Hanging on… page 50

Day 78 – 05/29/2020

Hello Diary, I’m still here. The weather was gray and rainy for most of the week, making it more challenging to ward off the sadz – sunshine removes the sting a little.

The ongoing loss of so many fellow Americans weighs heavy in the atmosphere but we can’t talk about it as a nation, deal with its implications now and for the future, or otherwise exorcise our disallowed grief. The deep sadness is always there.

The transformation of America from breadbasket and caring hand to the world, to a hate-filled isolationism that’s ME FIRST from the top down, is discouraging and worrisome, thus adding to the sad stack.

The willful ignorance by a third of the nation, leading to violent confrontation between proponents of science and those of bullshit, is sad-making.

The hateful determination to preserve a “separate but equal” status quo, equal being entirely arbitrary, leading to murder sanctioned by law, is unbearably sad and anger-generating.

The fact that I’m out of sync with people I love while we make our way through this supremely lonely piece of history is the ultimate sadness underlying all the rest, and I’m as powerless to fix that as I am any of the above.

***************

But where there’s sad… there’s happy. After waking up past midnight yesterday morning in anaphylactic distress, I took a little ambulance ride, did an overnight in the ER and survived to fight another day. I remember very little from when the paramedics put me on the gurney and wheeled me out of my bedroom until just before I was dismissed to come home, but I share this as a cautionary tale…

My hands, when I woke up, were swollen tight and itched so savagely I wanted to rip them off my arms, and the only thing different in my day on Wednesday had been spending about twenty minutes with needle and thread, reinforcing the ear-loop attachments on a mask that wasn’t MADE IN THE USA. The other symptoms were frightening, and I woke Kim up when my tongue started to swell – I know my limits.

Be wise, kids. And always try for the happy.

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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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In here… page 45

Day 62 – 05/13/2020

A vacation within a vacation was a good idea – I accomplished more on Tuesday than in the preceding 60 days put together and there’s a short-list ready for the next time motivation strikes, but it’s been chilly and gray this week so that could be a while. Far easier to sit in front of the TV with the sound off and play my games.

We’re in this for the long haul, all of us, those who realize it and those who don’t. Life has changed in basic ways and there’s no going back any time soon, if ever, to what we had. There’s no place I’m yearning to go unless we could see our guys, so it’s knowing how different things will have to be, and for how long, that’s weighing heavy, along with grief over so many lives lost – a quarter of them, needlessly, in America. And we’re facing all of these things as polar-opposite forces straining in a tug of war that portends bloodshed in the streets by August.

We’re sort of a melting pot here, but realistically we’re more like stew, with the bits & pieces staying definitive and people kicking the onions to the edge because they don’t like them. That attitude and the history that instilled it goes back to the beginning when white men first put a foot on this territory and began to declare themselves free from rules except those they instituted. We’re looking forward to the “Barkskins” saga, which traces that history, although I can’t imagine that it will be as sweeping as the book since the disclaimer says “Limited Series.” There are a lot of things to know about ourselves as Americans that brought us to this place – all events have origins.

It’s Wednesday. We’re here, we’re weird, and we have one rule besides the first one, which is BE NICE.

RULE #2: WE’RE ALL JUST DOING THE BEST WE CAN

And there’s this…

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Still in here… page 44

Day 60 – 05/11/2020

Dear Diary… I didn’t forget you, I just took a 4-day weekend to contemplate the error of my ways and re-visit my anger issues, which may or may not have required generous amounts of alcohol and endless games in the virtual worlds I haunt.

A thorn-in-the-side I am… I’ve never learned to dissemble and pretend matters of life-and-death aren’t real, which irritates the stuffing out of people. Everything’s SURreal – in the middle of a plague that requires social-guideline cooperation from the global community, Americans are now SOLDIERS, fighting a WAR, and we must buck up and march into the maw – who do you think makes billionaires their money, for goodness sake?

No allowances are made for grieving – its heavy pall across the nation has never been addressed by the general running this war – and his loyal troops shame us if we try to put a human face on any of it. “Chin up, keep marching, there’s no crying in war, slacker!” chant the Right-to-Life people as they again force us to ask, WHOSE right?

It’s a challenge to corral the cognitive dissonance and mash it all together in a livable form.

But we won’t grieve if we don’t care, so… NEW RULE:

Standing by for peace in our time …

Photo credits: Kim Smith – 5/10/2020 from our balcony – rainbow cloud

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Staying in… page 43

Day 55 – 05/06/2020

I wandered into a beat-down yesterday and I’m still processing the whole thing. I clicked a notification from a friend’s page and commented in the thread… my comment was repeated back to me in a version that was the direct opposite of what I said… I got a heavy-duty lecture on military moms and moms who care about oh-so-many things… and shamed for caring overly-much about John and his fellow nurses around the country, which wasn’t part of my comment… and then I was immediately unfriended by both her and her husband. These are people I’ve known for years, and I didn’t know we were on opposite sides of the war until I was drop-kicked like I was hot.

