Taste and see…

[Missed posting this yesterday… ]

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning here in #lfk, with sunshine and light breezes, as opposed to the urban guerrilla winds of the past couple of days. Northeast Kansas is far less windy than the southwest corner where I grew up, but I haven’t forgotten, and my heart is with the prairie pioneer women who eventually slit their wrists rather than deal with the endless gritty howl. My, that turned dark fast, didn’t it.

Okay, we were discussing sunshine and gentle breezes… this afternoon’s plan is to enjoy an outdoor wine festival and live music with sister Señorita Margarita Rita, who makes life better just by being there. Wine, lawn chairs, music, nice weather, people we know… what’s not to like? It’ll start the week on a high note.

Heads up, new subject:

Change, a fact of life under any circumstance, is always on my mind. I tell myself I don’t mind change, in fact welcome it, but as with all things, it depends. What KIND of change? Whose idea was it? Do I get to think about this? Do I have a choice in what happens? Bottom line, will it eventually be good for ME? A few months ago we were under the delusion that life was heading back to “normal,” only to discover that nothing has changed except the names. And in that light, the question I keep coming back to is how much of what we’ve lost was real to start with?

And this:

I see scattered comments to the effect that most social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, should be shut down in the name of information management, sanity, control, pick your cause… but I do hope people keep a thought for society’s mice, who are pretty quiet but always here. When it’s physically, psychically, logistically difficult to maintain relationships with other humans, we mice somehow find each other and make the kinds of connections that get us through life. We aren’t subversives or even rebels, as such, we simply function better on a less frenetic, less peopled basis. Phenomena like Facebook and Twitter, when we manage them right, fit the bill perfectly, so we (I) need them to not go away.

On the days when the big dark hound sits on my chest and refuses to break eye contact while assailing me with an endless litany of my failures as a human, I need my social media friends saying “I know. I’ve been there. It gets better.” I was never part of a group, and too solitary to really be a best friend to anyone, so the internet is perfect… it allows for space while providing community and I’d be lost without it. When even one person thinks you can survive, you can. Leonard Cohen put it perfectly…

******

The weather stayed beautiful into the evening, a good time was had by all, and I was too lazy to post this before bed…

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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.

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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

******

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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An almost-spring weekend…

Good morning on an absolutely gorgeous Saturday. It’s still cool out, but temps are heading for the mid-60s by afternoon, the sun’s shining, and something that feels suspiciously akin to joy is rattling around in my heart. Kim made The Breakfast, of course, and it was perfect… of course. He’s been making life as smooth as possible for the past 18 years… and now I can’t possibly thank him enough for never giving up on a fix for the spinal pain… it’s changed everything and given me my life back. There aren’t really words for that.

THIS GUY

I have the world’s best men in my life, and on this day 52 years ago, I gave birth to the absolute best human I know, who affirms along with Kim that I have reason to have existed. Happy Birthday, John Latta. Celebrate everywhere life takes you in the coming year.

Birthday guy at Hot Betty’s for breakfast this morning…

John with hospital co-workers and good friend Lanette, on his right.
Less outnumbered… by one, thx to Mike.
Lisa and her homemade banana pudding cake. That’s a stellar start to a birthday.

Good story to go with the photo above. John says, “There was a group of ladies celebrating a birthday next to us (I thought the birthday girl was in her 20’s, but she’s 46 today!), and I offered her a piece of the cake. Their table went crazy for it, so we had enough left over that they could share in the birthday love.”

******

With a one-sided terroristic war underway, and a psychopath killing as many children as his troops can find, for the sake of shock value, it’s hard sometimes to relax into what’s at hand… the life we’re privileged to live here, at least for now… hard to take joy in the smaller things without being guilt-ridden over it. But the chaos is there and we’re here, and a sanity-based approach to life tells us we can be of no assistance there and very little here. So what’s on tap for today is…

NCAA Basketball Tournament play, starting at 11am with Baylor and UNC, which leaves just enough time for a nice spa soak first. The KU Jayhawks play Creighton at 1:40, our fan-focus of the day, and then it’s endless roundball ’til the sun rises tomorrow, as far as anyone knows. You pick your escapist poison, we’re settled on ours. Which brings up a thought…

Don’t be like Pluto.

