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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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

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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

***

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.

***

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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Still hanging around, what a surprise!

At 7:00 on a September morn, fog hanging in the trees, a cheese Danish and hot coffee in front of me courtesy of Kim… I’m settling into the fact that today I’m 75 years old. It’s frankly weird to find myself at an age that once sounded unbearably old, life over, stick with your comfy chair, lap blanket, and tepid tea, Granny-Face. But I watched both of my grandmothers live past 95, keeping their minds reasonably intact, and this morning I know you don’t shut things down three-quarters of the way through, so on we press.

When Kim and I got married, I was the reverse of today’s number… 57. A full range of life events has taken place in the intervening 18 years, letting me know for sure that life doesn’t hinge on ages, numbers, or our careful plans. I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and be 75 plus a day, and the days will continue to spool out until I reach the final one, whenever it comes.

The gray flannel morning has crept up against my windows, socking me into my quiet corner with only my thoughts for company… just the way I like it. These gentle surroundings are causing me to be highly conscious of a few key factors in making it to this milestone in a positive frame of mind…

  1. After two years of treatment protocols, Kim’s oncology numbers are below zero… success!
  2. With the advent of vaccines, boosters, and a lower transmission rate, John’s work at the hospital is becoming a little safer and more conducive to longterm breathing.
  3. Since Christmas and a spinal fusion via robot, I’ve been without my old companion of fifty years… nerve pain… and I’m walking my tush off on the surrounding sidewalks.
  4. Last week I got new hearing assists with the latest technology… and joy of joys, I can actually HEAR! I’ve been missing so many sounds for who knows how long, I’m having to retrain my ears and brain to tolerate the sheer input of it all and it’s wonderful.
  5. Despite every awful thing at loose on the planet, genuine loving humans give me insane hope for a future that is not dystopian. I texted with two of them this morning… day made! People haven’t called me Pollyanna all my life for nothing.

***

***

***

***

Very happy to be a Virgo. Otherwise, I’d have to be someone else entirely.

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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.

***

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

***

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.”

***

***

***

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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Yes, Diary, me again…

Don’t know what’s up with Ms Muse these days but she will not stop with the subtle impulse to “write it down.” And as I verbalize that, I know it’s because I’m on the downhill slide to a finish line of sorts, set on fully owning myself before 75. Almost there, and mulling every year of it, just to be all milestone-y, although it would be fun to match my grandmothers’ records and stick around past 95 with my head still on straight. Seventy-five is no kind ‘a stopping place!

Kim and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary last month, and on nearly every Sunday morning of those years he’s made me a ranch bean omelet to die for. I’m still here though, having just consumed yet another exquisite offering that made my taste buds cry for happiness. On Saturdays it’s fried eggs and Kim Smith hashbrowns, on Sundays it’s the omelets… hundreds of each by now and never a chance of getting tired and jaded because it’s new all the time. He’s a trained institutional cook with a gift for making a meal for two taste like heaven, and I’ve really only bragged on breakfast. Everything he makes gets constantly upgraded as he goes along, so yeah, I’m a lucky girl and I have to stop talking about him now or he won’t want this going public. Let me just remind you, though, that he came to me precisely the way I ordered him: “I’m not getting married again, but if I did, he’d have to be younger than me and love to cook.” Be careful, little mouth, what you say, your heart just might know what you want.

When the world starts taking pieces of you from little on up, it becomes the seemingly small things that keep life worth doing. Beautiful walks, music that says what we can’t, people who love us enough to care for us, the grace to wake up and be us again for another day, year, decade, or more…

As an inveterate Pollyanna, I’m glad there are people who keep promises, who do everything in their power not to disappoint or hurt us, who are fully present. I think that’s what my invisible friend had in mind this morning… paying homage to the people who make life good. They don’t have to, it’s just who they are.

***

**No one, including me, sees your name when you click a star rating, but it does make my day, so thx.

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Are we there yet?

How’s the whole space-time continuum thing working for ya’ lately? Feeling a little stretched? Compressed maybe? Are we any closer to understanding the warp and weft of the fabric of our existence? Are we tuned in or out? “Einstein concluded that space and time, rather than separate and unrelated phenomena, are actually interwoven into a single continuum (called space-time) that spans multiple dimensions. So how many dimensions are there in the space-time continuum?”

https://www.wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-is-the-space-time-continuum

This, boys and girls, is what happens when rain and gray skies become the order of the day for days on end… the coping mechanisms run right off the charts into unexplored territory, including black holes.