I realize I’m the Rachel Maddow of my timeline – I’ll render you insensate with the facts surrounding things I care desperately about. And I’m sure I need a reminder once in a while that there are other things to think about… but from someone who loves me, okay?

I wish someone had loved Donald John Trump enough in his lifetime, ever, from womb to tomb, to help him grow into a real human being. I wish someone loved him enough now to tell him the truth in ways he could process – it would be a mercy. In my first marriage I had two mothers-in-law, the backup being the aunt whose house we lived in, and the early years were made more difficult by her need to control her world. No one could please her and she was miserable – afraid of everything, turned in on herself, shriveled by what she perceived as lack of love in her life – and it made her a tyrant. I had Lumpy’s number from jump – I know him.

The universe feels like it’s icing over, some days… and then I come back here to blog world and Facebook and my friends on Twitter where some people have taken the time to know me, and it’s clear that they get me. We’re on the same page, for one thing, but it’s relationship that makes the difference. We care about each other and it changes us, even if we can’t really change the world we live in. It would be snazzy if the people who lurk on timelines waiting to pounce showed up in neon, but life’s never that simple, so we should just tell each other the truth at the outset and get on with it. What are we afraid of?

Welp, that’s how that was, moving on. The sun’s shining, it’s a beautiful morning, and we woke up alive, so what’s not to like? Don’t worry, I’m not gonna start singing…

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Staying in… page 38

Day 48 – 04/29/2020

Some mornings I feel almost lighthearted when I wake up, but today isn’t one of those. I finally broke down and had a long cry in the spa tub because it all stacks up after awhile… the sense of division most of all. The sides in our current civil war couldn’t be more clearly drawn, but I wanted to believe we still found common ground in the middle concerning life and death for the people we love. Guns in the streets, and large male types waving them in the faces of medical staff, yelling at them, breathing on them, threatening the general citizenry, and being praised for it because FREEDOM… it’s too heavy.

I’m a face-it-head-on person, but this I can’t deal with, so I turn into a little mouse during waking hours and lose myself in computer games with their fantasy worlds. If I could fill our spa tub with all my tears over a lifetime, they would overflow to the downstairs neighbors, and I’m just tired of crying. I’m tired of feeling… but if I could change that I wouldn’t be me anymore.

Got hit with an onslaught of ugliness first thing – my mistake for looking. Tomorrow will be better, right? I wish peace for you… don’t let your day look like this, ‘k? Never let the bastards get ya’ down.

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Staying in… page 37

Day 46 – 04/27/2020

Pretty morning, with rain before sunup. Kim planted asparagus ferns yesterday and they’ve had their first drink of rainwater – always a good omen.

Last night we watched “No Direction Home,” a Scorsese follow-up documentary on Bob Dylan which is likely precisely the way Bobby Zimmerman wants to be remembered. At 3-and-a-half hours it was way worth it for these two old throwbacks – great footage and interviews… and all the remembered things.

I had Kim document my home-grown haircut, which called for a touch of makeup, and when I opened my kit nothing looked all that familiar… like what do I do first? Hadn’t so much as looked at in 50+ days. Here’s my DIY Monkey Business in the front, Squirrel Party in the back haircut, still damp from the shower. My grandparents were pioneers, dammit, I will survive.

And in case you need to hear this today… Kurt Vonnegut for the win… again. 💙

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What the shelter? …page 34

Day 42 – 04/23/2020

Placido Domingo, from inside a chicken costume, “You know what is hard? Is hard to breathe.”

You know what is hard? Resolving the issues borne out of a disaster while it’s still coming at you.

Working on it. I’ve stopped mentioning certain people’s president on Facebook… that’ll hold ’til he makes the next life-or-death choice on our behalf. I’m avoiding online button-pushers… who needs the added angst? Social media is a trip, man – unsuspecting people step right up and tell you who they are, and some of the things they feel at liberty to say are lacerating.

The Zen has to be re-established every morning… and it’s worth doing.

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Shelter me… page 33

Day 41 – 04/22/2020

I’m starting to shelter from social media for great swatches of the day – in times of crisis and conflict it has a way of reaching out and grabbing me where I’m most vulnerable. Two distinct and disparate value systems are going headers against each other while everything else conspires to kill us, and the images are seared into my permanent record. This one has followed me around for a couple of days…

It isn’t photoshopped.

Eugenics, pure and simple, and we actually find ourselves at this point in history.

