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.

 

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Ignorance is blistering…

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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.

 

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* The Name Game

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The Right Stuff…

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The magic was always in the secrets and the rush and the crazy, trying to make each holiday season the best one ever, the gifts perfect, the food exactly according to tradition, all for that elusive (illusive) Old-Fashioned Christmas.

On this December 24th, in the year (of our Lord?) 2016, the magic lies elsewhere. It’s in the big messy bed, the fog hanging outside our windows, the Salted Caramel Bailey’s swirling into the coffee mugs, the Kim Breakfast because Saturday, the spa tub filling.

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, Santa will bring the Zen all over again – Black Forest ham, scalloped potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, lovely rolls, easy munchies. Vino, always. A Pentatonix Christmas, we love those sweet babies. And later, when we’re in our cups, Bad Santa. Saving Hudsucker Proxy for New Year’s, 2017 apropos.

The Real Christmas was always at my maternal grandparents’ house, where one long, very long, table was set up through the living and dining rooms, and pretty packages spilled far past the tree while Grandma and her daughters and daughters-in-law still frantically wrapped gifts in a spare bedroom, giving the door a kick once in a while to keep nosy grandkids away. My mom was one of nine offspring, who were themselves fairly prolific, so Christmas dinner could involve 40 people or more, with additional afternoon drop-ins.

The women cooked the enormous meal, the kids raised hell, and after dinner my good-looking uncles rolled up their sleeves, stored food, picked the turkey carcass clean for leftovers, and washed the dishes, no rugrats allowed in the kitchen. The uncles, former Marines, Korean War, could be intimidating when they put their foot down, and were no doubt laughing up their collective sleeves at us every year. Omigod, we were insufferable.

They’re gone, those people, and I can’t even find a photo this morning to honor the first Christmases of my heart. The pictures are here somewhere, in an album online or on a shelf, old Kodachrome color snaps – upwards of 60 or more of us crammed into one glorious photo with the tree barely showing in the back and wrapping paper still strewn. That’s how my heart remembers it.

I hope your Christmas, old-fashioned or otherwise, will be sweet. Tuck it into your heart…those memories belong to us forever.

 

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A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou…

Thanksgiving equalled good…

Prosecco splashed with POM

Brut splashed with POM

Rita’s/Joy’s Cheesy Potato soup with crispy bacon bits

A crusty loaf of whole-grain bread from Wheatfields

Red grapes

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RITA: Grains and tubers will set you free.

KIM: Every 8 hours.

We YouTubed for dessert:

The Judy Chops, Hazzard to Ya’ Booty, The Union, Jeff Lynne – If I Loved You, and Kim and Rita singing ALL the lyrics to Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s Our House because they’re cool like that and know all the same music.

Then we snuggled in with the fireplace and the National Dog Show – and what could be more quaintly Zen? As the afternoon deepened, the man person Made Football Great Again and the women persons set up camp on the vaguely-temperate balcony and lazily contemplated tradition, the seeming universal angst over life, and how it’s all about change. There was wine, and the man person joined us during half-times and other breaks in the action.

All three of us are pissed at the people who did this…

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…so the holiday we celebrate is not that, because nobody would actually celebrate that. For us it’s about being grateful in every direction for the good, in spite of the bad, every day. If the powers-that-be want to give everyone a day off to be properly thankful, all the sweeter. {For the record, we do not personally know anyone who celebrates the unfortunate bit of history articulated above.}

There is always much good to celebrate, because later there was ice cream – English Toffee Caramel – and our 2nd-Annual-Sometime-Between-T-day-and-New-Year’s viewing of The Producers, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, which makes us cry laughtears every time through. If The Producers turns out to have a shelf-life (blasphemy!) we’ll start on Blazing Saddles.

The Morning After brought The Saturday Breakfast on Friday, a spa soak, lush coffee, and NO SHOPPING. Amen.

I hope your day yesterday held all the things that mean most to you, and that our thankfulness will help carry all of us into the new year and the unknown. Again.

