The circle… page 115

Day 210 – 10/08/2020

Yesterday’s task with Rita was sorting a six-drawer dresser packed to the gills with old and newer family photos – not ours, but people we knew so not all mystery. This is my seventh household to help deconstruct, the previous six for family members, and the impact is always the same – when life ends, it’s over. Every tiniest object that meant something special… all the carefully laundered and folded favorites… the Post-Its, the bills that keep finding the mailbox, the personal rubble left behind in jacket pockets… nobody’s coming back to see to any of that. It’s over.

So if we’re very lucky, someone who knew us, loved us, cared what became of us, shows up to make things right and tie up the dangling participles.

We were halfway to the bottom of Drawer #4, talking about how good it was to hear from Susan the day before, when we both reached for the same photo… High School Homecoming Queen Susan! The basement chill zinged up to 11 and we celebrated a sweet Twilight Zone moment – just like that, the three of us were in the same room again. Life is weird and spooky and crazy and I like it a lot. It’s good to be reminded regularly that humans aren’t one-dimensional and neither is the world we live in. Susan moved away almost two years ago and we miss the socks off of her… yesterday’s serendipity was a gift.

And just like that, life goes on. In Susan’s sweet face I see our nieces and great-nieces and the little great-great-niece we “met” last week… and Reese and Wagner genes going back as far as we want to explore. Life goes on… the circle keeps turning.

I nabbed Rita’s senior pic out of the same drawer and since I’m the equal-opportunity do-it-my-way Big Sister, I have to put it here for posterity, doubly proving that DNA-by-association has always been on my side. My sisters are my best friends… always were, really… and age doesn’t change any of that, thank the universe. ūüíô

So Diary… am I good or what? It’s actually Throwback Thursday, a masterstroke of timing, which bodes well for wrapping up the week on a high note. I see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 little jobs I could get done this morning and hardly move from my desk – ask me tomorrow how that went down. I’m still in Coffee & Think mode at almost 10am, so we’ll see…

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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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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. ūüíč Still celebrating #16…

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And Tuesdays, too… page 69

Day 131 – 07/21/2020

That reprieve we needed… it’s here, as of yesterday evening, and it’s pretty sweet. Temp of 72¬ļ this morning, and the only reason the humidity is in the upper 90s is that it’s still raining a little. We asked, we received, it feels like a benediction.

Decatur Man and I exchanged quick humor bytes this morning before he texted this in response to my question about his schedule:

“I‚Äôm in Covidland¬†today.
I got floated here yesterday, and the unit manager, who’s a friend of mine, was crying because she’s so overwhelmed. 
So I picked up an extra shift today
(12-hr shifts), along with 2 of my 4200 (Oncology unit) buds. 
It‚Äôs terrible here these days.”

At this point, any united effort to halt the spread of the virus would be a godsend. Anything, any level of genuine concern, any solid indication that the naysayers are at least trying not to make it worse. It seems somehow unAmerican that the helpers are fair game and entirely expendable – our teachers, healthcare workers, and the countless others who keep the great world humming. I dislike the fact that everyone’s chances of survival seem to be linked to the common sense of others – the odds are not in our favor.

But Pool Man will be home soon from the Ponderosa and he’ll probably stay tucked in with me until the skies clear – he’ll have to get out and ride his bike or walk at some point, rainfall permitting. Life continues to be a desirable thing… irreplaceable and worth defending for everyone I love, however long it takes, so no whining here about anything but the flies in the honey.

Showers bring flowers. Reminds me of my grandma’s house.

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In… page 47

Day 67 – 05/18/2020

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

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

Because I have sisters, I will always have friends.

Photo Credit: Kim Smith 05/17/2020

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An epic love story… *

*…but not the one you think

It’s story time, boys and girls, so pull up a sunny patch of rug and help yourselves to coffee.

The soothing Sunday morning sounds washing over me from the other side of the wall are brought to me by a Southern California kid with a lifetime guitar jones. He got enough Christmas cash when he was eleven to buy one of his own and his dad drove him to a strip mall on a Sunday afternoon to see what they could find. He brought home a little Kawai with nylon strings and shut himself in his bedroom to figure it out.

There was no internet of course, no guitar backing-tracks, no online instruction, not even the thought that someone in the immediate area might give private lessons, let alone how a kid might pay for those. He did start at the Boys’ Club woodworking shop with his dad when he was eleven, but that was gratis except for the experience.

Without benefit of social media and the kind of advertising we take entirely for granted now, he was unaware that many famous guitar makers were based right where he lived. Later, thoughts of missed opportunities shot through his brain. Rickenbacker was in Santa Ana, Fender was in Fullerton, he could have walked there! How much would a job at one of those places have altered his life?

