Just keep moving… page 103

Day 196 – 09/24/2020

Over seven decades of living I’ve collected a laundry list of heavy-duty experiences, but the realities of the pandemic and our crisis of government have combined to generate a climate I’ve never tried to exist in before and I wish the head part of me could be unconscious until late January with no harm done to life or limb. Karma knows I’m not asking for trouble, but I’ve never wanted this desperately to shut my thoughts off, no matter how awful things in my immediate world have looked at times. The possibilities presented by the constitutional crisis we’re being sucked into are so extreme my mind won’t shut up about them and I’ve run out of useful distractions again.

After yesterday’s sound-bites to the effect that “there won’t be a transfer of power,” I said this on my FB page:

“Weโ€™d be hatching an escape plan right about now, but no country will take us, due to Covid. Gonna be ‘interesting.’ Sounds like drama but pretty sure America is HERE โ€”-> X.

“We have friends in Canada but they’d be unable to help, with the borders closed. It’s intriguing to see that all the responses to this post have so far been from women – these are the first things we think of when our loved ones are threatened. And isn’t it instructional and humbling to experience what most of the world has lived with forever – that frisson of fear, the knowledge that we.are.not.safe.”

Gonna grab some cheese to have with that whine.

Okay, all better now.

I rescued a little treasure this week and she’s taken up residence on my desk as a daily caution against backsliding, although she and I both know the risk is minimal. Maggie makes me smile for all the reasons.

I’ll go hang out with Rita today and the rest of the world will come ’round right for a while. Odds are we’ll laugh ’til we cry, and maybe let the tears be therapeutic before we wipe them away; we’ll accomplish enough to keep her energized and encouraged; and one more day of WTF-is-coming-at-us will have been dealt with in productive ways.

And all the women said, AMEN.

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The hours… page 99

Day 191 – 09/19/2020

Up at 5:30, looking at the quiet street under my windows… dark and still out. Hearing the morning trains passing through, and wondering what kind of sunrise is being staged just below the horizon. It’s a masochistic act to be awake this early – it stretches the hours like taffy and they feel exactly that thick and cloying – but early-to-bed, early-to-rise is a fact of life and I’m not giving up the early-to-bed part right now, especially heading into another time change. Oh jeez, time change. At least this one’s the easier of the two. Right now, with all of us confused as hell anyway, would be an opportune time to lock this one in – since it’s the real, actual time that God made – and be done with it.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died yesterday and my blood ran cold when I heard. 2020’s fourth quarter may end us, but there’s no way out except right through the middle, so I’m linking arms with my people and staying ’til the closing credits.

And Saturday is here again, with its sweet routines and self-granted permission to do less than nothing. I’ll take it. If I can find a comfy enough hole to settle into I’ll slide on through another weekend and live to tell about it.

There’s a slight pink tinge in the eastern sky, but the sun is a no-show. Oh well, it’s not like we count on it every morning…

Ope – there it is, big, orange, perfectly round, floating in a sea of gray. And life goes on…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith

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The weekend… page 98

Day 190 – 09/18/2020

It’s a morning for thinking thoughts and writing some of them down, just to touch base with me at week’s end. Kim’s playing PickleBall in NoLaw, then has PT out at Ortho’s new facility, so I’m without adult supervision for the next four hours. Oops…

Sitting here soaking up the quiet makes me think of the young professional couple who are moving to our building after experiencing life in one down the street with its noisy all-hours party vibe. I doubt they’ll regret their decision, based solely on the peaceful easy feeling here and the way we let each other be. It would be a steep challenge to achieve this atmosphere in a place where everybody’s renting and most are short-term.

