Do not fear to go to the end of your thoughts…

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Have you ever wondered how the heck people spend their hours when they don’t get up and go to a job every day? Probably not, you’re too busy working your ass off! In this particular household, to reduce it to its essence, one of us stays as active as humanly possible and the other lives in her head a lot. It works out.

The athletically-inclined partner walks before sun-up, plays at least three hours of PickleBall, rides his bike a couple of times on purposeful jaunts, and finds any excuse to move his molecules. Every day. The more introspective half of the equation flies under the radar most of the time, entrenched in an activity known as “puttering.” It’s complicated. Despite a lifetime as a farm girl, she wakes up slowly. Coffee and silence are all she cares about for the first hour, which starts at 6am, while her drowsy molecules debate what will actually be done today, if anything.

Then the caffeine hits, and she’s making the rounds.

  1. Delete most emails since last night. ✔️
  2. Catch the online news headlines. ✔️
  3. Look at Facebook notifications and post Pollyanna stuff more than bitching and moaning. Trying hard here, I mean it. ✔️
  4. Switch to Twitter and flaunt the freaky-flag for a soul-cleansing while. As a Midwestern child, I was raised to be nice in all circumstances. (That’ll be in the book, too.) So in these years of “Start winding it down a little, baby,” Twitter is the therapist I need – no judgement for being real, and I’m selective with my following/followers. Feels almost safe there, bwahahaha!! ✔️
  5. Slip into the Tevas, grab my phone, ID, and walking pole, and hit the streets for at least a half-hour while the town wakes up. ✔️
  6. Come home, pour another cup, and enjoy the rest of the morning guilt-free. The things that keep us operational will get done today… everything else is gravy. It’s all still loading, so no checkmark yet…

So yeah, life at this stage can be pretty boring, terribly lonely, a little baffling… or we can use our human powers to make it better than that, by a lot. We’re basically ants with awareness, therefore feelings, so every 24hr cycle is a balancing act between our lack of control over our environment and our knowledge that we’re real, we’re here, and there are things we can do to make it better for everybody… after we finally learn to love ourselves.

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This poignant letting go that we call “fall” is prime time for introspection, even for those who don’t ordinarily lean that way. It’s so stark, that fall from grace when the luscious leaves turn brown and crunchy underfoot… it scares us a little and makes us too conscious of our tentative ant-like status here, just as we’re heading into the cold and dark again. We can’t handle the universe, it’s on its own, so our assignment is to deal with what touches us on a personal level or threatens the existence of other humans. That’s enough for any lifetime…

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Sea change…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Of wolves and wings and sealing wax…

A thing I like about being this age and out of the work force is that nobody’s the boss of us except death and taxes. When Kim got home from PickleBall this morning I’d downed half a pot of coffee but no food yet, so he made the Saturday breakfast on Wednesday because nobody told him he couldn’t, and I like how that works out.

The downside of not having a CEO is there’s nobody here to ensure that I live my best life except me. Kim’s entitled to carefully-worded suggestions, but I’m the only boss I have and it’s exhausting. I get up by 7am or earlier most mornings, grab a mug of coffee, and sit here for the next hour catching up on news of the world while the two wolves inside me wage a battle over the daily stroll. One wolf’s all about how it’s too hot or too chilly, too windy or too still, you deserve a little break and one day off won’t hurt a thing. The other, the leaner of the two, reminds me how easy it is to break a good habit, how miserably guilt-ridden I’ll be all day if I don’t put my shoes on and go, how righteous I’ll feel telling Kim about where I went and what I saw out there in the greater world.

The wise wolf won this morning’s tug-o-war again, so chalk up another one for health and sanity, she and I have found ourselves out there trekking far more days than not since this past December. And yes, my two Canis Lupii are female, full of wisdom and experience, I only have to be careful which voice I allow through the veil in any given circumstance…

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Rodney Dangerfield had it right… no respect.

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God’s truth. Come visit, we’ll show you.