My brain has run amuck, so in lieu of actual wisdom this morning I offer you memes, glorious memes, which die an ignominious death if not shared forever.

From the current news cycle:

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Sunrise… sunset…

There’s everything to be said for second chances. We don’t all get one in every situation. In fact, the greater the need for a second shot, the less likely we’ll be afforded one. They’re handed out like candy when we’re little, so someone should warn us early on that life doesn’t continue in that vein and that we should think, first of all, and then wait to act on an idea until we’re pretty sure it’s a good one.

When I came to a semi-conscious conclusion a few years ago that life as I’d known it was ending, in terms of physical capabilities, I failed to consider the major ramifications of shutting down. Not that I had a real choice… when pain rules, you do what it says, and it took me to some dark places before Dr. Carlson put a stop to it for me. But going to ground and closing the door in your third trimester of life is a serious undertaking which requires equally serious effort to reverse.

Change is underway. This morning, like an actual person, I drove across town again on a valid license to check on a friend, stopped at Einstein’s for a bagel, paid for it with my updated credit card whose pin number I know, parked Kim’s truck back in its spot without destroying anything anywhere, and I feel slightly reborn. It’s like someone raised a curtain and there was the world, big as life and twice as natural. It’s ridiculous… at almost 75 it feels in lots of ways like I’m just getting started.

I hope the central message floats to the top of all the I/me/we, and lights up in neon: DON’T QUIT!! Whatever’s stopping you from living your life… physically, mentally, spiritually… don’t give in to it unless that’s the only choice available, which was coming true for me until six months ago. If there’s any chance to maintain a vital life of your own… do it. It takes great energy to come back, and the time consumed is staggering. But step by step… slowly we turn… and life goes on.

There are Memorial Day observances around town today, and something big going on in South Park for kids, but things were pretty quiet this morning after Busker weekend. One block of 8th street is still closed, with booths in place, so it ain’t over ’til it’s over. Feels like a Sunday…

No typos detected.

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The celebrations of life…

This weekend is Busker Fest in Lawrence America, a 4-day street-performer extravaganza that includes various sound-stages close to downtown, music everywhere, art parades, food booths, merch booths, contests, feats of derring-do, delights for the kiddos, Farmers Market, and untold other good stuff. It started the year before we moved here, and that’s probably the only one we’ve missed. What we love most is knowing it’s happening and that families are having a great time… we watch the steady stream of walkers heading from East Lawrence to Mass Street, and grin big… the underlying vibe here is a healing one. When I’m out driving or walking there isn’t a heavy sense that half the people around me hate what I love, or that I’m a minnow who somehow slipped into the piranha tank. Other than the occasional pygmy shark, there’s been no real threat detected most days.

Turns out early morning on a Saturday is a great time to drive across town, who knew? I had an errand at 7:30 and since everything around downtown is blocked off for the festival, I took different routes there and back, soaking up the cool morning air. There were people out everywhere but very little traffic, and I was truly in Free State Kansas. Tiny piece of unsolicited advice from The Big Sister… never shut down and give up on living, it’s hard to ramp it all up again and put things back where they belong. Pain started shutting things down shortly after we moved here… I stopped talking on the phone due to hearing loss… I lost energy for being social due to both of the above… and a senior neurosurgeon told me there was no way to stop the nerve pain in my body. Things… they happen. My driver’s license was expired for six months, which didn’t matter that much since I was never behind the wheel anyway, but another six and I’d have had to retake all the tests and jump through a few other hoops. There are small mercies…

Life returns, to bodies and to societies, although it’s sadly true that both usually have to hit rock bottom before coming back.

Key-change is key.
I’m grateful to the special people who’ve gotten me this far… and with a legal driver’s license even!

******

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Streaming Kansas…

It started raining sometime after midnight and has paused only momentarily since. Down in the parking lot there’s a small truck with a large green canoe lashed over top of it, which is reassuring as we may have need of it by Thursday. All this spring rain is wonderful and will benefit everything… as it simultaneously adds to the general lethargy. I haven’t yet tested the outer limits of my capacity for the Magnolia Network, even on mute, but it’s only a matter of time… perhaps this is the day I quietly go mad and Kim comes home to a mere whisper of the person formerly known as his wife. Anything could transpire as the chill rain pelts against windows that were just this morning professionally washed via power-lift, despite the obvious liquidity of the surroundings at the time. Don’t ask, I am mos def not in charge here. I’m very glad for that fact, and you should be, too.