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Time marches on…

(Didn’t get posted yesterday… )

According to the leaf shape, these are daffodils, but they could be jonquils with no argument from me. I like them because they remind me of growing up on the farm. The fence boards are too even and perfect, and my guess is pressure-treated… we were far better-acquainted with hedge posts and barbed wire… but the flowers say spring and my heart says yes. “Hello, March” indeed. You’re welcome here… please be nice.

This week will be tantalizing before temps drop back into the 40s and under:

In my desire to be outside walking every day, I’m done with winter for this go-round… but I’m pretty sure it isn’t done with us. Kansas winters are sneaky, so never turn your back on one. For a handful of days though, we’ll enjoy the heck out of the balcony and what’s out there on the streets, and be fully prepared for spring when it settles.

I can’t remember the farm without thinking about my little brother, who was a Leap Year baby and not happy about it. Three older sisters teasing him about only having a birthday every four years was an annoyance he didn’t need, among many others. He would have been 66 this Leap Year, which is hard to envision as he left us at 29… and it will never not hurt…

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… and yet spring comes every year.

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Goals…

Since my current objective is to be outside walking every day, I’m hyper-focused on The Weather Channel, and what I’m seeing is a roller-coaster path to spring. Pretty sure it’s that way every year, but this time I’m feeling the nuances. We had 8″ of snow late last week, and parts of it are still on the ground. Today’s high is forecast to be 70º with sunshine, so the remnants should disappear while Rita and I are out “hiking” this afternoon, and I can’t wait. She’s scouting out a path I haven’t taken, just for extra interest and incentive because she’s cool like that.

******

That was yesterday. We walked around the Pohler Lofts neighborhood and spent a little time at the Wishing Bench, which someone with a wonky heart on a rough day set on fire some years ago, but which has been refurbished and laden with items dear and meaningful. Next time I’ll take a fresh pic… yesterday we were just there to look and ponder. We went from Pohler to Hobbs Park & Stadium on 11th and looked at the murals… read the quotes by Langston Hughes, who grew up a few blocks NW of there… along with other words from other souls who helped make Lawrence what it is.

Old photo of original bench.
Hobbs Stadium

We love this town, which is still in Kansas but so not like the rest of the state. Our Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, is one of the nation’s most endangered in this year’s midterms… and her GQP legislature has hatched a bill to separate Douglas County, one of two blue dots in the state, from the rest of NE Kansas and stretch our voting block in a straight line across the state all the way to Colorado, 400 miles long and an inch deep. Against our will. Against anybody’s better judgment. Against sanity. It’s crazy-making to be rendered helpless in our own defense, which delights some people no end.

I have a theory, which if proven wrong would crush me. I think you can make #lfk your kickaround dog, poke her with sticks, try to put her nose in the mud… and get virtually nowhere. Digest this in whatever way lines up with your basic philosophy, but a blurb Google handed me says “Lawrence, Kansas was founded in 1854 by antislavery radicals who had come to Kansas under the auspices of the New England Emigrant Aid Company to outvote proslavery settlers and thus make Kansas a ‘free’ state. The city was named for Amos A. Lawrence, a New England textile manufacturer who funded the company’s settlement efforts.”

“Antislavery radicals” sounds so… judgmental, don’t you think? When we go to Free State Brewery… Free State Dental… any number of clearly freedom-loving spots in town… I just think how fresh the air feels. I am for sure anti-slavery, but isn’t everyone? Wait… that’s the “radical” part, isn’t it. From what I can gather, John Brown was a nutty old scarecrow who knew his beans, knew right from wrong, knew people weren’t livestock, and he left an indelible imprint here, as we continue to ask ourselves “WWJBD?”

Abolitionist John Brown has been famously depicted in a mural done by Kansas artist John Steuart Curry in the State Capitol building in Topeka, completed in 1940. The mural portrays Brown almost as an Old Testament prophet, a Bible in one hand, a rifle in the other.

