Joy is still a thing…

It’s a beautiful Sunday morning, with rain and thunder, and now a peachy glow in the eastern sky. There’s a bouquet on the table and the morning hugs are extra sweet, because today’s our anniversary. Seventeen years ago, on a Sunday, after church, two dreamers made promises in front of many witnesses, and much living has ensued.

Wedding Brunch in the Kids’ Church

Since we walked out that day hand in hand, there’ve been broken bones, surgeries, heavy-duty illnesses and diagnoses, heartaches for loved ones, sad goodbyes… and more pure goodness and joy than any human deserves. The promises we made to each other on July 25, 2004, and repeatedly since, have been kept, are being kept, will be kept, and it’s an occasion to celebrate. Even if both of us DID space it off until yesterday morning!

August 2014

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Frank O’Hara, poet of the NY School & exemplary bohemian, died 50 years ago today in an accident on Fire Island. (Via @deborahsolo)

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Oh, I love a rainy day…

The last thing I remember is Kim saying in my ear, “I’m leaving to play PickleBall. It’s raining, so keep sleeping…”

Two delicious hours later I’m awake to gray skies and pouring rain, the quintessential way to start a Thursday in July. There’s even lightning and thunder, bonus for the girl who misses all the nighttime storms without her ears connected. Time is racing since we unquarantined – we’re already at the end of another week and the middle of yet another month and I can’t point to much of anything as a mile marker, but a still, wet, thunderous Thursday morning, with a faint glow on the forest from the sun that’s up there somewhere… is memorable. And thank you, by the way, universe, for gravity.

It’s 10:45 am and some of the streetlights are still on as the skies keep pouring down. I peeked at the weather map and it looks promising for a nicely socked-in day to start the weekend, which here in #LFK traditionally starts at 5pm on Thursday. Or 5Am, whichever comes first.

Since feeling good makes me feel good, I saved some silliness to share, plus a smidgen of seriousness…

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Barns & Stable… Michael Hors

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For Kim, who as a Navy man started in the ship’s galley as a cook and sailed back into port on the bridge as a navigator. It ain’t ALL glory, baby.

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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 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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The weekend…

It’s hot, people, DAMN hot! One evening it was a little too chilly and breezy for the balcony, the next morning it was too hot to sit out there, that’s how it works in Kansas. We broke 100º a few days in a row, which is benign unless you were used to a chill wet spring right up to that point. It’s great, though, it’s exactly what we asked for… sun and warmth… and we’ve been all about it. Yesterday, Rita came over for tuna salad sammiches with all the other good summer stuff, and the three of us spent the afternoon in the pool out on the Ponderosa, doing that thing white people do… getting “a little color.” If Eastern European skin pigment is superior, why do we instinctively know that anything other than pasty white looks and feels better? Make it make sense, universe.

Now we’re slated for a few days of cool-down, and maybe some rain again. Helps when it doesn’t all hit at once without letup, and it feels a little sauna-like today, so maybe there are full clouds on their way.

Speaking of without letup… Arizona ballots from a federal election have now been transferred to a private compound in Montana where they’re being scrutinized for “bamboo fragments” and other imagined irregularities.

  1. How is this even real?
  2. How can it possibly be legal?
  3. Bamboo fragments?

And now other red states are clamoring for their own cyber-ninjas and never-ending “audits.” Make it make sense, please.

In the continuing standoff between the science-inclined and the boogeyman-believers, the latter insist that their guy be given credit for a vaccine they refuse to take, and there’s nothing in this world that can make sense of that, so I’ve done entirely enough thinking until at least Monday morning.

Ready for a lazy afternoon. Ready for sammies and beer. Ready for baseball, so bring it, Royals, our golden boys of summer…

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Oh hello, Monday…

Since commenting wisely on the personal bravery and sacrifice that have delivered us to this point in history is above my pay grade, I spent the Memorial Weekend in TV sports, online games, and quietude. We’re living in momentous times that continually threaten to overwhelm us, and sometimes ya’ have to check out for a while.

This morning I’m clearing my desktop and sharing a few things from the past week that got my attention, made me smile, laugh, cry, think. You’re welcome.

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Cara Brown, American watercolorist
“Blush” 2013
watercolour on paper

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Feelin’ froggy…

Much happened in the past week, but with little outward change to show for it. The partisan divide that we hoped would begin to resolve after the former guy left only continues to intensify, making agreement on any matter a bridge too far for Congress. This week’s most heinous example: Benghazi somehow required ten investigations and thirty-three hearings, but the assault on our Capitol and democratic rule doesn’t merit even a second look by some of the very people who were under direct threat. Those senators who voted against sanity haven’t succeeded in concealing anything, most especially their own cowardice, and shamefully two of those people “represent” Kansas, which makes me want to hop a bus and flee the state.

