A watershed week…

Dear Diary,

It’s been a while.

I found better things to do.

Love ya, mean it –

Me

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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 the 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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One day or two at a time… page 110

Day 204 – 10/02/2020

It’s so beautiful outside I can barely stand it – the air smells fresh, the sky looks real, the leaves are leaving, as they are wont to do. I’ve sat here at my computer all morning drinking coffee… reading… writing… absorbing. The world we semi-count on for equilibrium shifts beneath us every day and we’re off on another magic-carpet ride, hoping to avoid free-fall. This morning it’s POTUS, FLOTUS, assorted leaders and staff testing positive for COVID. Just another day in paradise.

Rita sent a Play Date invite, so after Kim brings lunch home from Cielito I’ll get my lazy butt outta here and go keep her company while she works. It’s harrrrd to get moving sometimes – it requires a nudge and the right incentive.

Day 105 – 10/03/2020

I went there, did that, and it made my day, as I knew it would. I’m not much help, but at least she isn’t working in a big space all by herself for ALL the hours with only sweet Dementia-Dog for company. Maybe the fresh air was too rich, maybe the stairs kicked my butt… whatever, I came home at 4:00 and died in my recliner for a couple of hours. Honest labor is rough on a person.

We got news and pics of a brand-new great-great-niece while we were hanging out yesterday. Her mama is our great-niece… her Oma is our niece… and her great-grandma, GiGi, is our SIL, younger than both of us by a ways. Life comes at ya’ fast and it does go on. Sweet. 💕

And now it’s Saturday, sunny, in the 50s. Kim made a batch of banana mini-loaves before I woke up and now he’s over in NoLaw, presumably having found at least a foursome for PickleBall. I’ve had a cup & a half of coffee… read a few things… looked at some posts. Feels like the world’s still turning so let’s do this, weekend. How about you surprise us in good ways by Monday… ?

🧡💛💚🤎💚💛🧡

See how you are, life? We ask, we get sometimes, and you’ve already brought more sunshine. Breakfast somehow tasted better this morning than any previous Saturday in memory, and now Kim’s out soaking up the Ds, sharing his tunes with the immediate neighborhood. I still have coffee, and I saw football on TV when I walked through the big room. I can hear it at a low buzz… so soothing… so reminiscent of a life we still knew just last fall. The less I know of world news between now and Monday morning, the happier I’ll be.

And now a couple of young guys are on our corner shooting cool skateboard footage. Mellow-Man on the balcony captured this mid-air shot and my brain adds the sounds and fall aromas…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 10/03/2020

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And a Monday… page 63

Day 123 – 07/13/2020

My Wagner/Stauth/Dierking/Fuhrmann DNA is pretty straight, as in straight off the boat. I have a copy of the ship’s manifest for my Great-grandma Caroline Fuhrmann Dierking’s voyage with her parents and eleven siblings from Germany to the United States on the S.S. Silesia, and I heard all the stories, still fresh, from my grandma, Caroline’s daughter.

My Reese heritage is more mysterious to me, but only because I didn’t grow up next door to it and I spent far less day-to-day time with that part of my family. My Uncle Vic’s extensive family genealogy, lovingly and painstakingly assembled over the years, is priceless. Without him I would likely never know that my grandpa, his dad’s, lines were from England, Wales, and the Netherlands, or that grandma’s were from Ireland, France, the Netherlands, and Germany. See? Mystery…

My Great-grandmothers, each holding a grandchild, my Uncle Bob and Aunt Bette if memory serves.

Great-grandma Somerville on the left was a wife, mother of three sons and three daughters – one of whom became my grandma, Jennie Reese – and she was a midwife and ran a boarding house. Unfortunately, she was gone before I arrived, but I remember visiting Grandma Cummings, my grandpa’s mother, in various tiny houses that always smelled of mothballs and peppermint. She gave me my first real acquaintance with what “jolly” meant, but I know her life wasn’t easy.

Great-grandma C and Me – 1948
My grandpa, Victor E. Reese – enlisted in the U.S. Army underage, was at the front during WWI at 18 – came home to marry my grandmother and start a dynasty.
Jennie Marie Somerville at age 15 shortly before Victor Reese met and married her. They raised a family of six boys and three girls and were married for 56 years.