He was out making his own money by thirteen washing dogs, then a paper route, followed by Kaplan’s Bakery, the dream of being a guitar player eventually a low-banked fire, as the music scene in Southern California took on a life of its own and he went off to Viet Nam so he could come home with his head held high. When he got back of course, everything had changed and the mood of the country was a little hostile toward dreamers, so first order of business was a responsible job, and from then on life looked like a series of management positions, entrepreneurial projects, marriage and family.

The guitar thing refused to leave him alone, however, and by the time I discovered his presence in the world he owned four of them, plus amps, mics, speakers, recording equipment, the whole nine yards. Our shared love of music conspired to bring us together in a band setting, and for the past nearly sixteen years I’ve had the joy of watching a small parade of beautiful instruments make their way in and out of our house, and of marking his progression from wannabe to still-shy pretty-wow-player. He’s traded and strummed his way from a high of thirteen worthy guitars to a current eight that he lovingly pays attention to, giving them rotating places of honor on stands within reach.

I’ve sat on one of Ed Roman’s black couches in his Las Vegas guitar store (now gone) more than once while Kim played all the incredible guitars he wanted to touch and hold and hear. He hangs onto the blonde Strat that kissed him back – he might never part with her for the way she draws the music out of him, much like the little Taylor he came across last year just as a windfall blew through for him. He picked up an antique lap steel in the same deal and started taking lessons to challenge himself – that’s how a guy keeps rolling.

My respect for his desire, determination, and hard work knows no bounds. He’s put in the hours, day after day, year after year, to figure out how to do what he wants most to do. On the flipside, my beautiful little grand piano sits silent while I let body pain and hearing loss keep me off the bench, and that’s all I’m sayin’ about that, life being what it is.

My husband has been my hero since the Easter Sunday he walked into my house to cook dinner for me, decided first things first and kissed me good, then got down to the business of looking out for me because I was so clearly in need of same. He knows what he wants, doesn’t always get it, but has never been afraid to work his ass off for it. So if plump 2020 isn’t the year I put mine back on that bench, it prolly isn’t gonna happen. Pray for me, kids. ūüíč

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From hope to hope…

quotes-hope-01-samuel-johnson-600x411

chilly damp and gray

life alters and love is all

we cling to the true

JSmith 11/22/2016

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The Weekend that Was

Italian-Dinner-700x466

 

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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Summer Love as always…

love-watermelon

 

the hubby of me

saves my life by riveting

the little heart holes

JSmith 6/24/2016

 

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Memory of a dream…

ethereal-large

 

I move to your warmth

but you aren’t there

tears deliver me to unhinged

dreaming

and morning shows up rude

careless

awful

.

you won’t be there

ever again

nor there

nor there

and mornings will arrive

rude careless awful

forever

.

death of hope snuffs out life

a morning has to come

not rude careless awful

breathing beings cease with

only rude careless awful

but hope is pliant

she offers herself endlessly to true believers

.

JSmith 6/23/2016

 

 

 

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So healthy it makes me sick …

We live, we learn – mostly we live. ¬†So as it turns out, “twice-weekly PT sessions for six weeks” merely covered¬†Phase 1. Six weeks ended¬†Friday¬†morning and now we try another month. ¬†And then we “see.” ¬†Not a problem – once I graduate, there goes 90% of my outside social life, so what would be the rush?

Health, though Рsuch a ginormous issue in every direction.  Do we possess it?  Do we value it?  What value are other people placing on our health?  Do we take it entirely for granted, or do everything we can to maintain it?  Or realistically, somewhere between?  And if we lose it, can we get it back?

The past few months have shown us¬†that my bones are in far better health than we knew. ¬†And I’ve lost some pounds so my numbers¬†are starting to improve — the dread NUMBERS that¬†cause¬†your extremely caring GP to make sad-panda eyes and counsel you to drop even more pounds and take scary-sounding drugs. ¬†I’m just stumbling along for now, thanks, and trying to beat those numbers into submission by means of personal discipline and other words I avoid.

My preoccupation with¬†health at the moment¬†stems from learning that a cousin is going through a hellish experience. ¬†He’s six weeks older than I am and we grew up more like siblings than cousins, our other siblings¬†nicely stair-stepped or matched up in age, which made extended-family vacations oh so simple. ¬†And now the skinny little¬†boy¬†in the photo is all grown up and overrun by adulthood, and he’s ill and in pain. ¬†That hurts my heart. He’s a kind man who’s “been there” for everyone else. ¬†And life couldn’t possibly get away this fast and our bodies metamorphose so quickly into whatever stage this is that feels suspiciously like a cocoon, while our 60’s-addled brains go right on scheming and dreaming and making plans like a boss. ¬†Wow, whiplash!

Judy_Bruce_Vickie_Bon

Here, in their natural habitat, are my cousin Bruce, his big sister Vickie on the left, our Aunt Bonnie, who was probably still a teenager, and wide-eyed me, wondering what it was all about, Alfie. ¬†This was just the other day, I’m pretty sure — I remember the shingles on that house — they were a reddish-brown and felt funny under my fingertips.