Mr. Brown did his rabble-rousing in the 1850s, coinciding with #lfk’s infancy and likely setting the tone for future dealings with the surrounding world. Then in the 1860s, as Civil War devastated the country, William Quantrill contributed his bit to history:

“The Lawrence Massacre, also known as Quantrill’s raid, was an attack during the American Civil War (1861–65) by Quantrill’s Raiders, a Confederate guerrilla group led by William Quantrill, on the Unionist town of Lawrence, Kansas, killing around 150 unarmed men and boys.

The attack on the morning of Friday, August 21, 1863 targeted Lawrence due to the town’s long support of abolition and its reputation as a center for the Jayhawkers, who were free-state militia and vigilante groups known for attacking plantations in pro-slavery Missouri‘s western counties.” -Wikipedia

Quantrill couldn’t burn most of the native stone buildings on Mass Street and elsewhere, but he did his damndest to scorch the character and reputation of Lawrence. And how many people today can even tie his name to this place in history?

I may have been too mesmerized to take pictures yesterday… I haven’t been out much ya’ know… but it’s all still there and we’ll go back. Not today, however, when the high temp will be 28º, a 40º drop from yesterday afternoon’s balmy stroll. Overcast. Gray. Glad I got out and shook hands with Monday while the gettin’ was good. I’m more thankful for a little sister who never whines about slowing her “veteran hiker” pace for the old girl with the hardware onboard. Wait… she has plenty of same, so she knows.

Thought I was seeing ghosts slipping along the sidewalks… all that talk of Quantrill’s Raiders and John Brown and how we got here. Turns out it’s snowing, and now the flakes are gathering mass and acting all sassy. I get to stay in here all day, and walk or no walk I’m loving it. I’m wishing all of us a cozy day bathed in peace and freedom…

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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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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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Thankful…

Holidays now are ghosts of traditions past, but yesterday felt right. Rita and Kim did the cooking, kept it simple but delicious, and all the feelings were mutual. Three people in one room on the same page makes for a relaxing observance and we enjoyed it all.

In the afternoon, Rita went to a movie with friends and we flaked out with football, isn’t that how it’s done? We missed getting a picture of Kimmers, but he snapped one of us for posterity since the hope of “next year in Jerusalem” is never guaranteed.

*****

And oh wait… here’s Kim on yet another beautiful day this November… 💙

We hope everyone’s gathering was peaceful, all hearts grateful, all ties intact. That’s a lot.

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There’s nothing more freeing than truth…

The past week held a little of everything, which I’m still processing. Forward progress happened… news of the world disappointed and sickened us again… the daily goodness we depend on was all there… and we learned more things about the people in our lives.

I’m still abstaining from TV news and benefitting from that new habit. Reading the headlines for myself is a different animal from hearing them pounded to a pulp by the various talking heads, and it worms its way into my psyche far less. It’s all still happening, still every bit as appalling and life-altering… but when I walk away from the written word, my brain knows there’s far more hope in the world than we’re being led to believe.

The past couple of weeks have been a watershed… a time for facing truth. The bent of the nation and the world is a totally real thing… corporate fascism is bursting with energy and drive in the civilized world, and the peculiar ethic, the tenets, the morés that fuel it have by now filtered down to the man on the street. A 3-minute conversation is all it takes to turn a buzz-word into a breakup. Who we are is out in the open, and it isn’t who everybody THOUGHT we all were.

A long-lost relative drew me into a political discussion recently, which stayed civil until I asked him how he could align himself with one of the most heinous human beings on the planet. His answer, “You make it about him, an undignified coarse-talking buffoon of a personality. I voted for principles. I learned a long time ago to live day to day on PRINCIPLES ….NOT…. Personalities. So….Judy, if we can’t compromise in our relationship, then we have to do the next best thing. Cut ourselves loose from one another.” For the second time in 20 years, you mean, after a 3-minute conversation. I have yet to find a 2021 Republican who will talk with me… just talk, and listen, and talk some more, with thoughtful silences and an indicated willingness to consider any and all facts. Apparently it’s a guiding PRINCIPLE not to do that.