 

 

 

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Be not afraid…

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First you cry, that’s what they say…unless you’re stunned into silent disbelief, in which case you walk around still living and breathing in a world that turned strange in an all too familiar direction overnight while you were sleeping…and you keep doing this – living while dead…and then ten days in, you’re spending possibly the last warm evening of the season outside with your husband…and he starts telling you things he’s never told you before about how life changing it was for him to love and care for your former mother-in-law for the last six years of her life, and how important it became to him that she not be afraid…and like that, you find yourself back with your dad in the nursing home while he slides deeper into dementia and can’t find the handholds, and he knows what’s happening, sometimes, and he’s afraid…and you’re there to reassure him and encourage him back to peace…and when he’s dying, and he knows it, and he’s afraid…you’re there to warm his chest with your hands and remind him about love and forgiveness, and to let him go…and to stay right there until the fear of the unknown leaves his eyes and his agonized lungs call it a life and end the struggle.

That might be when you finally cry, because maybe the enormity of what has transpired has funneled down to this one fact: you can’t BE THERE for everyone you love when it’s their turn in the barrel and shit gets real, and they are justifiably afraid. But you’re going to wish you could be…so much.

Now that you’ve kicked DENIAL’s ass, you can slope right on down the road into ANGER, wherein you make it clear to one and all that their opinion is not your reality. In addition, it’s where you figure out who really loves you, because they so have their work cut out for them, by which we mean how long can you watch somebody implode, and still maintain radio silence?

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” ~Gloria Steinem

There’s no point in BARGAINING, what’s done is done, and you hope to skip the DEPRESSION stage because you have to wonder if you’d come back.

So what about ACCEPTANCE, then, the accepted final stage of grief and loss? Not happening. You can accept that it happened, but not that it’s normal, and you know that means you’ll be at odds with about half your family and acquaintances for the duration, whatever it turns out to be. Your friends will be right where they’ve always been – in your corner and ready to defend you from pain and harm – but some of the relationships in your life will be and already are fraught with tension and division.

Borrowing generously from Amanda Diebert’s moving blog piece called “Dear Trump Supporter who says they love me”

“A man actively promised to dismantle and harm my family. To destabilize the security of my child. To harm relatives and friends and you still voted for him.

“Those other reasons matter more to you than my life and my family. It was on the line and you chose. That is the reality.

“And I know, I know that makes you really angry that I actually said it. That I won’t let you off the hook. We have a long history and you’ve made it clear I’m supposed to apologize for making you feel guilty with all my social media posts about my sadness and my anger. I should get over it already. Your guy won and you are such a nice person and how dare I… 

“First of all, you love me? Stop telling me how to grieve.

“Yeah, I know that’s not WHY you voted for him {his racism, misogyny, homophobia, et.al.}, but again, it didn’t stop you. Actively applauding someone who is doing wrong does make you culpable.

“I’m tired. ……. I do not have to apologize for you hurting me.

“You hurt me and now you are telling me I am not allowed to be sad or scared or angry.

“At the very least you allowed me to be hurt by someone else while you condoned that abuse with a ‘yes’ vote. You gave it your stamp of approval and now you are telling me my pain doesn’t exist.

“That is not love.

“I keep being told (by the people who harmed me) that I need to be a model example of ‘we go high.’

“…this is a long road. It’ll take a while, but you said you love me and you didn’t mean to hurt me.

“So let me heal while you do the work to show that you recognize the pain you caused and are working to minimize its impact.

“If you don’t want to do that work: okay.

“By ‘okay’ I do not mean I forgive you or that we are cool. I mean, you have made a decision and I will react to it accordingly. Notice I didn’t say respect it. A blatant disregard for the well being of others is not worthy of respect. But I will acknowledge this is a choice you made and I will walk away.

“Also, yeah, I do judge you for this. I’m being super honest about that, just in case you thought I might try to gaslight you too.”

You can read Amanda’s blog piece here: You Say You Love Me

I relate to everything she wrote – she’s a woman and she describes the pain of people who are my world. Nothing in the days, weeks, and months ahead will be easy, and much of it won’t be pretty. But I vow never to accept those things as “the new normal.” That kind of acceptance is a bridge too far.

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The calm before the earthquake…

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Another beautiful Saturday morning in the neighborhood – Farmers Market is busy, #lfk is opening her arms to us as always, the sun’s shining, 67º and easy. Friends who are family have included us in their 3-Day Labor Day Blow-Out, so the day promises lazy fun around the pool and great food including BANANA PUDDING!!