4-Generations – Great-grandpa Somerville, Grandma Reese, my mother Virginia, and new-baby me. Apologies to my sisters – it’s just all about me today.
Vic and Jennie Reese with their six sons, three daughters, and their first grandchild. Grandma received the title before she was 35.
All nine Reese siblings with their mama.
Not even half of the cousins. One of the last big reunions we had.
The Queen Bee at 95, livin’ the good life at home. I was privileged enough to be with her as she left…

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A Sunday…. page 62

Day 122 – 07/12/2020

When nostalgia hits (see yesterday), my mental viewfinder fills up with images of family and the farm where I grew up, or at least came of age. If you liked my Memorial Day post, these photos are for you. (Link follows)

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2020/05/23/remembering/

The people in the image above are my Grandma and Grandpa Wagner, my dad and his dog Sarge, in 1933 when my dad was 11 years old. The garden in the story was north of the house but you can see my grandma’s pretty fish pond in the background, filled in before my memory because of the dust off the cattle pens and the hazard to toddler grandchildren. Grandma had plans that didn’t always suit farm living, but she never gave up.

My grandparents, my dad, about 6 yrs old, and his brother Ed, eleven years older. They had a good relationship as adults.
The Dierking sisters – Nora, Ruth, and Clara (my grandma)
My Great-aunt Ruth in flush times
The dugout/livestock barn/root cellar where the three girls grew up, shown during a visit by family in the late 50s or early 60s, long after it had been abandoned. It was outside a little town about an hour SW of where I live now.
Caroline Dierking on the right, mother of the girls – and my great-grandmother – with her sister Emma.
In Sheboygan, Wisconsin with my Great-aunt Emma and a little relative on her right whose name was Colleen.
My cousin Katie, Uncle Ed’s daughter, and I after playing dress-up in Grandma’s big upstairs closet. I was about 5 and worried that my dress would end me as I negotiated the steep stairs.
The Wagner munchkins, Rita, Judy, Susan, and our brother Danny in Grandma & Grandpa’s shelter belt north of the garden. Says 1957 so I was ten years old. And our mom was obviously curler-happy that day.

Tomorrow… barring anything unforeseen… my mom’s people. 💙

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In… page 47

Day 67 – 05/18/2020

My baby sister, Señorita Margarita Rita, lives ten minutes from me but we hadn’t seen each other since March 10th. I put on actual clothes, shoes, and eye makeup and she came over today bringing the sunshine. Wow. Needed that. It was time to feel like a person again and enjoy the perks pertaining thereto. It was time to laugh a lot.

We distanced – no hugs, spaced apart – but that’s a distance I can live with since it was the only one in evidence. It’s affirming and gratifying when the people you love get you.

Because I have sisters, I will always have friends.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/17/2020

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Found our way home…

It was lovely, that road trip. Lots of hours there and back, in the car, with my best guy, talking, talking, talking. Or just riding, absorbed in our own thoughts, thrilled by the landscape (in which case we’re talking again), or I’m dipping into social media while trying not to miss anything real and at hand. But not sleeping – I don’t sleep in the car. I don’t do it well so I inevitably wake up with a wonky neck or some such, and if Kim’s going to do all the driving, even though it’s by his choice, I like to provide company and an extra set of eyes.

So down the highways we fly, maniacs on holiday, grabbing road food and snacks, health constraints cast to the wind. And then – DESTINATION REACHED!! The gracious welcome of my younger sister and bro-in-love and their suh-weet mountain retirement place. Days in the 70s and low 80s, nights 50s and 60s, house left open to the soft cool breezes nearly every day we were there. The pace is brutal and not for amateurs – get up when you feel like it…take a coffee mug out back…let breakfast evolve…sometimes Susan cooks delicious comfort food…sometimes the guys bring breakfast sammies or donuts home after PickleBall. The sun climbs, as it is wont to do…the big articulated umbrella is deployed…more coffee happens…and showers…and naps.

At some point a mid-afternoon lunch is discussed and one of the local mini-breweries/pizza-ovens/neighborhood bar & grills is chosen, maybe in one of the little communities a few miles on up the mountain, always tasty, always an experience, and then home to watch for elk from the back patio as they come in for water and treats the neighbors put out. Sometimes mamas and babies bed down right out there for the night, guarded by the bull who claims them as his.