Being happy in the rain really isn’t that heavy an assignment for a reclusive Pollyanna, and I thank my friend-cousin for this reminder…

…and sometimes a little wine.

We don’t understand until we get there, but all the “wise” things older people have said to us about life? Those people were being brutally honest, and the process only becomes more honest and more brutal as it plays out. It’s all real, and mostly based on our own choices.

This too is our choice… to trust enough not to give up on humanity nor ourselves, and to refuse to lose the things that matter.

The “love unconditionally” part is the kicker and we all know it. Gud luck to us.

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What matters…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 4/2022

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning, full of sunshine and hardly a drop of wind yet. SoCal Man’s already been out cleaning the balcony glass and will probably plant the rest of his current nursery purchases today. Music cranked, hands in the soil, he’s a happy guy. Then he’ll count the pots in the storage room and set off to find fillage for them, which makes me as glad as it does him. Nurturers gotta nurtch, and since I need less intensive TLC these days, blooming surrogates help fill the blank spots. His eye for color and personality makes it an upper every time I step outside, with my sole contribution being to dead-head and maaaybe water once in a while.

I have to think that if it weren’t for lack of wisdom and maturity, relationships could be this simple from the get-go. Kim loves to cook, grow things, play his guitars, play PickleBall and ride his bike, and be The Guy for people who need one. I like to read… write… savor long silences… organize stuff… and now that I can sit there again, play my piano. We know these things about each other and if we just “let it be,” everything else works out, all that trivia we’d otherwise bicker about. I’m glad we caught this train in our 50s, with gas in the tank, plenty of earned wisdom, and a certain form of maturity, the key to which is to never actually grow up… otherwise, we’re both such intense people we’d likely have maimed each other by now.

Easter Sunday, with Rita Jo as my loving and forgiving audience. Little rusty…

Kim received a gift last fall, the opportunity to be The Guy in a situation where everybody wins. Three gals in their 70s and 80s asked if he’d be willing to help them improve their PickleBall skills so they wouldn’t be intimidated in open play, and nearly every weekday morning since, the four of them, and often others, have played at 7am, with the result that everybody’s game is getting better, including Kim’s, of course. Last week he drove Nancy, Susan, and Mary to North Kansas City for lunch at Chicken n Pickle, followed by two hours of play on a reserved court… and rumor has it that everyone had a fabulous time. They’re so good for him, and vice versa I just know it. Life is often too sucky to talk about, so the good things really stand out. The bonus is that they’re all cooks and they bring treats to share with each other, which I sometimes benefit from if I get to Kim’s backpack quick enough. The relationship reminds us of his seven aunties in Minnesota and their mutual admiration society. Good stuff.

Life stays good if you don’t give in to it.

Life has never felt this angst-filled, but on the flipside, it’s never felt this exquisitely precious, either. Remember two things in the name of peace and sanity:

  1. Life is all about change. Accept that fact, and live it as it comes.
  2. We have zero control over what happens on the planet, and indeed in our individual lives. Don’t try.

******

For all the empaths I know and love…

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Time and other variables…

The seasons press on, and just like that it’s 420 again… how time flies when you’re having fun! Quiet morning here, overcast, showers possible, even storms. It’s like silent mood music outside my windows, and sweetly healing, so here are a few of the recent best from my Share-It file…

First a timely reminder. (Aren’t taxes supposed to be a little late?)

Gud luck to ya’…

******

I’ve developed a new system, which works in all situations for obvious reasons, and I highly recommend it…

******

It’s a fact of life that the world is at war unendingly, despite the intense wish on all sides that fighting could cease. Turns out the military industrial complex owns us and must be sustained at all cost, so enterprising humans have to work at achieving harmony in more inventive ways, such as getting to know each other and learning to appreciate what every person brings to this experience of living. It remains a worthy goal.

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Something the COVID pandemic continues to teach me, and it adds to my sense of peace…

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And this is for everyone who needs it this morning… keep rocking that survival thing.

