Success on a Monday…

Gotta love it when a plan comes together – it was over 50º and sunny before noon, so Rita and I walked the south side of the river from the boathouse parking lot to the bench at the other end and back, probably a half-mile total. It was amazing to be out in the air, which felt pretty crispy around the ears, striding out, hiking pole in hand and sister by my side. The city has a huge clean-up project underway next to the Kaw, clearing acres of dead trees and underbrush back away from the sidewalks, opening up small tributaries and other vistas we hadn’t known were there. Lots of tiny encampments have been dismantled and hauled away, but we could still spot a few tents and hooches through the leafless winter trees. “Sleeping rough” wouldn’t describe it, and I wish every human could count on warm shelter no matter what.

Along with welcome moments of consciousness-raising, today’s walk was a needed affirmation that all is well in the recovery process. The success of previous spinal procedures has hinged on my doing the work post-op to make it happen… somehow… without the actual source of the pain having been addressed… so I carried the guilt every time for the lack of positive returns. This time around, we were in the right place when the technology arrived, stellar young people REPAIRED the problem, I walked out of the hospital without nerve pain, and today’s effortless half-mile folded me up when I tried to tell Kim about it. Gratitude… so full of it these days.

It’s cool when your body agrees.

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Weekend loading, please be patient…

Sunrise with Streetlight – Kim Smith 01/14/2022

We were graced with a brief band of fire this morning before the gray winter skies closed in and extinguished it from view. Tomorrow’s forecast says cold and snowy, so we appreciated the warm handshake from the sun, no matter how short-lived. Today it’s simply cold and gray, requiring a more creative approach to the hours. It’s good to be able to spend a few minutes in my desk chair again, because other than books and a couple of games, most of my creative impulses are poured into this big MO-chine. Feeling better usually requires writing words, and that happens best right here.

Or I could borrow someone else’s, because…

On the uninspired days, it’s helpful to remember this rule.

Looking back over this week’s trove of saved things, one stands as more important to remember than the rest…

Anybody guilty? Raises hand… 🖐🏼

*****

Latte and macarons for the therapy…

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Forward in small steps…

My grandmother once gave me a tip:

In difficult times, move forward in small steps.

Do what you have to do, but little by little.

Don’t think about the future 

or what may happen tomorrow.

Wash the dishes.

Remove the dust.

Write a letter.

Make a soup.

You see?

Advance step by step.

Take a step and stop.

Rest a little.

Praise yourself.

Take another step.

And then another.

You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.

And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

***

Author: Elena Mikhalkova 

Photo Artist: Rosanne Olson

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On the stroke of midnight…

On the stroke of midnight tonight, you can resolve to be better, if you like…

to be fitter,

to be healthier,

to work harder.

On the stroke of midnight tonight,

you can resolve to become a whole new you,

if you so choose.

Or, you can take a moment to acknowledge what you already are.

All that you already are.

Because it’s a lot.

You’re a lot.

And you deserve to be seen.

On the stroke of midnight tonight perhaps you could congratulate yourself, for coping.

For breaking, again,

and for rebuilding, again.

For catching the stones life has thrown at you,

and for using them to build your castle that little bit higher.

You have endured my friend.

And I don’t see the need to resolve to become a whole new you,

when you are already so very much indeed.

Happy new year.

You made it.

Donna Ashworth

ART by Sherine Tolba

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A gift…

From my heart to yours this weekend… for all who read my “working through anger” post yesterday, and all who need the sweetness this morning.

John sent this, saying it makes him think of Kimmers and me, which puts me on the edge of tears before the music starts. Finneas, beautiful soul, is a brother to Billie Eilish and has worked with her from the start of her career. At the end of the video, their family silently gathers together…

How do you know
If you’ve done everything right?
Is it the love you have at hand
Or the cash you kiss at night?

How do you know
If it was worth it in the end?
Did every second really count
Or were there some you shouldn’t spend
On anything but anyone you love?
Was this the life that you were dreaming of?
A movie night, a yellow light
You’re slowing down and days are adding up

So don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s only a while
It’s not worth the anger you felt as a child
Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

I’m unimpressed
By the people preaching pain
For the sake of some small gain
In the sake of someone’s name

I’m unprepared
For my loved ones to be gone
Call ’em far too often now
Worry way too much about mom

Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s only a while
It’s not worth the anger you felt as a child
Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

It’s family and friends, and that’s the truth
The fountain doesn’t give you back your youth
It’s staying up too late at night and laughing under kitchen lights
So hard you start to cry

Don’t waste the time you have waiting for time to pass
It’s only a lifetime
That’s not long enough
You’re not gonna like it without any love
So don’t waste it

–Finneas O’Connell

Find your joy this holiday season. Look for a handhold and hang on…

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She let go…

The other day, scrolling online, I saw a concise little 30-day challenge, formatted in such a way as to enable us to dump all our angst before New Year’s Day, and I didn’t even save it to my False Hopes folder because…

  1. those things always seem a little too pat
  2. I get halfway through and wander off
  3. more failure… who needs that??