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If you’re smiling, my work here is done. Have a wonderful Wednesday and remember…

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Breathe…

She sat at the back and they said she was shy,

She led from the front and they hated her pride,

They asked her advice and then questioned her guidance,

They branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence,

When she shared no ambition they said it was sad,

So she told them her dreams and they said she was mad,

They told her they’d listen, then covered their ears,

And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears,

And she listened to all of it thinking she should,

Be the girl they told her to be best as she could,

But one day she asked what was best for herself,

Instead of trying to please everyone else,

So she walked to the forest and stood with the trees,

She heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves,

She spoke to the willow, the elm and the pine,

And she told them what she’d been told time after time,

She told them she felt she was never enough,

She was either too little or far far too much,

Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too weak,

Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek,

Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs,

And she stopped…and she heard what the trees said to her,

And she sat there for hours not wanting to leave,

For the forest said nothing, it just let her breathe.

Author: @Becky Helmsley

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This breathtaking poem was shared on Facebook without accreditation, which google fixed for me, quickly finding Becky for the documentation she must have. The poem’s title is BREATHE. Reverse Image Search failed me utterly, however, so for now Tree Woman will remain anonymous.

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The sweet discovery I made, three lines in, is that BREATHE is written in the same meter as Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman to Me.” So yes… you can sing it! And if ever a poem needed to be sung… LOUD… it’s this one.

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Hello, starshine…

It might sound odd, but I miss you when I stay away for too long and fail to write down every thought in my head as OCD, ADHD, and anxiety demand. Beyond an incredibly faithful core of readers, I have no idea who sees my words… but there are days when I can feel benevolent forces just behind the wall… this wall I’m scribbling on now, defacing it with my own brand of graffiti… and I’m glad you’re there. Makes me wish for words of wisdom to impart, something that would make your day a little shinier, your heart a bit lighter. Alas, it turns out I’m here mostly to bitch and moan and call for backup, so may the gods bless your heart for sticking around.

This morning was undoubtedly one of the most perfect of my lifetime, and that’s saying a lot. The temp and humidity were just right and the sky was pure sunshine, a Chamber of Commerce kind of day. I walked to Einstein’s to get a bagel and coffee, then to a picnic table in South Park where I enjoyed a quiet breakfast while I read my book via phone and watched Larryville wake up. Not a leaf was stirring in the massive trees that must have already been standing when Quantrill and the Boys came through during the Civil War, trying to burn everything to a cinder.

There’s no way I could reach across this, let alone around its circumference. There be giants.

A couple of people wrapped in blankets on the hard floor of the gazebo were gradually letting the sun’s rays wake them up, and I hope someone provided coffee after they came to life.

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As we inch our way toward the season of the long shadows, I’m storing sunshine and benevolent days… we’ll need every bit of it.

Kim Smith self-portrait, August 2022

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I’ll leave you with this… and if you know the translation, please share it!

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You become…

QUESTION: How do we know when a new practice has become a full-fledged habit? I say it’s when our access to said habit is rudely cut off and we find ourselves in a near-depressive state over it. Circumstances of various sorts, most of them entirely beyond my control, conspired to keep me off the streets this week for a 4-day stretch that by Day Three had me in a minor meltdown. Since December 22nd of last year my two best friends, after #1 Kimmers, have been #2 walking, and #3 icing. Just let me get out there and walk it off, keep the ice packs in rotation, and all’s well. I didn’t mean to give my aging body an 8-year hiatus, but I’m kind of proud of how it’s been willing to pick up the pace again, now that it can, and this is no time to back off. I’m finding that my once overactive conscience operates on a standby basis these days because I don’t give it much to do. Once that morning stroll around town is in the bag the day is mine to live out, which feels sweetly Zen. And the best part is that the time spent outside in this green green city feels like the most powerful health elixir I could find. It’s good… in the face of all the things… to be able to say “It’s all good.”

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Remember that you are all you really have, which is entirely more than sufficient, so treat yourself with respect and don’t miss the good stuff along the way.

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Pre-fall melancholy, but it’s okay…

Yesterday, Kim and I said in unison “It feels like fall,” and this morning we’re still in that mode. It was in the low 60s when I walked this morning, no breeze, sunny… and I was glad for my long-sleeved shirt. There are already dry leaves to scuff through here and there… how quickly that happens! This afternoon I’ll walk downtown for a haircut and feel just virtuous as all get-out… two walks in one day, omigod, can she DO that? This is likely why energy is rationed after a certain age… we get all scrappy about it and tend to overuse the privilege.

Yesterday too, I learned of the death of someone I knew in another lifetime… a classmate through grade and high school, a truly nice guy. In the ensuing years, there have been few reasons or opportunities for contact, so nearly all the connections have faded except for this: he was the first boy ever to kiss me. Fifth grade. And now at 75 he’s gone, one of several from my graduating class of fourteen. (I don’t mean 1914, thx, I can read your mind!)