We still have The Skies of Doom from all the fires, a sickly yellow tinge that portends no good, but the sun’s shining through and I just noticed something that made me smile. For about three years a spider has had a summer home on the outside of the big window next to my desk, first in the left-hand corner, then at some point moving to the right. It looks like a fat-bodied garden spider and it’s there at dawn every morning, then hides for the day and comes back out around dusk to prepare its web for dinner guests. The window-washers bring their crane-lift once a year and scrub the glass on all five floors, and for three years running they’ve removed my 8-legged resident’s condo, only to have it reappear the next morning in the same spot every time. The windows got a bath yesterday and my arachnid friend was on the J.O.B. when the sun came up this morning. Google says garden spiders have a lifespan of about a year, so I’m dealing with successive generations here. Wow, the loyalty! It’s all about location, location, location, baby. ๐Ÿ˜‚

Early fall temps have settled in for a while, with daytime 70s and 50s overnight. It was cool on the balcony yesterday with a breeze going, so I came in and put on the socks Kim brought me from 3rd Planet, and kept layering until I was comfy again. It’s the unvarnished me, looking like my Grandma Wagner, feeling utterly Zen, and keeping the fun in funk. For posterity…

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Breakthrough… page 96

Day 188 – 09/16/2020

It finally happened. Not because energy welled up from within and burst through my fingertips, but because disgust overwhelmed my ennui at last. Yesterday I studied the smears, smudges, and assorted rubble in front of me until I found myself on my feet, transferring everything to another surface while I decontaminated my desk and surroundings. Today the clean expanse glows, and holds only one extraneous item – so far. My monitor is free of dust and spit-takes. The 3-layer cart next to me has been unloaded, sanitized, purged, and repopulated with nothing but the priority goods, based on need or the shot of Happy they deliver.

It’s cause to wonder what else could happen right under my nose. Will I wake up one morning to discover that the WTF Basket has been whittled down to a sentimental note and an invoice for the t-shirt I really am going to send back? Will the two bins containing The Dread Unsorted find their way into the light and be forced to give up their secrets? My carelessly-hoarded stockpile of duplicate photos, bad photos, totally unnecessary photos… the ever-accumulating email… my series of I Need To Clean That Out folders… will all of that magically come up missing some glad morning? Stranger things have happened.

Since progress and success are not without price, I paid for my random foray into the real world with sciatic pain off the charts, but in my own masochistic way it was worth it. Might see what else I can get into… not sure if it’ll be instigated by ambition, boredom, being grossed out, or all of the above, but anything that moves the story forward is acceptable currency.

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Sunshine again… page 93

Day 184 – 09/12/2020

Mist, rain, autumn air… the stuff moods are made of. By September, melancholy starts to scoop me up and set me down in other places, in other times, and the memories are crisp. Every sight, sound, and aroma speaks of the past, distant or close, and the fact of being alive registers in conscious ways. The missing… those who’ve died and those who’ve chosen to absent themselves from me… and the handful for whom I’ve done the same… those losses are still grieved. Acquaintances, friends, extended family… the attrition is never easy and each exit leaves a mark. Endings are hard and they’re rarely the end, so with the arrival of fall every year the goodbyes all have to be replayed, reabsorbed, reconciled… while the beauty of the season both breaks our hearts and renews us.

Over a lifetime, I’ve accumulated a few blues-beaters in my medicine bag, including humor, music, reading, writing, good conversation with people I love… and let’s face it, food and drink. But sometimes the only right response to a stretch of bad highway is sass and sarcasm… and movin’ on down the road.

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Life, it’s good… page 89

Day 178 – 09/06/2020

A few words about today: It’s Sunday, it’s beautiful out, and it’s my birthday. It isn’t a milestone other than the fact I’m still breathing, but this year’s observance has been couched in hours of pre-meditation, by which I mean 2020 has been one uninterrupted disaster and I never stop thinking. So what I’m putting in my thoughts today is this wonderful poem…

I want to age like sea glass.

Smoothed by tides,

but not broken.

I want my hard edges to soften.

I want to ride the waves

and go with the flow.

I want to catch a wave

and let it carry me

to where I belong.

I want to be picked up

and held gently by

those who delight in my

well earned patina and

appreciate the changes I went

through to achieve that beauty.

I want to enjoy the journey

and always remember that if

you give the ocean something

breakable it will turn it into

something beautiful.

I want to age like sea glass.