Better that my conscious self show up in the right place at the right time to get precisely what it needs.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely,

without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a

book on how to let go… She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analise whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her.

And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

Here’s to giving ourselves the gift of letting go…

There’s only one Guru ~ you.

―Rev. Safire Rose

Oops, found it. See? Entirely too perky for present company.

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Sea changes…

Whether we’re true believers, hangers-on, or equal-opportunity revelers, the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Easter exerts power over all of us. It’s hyper-represented, and thus misses the mark every year, by which I mean world peace is yet to be realized, and peace almost anywhere has become a myth.

For someone who likes to imagine herself a communicator, I’ve clearly done a piss-poor job of it over the past ten years or so. I’ve sat here at my computer, thoughts preoccupied with the immediate, and watched the world change, moment by moment, event by event… observed while the prevailing mood of the country rolled from benign tolerance to annoyance, to resentment, to violence… and I still have a hard time believing where we find ourselves at the end of 2021.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “I don’t get it” in the past decade, I’d buy a lovely dinner for the first person who could map out a schematic of what’s happened, and why almost nobody wants to talk about it. I’ve had conversations with a few former stalwart conservatives whose thinking has morphed over the years, and without exception they’ve been happy to tell me what drove their change of heart… things like morals, ethics, concern for other humans, how people are treated around the world, money, greed, blurring of government and religion, crime at the top, and so on. On the other hand, no 2021 conservative I know has shown the slightest willingness to have an adult conversation with me about the world and their take on it. If I ask a question, I’m intrusive and threatening. If I answer one, I’m rude and aggressive.

“I don’t get it” is no doubt a huge tell in the age game, probably a thing boomers say. But I’m just being straight, I want to KNOW. I want to know why we ended up locked in this cage of solid lines, solid walls, a complete stonewall. Everything that happens in the world affects us from womb to tomb, and the past decade has been packed with trauma and upheaval, so why would we think life wouldn’t have changed us in the process as well? There are people I care about who are so transformed as to be unrecognizable, but I still care. If they’re close to me, or were before society started unravelling, I’ll ask them questions… because I want to know who they are NOW. It’s no secret that I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago – life happened and it set me off in all new directions, for which no apologies are owed. Okay… so I’m a different person, you’ve changed, talk to me about what took you down the road you’re on… human things, not statistics, not rants, not I’m-right-you’re-wrong… simply, here’s who I am now, and because I love you I’ll even tell you why.

Somebody a lot of people claim to worship said “You have not because you ask not.” I’ve asked to the point of being summarily kicked to the curb… or I simply know I’ve asked for the last time “Who are you at this age? Can’t we have a conversation?” and if I push the envelope one more time I’ll be locked out and blocked.

How then do we lower some of the walls, open some windows, figure out how to trust each other? I’m hanging out here in the wind, an open book, knowing my liberal friends and family have my back, and wishing those I love on the other side would be straight with me so our relationships aren’t permanently broken. How can a simple two-sided conversation be so threatening? After everything that’s happened, it seems disingenuous to pick up and go on as if nothing has been altered and pretend we still know each other.

Either I’ve asked the wrong questions the wrong way… the right questions the wrong way… or there was never going to be a right way to start with. Communication is by nature at least 2-sided, so I’ve obviously over-talked because what I’m hearing from the other side is crickets. People forget they unfriended me years ago for being liberal-minded, we make a chance connection, they send me a Facebook request, I say yes (oh, Pollyanna, girl… sigh), they see I haven’t altered my worldview since last time they disowned me, they confront me with what are later described as rhetorical musings (with question marks at the end), I answer (being an old bag with a heart o’gold), they take offense, and within three minutes I’m out on my ear again. Will I never learn? No, no I won’t. It’s just how I roll.

I make enemies because I care and I won’t shut up. I lose people from my life because I talk to almost everyone the same way… I say my truth and I don’t dilute it to a ridiculous degree to keep from offending. What I should have been saying to people I love is “Don’t talk to me about your politics or who’s done what and how much you hate it. Tell me what you care about, what keeps you getting up every day, what life means to you now… and talk to me like you want to be there. I’m not being confrontational, I just miss you.”