The Official Saturday Breakfast that hasn’t diminished an iota in more than twelve years of Saturdays – always the best-tasting, most satisfying meal of the week – has been humbly savored. And now Kimmers is in his Happy Place, the one with the stove, putting together a big pot of beans & hotlinks for the Framily. The sun is in its heaven and all’s right with the world – we’d make every day look pretty much like this if it were in our power.

Turns out, and experience teaches us this, there’s bloody little we control, and there are watershed events as we roll through life that abruptly stop the momentum and make us take an accounting. Therefore, second, third, eleventh chances cannot be overrated, and spending vital chunks of the past week with my cherished baby sister has driven that point home as nothing else has in years. It’s never a bad idea to stop and take a look under our public face, down to the one we wear for our own use, and past that to the Real Us. A fresh face-off (see what I did there?) with mortality is an exquisite motivator to change what needs changing, fix what needs fixing, just DO it, now instead of someday.

To close out The Week That Was, we had an earthquake mere seconds after Kim took the sunrise picture. It was apparently 5.6 at its epicenter, 3.2 here, 235 miles northeast. Rattled things pretty energetically up here on the 4th floor…but after the earthshaking week behind us it was only an entertaining blip.

I hope your Labor Day celebrations will be earthshaking in all the best ways.

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The Weekend that Was

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Monday morning is here again and it’s one I’m happy to greet with a smile – it was quite a weekend. Let’s just say for now that I’ve gone at life this morning with new-found intention and it’s already paying dividends. So far, and it isn’t even noon yet, I’ve eaten a bagel brought to me by Kim, who zipped to Einstein’s and back on his bicycle – you’re finished, pneumonia! I’ve been to my (physical) therapist for an hour of stretching that made me ravenous and sleepy. Did I nap? Oh, no, there’s life to be re-jumpstarted!

The bed looks almost unslept-in, so I can slide by on that for now. There’s a big load of towels in the washing machine having their second hot bath in three days because I spaced them off sometime around…Saturday, maybe, and left them gathering moss in the machine. The bills are in a neat pile for payment and sitting where I can’t miss them – they’ll wait right here until I get sick of looking at them and do what’s called for.

And now through no fault of my own it’s after 1pm and I’ve consumed a Five Guys baby cheeseburger and fries because it’s what Kim wanted for lunch, yay! When you’ve been as scary ill as he’s been you get to choose for the foreseeable future, and I’m not one to stand in the way of desire.

Also, my current project, for the first time in weeks, is open on my desktop and spread across the top of the chest next to me and on the bed. I’m ready to read it all again, edit where I must, and move on. That feels good.

The weekend left me smiling because for the most part it was so unbelievably sweet. And even the bitter portion of it holds a sweetness that’s almost too precious to talk about.

Kim and I try for an adventure a day, sometimes as simple as sitting on the balcony just out of the rain and watching the light show. Last Friday he broke out the hot-rod and we drove to a small town nearby. Our mission, which was to sell a few antique pieces so we can quit paying to store them, hit a slight delay so we drove on down the street in search of a late lunch, and lo, there was Luigi’s, looking quaint and enticing. Mid-afternoon, ours was one of three occupied tables, and it was wonderful. Clean-smelling wood everywhere, tranquil, all sounds wrapped in cotton. We were seated in a window nook and presented with our choice of delicious Italian fare, accompanied by a generous pour of the house Pinot Noir, and the best bread & oil we’ve experienced anywhere. Wow, well-kept secret, Luigi’s, and we so needed that cozy pause in the space/time continuum.

Saturday’s date was a walk through the cut to Ladybird Diner for a malted vanilla phosphate and a piece of lemon blueberry crumb cake while we soaked up our daily quota of Vitamin D at a sidewalk table. The rest of the day consisted of various sportsing, all involving balls and keeping score, as they do.

Sunday morning brought sad news, which is where the bitter joins the mix. Something tragic took place and someone died, someone we knew, and it’s heartbreaking. The sweetness, the heart-lurching precious part is that my sister and her big amazing cat Jade both woke up to a new day, sunshine, and ongoing life – because circumstances, people, the rotation of the earth conspired to move them out of harm’s way. It was the kind of close call that makes you and your big sister sit up and pay close attention. We talked all afternoon on the balcony, shared a bottle of wine, laughed, cried, and got the healing process underway. There’s always so much to be grateful for. Always.