Dan, never my type, is my late-life crush… I love him for his mind.

As usual, though, the week’s haul of good stuff has weighed more AND been worth its weight in gold… and when it comes to good news, the small things are the big things…

1.) Douglas County has brought COVID case numbers down to near zero, so protocols are being relaxed. At SPL the announcement was made on Thursday “NO MASKS REQUIRED” (for the fully vaccinated) and those old PickleBallers were celebrating.

2.) The Royals have been fun to watch and are playing some really good baseball, looking more and more like the cohesive team they’ve shown they can be.

3.) Food is a friend again, both good and bad news but definitely more fun – I polished off a hot beef sandwich at Kelley’s again on Thursday like I’d been chopping firewood all morning, and then snacked all afternoon. Um, yikes.

4.) The best thing this week was a text convo with John and this shot of him wearing a t-shirt brought to him from Ghana by a co-worker he mentored. The map and trim are made from kente, Ghana’s national fabric.

The guy in the t-shirt looks to have weathered a year-plus of COVID by getting younger, a nice bonus I wasn’t expecting for him, all things considered. We last hugged him, in Atlanta, in the spring of 2017, which my remaining math skilz tell me was four years ago. I was thinking it had been two or maybe three years, so the realization that four years have passed is putting me in a time warp. Life has intervened since 2017 – broken bones, illness, schedules, commitments, and COVID have all combined to keep us hug-less – but love and trust and silliness and blessed technology have made up the difference in sweet welcome ways and all is well. Life is life, we’re all adults here, it goes on. Still, universe… a hug would be nice.

It’s a chilly Saturday but people have been going back and forth to Farmer’s Market all morning so there’s life in the neighborhood. The pulse of #lfk is quickening, week by week, as people crawl out of their caves and shelters and venture forth again, and I’m here for it even when it’s just from my 4th-floor perch. In retrospect, the past year seems like a Dark Age with only the ghost light left on for guidance… and coming through and out of it feels like winning. No victory comes without loss, but it’s sweet nonetheless – humans are designed for progress and positivity, it’s our bread and water and we move on. I’m deeply grateful on this gray weekend that everyone whose love and caring I depend on, everyone whom I love beyond telling… has survived the pandemic. That’s something 600,000 American families can’t say this morning and my heart breaks that it’s true… so I’m inexpressibly grateful. We’ll still get a chance for those hugs one of these days…

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About beauty…

It’s been raining for days, and pouring for the last hour. No one could love rain more than I do, even with the accompanying melancholy, and today’s a perfect time for sharing a beautiful poem that reached into the center of me yesterday…

SILVER

“How many years of beauty do I have left?”
she asks me.
How many more do you want?
Here. Here is 34. Here is 50.
When you are 80 years old
and your beauty rises in ways
your cells cannot even imagine now
and your wild bones grow luminous and
ripe, having carried the weight
of a passionate life.
When your hair is aflame
with winter
and you have decades of
learning and leaving and loving
sewn into
the corners of your eyes
and your children come home
to find their own history
in your face.
When you know what it feels like to fail
ferociously
and have gained the
capacity
to rise and rise and rise again.
When you can make your tea
on a quiet and ridiculously lonely afternoon
and still have a song in your heart
Queen owl wings beating
beneath the cotton of your sweater.
Because your beauty began there
beneath the sweater and the skin,
remember?
This is when I will take you
into my arms and coo
YOU BRAVE AND GLORIOUS THING
you’ve come so far.
I see you.
Your beauty is breathtaking.

Jeannette Encinias

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Monday’s never late…

Kim woke me up just after 7am yesterday so I could enjoy the rain, lightning, and thunder, and the waterworks have never really stopped for long since… it’s the soaker we’ve needed. He potted most of his summer plants last week and they’re loving this – all those rainy nutrients for their roots to marinate in. There are showers in the forecast for much of the week ahead, but when the sun does return these little guys will be bursting with life, which is exactly what we need all over the place.

Note to Self: Burst with life at your first opportunity.

Self: Tall order, but maybe by lunchtime.

My friend Leigh said it perfectly: “No bright sun, must have quiet, coffee, meds, food, etc… till I feel like I’m human again. It’s a process, please proceed with caution.”

