

A changed world starts to adjust to changed circumstances. Reality bites. The characteristics of this virus are sobering in comparison to some of the others. Hard to detect and pin down. Spreads like wildfire once unleashed. A direct threat to people with heart/lung issues, among others.

Slept ’til 8am, woke up feeling groggy and blue. Same for Kim on the blues – he’s cut off from the physical world that keeps him clicking along. He walked before dawn again, but getting no court play will show up more and more in his mood…

A word can change the atmosphere. Got my feelings hurt this morning instead of letting it all roll off. Since we’ve spent most of our waking (and sleeping) hours together for the past 15+ years with minimal argument over anything whatsoever, it’s clear the unknown is taking a toll. We both know we’re vulnerable to the killer, and so are family members and friends we love… and so far nobody at the top is offering conclusive consensus as to what we’re dealing with, nor a desire to publicly confront it in crucial ways. Time is of the essence…

Rode with Kim to pick up prescriptions and we got fast food on the way home. He said the place was spotless and everything usually sitting out is behind the counter now. So far, Lawrence isn’t a hot spot but there are eight confirmed cases in Johnson County next door. Planning to ride this out to the end and move on.

… to be continued.


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The quiet…

Kim left the house before 7:00 this morning in rainy darkness, giving himself time to stop at the hospital for routine labs before going out to the Sports Pavilion to walk laps and play PickleBall. I could have fallen asleep again after his goodbye, but the thought of coffee and quiet drew me out of my warm nest.

Sitting here watching the rain fall and the light slowly change, a memory: I once had a little boy who, around two and three years old, could sometimes be found sitting in his dad’s big closet in the dark with his blanket over his head. Maybe it was too noisy for him out in the big spaces, but as an old soul, I think he just needed time alone to process everything.

As that little boy’s mom, our loft space is my closet, the rain is my dark, and the quiet is my blanket. I totally get him. Some of us are blessed with the affliction of feeling too much, so the defenses have to be mighty.

The kid in the closet figured things out in fine form. The mama, who’s slower on the uptake, still works on it in the quiet dark. 💙

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Girlfriends…

Updating a piece I wrote in 2013…

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

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


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


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


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

JSmith 01/27/2013

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

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Rain, rain, you can stay…

rainy Monday my jam

pace slows pulse rests quiet settles in every space

thoughts roam words stir world feels viable perchance

the peace of waters rolling on

JSmith 02/24/2020

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One moment, please…

don’t startle her, curled asleep, there on the edge of the abyss

the sun is shining and her guard is down

sore winners have worn her out

let her rest her soul as the day drains away

is it one strike you’re out game over

the greatest generation would rage and weep

so sleep on ’til dawn, weary Lady, but the fight won’t quit

***

America, you in trouble, girl…

JSmith 02/10/2020

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Be the wild vine…

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

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

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

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

“Spontaneity is a meticulously prepared art”

― Oscar Wilde

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

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

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

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

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An epic love story… *

*…but not the one you think

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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A progress report…

My good clean non-sparkly reboot for 2020 is going along pretty well so far, disregarding, as one must, what the world at large chooses to do with theirs. Attitude…good. Outlook…okay. Energy…looking up. Less sarcasm…it’s a reboot, not a makeover.

Happily, I’m back to the nice warm therapy pool, on my own schedule, with my own routine, since things just seem to go better when I’m the boss of me. Spending time in the pool again takes me back to water aerobics classes, so while my muse and I canoodle fresh ideas for the new year, here’s a little repost from that time a few years ago…

Summer water classes started on Tuesday so this chicky is in the swim again. It’s more exercise-y and less dance-y than my initial plunge at another facility, so this could work out. The instructor is easy to like and it’s all friendly women plus one shy husband. Other than a few younger women we’re all approximately from the same era, including our badass teacher, so there are Susans, Paulas, Lindas, Nancys, Judys…

Other commonalities include hearing loss, bad backs, arthritis, shaky balance, a laundry list of challenges. There’s a certain comfort in knowing I’m not the only person my age who’s falling apart, but it’s even better to know that everyone in the class, including Token Man, cares about her/himself or they wouldn’t bother showing up. I see it on all the faces.

Humor is how boomers roll, because without it you stop rolling. I advise maintaining a healthy personal space between yourself and humor-challenged people – they’re too tiring, and if you happen to be a *feeler* like me, you’ll haul the sand from every encounter until it all finally sifts out through your sandals. Our class is populated by people who like to laugh at themselves – how does anybody keep putting one foot in front of the other without that? Yikes.

Okay, imagine you’re out of school for the summer and you’ve signed on as a lifeguard at the aquatic center to impress babes. And then you draw the short straw to work during Senior Water Aerobics. 

Their little downcast faces are enough to break your heart.

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Slow food for a snowy day…

*A timely re-post from 2013

Ingredients

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 stick of butter
2 15 oz cans chicken broth
24 oz. frozen egg noodles

Directions

Cook chicken, soup, butter, and broth in crock-pot on low for 6-7 hours.

Take chicken out and shred.

Put chicken back in; add noodles and cook on low for 2 hours. Stir a few times while cooking.

Suggestion: Serve over mashed potatoes, with your favorite side.

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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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