It didn’t occur to us to take any pictures this trip, except of Payson the Dog, and of some of the two elk herds that are currently making that little corner of the huge Tonto National Forest their home. It’s a unique situation and we feel privileged to share that front-row vantage point every once in a while. My sis & bro get to observe it all on a daily basis – the big extended family of noisy crows living in the lodge-pole pines just past their picket fence; the bobcat they’ve seen a few times; the mountain lion that skirts the territory on occasion, widening his hunting grounds or looking for a mate; the coyotes the mama elk mercilessly drive out, running them ragged, keeping them away from their gangly spotted babies; the wild flurry of gray bushy-tailed squirrels, hopped up on hormones and possibly something fermented, holding manic squirrel parties that defy gravity and the limits of brain-wave activity‼️

We’re most definitely going to miss all that until next time, but Susan & JR have much on their plate for the near future. He has a set of electronic drums to continue exploring, and my sweet sister has a new set of knees to pursue. They’re longing for a visit from their second daughter and our baby sister and their significant others, so we must be very unselfish, for goodness sake‼️ Full disclosure, it’s hard to stay away from paradise once you discover where it is. 😎

The love of family is deeply healing in a world gone stupid. It’s addictive, and my heart absorbs it like rain on a hot day, so I tried to soak up enough to last a while, a challenge beyond my abilities, but a worthy goal nonetheless. The older I get – 72 as of this month – the more my family means to me. To say I love them is to massively understate what it is because it’s so much more than that, and now that we all have the time and wisdom to really know each other I want us to spend as much time together as possible while we’re all still here, even as our logistics are once again shifting. We, better than some, know life affords no guarantees.

Part of a harem…
2-yr-old Bull Elk
1st Year Mating
Learning to Manage Females
Keep a Good Thought for Him

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Happy Day…

Wishing all of my blogging community a lovely Thanksgiving with nothing but love, good food, and rest in your spirits. And maybe you’ll get to help someone else along the way…

 

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Life goes right on happening…

Constant or even Casual Reader probably knows that when I say *interesting week,* stuff happened. This past weekend has been interesting.

On Friday, Kim had his first Mid-Life Crisis Sports Injury, and since 9:30 that morning, routine, that deadly imposter, has gone out the window. Two neatniks have reverted to hippie habits, of necessity, and are getting used to relaxed standards. My singleton side of our King bed is easy enough, just pull up sheet and quilt as I bail out, but there’s a 3′-high pile of clean laundry on the chaise next to the bed, and various admission and dismissal detritus from the hospital strewn across the dresser. Kim’s living and sleeping in his recliner for now, so the table next to him is a conglomeration of what he needs throughout the day and night – but he has a system and don’t screw with it. His kitchen needs his Navy Squid attention, especially since we’d been planning a fall scrub-down, but oh well, I’ll knock some of the big chunks off in a day or two. When somebody you love is in pain, that’s where all your energy automatically gets funneled, as it should.

All day Friday, from 10am to 5pm, was spent going from ER to Ortho and back, X-ray to CT Scan, lightweight “sugar tong” cast, to temporary traction, to plaster “sugar tong.” Food, finally, at 6pm, and home. Saturday and Sunday are a blur of opioids and other meds, a grocery run to maintain a cushion for the drugs, some amazing sleep, and a sense of marking time.

Yesterday, Monday, we checked him in for surgery at 10:30am. He went to the back for pre-op at 11. Was told they were taking him to surgery at 12. Froze my fanny off in the waiting room, listening to my tummy growl, until 1:30pm when a nurse came out to tell me they were backed up in the surgical suites and had just then taken him in. I nearly cried, and would have had she not said “He’s been napping this whole time.” I just said very quietly, “I’m freezing,” whereupon the receptionist said “Oh honey, you have to say something!” I told her “I didn’t know I could!” She turned up the thermostat, the nurse brought me two blankets out of the warmer, and I settled in for the long haul. I’m terribly out of practice since my days of caregiving for six older family members – I didn’t think to take my iPad or any protein snacks, or even BAD snacks. My head had room only for Kim, getting this repaired, and taking him home.

When all was said and done and I’d gotten the Ortho surgeon’s report (he looks all of 19, of course), it was 6pm, eight hours since we’d left home. But the report was good and that’s all that matters. It was a bad break and Kimmers now has a plate in his body that wasn’t there before, but the bones went together well and Dr. Huston was able to deal with the bone gravel and other crunching in there that wouldn’t have been good longterm. All’s well that ends well, which is down the road a bit. He’s in a heavy-duty cast until time for the stitches to come out, then a less mondo one, and finally he’ll get a fiberglass number that will start increasing his independence noticeably.