The same relative told me, “I loved Robert and Judy Latta. This Judy Smith person I can’t deal with.” THE FACTS: Robert Latta died a violent death and didn’t come back, and Judy Latta, in many necessary ways, went with him. Judy Smith is who I am. You never knew me.

The division we knew was there, that we can feel building month by month, is too real for words. Until now we’ve been able to cover parts of it up and pretend it’s really nothing and it’ll smooth over. But people are finally saying outright “I don’t like you, please go away,” so I think it’s here to deal with for the foreseeable.

People don’t appear to want to talk, discuss, consider, think, instead preferring the lines to be drawn in indelible ink and never trespassed against. If the U.S. falls apart, it will be due in large part to the fact that most of the population can’t understand, and is not interested in, the differences between fascism, communism, democratic socialism, and democracy. The words themselves become the meaning and the power, and the human capacity for discernment and comprehension takes a hike – it’s all too threatening and complex to deal with.

The fact that truth is hard to come by in this era makes it a supreme challenge to keep the meaning in our relationships. What, we’re now asking ourselves, are those connections really all about? What makes them different from anything else out there? Why do we cling to myths and fairytales? Maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that one…

Despite my relative’s disavowal of The Former Guy, he’s still the de facto head of the GOP, still shaping its posture, still tainting whatever its values were. And as my chosen life coach John Pavlovitz wrote in September of this year…

“In this iteration of our nation, the elemental decency that should define human beings is no longer a universal requirement. The base-level expectations of those we live in community alongside simply do not exist anymore. There is no standard anymore.

For so many people here, it is no longer just about a sharing a difference of opinion on an issue or about voicing opposing political ideologies or even about the expression of personal or religious freedom—it is about inflicting as much pain as I can to people who I know nothing about and who have done me no direct wrong.

I’m not sure where we go from here, but I know that this version of America isn’t worthy of our or anyone’s children inheriting.

We’re going to need more good people becoming louder about what is and isn’t within the bounds of civilized society.

We’re going to need to name what is unacceptable and to demand decency and safety for all of us.

We’re going to need to collectively hold on to our souls or there will be nothing beautiful left to leave after we’re gone.

We have to do better.

We need to reverse the Trump Effect on America.”

And then made a golden idol of it.

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A confession…

Boys and girls, in light of our ongoing relationship over the years, I’m obligated to inform you that I am armed, dangerous, and a threat to polite society, as evidenced by a whiplash experience over the weekend. Be forewarned is all I’m saying. It was one of those caught-off-guard, konked on the head surprises that we’re never waiting for and all we can do is absorb them.

It’s well-documented that I’m a liberal-thinker, it can’t be disguised or hidden, nor have I ever tried. It’s a part of me I appreciate most, no apologies. Over the years, as the lines have been drawn with an ever-finer marker and the ways we think about life have utterly diverged, about half my extended family has broken off communications, for which I don’t blame them – when you don’t share an inviolable worldview, what do you talk about finally?

A test of mettle arose this past week when I received health news about a relative who had cut me loose for my wanton liberal ways… or so I assume because he closed all avenues of communication and I didn’t hear from, or about, him for long years. After seeing the message I did the adult thing, scrounged around for a contact address, and wrote him and his wife a genuine note of love and concern, which… son-of-a-gun, opened that door right back up. He was ever so grateful and kind, going so far as to send me a Facebook request, which I validated… and that’s when the fight started, except that I don’t fight. He saw my posts, realized I was still that awful commie liberal witchy-woman he kicked to the curb all those years ago, and we had a conversation… calm and measured on my part, increasingly hostile on his, including a totally incomprehensible shaming for remarrying after my first husband was killed. This from someone with multiple marriages under his belt. And then he swiftly bailed and blocked me from any further contact. That’s twice, buddy, jeez.