~ Bernadette Noll ~

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Making lemonade… page 87

Day 171 – 08/30/2020

The temp at 9am is 66ยบ and the sun’s shining through a light cloud cover – perfect for PickleBall but only two other players showed up so Kim pedaled back home and we’re on computers until hunger takes over. It’ll be omelets because even though we toss a lot of traditions out the window we have our rules. And a nice spa soak and convo since that’s in the Sunday playbook too.

Life right here in this place is lovely and wonderful so why does everything else feel especially grim this morning? And having asked myself that question… where do I start?

  • Is it because despite all documented evidence to the contrary, too many people still see COVID-19 not as a worldwide pandemic killing an inordinate number of humans, but as merely a flesh wound, an inconvenience. “It’s a flu, we’ve seen this before, it’ll fade away… like a miracle.”
  • Is it because our racial divide is being used to foment civil war and people are choosing sides and picking up weapons?
  • Is it because there’s so little common ground left where we can meet friends and family and remember who we are, together?
  • Is it because we’re in a state of limbo and extraordinary breath-holding, waiting to know if our fractured democracy can hang in until the nightmare ends, or if America will be saddled with a tyrant and his progeny for the next few generations.
  • Or because when I say these things out loud I lose friends.

A puzzle… who could ever solve it…

Imma go have breakfast with the cook.

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And life goes on… page 86

Day 169 – 08/28/2020

Temps have been in the 90s for days with a real-feel of 100+ but tomorrow should see a temporary end to all that and we’re here for it…

We spent a wonderful evening this week with Rita and mutual friends, socially-distanced at our fav Mexican restaurant in their big outdoor courtyard, and it was food for the soul. We’ve missed all of that. But hey, the college students are back in town and already nine Greek houses on The Hill are quarantined. I can’t stop looking at this graph… it took us about a month to get the hang of it, but we were stellar until the end of June when our Phase 3 reopening was in progress, and then the chart goes whack and by the first part of August, with the 20k student population moving in… not a happy picture, COVID-wise. The university is the lifeblood of Lawrence, so it’s discouraging to see the trend, and it means that time in the public domain will continue to be at a premium for the foreseeable.

In other news, there’s not much that’s fit to print, and the rest is mundane. We get up every morning and life happens while we do our best to be adult about it, with a fair success rate most days. As someone said recently, It Is What It Is.

It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything’s fine. ๐Ÿ’‹

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There Are Heroes

My baby sister is my hero. The one our grandpa called Dutch… the child who could fall out anywhere, get puppet-walked to bed and go right on sleeping without missing a beat… grew up to be one hell of a nurse and an even better human being. She doesn’t have an RN behind her name, it’s more of an IC (I Care), but she’s a caregiver beyond measure and you’d be grateful to see her there if you needed help.

She spent three months this summer as angel of mercy to her lifetime best friend (since they were five), taking her to all the doctors’ appointments intended to address her out-of-control back pain before it was finally discovered that she was suffering not from a bad disk, but a spine full of tumors. Fifteen days later Hospice started visiting twice a week while Rita hung in as caregiver as it quickly became a full-time job, pouring love into her friend’s life while she changed sheets and finessed every detail.

I was privileged to be there with Rita as Joy took her last breath. Such love… sixty-plus years of it… heartbreaking and humbling to witness. It’s a story that’s happening about every 80 seconds in America right now with a virus moving among us, life and death played out, often with no loved ones close by… and every individual story matters. We’re so blessed if someone’s there to hold our hand and say our name and smooth Carmex on our lips as we make our exit. And if it’s from the comfort of our own bedroom with our devoted dog on the bed with us, even sweeter.

I’m so proud of my sister and her friend – there was no word of complaint that either of them had been dealt a bad hand, no going back on promises made, no shirking of the job in front of them… Joy’s to die, Rita’s to be there. It’s possible that humans are the worst thing ever to happen to planet Earth, but there are shining stars out there who pull everything together and cause it all to make perfect sense for a while. You see that circle of love and you know it’s what we live for and that it’s all worth it. In a year when everything hurts and it feels like genuine brotherly love has fled the universe, a hellish experience showed once again that if we’re supremely lucky, love and caring show up where we need them – with skin on.

Being there. It’s what you do when you love somebody.

