The weeks… page 121

Day 218 – 10/16/2020

Here we are, Diary, closing out another week under wraps, and prospects for a change of venue aren’t looking good any time soon. The KC Metro area, 30 minutes away, is a Coronavirus Cauldron again, with their highest number of cases since the pandemic started, and our levels in Douglas County have been steadily keeping pace… 51 new cases, 97 new cases… zero new for a day… 45 new cases…two days ago it was 704. We’ve had almost 19,000 cases total in the county and more than 200 deaths. Dayum, I am never gettin’ out of this house!

But things are rough all over and I’m not whining. I lose friends when I talk about it, but John & colleagues have been at this for almost eight months nonstop at the hospital, along with all the other active medical personnel around the globe, and a portion of the population despises them for it, maybe because they’re a constant reminder that yes, Virginia, there is a pandemic. Nobody’s coming to make it all better, make it go away, disappear… like magic. It just rolls relentlessly on, taking victims as it pleases, leaving devastation in its wake. And the one thing that could have saved thousands of lives and endless grief – the simple mask – was politicized early on, assuring maximum damage from the enemy among us. It defies belief, the situation we find ourselves in, but it’s real, and thanks for just absorbing all this stuff, my muse…

Temps were in the 30s this morning, have now crested 40, and might soar to 60 and beyond before the day’s over. Too nipply for PickleBall this morning, so we’re both tapping away at our keyboards, listening to stuff, and sighing…

No idea what today will hold, but I saw the Dr. Teal’s Orange Epsom Salts next to the tub, so odds are good that “Calgon” will take me awaaaaayyy after while.

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The mOnday Muse… page 117

Day 214 – 10/12/2020

Good morning, my Diary friend, did you make the most of your slack weekend? I slipped so far into neutral I couldn’t even feel the engine running and it wasn’t detrimental, as far as I can tell on one cup of coffee…

It’s a sunshiny Monday, with eventual temps in the low 70s, Kim’s in NoLaw slamming balls around, and I’m looking at stuff on my desk I could deal with and get rid of. Might do that…

A history note, Diary: Because the sound of their voices exceeds the limitations of my medications, I’m following the Amy Coney Barrett hearing this morning via Twitter and it’s totally meeting expectations so far. Claims of fairness are being bandied about, but there’s nothing fair about what’s happening in the Senate today. President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, a 20-year veteran of the courts with a stellar record, was not afforded so much as a meet-and-greet by the GOP following the death of Antonin Scalia, with some 296 days remaining in the Obama administration. Now, with 21 days left in the Trump administration and over 9 million citizens already having voted for our next president, Mitch McConnell and his Senate will almost certainly confirm Ms. Barrett, whose name was put forward before The Honorable Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s funeral had taken place. As is my duty as a United States citizen, I question her character and integrity for being a part of this and putting her name on such a tarnished process. She has three years’ experience as a judge and they’re vaulting her to the Supremes? Their motives have never been more transparent.

So then… mood for starting a new week?

“She’s kidding, right? She didn’t really mean that. Right?” If you’ve been giving me shit, I live for that flicker of doubt.

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Moving right along… page 114

Day 209 – 10/07/2020

Okay, Diary… the day I let depression and ennui keep me holed up in the cave instead of zipping over and taking it out on Rita is the day it’s time to wake up. I’ve been in a fog since about Friday… could be fibro-fog, could be a med change catching up with me, could be IMPOTUS and The Endless Flying Circus of 2020, could be all of the above. Whatever, I had Kim wake me up by 7:00 this morning to give me ample time to regain a modicum of functionality.

After a lifetime as a farmer’s daughter, farmer’s wife, and farmer, 8am is sleeping-in for me and if I go past that I might as well burrow in and stay for another 24 hours. Yesterday was simply a wash and I’m tired of feeling anesthetized and numb, so on this sunny Wednesday morning I’ve given myself a serious Come to Jesus talk and Self is starting to get with the program here…

I’ve changed out all my desktop and application graphics over coffee, always a kick in the right direction. Next I’ll have my little bowl of cottage cheese & sunflower seeds and reintroduce my bones to the shower. I choose to stand as a human today – I’m sure I still remember how.

After a few weeks of fall weather this afternoon’s high is supposed to be 90º… a temporary blip.

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A Mermaid’s Tale

swimming upstream

morning by morning

watching for signs

of life on the wing

ready to catch

a sunbeam in action

lasso its tail and ride while I sing

*****

holding the hours

open and loose

letting them do

what stacked minutes do

ready to clasp

the things that are right

let the rest fall and go toward the light

*****

time is a shape-changer

days into months

life is a mood-changer

light into dark

ready to wake

and look at the real

let it suffice for the feelings I feel

*****

the world is still here

despite all intent

it claims my attention

as price for my rent

but with only so much

I can spare for the cost

I’m turning away before it’s all lost

*****

the things I most value

are fully at risk

anguish won’t save them

from those who are sick

so hope is the strongman

that stands as my pick

for swimming upstream

’til THE END

JSmith 09/26/2020

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Bowling for buoyancy… page 95

Day 187 – 09/15/2020

Some days the slog is uphill both ways, through rain, hail, sleet, snow, and broken glass. I wake up and Brain says “Again? Nothing’s changed and you want me to engage with this shit show AGAIN? It’s a freakin’ lot of hours ’til bedtime, chicky.” But… life goes on.

I saved this comment by my Twitter friend Kim – it hits me deep, what with the daily carnage everywhere:

As challenging as this stretch of time has been, I know I would have imploded without the things Kurt Vonnegut recommended to us. It’s just a fact.

Things that “make my soul grow” …

Note to me and mine today:

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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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