And life is good, don’t ever think otherwise.

 

 

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August wanes…

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the summer doldrums

full of silence and ennui

my bestie is borked

JSmith 8/23/2016

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So just be real…

I read a story today, shared by a friend whose granddaughter dictated it to her daddy, and was struck by how on the mark this small girl is. You’ll see what I mean:

“We flew on an airplane to Albuquerque to see Ian and Jordan and Ashton and Uncle Doug and Aunt Jill. Will got diarrhea. 

Then we flew to Chicago to see Aunt Beth and Grandma and Uncle Billy and Josiah and his sister and the dad of the baby and those two with a jacket and glasses. Then we flew home. Grandma threw up.”

 

 

Her story illustrates important tenets of writing:

  1. Tell it like it is. If people want us to write kindly about them, they must learn to be behave well.
  2.  Engage your readers by telling them things they would not otherwise learn.
  3.  Illustrate with plenty of pink.

So simple, really, and once again a little child leads us.

 

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The Unbearable Lightness of Reading…

 

A marathon it’s been, the best kind – three books in quick succession, by three distinct authors, and connected by one unbroken muscular thread – The People, as they have always called themselves – and their existence from time primeval.

First in the “series,” entirely by happy chance, was MAUD’S LINE, written by Margaret Verble and published in 2015, the fictionalized story of a young Cherokee girl becoming a woman in 20th Century Oklahoma. Its contemporary portrayal of a time just past hooked itself into my imagination from – halleluiah, page one – and delivered me directly to book two.

Which – I assume you’re taking notes – was LAKOTA WOMAN, by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes, published in 1990, and not fictionalized at all. The author was active and instrumental in the Bureau of Land Management and American Indian Movements of the 1970s and 80s with Russell Means, Dennis Banks, so many others, and her gritty recounting of all the seemingly unrightable wrongs that have altered The People’s reality since the White Guys got here burned itself into my consciousness, not to put too fine a point on it.

So when both a friend and an esteemed nephew recommended Annie Proulx’s BARKSKINS within hours of each other it was clear that lil’ Ms. Serendipity had dropped in again and placed a shiny object in my path. Off the top, let me quickly address a few negative comments I’ve seen: that perhaps Ms. Proulx’s focus is…unevenly focused…that she hammers, that she commits “stylistic infelicities.” Yes, I caught all of that, recognized it, owned it and read on. The scope of the story is so expansive, so unexpectedly gripping, that the combined weight of all the odd little imperfections adds up to less than that of a feather – notable by virtue of existence, but in the end taking nothing from the whole.

Annie Proulx, author of THE SHIPPING NEWS, for which she won a Pulitzer in 1994; BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, for which she won the prize called “We’re turning your book into a movie;” along with at least a baker’s dozen more titles, has at 80 years of age turned out an epic about trees, of all things, that kept me absorbed from first page to last. Aside from her colossally amazing book, I love that she’s even older than I am, has been described as “sassy,” and knows how to write like a mutha.

Annie takes us from 1693, starting with the French in what became Canada, to 2013 in what is still Canada – with side trips to London, New Zealand, what we now know as the continental United States, and points everywhere around the globe, the entire saga stemming from one family line and diverging throughout multiple others, from the French, to The People, to the Dutch, et.al. And the wonder is that she makes us care about the majority of those characters, even though we sense they are soon to be swept from the stage to make room for succeeding generations, each one more fascinating than the last.

I like big books and I cannot lie, and at more than 700 pages BARKSKINS was too short. Annie Proulx knows how to put us at the scene of the tale with a lovely economy of language; how to scatter engaging and/or redeeming characters into all parts of the story, avoiding what could have become a tedious litany; how to illuminate dilemmas that we would downplay if left on our own. If that shedding of light is “hammering,” we’re clearly in need of a butt-load more of it – the denuding of nearly all this planet’s original forests is but one ongoing dilemma of many.

BARKSKINS indelibly lays out the sins of the past and their consequences for all humanity while also serving up reasons for hope, that essential tool of survival. Hang onto it, you future humans, and may it save your hide since most of your forebears have never carried, nor do they (we) carry, their (our) fair share of responsibility for what your present might look like.