And then I remember that I’ve done it too… I’ve dropped people like they were hot after the second time they slammed me in front of the gods and babies on Facebook… and I doubt that felt right to them either. Doesn’t seem quite like comparing apples to apples, but I’ve been impatient and unkind plenty of times during this challenging era.

From birth we know who we feel safe with, who we want to be around, who our people are, where we find comfort and peace. We of course also know who we don’t trust, who makes us clam up and be an observer, whose views scare the daylights out of us, who makes us feel less-than… and ain’t nobody got time for that.

You wouldn’t think a person would forget a thing like this, but it slips my mind that there are fellow humans who genuinely dislike me, disavow me, and have no interest in hearing my name again in this lifetime. None of what I’ve said is about those people… they have personal freedom to stay off the path I’m on, and that’s how that works.

The world has shifted under our feet and relationships we once thought couldn’t be broken are in ashes. It feels necessary this morning to acknowledge that, accept it, and keep moving. I’m sorry for my part in the brokenness… but I don’t give up without a fight when something matters, so I’m sure I’ll continue to annoy and disgust people I don’t even know are looking.

For now… let’s think about holiday lights.

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Hope and spontaneous joy…

Hope and spontaneous joy… I said those words yesterday to a Facebook friend who brings me happiness daily, a fellow writer of words but about half my age, so a fresh perspective with every post. Interestingly, we were talking football… and the consensus was that whatever sparks real happiness these days, bring it.

“What if I couldn’t write it down… ” That’s the mantra that moves me outside myself on challenging days and puts truth in front of me. Write it, say it, erase it, or share it.

… or it will kill you.

People who know me know that the highs and lows are what set me down in front of the keyboard. When life’s all chill I just live it. The great and awful days are what send me to this therapy chair every time.

Keep your friends close…

***

Not entirely true, I’m okay with my stand-up-and-take-it record. But I have nothing against softness…
Yeah, never learned chess
I’ve caused buttloads of hurt to people in this life, and being right isn’t a worthy reason.
It leads to hope and spontaneous joy.

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Sifting sprites…

We are geologists, combing layers of life’s sediment,

scuffing our feet across forgotten expanses left behind

as sprites stir, sleeping off grudges just beneath the surface…

and they are not happy.

They like neither themselves nor what differs from self…

and they are not happy.

Life is too long and too brief to provide shelter and light

to zealous sprites who after long sleep exist in the world to

insure greatest maximum distress for earth’s other inhabitants,

because why should any existing thing find what sprites can’t have.

.

So we go in search of other worlds… pockets of benign welcome where

we finally drop the shoulders, unclench the jaw, and free our tongue

from the roof of our mouth.

We say the words that hold life and mean them… words that rescue the Happy…

and we are happy.

We find the ones who get us… and in knowing us, they heal us.

Valuable trust is carefully rationed until we find that not everyone we knew

has turned spritely…

and with all the world gone dusty and dry

a cooling rain shower to the heart regenerates what matters.

JSmith 11/11/2021

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November… wow…

Even though I’m about it every day, I can’t slow the seasons enough in my brain to fully appreciate them, and this morning we’re into November. It’s chilly, windy, and gray, with rain showers moving through, so fall is for sure not a figment of my imagination. It was a fun autumn weekend in town, as related to me by Kimmers after his various forays into the crush of humanity, and by my eyes and ears from the balcony. Yesterday was the inaugural run of the Belgian Waffle Ride here in Lawrence, and the streets were packed with bicycles, people, antique cars, booths, vendors, photographers, film crews, food, drink, music, and more. The Ride is a cool thing…

https://belgianwaffleride.bike/pages/kansas

… and since we’re Belgian waffle fans already, Kim made a Razzleberry version for lunch that was THE BOMB.

He also snapped pics of some of the riders, this particular group heading north out of town for the rough-country part of the challenge.

*****

With the days growing shorter and the evenings chillier, and with my powers of concentration again finding a footing, I’m back to books for company. I finished an excellent read over lunch called Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, as honest a self-assessment as I’ve ever seen from another human. A sentence near the end of the book, after the author had experienced lifetimes of pain, stays with me… “NOW I knew that joy was a kind of fearlessness, a letting go of expectations that the world should be anything other than what it was.”

Jamie Lee Curtis has touched me too, with her pragmatic approach to aging which never rules out a healthy sense of adventure. She provides a quote in reference to her own internal governor:

“The free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.”John Steinbeck, East of Eden

So in times of self-doubt, when we’re questioning our motives and sanity, trusting ourselves becomes a passport to personal security.