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Unsolved mysteries…

Another holiday weekend has passed for three senior heathens sharing a gray chilly Ishtar, complete with Spanish mimosas and good food. Seems entirely apropos and it was indeed perfect. Rita did all the cooking… a small spiral-cut ham, au gratin potatoes, asparagus that she roasted just before we sat down, and jalapeño deviled eggs. Kimmers poured Cava & Pomegranate mimosas until the well ran dry, and a mellow time was enjoyed by all. For dessert, I whipped up a lemon cream meringue pie just like Mama used to make, the complete scratch version, a feat I couldn’t have attempted a short three months ago, and it came out right, go me. Sometime late afternoon Rita went home to nap with Jade, my chair tripped me and held me fast for the next couple of hours, and Kim watched the National Canine Agility Show. When you’re not sure what to celebrate, you can’t go wrong with dogs.

Easter strikes me as one of the weirder Christian holidays, what with its origins in ancient pagan rituals, rites of spring, fertility goddesses, bunny-rabbits and all. Hard to gather up all the pieces and make them fit somewhere… so dogs it is, then!

So many pieces/parts left over every time.

******

In my third trimester of living, I have no answers and know only a handful of things for sure:

  • Life is a gift and we’re here to live it
  • If not for the catalysts of profit, greed, and control, humans could find ways to get along
  • If we don’t make life about truth and love we’ve wasted our time here
  • Human communication is a difficult climb, and that’s entirely because of humans
  • 99.9% of us end up being too soon old, too late smart
  • Karma is a bitch only if we are

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I believe Finneas gets it right, so I’m sharing his exquisite gift of music with you again…

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Always a challenge…

Shootouts… it’s always something. In the greater world it’s war, hunger, need, and disease that stretch humans past their limits. In the scaled-down version, we obsess over sports and winning… and no apologies for that because a steady diet of pain, injustice, and death does exactly to us as we might expect, so we hang onto the happy for as long as possible. Our beloved Jayhawks made it to the NCAA Final Four and we’re quietly psyched.

It’s five whole days before our game with Villanova… and we’ll survive the wait. Somebody will win, somebody will lose… life will roll on. April 7th is MLB Opening Day and we’ll have a whole different roster of familiar faces to cheer for when the Royals get going. In the fall we’ll turn our attention to the Chiefs and hope for a big season. Maybe by Super Bowl 2023 we will have achieved world peace simply by running away from every unpleasant detail of life. That’s worked before, right?

As with most of them over the past few years, it’s been quite a week. Lots of people saying words, other people speaking with explosives, but is anybody anywhere really listening? The truth is slammed more viciously than misinformation and one gets the impression lots of people prefer the narrative of lies.

It’s a gray day, with a blue mood hovering, so I’ll hustle back to something happy before this post implodes… a photo of my kid celebrating his birthday with three friends. In Iceland. Inside an ice cave. For a midwestern farm guy it would have once seemed slightly inconceivable… and it’s so cool. I’ve never been shy about living vicariously, especially if that was the only option.

The travelers…
Black sand beach…

******

It always comes back to real estate… where we’re standing when life happens. Our planet is so beautiful and so tortured. Gonna keep my soul wrapped around the beautiful today if it kills me.

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The Sunday wrap-up…

Good Morning, Sunday, I was up to greet you at 6:30am, which in truth was 5:30am… so here we go. Put me on record as voting for an end to DST, an unnatural practice which wreaks havoc with the normal beat of our lives. Why, in the 21st century, are we still cutting a foot off the blanket at the top and sewing it onto the bottom, thinking we’ve gained something? American life has changed, farming has been revolutionized in most ways (lights and GPS, for example), DST is a remnant from an era and mindset that half the nation is trying to bring back and it’s time for it all to go away. End of rant, steps off apple crate.

Today’s weather forecast looks promising… 61º and sunny… but we never know out here so it’s not a bad idea just to tote a little sunshine around in our pockets for emergencies. Rita and I keep an eye on the projections and Wednesday looks like this week’s nicest day unless the wind cranks up, so we’ve penciled in a “hike.”

Last week was truly a mixed bag o’ tricks, from the local level to the global, and as usual I saved goodies for you as it all unfolded. There’s something for (almost) everyone here, so pick and choose, share, get in on the story…

First off, it’s Sunday, we talked about that, so…

******

For all of my friends and family who are still here, still very much gay, in the face of the world’s willful ignorance.
All respect.

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I learned this unequivocally last week and it sustains me.

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The Sunday Homily:

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