As William T. Vollmann wrote in his New York Times book review:

“Now our own world is likewise fading, thanks to climate change. The root cause of our self-impoverishment is thoughtfully teased out in BARKSKINS, whose best line may well be this: ‘My life has ever been dedicated to the removal of the forest for the good of men.'”  – June 17, 2016

 

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Known only to me…

When I am old I shall wear purple and every damn color I want, probably all at once. I’ll be just like every other dried up old malcontent you’ve encountered, but different in ways known only to me, thus this brief Manifesto of Independence is for whoever ends up having to deal with me, most likely husband and then son, not that life ever follows a script.

IN CASE OF FUTURE FULL-ON FOSSILIZATION, BREAK GLASS TO READ:

  1. If I’m hungry, all efforts are futile until food happens – I more and more don’t have the capacity to maintain sanity during hangry spells. Good news: the devil within is easily placated, provided we like what we’re being bought off with.
  2.  I still hear non-stop music inside my skull from the ice fall last winter and it can get overwhelming in a way that loosens my hinges a little. It may never go dormant, so please factor that in when trying to reason with me.
  3. If I’m certifiably demented, don’t try to reason with me at all. Too much like arguing with the proverbial porker – only serves to frustrate you and irritate the pig. I’ll probably be fine in whatever world is current for me, so don’t waste precious resources trying to talk me out of it.
  4. Likewise, if intractable pain can’t someday be addressed with legal medical-grade cannabis – the thing that stops it – then pain awareness will have to be a fixture in the equation, too. I hate that, it sucks, I’ll be doing my best to stay sweet and not cause anybody trouble, but there it is, the big whiny elephant in the room.
  5.  It will be in everyone’s best interest to keep #’s 1, 2, and 4 from happening simultaneously. Good luck to ya’.
  6.  A great set of Beats headphones and Elton & Leon’s “The Union”will keep me out of your face for days – use it. Joshua Radin, Jennifer Warnes, Jason Mraz, the soundtrack of Catch & Release, The Lone Bellow, The Milk Carton Kids…  Merely a sampling – I’ll try to keep the playlist updated* until check-out – it will always be eclectic.
  7.  I don’t require much for survival, but two must-haves beyond music are books and a way to communicate. Even if you think I’m past reading, leave a book or two around because…you never know. No fluff, no bodice-rippers, best no serials. Poetry – that’s what I want – Krista’s, please. Give me an inactivated iPhone if it seems to provide a sense of being in touch with somebody, but if we’re all fortunate I’ll simply slip into a world where none of it matters to me anymore except the good times and die with a smile on my face. Or get hit by a bus. We never know.
  8.  Apparently women past 40 are programmed to grow an increasingly disgusting amount of first dark then white extraneous hair on our faces. If you leave that shit intact I promise I will come back after I die and sleep between you and your significant other until the end of your days. I mean this.
  9. If I need to live in a care facility for the good of all concerned, please try to find one that operates like a highly tolerant family – one where eating and sleeping are managed individually rather than institutionally – that would be huge. Also, of course, where no one will hurt me, whether on staff or in residence – that’s pretty huge, too.
  10. The baseline changes imperceptibly with the decades, but I will never not want to look and smell as good as reality allows. Please don’t subject me to the pitying faces of strangers without helping me look as much like this still-me person as anyone could expect. And while I’m here – please universe, no diapers, ‘K?
  11. After I’ve made my presence felt in my immediate world for as long as I can and something takes me out of here, give me a smokin’ hot body one last time and pack my ashes to the coast – pick one – for a sweetly drunken campfire and whatever you want to say about me. Talking to you of course, Kim and John.
  12. In the past few years since I let myself start writing again, I’ve put a body of words out there in the cloud that may or may not survive in one jot or iota. As long as the synapses fire I’m sure I’ll keep contributing to that pile of thought-turned-words that will, odds-on, prove to have been solely for my own rescue. That’s another thing we never know about – where it all goes when we do. Kind of pisses me off that I won’t be around to see if any of my sentences end up on Google Search. What I’m saying is, you two guys can do what you want with what I won’t be taking with me. Big Kev knows how to get to my passwords – that’s for the wording, the bits and pieces of ME. The rest of it…you know what to do.
  13. Anyway, thirteen points being my style, that’s about it. Keep it simple, keep it all about love, keep Karma in our corner. Plus all the things I’ve ever said, ever meant to say, never thought to say – take that with you. And did I mention the love – you know all about the love.