Whatever it was, it happened, it’s over, keep moving. There aren’t that many other options.

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Fall breeze, autumn leaves…

Slowly we turn… step by step… and as of this afternoon we’ve had both COVID shots plus a booster, with a flu shot thrown in for good measure, along with the shingles and pneumonia vaccines that were already onboard. If we suffer any aches we’ll at least know we’ve done our part and it’s over for a while. If only we could say the same about the virus itself.

Step by step…

The tree across the street is showing off big-time… an arresting sight just beyond my window.

And the mums are happy with the way fall’s going so far…

Autumn evokes all the feelings, every year, without end. And the remembrance of feelings… a uniquely human capability… takes us down roads of its own choosing, where we relive what was until we run out of courage for the journey.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the first time my dad came out with a string of words that made no sense. My blood ran cold and my instant thought was “No, don’t do this! Please, I need you to still be my dad.” I’d lost my husband and I was looking after both my dad and my mother-in-law when that one sentence told me we’d gone over the cliff. I had the same reaction the first time a friend’s words told me he was a true believer in the fascist slide the nation and the world are taking. It’s that incredulous rush of “Wait, I thought we knew each other!” and newly shocking every time it happens.

So when you’re trying not to let the screaming-meemies take over, the good stuff gets saddled with overtime duty.

*****

*****

I pay little attention to mirrors now, but when one catches me I see my grandma looking back… a woman who survived much and kept her sense of humor past 95 years old. That fills me with hope.

After a few autumns on this planet, we know fall isn’t the ending it portrays itself as. To everything there is a season, and this one is for rest and renewal, so it’s very welcome here. Enjoy the leaves…

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Hey… it’s Wednesday

Here we are at HumpDay once again, boys and girls, on the downhill run to the weekend.

WHY I LOVE WEEKENDS, by some pore ol’ retired thing

  1. They do not contain medical appointments.
  2. The already Zen pace on my side of the equation slows to an imperceptible crawl.
  3. The weekend menu is outstanding.
  4. The trace of guilt over being lazy goes totally underground for a couple of days.
  5. Sometimes weekends mean seeing actual people… and we know there’ll be more of that ahead.

It’s overcast this morning, with only a slight breeze, and it feels like the world’s at a standstill… everything static… to remain this way forever. But hark, what do I see from my window? People and dogs. Gird your loins, folks, life goes on.

Case in point…

And the trees know when it’s time for change…

Just about when we think we can’t stand the status quo another minute, we look around and our immediate situation has morphed into something else entirely. In light of what looked like an endless slate of dental appointments, I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I have only one left… this time around. Friday we see a neuro about my back. Patience… patience… and the world turns.

Maya Angelou’s profoundly simple statement of fact will stay with me…

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Good hearts are safe homes…

I have brazenly committed a crime this morning and I have no shame, because I stole a piece of writing (and life) that’s too exquisite to keep to myself…

Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well — one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, Shu-bid-uck Habibti? Stani schway, Min fadlick, Shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just later, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and ride next to her. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling of her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies — little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts — from her bag — and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo — we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

And then the airline broke out free apple juice from huge coolers and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar, too. And I noticed my new best friend — by now we were holding hands — had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an Old Country tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and I thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate — once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women, too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye

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Seasons of change…

***

Three Songs at the End of Summer
by Jane Kenyon

A second crop of hay lies cut
and turned. Five gleaming crows
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,
and like midwives and undertakers
possess a weird authority
.

Crickets leap from the stubble,
parting before me like the Red Sea.
The garden sprawls and spoils
.

Across the lake the campers have learned
to water ski. They have, or they haven’t.
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks
over me. The days are bright
and free, bright and free.
Then why did I cry today
for an hour, with my whole
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,
and a crow, hectoring from its nest
high in the hemlock, a nest as big
as a laundry basket…
In my childhood
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off
this same complex organic scent.
I had the new books—words, numbers,
and operations with numbers I did not
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien
I stood at the side of the road.
It was the only life I had.

**

Jane Kenyon, “Three Songs at the End of Summer” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by The Estate of Jane Kenyon. 

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The Gift of Letting Go

to live in this world

you must be able

to do three things

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go…

©Mary Oliver

*****

The inimitable Ms. Oliver’s punctuation choices make us slow down… read that again… count the ways… just as she intended. She subtly reminds us that poetry and prose are different animals, meanwhile enchanting us with her grasp of the world.

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