Kids, I tell you this to let you know there’s no road through to the other side right now and may never be again. We speak two different languages, hold differing moral codes, and our outlook on humanity is terminally split. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to hold thoughtful exchanges with family and friends who abhor my take on life, and I can testify that it’s an impossibility at this point. As soon as a real conversation threatens to break out, they’re outta there every time.

So watch your backs… I’ve been officially declared toxic to the health of a family member; therefore, who knows what further mayhem I might get up to. I’m a small 74-year-old woman who has very limited contact with the world outside my door, and who will never show up on the doorstep of people who hate my voice, even if invited… the trip alone, at this point, would attempt to kill me. So what are people worried will happen? That I’ll expose a feeling they didn’t know they had and can’t acknowledge? That I’ll “force” them to talk with me like two adults? That I’ll ask a question they don’t know how to answer? That I’ll try to drag them into some mystical woo-woo place of real communication?

I have plenty of experience, but few answers… much heavy sadness, but few regrets. I’ve been transparent and dealt in truth as I know it. And life goes on, even as it’s perpetually ending…

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An homage…

My mom was one of nine siblings and I grew up surrounded by cousins, with our maternal grandparents at the center of the circus, always. It was one of those families where the Christmas presents fill up half the living room and the dining tables take all the space that’s left. We were raised on humor, hugs, and a knowing instilled by farmers and former military that we were expected to suck it up and survive.

But Grandpa died of lung cancer… and then when Grandma, the Queen Bee, left us at age 95… all the air went out. We went from time-honored massive family reunions to none, literally in a heartbeat. The Clan has dispersed itself around the globe over the years, so there are generations of cousins I’ll never know, even by name. And it’s sobering to realize that most of the cousins I grew up with I’ll never lay eyes on again. They’re there… I’m here… neither of us is going here nor there for all the reasons… so the last time we saw each other… was the last time we’ll ever see each other.

People change. Life changes us if we’re living it at all. We assume we know the humans with whom we share a gene pool, but it’s a delusion of youth and immaturity… the longer we live, the greater the distance between us. And sharing a bloodline doesn’t mean we’ll get along, or even like each other. The current mood of the planet has soaked into every part of society by now, making family dynamics a minefield… therefore, at least half my extended family considers me “better in theory than in practice” at best… and I’m good with that.

Everything ends. The most beautiful things in the world – like a big crazy family with love coming out its pores – don’t remain static, they can’t. So I’m paying homage to a dynasty that was and is no more. It was never what we purposely remember it to be… but close enough for family and fairytales.

WHERE IT STARTED…

WHERE IT WENT… x 3 or 4 by now

Possibly the last big reunion we had. These are all 1st cousins, about half the total at the time.

Fall melancholy… moody rambling… somber thoughts…grieving the losses… celebrating what was. All respect to a big ol’ family that’s tried as hard to be human as any I know. And on we all go…

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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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A watershed week…

Dear Diary,

It’s been a while.

I found better things to do.

Love ya, mean it –

Me

.

I got my hug(s).
Hugs all around, all week.

The 4-year drought was broken this week when John Latta came to town for a few days, time enough to really connect again, with us and his Auntie Rita. The hours were pure joy, no rush, no big deal, just together. The phenomenon that is COVID has left us all standing, so far, at least… and that’s no small thing, with John working in its midst at the hospital from the beginning, and Rita and I managing to contract it despite our precautions. Kim comes out looking like a star, with his asthma and heart history… out there doing ALL THE THINGS all year, and never sick a day except for that nasty food poisoning. We know it isn’t over, but here we were, together again, and that was huge.

The four of us took a drive around Lawrence so John could be blown away by almost thirty years of growth and other changes on KU’s campus and the town since he moved to Atlanta, and that was fun, but after they’ve seen the big city they’re not all that easy to impress. 😊

The time between Monday afternoon and 9:00 this morning passed every bit as fast as we knew it would, but we packed a lot of good food, great laughs, and even better conversation into the hours. The Oncology RN with hospice skilz and an uncanny grasp of human nature was here long enough to quietly assess the health and wellbeing of the parental units, and he very graciously and seriously answered questions all three of us had about our health in general. It was a beautifully-timed visit, urged into action by the love and friendship of Kevin Bruce, and John’s partner Anthony, who both sensed it was time for the Mama to see Mr. John and vice versa. We agreed today on the way to MCI that we won’t let four years pass again before we see each other, no matter what tries to intervene… little things like broken bones, illnesses, insane scheduling, and pandemics. Meh, mere details.