Bruce will get well I think, and we’ll all go on. ¬†But the knowledge that he’s dependent for now on a wheelchair and round-the-clock help from an only slightly younger brother brings it all home in kind of an in-your-face way.

I mean, today Patty Duke has left the building. ¬†In recent days it’s been Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Pat Conroy, Garry Shandling, and a litany of others in my generation. ¬†This isn’t going to stop, and I’m not ready for it. ¬†Happen it will, though, that’s how¬†this goes.

We are ALL most definitely playing for time, boys and girls.  Make it count.

 

 

 

 

 

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An ti ci pa tion …

Kim, browsing my Facebook Saved list for recipes:  You have a lot of stuff in here, like really a lot.  What are your plans for all this?

Me:  My plans are to watch the videos, listen to the music tracks, read the articles, and use some of it as a springboard for my blog.

Kim:  Really?

Me:  Yeah.

Kim:

Me: ¬†During lulls when there’s nothing else on my mind and Facebook is boring and I’ve already purged all my email files.

Kim:  

Me:  Seriously.  There are down times.

Kim: ¬†So you save stuff¬†every day because you’re in a rush, but you’ll have time later to go back through all of it?

Me: ¬†Well. ¬†Mostly my attention span isn’t that long, and after the first handful of big-ticket posts I start to drift, but I don’t want to lose them.

Kim: ¬†So they stack up. ¬†Doesn’t that bother you?

Me: ¬†Not much, they’re out of sight. ¬†And I’m waiting for Marky to come along and give me folder capabilities for saved stuff so I can sort and find.

Me:  And delayed gratification is my bag.

Kim:

 

Poor Kimmers. ¬†Clutter, even the thought of it, offends his OCD worse than any other, and in my morally-lax final third I’m an endless trial to him. He’s out of the house most mornings now, so I’m probably working my way through the For Later list, right? ¬†No, not so’s you can tell yet, because there’s another fact of life at work here — one must be IN THE MOOD.

And guess what, bitches, I got IN THE MOOD to compose and handwrite that belated note to Maddie’s veterinary staff. ¬†Mailed it yesterday. Booyah! ¬†I should have taken a picture for you — work of art and worth the time spent agonizing over it, except not really. ¬†Oh, life, I adore your continuing education classes.

A final Easter Egg for the faithful who read to the end: ¬†The Wurlitzer recital in my head, precipitated by my fall on the ice, ended approximately ten days after we upgraded my hearing assists and added a masking track. ¬†I’ve busted it several times trying to make a comeback, and it slinks back under the bed. ¬† Peace is not overrated.

 

procrastination-now-vs-later

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Naked conversation …

This weekend’s¬†spa soak found us once again solving world problems by means of¬†logic, common sense, and positive thinking in the face of current events. ¬†No, really.

KIM: So if the economy crashes again, we should have a realistic idea what we might do.

ME: Realistically, a van down by the river would be a plan. ¬†No problemo, baby, I’d live under a bridge with you.

KIM: Or how about an Airstream?  We could get a cool antique truck to pull it with.

ME:

KIM: What?

ME: You need to focus.

 

in_a_van_down_by_the_river

 

He knows I’m serious about the “whither thou goest” schtick, though, partly because we were in the bathtub when I said it and he always tells me¬†you can’t lie to somebody when you’re naked.

Also, Headline Checker App, I didn’t appreciate my low grade on this one and I’m not sure your management style meshes with our goals at present, so buh-bye. ¬†Who needs that kind of negativity¬†… jeez.

 

 

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Red Velvet Pancakes

A late Valentine’s Day brunch? ¬†This temptation¬†brought to you by¬†AllRecipes.com. ¬†You’re welcome.

(DISCLAIMER: I would have to settle for Light Pink Velvet.

Too much Red #40 for this chickie!)

Screenshot 2016-02-14 at 09.31.11 AM

Screenshot 2016-02-14 at 09.32.14 AM

**********

Reader suggestions: 1) Add one more tablespoon of cocoa powder and sugar to the listed recipe. Don’t skimp because it really takes the flavor up a notch which to my palate was perfect!! 2) Cook the pancakes on a lower heat setting then regularly. I found these pancakes like to burn a little faster than others. They do better at a lower heat. 3) Butter and spray oil for the pan/griddle is essential. A little melted butter followed up by a spray of oil and you will have a hint of buttery flavor and a slight browning to the red batter. 4) Let your batter remain a little on the lumpy side. It does seem to produce better pancakes. Let the bubbles form completely and the edges dry out a tad before flipping. The cream cheese drizzle works a little better with a touch of milk and a few seconds in the microwave. Enjoy!!

Maddie

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