For now, it’s a little like Momming again and I’m glad for grown-up cartoons like YouTube and television. The drugs make the patient a little sleepy, so movies are good. Also car porn, like Mecum Auction and Barrett Jackson. And the car rebuild shows – there are some of those we both like a lot. The Big Guy has seen me through at least four major medical events in the 14 years we’ve been married – I’ll do anything to keep him comfortable through this one. It’s how we roll.

 

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A win is a win is a win…

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Slip-slidin’ through a Sunday, overcast and cool. The sun’s nothing but a weak yellow blob behind lofty layers of water molecules that don’t yet feel like cooperating enough to make rain. That’s only because they have no awareness of how badly we need it, so no hard feelings.

Kim’s playing in a PickleBall tournament today, which is every bit as exhilarating as it sounds, and I’m without adult supervision. I know, I’m just as confused by that as you are. The original plan was for me to go out there a little ahead of now (9am) when his first match is starting and watch as play continues into the afternoon. Today is Men’s Doubles, and Kim and his partner Marcelo are guaranteed at least eight matches, which I would genuinely love to see, so yesterday we made a trial run.

First of all, we live a block off downtown, right on the verge of East Lawrence. And Rock Chalk Park, where Kim plays in all but nice weather, is way the Helen gone out on what is, for now, the far outer edge of WEST Lawrence. A 15- to 20-minute drive across town is not, of course, a dealbreaker, but stay with me here.

2) Parks & Rec puts the olderish-fart PickleBallers at the farthest end of the mahoosive all-under-one-roof sports complex (sure, okay, we need the most exercise, we get that, but…).

3) Above-the-action “Spectator Seating” for PickleBall is three food-court-type tables and a scattering of matching chairs. I tried one out while Kim went down to the courts on an information-gathering mission.

4) So okay, there are actually two choices: a} stand at the rail and watch, or b} scooch a plastic food-court chair as close to the chicken-wire as possible and catch the action from various angles while peering through the wire.

It became apparent that the phenom that is PickleBall is still new enough that they might not be quite ready for prime time. (Just a fact, not a snark.) Also that this fan, loyal though she is to one adorbs player, couldn’t be spending Sunday at the tournament, no need to belabor all the reasons why. (And now I learn that I could have sat on bleachers directly courtside, but still… )

Kim has explained the game to me (repeatedly) in very clear terms but it doesn’t make intuitive sense to me when I see it played, the way basketball, football, tennis, golf, all the games I grew up with do. I’m hopeless at trying to understand soccer or any kind of hockey, and the lines on a PickleBall court baffle me, because they’re nearly always painted across the markings for basketball and other court games, and played sideways on half the court. Clear as mud, right? Yeah, same here.

Just got a text from my big kid – he and Marcelo won their first match quite handily and should now be into their second. He likes playing, he likes winning. And he didn’t need me out there messing with his head game, so this way everybody wins. Kim and Marcelo, after eleven matches, won 3rd Place in their division.

Also, just between you and me, once I told myself I didn’t have to write another word until I felt like it – I felt like it. Love you, friends, thanks for hanging in with me and I hope your Sunday will be nothing but win. Summer isn’t finished with us yet.

 

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Catharsis is not pretty…

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Dammit, life in the end is a cruel mysterious bitch because it’s so beautiful and so brief. I stand in the shower and cry wracking sobs that leave my ribs sore because we’re getting into our 70’s now and some of my most brilliant friends are falling to Alzheimer’s and I can’t make it stop and IT’S NOT FAIR. And I’m wrapped in a towel with my hair dripping water and running down with the tears and I’m trying to find words that mean anything at all when the world is ending and I’m mad as hell and nothing’s right anywhere except… a precious beautiful man loves my son and maybe I can stop crying in a little while… maybe… because when life seems like it has to end right this minute so we won’t die from the ache… there’s something so good we’d be really… pissed if we missed it.

And then we’re crying… softly now… from the grace and the sweetness and the peace and the yin and the yang.

The balance is always there if we can let the quiet find us…

… so pain is such a mixed bag that we don’t really dare wish it to be gone forever. That’s a much-needed revelation this morning and I’m glad for it.