I’ve been moody and weepy since about March of 2020, right through the election and its aftermath, even as things began to look more hopeful for the world… and I kept wondering when that other shoe would drop… when I’d feel some sort of resolution to the events of the past five years or so… when I might feel real again, with compelling reasons to still BE, and a genuine interest in pursuing all the good stuff in this third trimester of life. The errant shoe found a solid landing this week when John’s plane touched down, and the hours before he boarded again for home were valuable beyond measure.

My deepest gratitude to the people who love us – they help us keep life as it CAN be, at its best.

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We carry on…

It was a fun weekend, resulting in a train of thought that’s still on the tracks this morning… and the main nugget is that the hum and swirl of American life rises out of a rich network of subcultures thrumming with energy and heart. Some of our societal microcosms are readily visible on the surface, with signs and symbols we know at a glance… service organizations like the Lions Club; religious groupings; a worldwide fellowship for magicians; the Hell’s Angels; and a club for every possible area of human interest under the sun. Saturday night we got to meet a subculture we previously knew almost nothing about – the world of gyms and cage fighting. When you “know a guy,” you go there.

A young veteran we love and respect owns a gym in the KC area with some other people including his wife, and in the interest of positive advertising, physical fitness, and pure badassery, he’s fought his way to professional status and a spot just under the headliner on the card… so it was time we saw the show for ourselves. A sweltering hot evening, long lines of fans, huge fairgrounds pavilion with big open windows, BBQ, drinks, a light-show going on, music that was primarily heavy-duty vibrations felt from the feet up, long tables arranged concentrically with ends toward the cage, and chairs designed by Satan himself for maximum torture. Knew I was gonna be in trouble, but I wasn’t missing this, even though the undercard consisted of something like fourteen fights before it was our man’s turn. And it was great – we were with friends who are family and everything was laughter and hugs and a feeling I’d forgotten over the past eighteen months… belonging. I found myself doing things I vowed I’d “never do again,” like sip a sistah’s drink when offered, shake hands, hug people face to face, laugh and talk unmasked in a public gathering… but almost three months of being fully vaccinated, plus our negligible transmission rate, makes all the difference. The people-watching was sublime – no worries about the generations coming up, America… they’re beautiful.

Kim has taught me a lot about boxing, which was of absolutely no use in this venue – the action is fast and furious, three 3-minute rounds, and there may have been only one match that lasted through two. Most of the amateur matches were over in under a minute, with someone either knocked out or tapping out, followed by hugs and camaraderie all ’round. These guys fight out of various gyms and mostly know each other, and the whole operation, under the glitz and glitter, is squeaky clean, everybody checked again before entering the cage, everything recorded and monitored. That said, there’s a thing in all of us that loves a winner, and we can turn primitive in a heartbeat when that’s on the line. I can still scream with the loudest of them, and I welcomed every chance to stand up outta that chair. A colossal thank you to DM Bruce Associates for their co-sponsorship of the night and their sweet hospitality to us as always.

Our man Deron “The Pharaoh” Carlis won by knockout in the 2nd round and walked away unmarked, so the evening was a total upper, and when we came home after 10:30, 8th Street was all lights and people, with the streetside dining areas full. We hope the city will let those stay open all summer!

When the light goes… when life dies down to an ember… it’s easy to think it might be finished, never coming back, never the same again. But being in that pavilion on Saturday night, with people from all over the NE corner of Kansas, having Deron’s (ridiculously young) parents come over to hug us, and seeing other people we’ve met since moving here, full of happiness and hugs, was a little revelation: I still need other humans, they aren’t all impossible to communicate with, and it feels good to care. Who knew cage fighting could do all that?

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