I can’t recall the last funeral I went to, no idea whose it was. During the years I looked after my dad, I carted him to service after service as his contemporaries left for parts unknown, until he and I had each absorbed an astounding surplus of words without remembering a single one. Kim and John know I don’t want a funeral… and I’m not sure I can even sit through another one in my lifetime. Say it NOW, everybody, ALL of us. NOW is what we have, ALL we have, as far as we know. Anything said or done after we assume room temperature is wasted. Relationships, however, are not a waste… all respect to the past and the people we’ve known. Each one plays a part.

In every segment of life, we need a tribe, but also to remain secure within ourselves when we feel cut adrift and tribe-less. It’s a process every time, with parts excised and others adopted and owned. After you follow the bread crumbs down the path enough times it starts to feel less scary and more challenging, by which I mean exciting. Interesting, at the very least.

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In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king…

Quick diary entry on a perfect Saturday morning in August…

The Farmers’ Market sets up a half-block south of us every Saturday from April into November and it’s a delightful place to spend part of a morning, with food and music and everything else you might shake a stick at. When we first moved here in 2013 we trekked through the alley most Saturdays to see what was spread out for sale, but soon it was just Kim who went… too much walking for me. This morning I included Lawrence Farmers’ Market in my random strolling and it felt good to get back. It was still cool out at 8am and the mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables looked like jewelry in the sun’s rays. A couple of gentlemen were playing zydeco, there was a young man coaxing music from an outsized accordion, and other small entertainments here and there, some planned, some not.

I walked the whole lot, checked out all the tents, bought a fat red tomato, and was headed home when I noticed a man holding a cardboard sign that said I NEED YOUR HELP. He was standing next to the street, at one of the exit points of the market, and looked bereft, to say the least. I stepped behind a trailer, found the loose bills in the bottom of my shopping bag, which amounted to only three, and turned back toward the exit, following a young couple and their two kids to the sidewalk. The man with the sign said good morning to them, a hopeful smile on his face, but they didn’t acknowledge that he was there. I was next in line with my scraped-together offering and I held his gaze as I said “Good morning. This is all I have on me right now, but I hope you’ll have a good day.” We both teared up a little as he responded “Thank you so much. God bless you, you too,” never taking his eyes off mine.

I know life is real shit a lot of the time and we can’t help burrowing into what we’re truly required to deal with, but how awful if we make people feel invisible in that process. Peter, an apostle in the Bible, said to a beggar “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” In place of money he offered the man healing. When we SEE someone, we recognize their value as humans, and thereby extend healing… all the better if we happen to be carrying cash to back it up. If there was a Jesus it’s what he would do.

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I can work with that…

Oh hey, my Muse, I didn’t see you there when I sat down! I was lost in thought about HABIT… what it is, how it happens, what it means to humans for good or ill. Glad you’re here on a Sunday morning, you can help me with this.

Over a lifetime, I’ve unconsciously built a wide range of habits into my daily existence, some of them a real bitch to get rid of. What I’m after at this point are GOOD habits, BETTER habits, BENEFICIAL habits, since there really isn’t time left for detrimental processes. I’ve been happy to discover that I’m still equipped for growth, that I can add a new module to the operating system and make everything sync.

I’m talkin’ ’bout my new drug… walking, something I took for granted until in my 20s but never after. Farm Girl ran for acres on sturdy little legs, mostly barefoot. Tripped her way through grade school, danced through high school, went to college in the almost-70s so remembers only pieces/parts. All of that was very real and vital and life-shaping, and it’s mine. I own the ensuing years, after my life-altering accident, and all they held. This morning it feels like I owe tribute to the NOW and the gift of walking out the door and going ’til I feel like heading home. Unless the weather is dire, I can’t sit here much past sunrise without my butt twitching to go outside. I have to latch the Tevas to my feet, get out there, and offer up my daily measure of thanks. By the time I get home there are aches going on… but nothing hurts. It’s an excellent morning when I’ve been out and about, back home and iced by 8am, and this was one of them, go me. Now I have the entire rest of the day to fart around.

A sweet secret muse is Mr. Kurt Vonnegut, and I love this story:

Kurt Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope:

“Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope.