It’s wet and gray outside, and not necessarily conducive to rising and shining… but the green, green trees, stretching to the horizon, look like a rain forest… the neighborhood is sleepy and quiet… and the flowers on the balcony are shaking it off, getting ready for sunshine. I’d hate to be found less sensitive to inspiration than a petunia, so I’d best do the same. Ready for ya’, Monday…

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Good times…

Kim Smith 04/16/2021

A good thing to do on a rainy Friday is to make your own fun, so we took Rita to the restaurant where we had the killer roast beast the other day. She and I ordered the meatloaf, trusting that it would be the real deal, and there may actually be a god somewhere because our Aunt Bette could have made this one. Plus real mashed potatoes, brown gravy, green beans… and enough meatloaf left over for Rita to make a nice big sammie later, the best part of the whole meal. This time Kim had warm peach pie ala mode, and I took my requisite bite(s). Yes, it was good… but one day soon I have to remind both Kimmers and Rita that I’m the champion peach-pie maker of all time. In seventeen years I’ve made exactly one for Kim, so long ago he has no memory of it, but it’s the best, write that down, and it needs to happen at least one more time. We had a nice little drive over there in the rain… and back… and now it’s a “destination place.” Kim said monthly, I was thinking weekly…

Lunch was one of those sweet little chunks of life when everything feels right, which doesn’t happen nearly often enough. We’re in a new little town, in an establishment new to us, twice now, but we haven’t felt new there the way you do in some places. We might be chagrined to know that we’re sitting bold-faced in a roomful of dyed-in-the-wool MAGA faithfuls, but it doesn’t have that vibe at all… in fact, I just realized that I haven’t seen a single red cap there so far, and everyone comes in masked. Just this week alone, the news from the camo-and-neckbeard side of society has been crushing beyond words, with one after another Black unarmed citizen, often underage, shot on sight by police who are either terrified by the specter of black skin or it triggers an urge to kill… or both.

And Pam Bondi called Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha killer, 17 years old, “a little boy.” Depends on which POV you’re trying to sell, I guess. Whatever it is… it’s.too.much.

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I’ve totally fasted from the news today, which I’m highly recommending to myself as a repeat event – it’s made that Old Home Week lunch settle delightfully.

Sweetness being at a premium, we tend to soak it up like flowers in the rain, and today has been nurturing. I’m looking out at the light rain still falling, and how green the world is, just since yesterday, with leaves already obscuring the neighborhood… and reminding me to appreciate… everything. Especially the guy who leadfoots us around the countryside to seek adventure and do exploits, while listening to our nonstop blather without hearing most of it.

That guy asked me about Ramadan the other night and what it entails. I told him that among other things it’s an entire month of fasting from morning ’til night, and then people gather at sundown to celebrate with food.

HIM: Oh, that’s why they’re called Ramadan Noodles!

ME:

HIM: And the people stay in Ramadan Inns, right?

ME:

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Wow, it’s Wonderful Wednesday…

Kim Smith 04/11/2020

It’s a beautiful day and Kim’s on his way to Menard’s on his e-bike to research a project – he wasn’t made for indoors so spring is especially timely this year. Just when I think I couldn’t love him more it’s another good day, and yesterday was one of those. After a morning meeting, we had lunch at a Bar & Grille new to us and got our socks blown off – wow. The menu is amazing, and we weren’t surprised that they were nearly at COVID-restriction full-capacity before we left. The specials were meatloaf, chicken enchiladas, and pot roast, the last of which we glommed onto before the waitress could walk away, and it was… OMG, so good. Fall-apart roast beef cooked with carrots, brown gravy, mashed potatoes, and cornbread… with real corn in it… and a bit of streusel on top. Felt like coming home to a big Sunday dinner and we couldn’t stop grinning at each other. We had no room for any one of the four desserts listed, but there’s always next time.

It’s been a heartbreaking week, and with more deaths and assaults of young Black men, I lack the stomach for watching the defense of George Floyd’s murderer. It pains everything I’ve got when people tell us we didn’t see what we saw, nor hear what we heard, nor do we recognize the evil that wears the killer’s skinsuit. It’s too much, all of it. Why do all the “accidents, mistakes, and errors in judgment” happen to Black people? A taser (8 oz.)… a gun (2 lbs.)… all same difference unless it’s a white person in the line of fire – then it matters. The anguish of Black mothers is gut-ripping, and even loving Anthony like I do I cannot register the depths of his mother’s love for him and his brothers and sisters, nor know her sleepless hours. It’s too much.