 

I have no thought that anybody might need this vital information any time soon. But if you don’t write it down when it’s now, a day comes when you can’t say it anymore – you’re no longer your own advocate. And everybody needs one.

*Also Tracy Chapman. Keb Mo. Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours,” the album.

 

 

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Memorial Weekend…again

Went back to my 2014 remembrance post this morning, knowing that for too many people every weekend is memorial weekend.

It’s a typically perfect Memorial Day morning here, like so many from my childhood, when every year we could count on it to be raining or blistering hot and windstill, or freezing cold, or all of the above, in gusts, or maybe cool and clear after one of those rains. In Lawrence this morning it’s 79º headed for 82, sunny, blue skies, humidity has dropped from 89% when I went out at 7am to 60% five hours later, and it’s exquisitely beautiful out.

But life holds more than beauty  – especially for those who will never see any of it again – and cloudy skies take over sometimes.  By 2pm we’re supposed to be mostly under cloud cover here, which seems altogether fitting for the day.

In 2016 I reshare my family’s story out of gratefulness, and out of reverence for, and abhorrence of, unspeakable loss on all sides throughout the generations.

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First posted Memorial Weekend 2014 (with edits 5/30/2016 – a personalized haiku for anyone who’s bored enough to find them all – link provided below.)

My grandpa enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 and served at the front as an infantryman during WWI.  His six sons were all military men, Army, Navy, and Marines.  The three Marines, 18, 19, and 21 were in the Korean Conflict at the same time, in the same general location, under miserable conditions.  All seven Reese military personnel returned home intact in body and went on to raise thriving families of their own.  Many of my cousins have also served with honor in the military.  The only family member I’m aware of, without digging into the archives, who was directly lost to war, was my Aunt Bette’s husband, making her a teenage widow with a baby. The baby, my cousin Vickie, is standing in front of her mother and between our grandparents in the family portrait. My mama is top right in both the portrait and the thumbnail pics, somehow descriptive of her position in my life for all time. And kudos today to my Baby Aunt Barbara, lower right in both, who put this collage together.

So thankful to have four of the original Reese Dynasty kids – Vic, Jerry, Barbara, and Roger – present and accounted for, on this Memorial Remembrance in the year 2016. Hugs and kisses all around, beloved.

Ongoing family is priceless. Feeling deeply thankful right about now.

Reese Family

 

Okay, Constant Reader, the edits took on a life of their own, so don’t even try. If, however, you’d originally thought you might, for the haiku, throw me a subject and I’ll do it anyway!

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Remembering a writing mentor who probably never knew it…

This is wonderful. My friend Ned Hickson wrote it and I stole it to share with you.

 

 

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A mentor every writer should’ve been lucky enough to have.

Anyone who follows my weekly Nickel’s Worth on Writing knows Publisher’s Digest and The Master of Horror® Stephen King are frequently among those offering accolades touting the value an…

Source: Remembering a writing mentor who probably never knew it

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Longevity rocks …

Yesterday was nice.  I slept through sunrise, thereby assuring myself that it still functions well without my supervision.  Kim made ranch-bean omelets and we shared massive quantities of coffee and a soak in the spa tub.  We gave Madison a bath and watched her turn into a fluff-ball again while she careened zoomie-dog-style through the house.  Laundry was done and favorite pieces made ready to wear in mere seconds on the balcony — it was one of those hot windy days that signal a change of seasons, which will add to our appreciation for cooler temps later in the week.

And it was my birthday!  Not a five- or ten-year milestone, but it means more to me than any since my 30th, which I nearly missed thanks to an inconvenient cerebral hemorrhage at 29.  Far too many people I loved left this life far too soon, including my brother at 29, my first husband at 58, and so many others.  I was born when my mom was just short of 20, and sharing a birth month with her I always felt there was a ribbon that connected us in some indestructible way. When she died suddenly at 67 a little trapdoor clicked open inside me and closed just as quickly.  Shut up in there for the past twenty years was the unanswerable question of whether I would outlive her.  Yesterday I celebrated 68 — and now we know.