I meet a lot of people. And see some great looking babies. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And I’ll ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is – we’re here on Earth to fart around.

And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And it’s like we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.“

Let’s all get up and move around a bit right now… or at least dance.

All respect, Kurt, you ol’ dog…

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What’s my motivation? To keep dancing.

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It was a sweet week, highlighted by having this guy hang out with us for a few hours, play our piano, jam on guitars with Kim, sing, harmonize, fill the house with joy. If you haunt the music-underground in Lawrence in any of its iterations, the swell of talent that’s always just behind the curtain here, you likely know this gifted young man… lucky you.

Vincent Brauer. Remember the name.

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Rainy-day conversation…

Got up early, possibly because I was asleep before 9pm last night, or maybe because the barometric pressure sent a wake-up call. Stepped onto the balcony into a wall of humidity that took my breath away. Within minutes the sky lost its budding sunrise, there was jagged lightning in its place, we heard delicious crashes of thunder… and then the deluge hit. For a while it was positively monsoon-like, with trees whipping in all directions, and I see there’s a pot or two tumped over outside. The streetlights are back on for the third time and the rain is again coming down in windblown sheets… meanwhile, I’m being a mouse while Kim sleeps off his second COVID booster. I love a dark, stormy morning… perfect for sleeping babes.

A lot of people in East Lawrence don’t own personal transportation, so there are always walkers out year-round. As the rain gushes from the sky, soaking flora and fauna and sending out wicked flashes of lightning, I’m glad I wasn’t wandering around outside when it hit, and that I put extra effort into yesterday’s walk. When the first steps out of the gate are an easy stroll, it’s time to make it all ache again so I did, and on the homeward lap I thought of the goals that have been at the bottom of my medical assessment sheet for the past five years or more:

  1. Be able to walk for at least an hour without nerve pain
  2. Spend more time with my sister, and finish things I’ve started

Wow, done and done… and starting a few new ones. Amazing how that works, and it’s a real gift to be able to use my time constructively since those hours will pass one way or another anyway and be gone!

This morning under dark skies that somehow feel promising, I’m proud of my state for once again leading the nation in a moral human issue just as we did with slavery, and for not buying into a desperate last-ditch lie. It gives me crazy hope for a future.

When in doubt, ask “What Would John Brown Do??

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And now I shall spend the remainder of my morning here… please enjoy yours fully.

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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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Thinking in print…

If writing is one of your best emotional outlets, you know it doesn’t take much to plant the seed of a thought. I was out for my walk just now, in the early morning cool, and in that relatively brief span of time my senses were stirred in more ways than one.

I’m still opting for flat sidewalks ’til the spine says move on again, so that keeps me within the general downtown area, where early mornings are quiet, with mostly dog walkers and food delivery trucks for company. The route I picked out of the hat this time took me past the Salvation Army building, whose yard is currently hosting a tatty old recliner that must be holding onto several gallons of ammonia. Somebody haul that thing off, ‘k? My senses were definitely awake from that point on.

Once normal breathing returned, I started picking up the breakfast aromas along Mass Street and was ready to make the return loop toward home. Just outside our building I met a neighbor out walking a very beautiful, gentle dog with eyes that looked almost human. My neighbor introduced her as Rosie and said that she’s just recently rescued her from a puppy mill where Rosie was a breeder bitch. After successful pregnancies, Rosie exhibited a false one and was kicked out of the facility. No babies, no eat. No shelter, no care, no love, no survive. Beautiful sweet Rosie is clearly one of the lucky ones… she got out. And she’s sleek and healthy and not broken down… because she got out. But Rosie’s lonely. She misses her babies and her sisters. So my neighbor is on the list to get a puppy from one of Rosie’s sisters, who is due to deliver any day. And I hope Rosie’s sadness will turn to healing. I know, still breeders, but we fix one thing and then work on the rest. My heightened senses (thx, pee-soaked chair) are still rolling it around between heart and brain… and that spot inside that says “You see more than you understand.”

A sweet scenario would have been for a good girl like Rosie to meet a nice baby-daddy and settle in with him to raise however many litters of puppies they were blessed with… to be well cared-for… and to die at a peaceful old dog age without ever having been forced into any of it. That’s what my eyes see… my heart will work on the understanding. And already it’s saying “Every girl’s a good girl ’til life happens. And then she’s still a good girl, it’s just public perception that changes.”