I’m the weak for all the reasons… Kim’s the weak because asthma and a heart attack/bypass… John’s the “weak” for potential lack of PPE while on shift. Most everyone I love falls into the category of THE WEAK for one reason or another – who decides who to treat… or not? Death panels, anyone?

A heavy attrition rate in nursing homes, prisons, poverty-stricken communities, minority populations, and among the aging would help the economy recover… that seems to be the mindset at this point. We have met the enemy and he is us. Gives the concept of shelter a whole new meaning – I’m picturing a cave in a remote location, the sooner the better. We old survivors are becoming prey.

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No shelter… page 31

Day 39 – 04/20/2020

Happy 420 Day, boys and girls… thought I’d start with the GOOD news.

No diary entry yesterday… feels like I’ve run out of words.

Here’s the thing… Moms are… moms. You really need to know only one thing about us – don’t fuck with our kids. Mine’s an RN in Atlanta, where they’re expecting the virus to peak sometime this week, and the venom being displayed toward the medical community has ended me.

I’m done. The cruelty of the MAGA movement has helped me to kill my darlings:

  • a naive belief that if people just hear the truth it will change them
  • Midwestern guilt that makes me leave the door open to people for too long
  • any remaining misconceptions about what Christians stand for
  • a deluded impression that when required to suck it up and deal, Americans knew how

As John (my kid) said to me this morning, “It’s hard to tell how or when a shift will occur in anyone that will turn them into the very creation they once abhorred” … but I’m watching it happen in real time.

“All logical arguments can be defeated by the simple refusal to reason logically.”–Physicist Steven Weinberg

This short column by John Pavlovitz says it perfectly. I hope you’ll read it…

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Shelter… page 31

Day 37 – 04/18/2020

Feels like I’m doing something right when my baby sister texts and says, “Are you okay? I keep waiting for today’s blog post.”

Accidentally took a Saturday off – our 6th in “captivity” – and checked out for a while. I’ve found a group of free games that are all basically Candy Crush with furniture, and their little worlds are so sweet they’re easy to get lost in.

Almost 5 o’clock… the news cycle over the past few days has been discouraging beyond imagining. The country’s being engulfed in a civil war – not just a figure of speech anymore – and in a battle over whether money or life matters more, nobody wins.

*************************

Ready for this kind of peace again…

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So shelter me… page 29

Day 35 – 04/16/2020

I want to cut all my hair off – it’s pelt-ish unless it’s chopped up like bird feathers, and it’s weighing me down.

MOOD: Weighed down. I’ll have to choose an alternate one, however, because the source of my discouragement is not changing anytime soon, if ever. We’re two separate nations and never the twain shall meet – I do get that now.

The sun’s shining for a bit, we have a promise of rain today, there’s no shortage of things to eat or do… so I choose mellow for my functioning mood. It is what it is. It will be what it will be.

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Gimme Shelter… page 28

Day 34 – 04/15/2020

Would THAT be far enough away? ^^^

Likely no internet, so yeah… maybe. We have the technology, but does it have us? Or were we possibly more human before we knew everything?

Make it four-and-a-half and counting…

It’s in the 30s, but we have sunshine this morning, Kim’s had his walk and brought me a bagel… so c’mon, coffee, let’s DO this…

… even your own.

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Gimme Shelter… page 27

Day 33 – 04/14/2020

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross would be gratified – I’ve worked my way through the five stages of grief a few times in various combinations and on this random Tuesday in April I’m a sentient lump of acceptance, or resignation, or “wot the hell.” Where else is there to go?

The anger stage does hang in there under everything, though, so my instincts have steered me toward ultra-light entertainment. If you can’t find me on Facebook, Twitter, in a book, or writing, I’m playing Words With Friends, or hanging out in Gardenscapes or Fishdom. Tried Township but I can’t take the nonstop responsibility, jeez.

Looks like we get low 50s and some sunshine today, and I hear Kim’s key in the door so he’s back from his morning walk. I may or may not have heard talk of waffles…

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Gimme Shelter… page 26

Day 32 – 04/13/2020

Chilly morning after a frigid windy night – sounded more like the prairie than the forest.

DEEP THOUGHTS ON A COLD MONDAY: I started training for this years ago, this social distancing, and every day I settle further into what I know is true. Being a loose cannon in a big extended family makes you figure out who you are or get run over, and you learn that self-defense is a waste of energy. It is what it is. It will be what it will be. My goals haven’t changed… live well now, inside myself, and head for a happy old age.

We’ve heard of at least one Lawrence church congregation that met together yesterday. We’ve been at 39 virus cases here for a few days… we’ll see where we are in two weeks…

Churches aren’t being attacked or persecuted, they’re being asked to live out what they say they believe in – love. Care for other people. Solid stewardship in the world. So yeah… what made me stay so long at the fair?

This must be a Monday. I should eat something and go to work on the hours…

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