“I need to drive my two-year-old to daycare tomorrow morning. To ensure we arrive alive, we won’t take public transit (Oscar Grant). I removed all air fresheners from the vehicle and double-checked my registration status (Daunte Wright), and ensured my license plates were visible (Lt. Caron Nazario). I will be careful to follow all traffic rules (Philando Castille), signal every turn (Sandra Bland), keep the radio volume low (Jordan Davis), and I won’t stop at a fast food chain for a meal (Rayshard Brooks). I’m too afraid to pray (Rev. Clementa C. Pickney) so I just hope the car won’t break down (Corey Jones). When my wife picks him up at the end of the day, I’ll remind her not to dance (Elijah McClain), stop to play in a park (Tamir Rice), patronize the local convenience store for snacks (Trayvon Martin), or walk around the neighborhood (Mike Brown). Once they are home, we won’t stand in our backyard (Stephon Clark), eat ice cream on the couch (Botham Jean), or play any video games (Atatiana Jefferson). After my wife and I tuck him into bed around 7:30pm, neither of us will leave the house to go to Walmart (John Crawford) or to the gym (Tshyrand Oates) or on a jog (Ahmaud Arbery). We won’t even walk to see the birds (Christian Cooper). We’ll just sit and try not to breathe (George Floyd) and not to sleep (Breonna Taylor). These are things white people simply do not have to think about.”David Gray

“Today’s policing is nothing more than modern slave patrols.” -Bishop Talbert Swan

It’s.Too.Much.

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I read this morning that Lawrence still has some 200 people living outside, sleeping rough, and that efforts are being made to alleviate that, in keeping with the tent city already operating in “midtown.” Living here heals us in ways we could never have asked for.

Safe shelter for those who have none.

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Tuesday-ing right along…

Kim Smith 03/21/2021

Yesterday was an eventful day… I took a stroll over to the barbershop so that’s one thing done for now, and I got an epidural at the Pain Clinic in the afternoon. Had an allergic reaction to one of the cocktail ingredients in the injection because WHY NOT?? but Kim got Claritin and it worked for me in time to watch USC crush the Jayhawks in the NCAA. Since everybody missed out on the tournament last year we’ve been watching lots of basketball this time around and all the games are fun, no matter who’s playing… except for this one. Decidedly not fun… 3rd-biggest loss in Jayhawk b-ball history. But Shelby told me a story while she was cutting my hair: Someone in their family March Madness pool thought the higher the little numbers in front of the team names, the better they were, so she filled out her bracket with 16s… and she’s winning most of the upsets! 😂

It’s been birthday week/month for both John and Kim, and today Kimmers finally became a card-carrying member of my decade, bless his heart. We took Rita Jo with us to Ottawa for his semi-traditional b’day lunch at Luigi’s, which was fun and delicious, not to mention our first dine-in experience in more than a year, if memory serves. And with linens and nice cutlery, no less! Birthday boy got his Shrimp Diablo, so he had a good day. Also there was wine, because it isn’t good to keep things bottled up.

So… yeah… this blog remains a journal until life opens up and starts happening again. Just getting it out there, still, remembering where we’re going so when we arrive I’ll know it. I’m not a writer, I’m a sifter of events and a wise-ass keeper of the record. Poetry and haiku used to bounce around in my head in The Before Time and I hope that will come back soon, along with thoughts that go beyond the same tired old arguments.

We heard babies cry today and squeal from happiness… and watched people doing life together in a way that seemed awfully familiar. And we met the new owner of Luigi’s after lunch, a young woman named Kristin knocking it out of the park in her first week, who took us through the upstairs of the old building, where there’s a dance floor and a speakeasy. It was a good day… rainy and sweet and full of humanity. And Kim doesn’t seem to mind reaching a nice round number at last.

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Lurching toward spring… page 232

Day 364 – 03/15/2021

I slept ’til 8am, thus messing with Mother Nature by recovering my lost hour from Daylight Saving Time. HA!! Thumbs nose, laughs, trips over a space heater, ponders a lost jigger of salt.

It’s a Monday again… and who knows? We did finally get our downpours yesterday… all afternoon… and now we head into a week of mixed reviews – wet or dry, chilly or warm, breezy or still. Sounds like life as we know it.

Kim picked Marcelo up at 11am yesterday and they blew town. Rita brought lunch and a cold bottle of Praia, and Seth & Adam stopped by shortly after with the beautiful remains of Warren’s birthday cake, a 3-layer cocoa dream made by Adam. We were all still laughing around the table when Kim showed up, making it a true party – he’s missed those guys all year.