Have a beautiful spring Sunday, friends. Because life is good. So good.

 

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Happy B’day to the KIMN8R…

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You know those days when everything that can go wrong does? When you just can’t catch a break? When everything crumbles to dust at your touch? Yeah, there are plenty of those but today wasn’t one of them, not at all.

First, it’s Kim’s birthday and we walked over to Jefferson’s for a fish & chips lunch. We’ll go to Limestone tomorrow for a fitting celebration – his age finally has a 7 in it like mine, but in a different spot.

Second, the great condo we put on the market almost five years ago sold. Today. Funds are in the bank.

Third, the University of Kansas Jayhawks are playing Clemson in the Sweet Sixteen this evening and we’ll be stuck like glue to the game.

Fourth, we saw again today what wonderful friends we have and how sweet life is because of that.

Fifth, we have terrific family. That’s everything.

Milestones are a good opportunity to look around and see what’s changed since the last one. All the good stuff is still here and so are we – that’ll work.

 

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Leavin’, on a jet plane…

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This morning someone I love flew home to her family and I miss her already. We said our goodbyes last night, five days after she arrived, and 40 years after we’d last seen each other.

Katie grew up in Michigan while my environment was the western Kansas landscape. She was a city girl, I was a country mouse trying to keep up and to figure out what made her so incredibly cool.

We were together only a handful of times over the years, but there was a bond that made us sisters as well as cousins. Life happened, of course. Katie birthed seven babies in eight years and added an eighth baby just for good measure, so she got a little too busy for letter-writing. I was preoccupied with the details of my own budding existence, so we gradually lost touch.

Enter Facebook: something I posted moved Katie to call me with the news that she was coming to Kansas to see my two sisters and me – and three days later she did. Four decades of involuntary separation melted away within seconds and we were sisters again. The hours flew by, as they do when we’re having fun, and it was over too soon. The memories are for keeps, though, so no crying – just plans for seeing each other again, sooner rather than later.

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Rita, Susan, Judy, and Katie

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Sum-sum-summertime!

A nice thing happened last week – one of my sister’s besties shared two pieces from my old blog and it was a huge encouragement for at least two reasons:  1) It touches me that she saved them, since I only vaguely remember writing either one, and 2) It didn’t make me cringe to read them again from this vantage point.

Reposting one here:

Kim and I have been catching some advertising on TV that has us scratching our heads.  The ads are for a well-known outdoor-recreation merchandiser of colossal proportions, touting their store-sponsored summer camps.  The footage shows happy children and their parents sleeping in tents, toasting marshmallows, going fishing, and participating in other fun activities associated with the open-air experience – all of it taking place

INSIDE THE STORE!

I’m all for exposing kids to new experiences and the joys of outdoor living, but somehow the ads only succeed in making me feel sad.  I grew up camping with my family, so I know it doesn’t have to cost big bucks for the real thing unless you require everything to be first class.

First class we weren’t – more like a band of gypsies – but I wouldn’t trade those summer idylls for anything.  My dad was an irrigation farmer, making it difficult for him to get away during the over-heated summer months; however, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Three or four times a year, between May and September, my parents, an aunt and uncle, and a raft of kids would load up and go to the lake for several days of sun, swimming, water-skiing, sleeping under the stars, and eating food cooked outdoors.  There was a little fishing here and there, too, and we were usually joined by other relatives and friends at various points during our stay.

My grandpa had stocked up on Army surplus items when the gettin’ was good (and cheap), so we had access to a big green army tent that was hot as blazes after a day in the sun but did a good job of sheltering us from the elements; kerosene lanterns; cots and smelly sleeping bags; portable cook-stoves; ammo boxes for storage; and most anything else a few days without the comforts of home might require.

After loading the station wagon with everything from soup to nuts, the first stop was the grocery store for all the real food – bags upon bags of it.  Then with everyone crammed into the vehicles we caravanned to the nearest large body of water, an hour and a half away, happy as clams, singing, laughing, and playing travel games, and with much “discussion” over who got the spot between Mother and Daddy in the front seat.