Thanks, heart, I can always count on you.

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Almost the weekend…

8:30am

Big flash of lightning and now it’s pelting down rain, so I’m glad I got my walk in early. Now that they can actually go somewhere, my feet yearn for the sidewalks every morning and it’s getting to be a happy friendship. The annoying platitudes people have hit us with all our lives are turning out to be true. “One step at a time,” for example. Life in five little words. I can’t sit here for very long in the mornings before I have to put on my Tevas and get outta here, and by now I know old dogs can relearn old tricks, which is beyond gratifying.

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1:00pm

Guess what, I have no rant for you today. It’s beautiful outside, although entirely on the hot side, Kim and I went for a drive in the country after PickleBall, I got an egg & cheese croissant, and we stopped at a roadside stand where he bought sweet corn that was picked this morning. We’ll have it tonight with grilled salmon, and garden cukes & tomatoes, and does it get any better than that… ?

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So I’m just here to share STUFF, the bits and pieces I save all week with you in mind. I steal some of it from my friend Steve, and find the rest lying around loose. Enjoy…

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And maybe related, maybe not…

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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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Living in harmony…

Good morning, fellow conspirators, I hope your day’s spooling out in proper order so far. In my own little world, I was gently awakened with the words “There’s a bagel waiting for you,” and indeed there was. Everything… toasted… still warm…with veggie schmear… after which I was ready for anything, so I walked to Massachusetts… and from there to the Kaw to watch it roar and tumble. I stay close to the head-high railing because lots of bicyclists go back and forth on the walkway and I can’t always hear their shouted “On your right” or “on your left.” This morning I waited for someone on a bright yellow bike to pass, but instead the rider slowed and pulled to a stop. He turned out to be a very cheerful skinny old man my age who immediately struck up a conversation about how much water continues to sluice through town from the west. Turns out he’s a retired professor from Baker University by way of Atlanta, lives not far from downtown, loves to ride the bridge, and has a knack for making somebody’s day. Old people are so precious… if you make eye contact we’ll talk to you, so watch yourself, but we do know shit and we feel seen when somebody acts marginally interested.

From the category of Unsought Information… you see me talking about walking to various states. Here’s the deal… I’ve always heard that our north/south streets were named in the order the states entered the union, so here’s what I did, I googled it. Right there’s the fraction of difference between thinking you know something and finding out. Here’s what I found…

ARE LAWRENCE’S STATE STREETS REALLY NAMED FOR STATES IN THE ORDER THEY CAME INTO THE UNION?

Great question! The answer is, sort of. Here are the states by order of entry into the Union. If you go by this list, the state streets in Lawrence are numbers 1, 2, 3, 11, 5, 13, 9, 6 (Massachusetts). Then numbers 14 (Vermont) through 27 (Florida) are in perfect order. Then it goes 32, 30, 38, 31, 29 (Iowa). It seems that after Iowa Street, the city planners pretty much gave up. Here is a great article on the reasons (or lack thereof) behind this order. It’s interesting to note many of the southern states were purposefully left out.

***

Okay, there ya’ go, make of it what you will… or can. My job is to keep walking cross-country.

***

Currently making the rounds online is a rant that requires a second and third look and a well-measured rebuttal, which someone has been kind enough to provide. I hope everyone on social media who reads the first installment will also read the second. The first makes one kind of statement, the second another.

From the article accompanying the quotes:

“The most interesting thing about the initial post is the sense of victimization coming from the original poster. It seems to say that having to pay attention to issues of justice and civil rights and being asked to acknowledge the ongoing impact of historical oppression and what role each of us might play in keeping others down somehow takes something away from them.

“Being asked to see and care about victims of injustice doesn’t make you a victim yourself. The logic there is so strange. And what does it mean to shove being gay down someone’s throat? Because of course it would be reasonable to push back against someone actually cramming something down your throat, but in this context ‘shove it down my throat’ usually means ‘did something publicly in my line of vision.’ Not the same thing.”

.

A commenter said: “I spend so much time surrounded by straight guys who talk about nothing except women’s bodies and sex, but my pride flag bumper sticker is apparently throwing my sexuality in people’s throats.”

.

See interpretation below…

***

We want to believe that the divisions are many, but it’s really all one thing and nobody wants to deal with it down to a nubbin until it’s actually solved… how to survive together on a small planet.

Raises hand. Looks closely.

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