Life halted last March with a decisive act – we came inside and symbolically closed our door to any and all invaders, and I promised myself I’d stay out of the public fray until some sort of ALL CLEAR happened. Tomorrow I will have kept my promise, and that means something to me after watching so many people break their word at every opportunity. I’m in no rush to get out there, but knowing I can do it now with a clear conscience is cool. We’ve had both shots and we’ll stay masked for the foreseeable, but I’m making a list:

  • Barbershop
  • Pedi
  • Dentist
  • Chiro
  • Pain Doc

I think Kim’s list says “PLAY PICKLEBALL” and “RIDE BIKE,” but we should both be ready for prime time by the 4th.

Life stopped with little warning… and we adjusted. As life returns to our community and the world, we’re being afforded grace to meet it as it comes, a little at a time… and this feels better. Fourth of July it is, then, a fitting Independence Day and a worthy goal.

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A Happy Sunday… page 231

Day 363 – 03/14/2021

I may or may not have been born talking, but I came by it as early as I could. Since I was the first baby and Mother was just out of her teens, cooped up in Grandma & Grandpa’s big house while Daddy and Grandpa built ours, she talked and read to me a lot, making words my first friends. There was never a time I didn’t love their shapes and sounds, and I’m sure I was a mouthy little fair-haired child, tolerated only for the sake of family ties. Other than during that horrid awkward stage when I looked like everybody’s great-aunt on steroids, I’ve always valued my own opinion and my right to hold same. All of that to say, I’m tired of talking. I’ve talked my way through a lifetime… explained, humored, kept the silences full… but finally, the mechanism has imperceptibly wound down over years and days and hours, until there’s just enough oomph left for the communication that matters… so I talk now only when there’s something to say. Thank you for that, Break Year.

Today is for talking and laughing. Kim has guy exploits cooked up with Marcelo, and Rita’s going to come hang out here with me. That’ll bring the sun out!

It’s been raining lightly all weekend, the house is cozy, I get to see Rita, and I’ve had two (2) ranch omelets in a week. Mama’s a happy girl.

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Socked in… page 223

Day 349 – 02/27/2021

Saturday breakfast underway, with fog peering in our windows… Kim Smith – 02/27/2021

Picture Guy got out early this morning and walked for an hour, taking fog photos…

South Park
More South Park… in Stephen King mode
Kaw River bridge
The view from the cheap seats
Old power station
We’ll leave a light on for ya’.
8th & New Hampshire… home sweet home
Home Sweet Home for real… ready for the weekend.

If it gets into the 60s this afternoon and the sun comes through for us, Rita & I will probably walk again – these windows of opportunity are too good to miss right now.

We got a call from the pharmacy, scheduling our second shots, so things are moving right along. We’re on for March 4th, which has been widely touted as a possible date for mayhem on the part of Q if President Biden were to give his State of the Union that night. Most of Congress, the Supreme Court, and of course the President and Vice-President, will be inside the Capitol whenever the address does take place, so it’s a prime target. March 4th is also the date the former guy is supposed to magically burst onto the scene as SuperPresident and something, something, all will be well once again for the proud boys and girls and their various cohorts. So! Vaccination day could be FIRE! I’ll just be happy if I don’t get ghastly ill again, but it is what it is… I’m gonna go through some things, but I knew what I signed up for. 😎 😷 🎤

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Monday, but not blue… page 219

Day 344 – 02/22/2021

It was a good weekend. Rita came over and watched the Jayhawks beat Texas Tech with us, and Kim made tamales, street tacos, beans & rice and all the other stuff for lunch – fun, happy afternoon. Sunday was the two of us all day, with the TV on low and ambitions the same. Which brings us to Monday, full of sunshine, and the week ahead is looking like this:

Almost 70º tomorrow, OMG!!

Sunlight changes everything, as Pluto, in its distance, is acutely aware – the sun’s warmth makes everything doable. Not wishing time away, but when spring arrives I’ll feel like I’ve been sprung from the slammer. We get our second shots on the 4th, and two weeks after that we shouldn’t be a threat to man nor beast so a semblance of “out & about” might start happening. Kim’s been out a lot during the pandemic, but not about – just all the shopping, and playing PickleBall under strict guidelines – so things will get better for both of us.

Over the past year, though, I’ve finally settled into the happy loneliness that’s always been who I am, and it’s good.

And the simple truth is…

It’s not that I so value my own company, but I feel better when I’m not inflicting myself on unsuspecting humans.

Haven’t seen much of the ‘rona since the last flare, but my relationship with food is still iffy. I’ll be feeling right as rain, sit down to a meal I love, and my stomach turns on me… but less often every day, and that’s good news because food’s one of the second-best things about life.

Kim has a full day outside the walls and I’ve ticked several things off my list this morning – I’m letting the sunshine soak into my soul, and maybe tomorrow my bones.

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