Both of my grandmothers lived past 95 and kept their minds intact, so that’s my goal, free and clear, now that I’ve crossed the Rubicon.  Not that I actively contribute much — walking our tiny dog three times a day is the extent of my exercise program and most of the time I eat what I want, although a recent not-good metabolic workup is forcing me to rethink that approach.  Basically, in lieu of hard work on my part, I’m banking on great genes and a positive outlook.  Happiness determines about 99% of life, so a Zen attitude and an abundance of good juju are my weapons of choice.  And all these numbers … ages, blood pressures, cholesterol counts, calories … are just that — numbers.  It takes so much more to measure the weight of a life, and our control over any of it is mostly imaginary .

Okay, I have to go, my husband’s running the spa tub full of hot water and therapeutic salts again for heading into another year of doing it right and seeing what happens.

ALL

P.S.  The greatest of ironies would be if I’d gotten fried in my tracks on any one of my trips out to the balcony tonight to watch the lightning.  Hitting the mark is no sort of guarantee, but I’m optimistic.

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Getting Schooled

SchoolFrame

Once upon a time there was a little red schoolhouse that was in fact a biggish red-brick edifice.  Until it was built sometime before 1920, at considerable cost for the times, the children of the local farming community attended classes in a drafty wood-frame building that kept the mothers stewing over its shortcomings.  Farming was booming, there was a homestead on nearly every quarter-section of land, and families were still moving into the area.  A bigger, safer, warmer, more forward-looking school was needed, and my grandmother, a teacher — although not in this building, which was three-quarters of a mile from our farm — was one of the motivating forces behind the cause.

The funds were raised and the school built.  Double-walled, with both facing and interior brick; a kitchen; wood flooring; full cement basement with a stage.  My siblings and I, in one of its later iterations, roller-skated in the basement, daring each other to take artistic leaps from the stage to the smooth cement floor three feet below.  My brain still knows whether or not anyone did, but the database is unfortunately down at present.  

My dad went from first through eighth grades here before attending high school in the small town six miles southwest.  My grandma took him, via horse and buggy, to his first day of first grade, and turned around a couple of hours later to find him standing in her kitchen.  The teacher had let the kids out for recess and my dad, having all he wanted of this “school stuff,” simply made a break for home.  He was bitterly disappointed to learn that attendance wasn’t optional, and despite being a thoroughly intelligent guy, formal education never became a favorite.

 FirstGradeFrame

As Murphy’s Law #11 states, “You get the most of what you need the least.”  So about the time the beautiful schoolhouse was nearing completion, the farming boom was starting to go bust.  The air was turning to dust, Wall Street was headed for instability, to put it lightly, and families stopped streaming into the neighborhood while others gave up the struggle and packed it in.  By the time the little six-year-old up there finished eighth grade in 1935, the student population had thinned considerably, finally making it impractical to keep the doors open, at which point the building became a community center, a polling place, the location for township meetings, and an ongoing setting for the Grange’s poetry readings, plays, and other literary endeavors, which sounds so quaint and genteel I can hardly stand it.  

In my lifetime it was the site of community Thanksgivings … mostly in the late 1950s, which were nearly as devastating as the Dirty ’30s and left people feeling tapped out at holiday time so they pooled their resources.  We also held big carry-in dinners for extended family, where all the old men brought fiddles and harmonicas and assorted other instruments for Frontier Karaoke while my grandma “chorded along” on the old upright piano.  

I haven’t seen that corner for a while so I don’t know what if anything is still standing.  Those few acres became part of the family farm, and my dad told the friends and neighbors who inquired that they could have what they needed.  He and my brother had started taking the building apart and cleaning all the brick, a project that came to an end following my brother’s unfortunate death,  and after that I’m pretty sure my dad didn’t care who did what with any of it.  He did, with tears in his eyes, bring me a load of brick my brother had cleaned so that I could have a cozy hearth built in my newly-remodeled farmhouse … meaning we still don’t know the end of the story.  An entirely different family, in another county, will keep it going forward. 

HearthFrame

It’s clear that bricks know the secret to longevity.  

 

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