Quintessential Joy
Rita & Joy
Rita, Joy & Caroline – the Three Musketeers – from Five to Life
Joy Anna

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Week’s end … page 84

Day 155 – 08/14/2020

It’s 10:45 and the day already feels endless. I walked before it got hot, came in and iced my hip… and went into neutral. Sometimes I try to remember why it felt like there was more to do in The Before because it wasn’t all that much. But we had lunch out a few days a week… wandered in and out of stores without a second thought… went to KC for this and that… planned short or long trips and took them… saw friends once in a while or had them here… what we thought up to do wasn’t contingent on virus numbers or the necessary restrictions they’ve brought into everyone’s lives.

With the new phase we’re into in the election cycle, birtherism is the Soup of the Day again. And after seeing shots of neighborhood mailboxes – those familiar Dalek-like blue sentinels – being removed and hauled off on trucks in Portland and other cities, the sure knowledge that we’re across the line into authoritarianism can’t be put off any longer. I know, dear Diary, nobody likes it when I talk politics, but it’s just you and me, so I’m going to tell you a secret I discovered this morning – I’m okay with not seeing people anymore if they’re in favor of what’s happening to America, and there’s a certain freedom in that. As Kim always says, “I feel so much better now that I no longer care.”

Welp, when you’re blue, you’re blue, but sometimes you can get glad in the same pants you got sad in, so maybe it’s time for music…

Photo Credit: Kim Smith

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It’s a good life… page 79

Day 147 – 08/06/2020

Another cool morning, so I wandered around the neighborhood for an hour, racking up a prideful number of steps for that time of day. The GPS map of my route will be fun once I find it in the app!

Discovered lots of big and small changes along Mass Street and points east – it’s interesting to see how Downtown is rising to the occasion and finding creative ways to stay in business while dealing with the reality that is COVID-19. A young street-guy hollered from across Mass Street “I feel like a surgeon!” I said “Because of your mask?” (Which was hanging off one ear.) “Yeah, my mask! I feel like a surgeon!” The surgeon was wearing what looked like a water shoe on one foot, the other was bare, and I saw by his outfit that he was no cowboy. We waved and went on our way, whereupon I heard him loudly proclaim to the next strollers “Hey, I feel like a surgeon!”

I’m glad Downtown and East Lawrence are full of walkers and bike riders so the white-haired short stack with her hiking pole doesn’t stand out, other than to budding surgeons in search of an audience. And now, after a full-service shower, I’m ready for the PickleBall player to come home so we can figure out what the rest of the day holds.

Annnnd… so far there’s been a light garage clean-out and coaxing an ailing car across town to said garage. And lunch. Only about 9 hours to go until bedtime, yay. Daily diversions, take me awaaaaaaay…

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Becalmed… page 76

Day 140 – 07/30/2020

It’s been rainy for a couple of days, starting with heavy fog this morning and morphing to rainfall once again. We bob along on the surface, trying not to just go through the motions like it’s Groundhog Day ad infinitum, but that’s an increasing challenge for me due to “the life of the mind.” BC [Before Covid], I spent most of my hours right here anyway, thinking thoughts and doing the daily, so the difference DC [During Covid] is in the nature of the thoughts. They’re circular, thus unproductive, and they’re relentless… figure this out, make sense of that, reconcile yourself to one unpalatable truth after another. I try to run them all through the Zen shredder before digesting them, for the sake of gut health, but their very insistence and the dearth of answers make each new 24-hours a maze to navigate from waking to sleeping.

Pretty sure this is why humans would rather not think about things too much, why comfortably numb is the preferred state of mind when life gets dicey… and life is always dicey. When your inner self gets to do her own thing, she comes up against pieces/parts that don’t fit… then what? If she goes around them, they’ll always be there serving as obstacles to other pieces/parts of life, so the only choice is to deal with them, which usually involves discarding something, and that’s when the fight starts.

Looking out at the mist hanging in the trees, I have one wish… that I had known the pandemic was on its way and would change life irrevocably for all of us. The heaviest shock, beyond the staggering death toll, is how it has separated us politically, intellectually, and spiritually – a virus the whole planet is dealing with but Americans have managed to turn into internecine warfare.