We kept a small ski boat and a big old (with the emphasis on old) ramshackle trailer house in a storage area at Cedar Bluff Lake, towing both down to the water upon arrival.  The boat would be launched, the trailer leveled insofar as was possible, the tent(s) set up, the charcoal grills placed on standby, and all things put in order for an extended stay.  We kids, of course, barely noticed that these things were happening.  We’d either worn our swimsuits on the drive up, or shucked into them the minute the wheels stopped rolling, and we were happily jumping off the dock, dunking each other, yelling, running around … and asking what we could have to eat.

Our mom and aunt seemed to do little besides cook the entire time, when they weren’t busy grabbing a streaking, flailing kid at every opportunity in order to slather him/her with sunscreen, but they were nevertheless visibly more relaxed and laid-back about life than at home.  Everyone who’s experienced it knows there’s something about food cooked and consumed outdoors that enhances its flavor many times over, and we feasted like royalty.  Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and fruit for breakfast, baloney sandwiches, chips and veggies for lunch, grilled hotdogs, hamburgers, steaks or chicken with all the extras in the evenings.  And a steady, day-long supply of cold soda and Black Cow bars, plus anything else we could manage to ferret out of its hiding spot.

The babies played in the sand.  The little kids banded together and pursued their own enterprises of hiking, exploring, sharing secrets, and defending each other from callous onslaughts by the medium-sized kids … who obviously dedicated their time to harassing the little kids.

The bigger kids’ hours were defined by transistor radios, water-skiing, sun-tanning, and keeping a close watch for interesting-looking members of the opposite sex.  The kicker was that our parents preferred going to the lake during the week rather than on weekends in order to avoid the crowds, so the pickings were slim.

Our dads spent their time trying to keep the boat motor running, hot-dogging on slalom skis as a reward for their efforts, and consuming quantities of cold beer.

And our moms, who were known to do a little sun-tanning themselves while catching up on their reading and talking, were no doubt simply thankful to survive it all one more time.

The time always passed far too quickly, and after three or four days of non-stop sun and water everything would be packed into the cars again for the trip home, each and every item either wet or coated with gritty sand, or both.

Unlike on the drive up, there was no singing; there was barely a word spoken.  We were all sunburned within an inch of our lives, AGAIN, and God help the child who inadvertently touched a sibling on any part of his or her person.  We were well-acquainted with the misery of sun-burnt skin and we swore each time that it would never happen again, but nobody in our acquaintance yet knew how potentially deadly the condition was, so we were not nearly as careful as we should have been.  On the way home, the only reason anybody vied for the middle spot in the front seat was because that’s where the A/C blew the coldest.

It was rude, it was crude, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  We loved every minute of it, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat … if only to have all those people back with us for one more lazy summer.

Not every child will be lucky enough to experience the kind of summers we did, but I do hope they realize that there’s more to life than a pseudo camp-out in a retail store.

 

Burntside-Lake

 

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Ignorance is blistering…

woman-with-name-tag_0

I read a stunning statistic this morning* that blew both Kim and me away – over half of Americans believe it should be illegal for a woman to keep her last name after marriage, WHAAAT??

Of course that represents people who were actually polled, which I’d like to think means half of those surveyed in rural areas, remote hollers, and socially isolated mountain ranges rather than honest-to-goodness 21st Century Americans who know what’s up, because this finding is both laughable and disturbing.

Events until recently seemed to indicate that we were steadily moving toward a better world informed by human equality in every direction, but here we are still fighting the same old shit that first raised our collective consciousness in the 60s. Unbelievable.

A world without women and our influence is not to be contemplated, so why is the focus so rarely on what’s good for us? (Simple question for the Luddites among us, please show your work.) All you pathetic cases of arrested male development endlessly stuck in junior high need a brighter awareness of truth: Women have 100% of the babies. Just the facts, Jack, and your ideal little world starts to go downhill after one generation, so what are you thinking? Oh wait…

This crap is so silly I thought it must be “fake news” but no such luck, so I’m sitting here hoping I don’t know anyone with this attitude and outlook, it would shatter my heart, hyperbolically-speaking.

Prejudices, stereotypes, and backward thinking are buried so deep in our nation’s psyche, how is it we believe we’ll ever dig out, but women are fierce and we don’t quit. That alone should show you what we’re made of, but that’s okay – we’ll keep doing what we do because – what else? Respect is owed, but we’re used to working without it, so don’t give it another thought, you guys all persevere in your empire-building and let us know how that’s workin’ out for ya’. But here’s how it is: Brains are the new tits and you’re falling behind.

 

women

* The Name Game

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