There’s always blue sky somewhere, though, and often it’s right overhead, with the half-moon at its center.

Photo Credits: Kim Smith

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Around the ‘hood… page 75

Day 138 – 07/28/2020

Woke up before six to a great morning – 74ยบ and 97% humidity. Body knew we needed to walk, Brain wasn’t buying it.

BRAIN: I’d rather stay here, take my time waking up, get caught up online…

BODY: Online will be here when we get back – I’m not camping in that chair again all day.

BRAIN: It’s gonna hurt.

BODY: Yeah. Let’s go.

We walked down Rhode Island to 9th and when we came up New Hampshire toward home we found our reward – a display for the specially-commissioned mural painted on the adjacent building. After reading the bios, I’m good for at least a week on learning one new thing a day – Kansas has a rich history in every direction. Aaron Douglas, Gordon Parks, Langston Hughes, Oscar Micheaux, Gwendolyn Brooks, Hattie McDaniel, and Coleman Hawkins all spent a portion of their lives here and contributed to the genius that is us while sharing themselves with the greater world.

Ms. Head’s full of it and she knows it. If we listened to her all the time we’d miss some of the best stuff.

DISCLAIMER: Kim Smith had nothing to do with these wonky early-morning caffeine-free photos.

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Rainy Monday… page 74

Day 137 – 07/27/2020

For reasons I’m still exploring, I grew up a pleaser and it’s taken me most of my life to shed that tendency, but at this point the people I care about keeping happy are few in number and all the “should” has gone out of my relationships and interactions. “Is it true, is it real, is it right?” If not, our conversations are going to be brief.

The isolation that defines 2020 is showing me that I’m really not all that nice a person and people are likely justified in their relief to be shut of me, at least for the time being. A quick mental inventory of extended family members tells me the gene pool is overweighted by about half toward the conservative-thinking side, and most of those choose to keep me at arm’s length, at the least, for which I can’t blame them since I rarely shut up online. It’s a different story in person… there are days when I don’t say much of anything out loud.

Most of my lifetime has been marked by saying too much, blurting stupid things, irritating friends and family with my penchant for trying too hard, so I love my life in recent years, here in my comfy citadel where I have few opportunities to be overbearing, at least in the flesh… and I’m learning from all of it. I say what seems important to say and a steady sense of detached calm carries me through and over a lot of things… but at its bottom is a loneliness that defies description. It embodies the grief of death and endings, and the nowhere feeling that comes from having no idea what will happen next, where it all goes from here. It sounds like worry when I put it in writing, but it isn’t so much that as the waiting… the heavy sense of quiet outside and in… the tension everywhere… while the fight we can’t do anything about swirls around us.

I just want it over, decided, finished one way or the other. Either full-on fascism will be the victor, everything about America that hasn’t already changed will complete its metamorphosis, and we’ll live with the results or die FROM them… or we’ll get a second chance to make democratic government work. One hundred days is a long time to hold our breath.

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It’s complicated… page 73

Day 136 – 07/26/2020

So what do people do who don’t write? Explode… give up… give in… go batshit unhinged… disappear, what? Clearly there are other channels, reading being one, and it’s looking better on that front the past few days, although I still tend to abandon a chapter and wander off without notice. My safest and best outlet is to write it down – whatever’s eating my lunch – put it out there where I’m accountable for what I’ve said, and let the dice keep rolling. Odds are that at least one other human will read my words and just like that, there I am – a responsible adult saying things out loud and standing behind them.

This so-called responsible adult shows few outward signs of owning the title, all things considered. Most days I sort more detritus out of my life – digital or otherwise – manage a shower, eat stuff, watch TV with some level of engagement, and fill the gaps with whatever I can stay focused on. Hey – it’s a life.

So good thing I did something Grandma… all my grandmas… would have approved of:

He covers a multitude of sins on my part, including that of sloth, and has the grace to give those sins kinder names, thus making me look like a nicer person than I am. And he’s yet to meet a grandma who didn’t like him so I rest my case. ๐Ÿ’‹ Still celebrating #16…

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