reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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buffalo plaid and stardust. [d.r. thursday]

tucked in my mind’s eye, along with sugar plum fairies and gingerbread houses, twinkling lights and sleigh bells and tiny trees, are matching red buffalo plaid pjs.

old navy made it happen.

for a few days now we have worn our matching red buffalo plaid pj pants. flannel and cozy, we knew better than to purchase long flannel pjs for our kiddos. old navy had already thought this out – they also had flannel red buffalo plaid pj boxers. score! we bought them and wrapped them into stockings. we have no idea if they will wear them or not, but my momma-heart knows we all have them – match-the-family pjs – and just the knowledge makes me happy.

the other day – on christmas evening – they made their first appearance, under a sherpa blanket on the couch watching “love actually”. since then they have appeared under a different sherpa on the couch in the sitting room, dogga curled up on the rug, reading a book together. we are reading aloud the third bestseller by raynor winn, “landlines”, a tale of two long-walkers hiking through scotland, a tale of hope and renewal and restorative juju for them. it’s descriptive and we find ourselves lost in the highlands, step after step in the rain, with them.

our new year’s eve was quiet. we ran a few errands and settled in on the couch to read, had a couple phone calls, prepared a late dinner and settled back on the couch. but our smack-dab cartoon had told a different story. though sometimes-but-not-always a straight-line-to-us-autobiographical middle-age-cartoon, it told the story on new year’s eve of two people who had to get outside and who went walking before midnight so as to be outside – along the lakefront and under the stars – at the turn of the year.

we were having trouble staying awake. it did not seem likely that we would actually see the new year arrive, sleepy eyes and all.

but then – somehow, the two of us, who are now earlier-to-bed-earlier-to-rise, got to the 11 o’clock hour. and we knew – prepare yourself for the double negative – we could not not do it.

hats and gloves and down coats and boots and the night wasn’t as cold as it seemed at 7 or 8 or even 9. the lake is a block away and we walked along it, enjoying the holiday lights still up and lit on our route. we cut in to the path that is right next to the shore and strolled slowly, watching the fireworks in the sky around us.

and, though it was cloudy and we could not see the moon or the stars, we could feel the stardust falling on us, with the promise of a new year.

surely the stuff of sugar plum fairies and twinkling lights, gingerbread and sleigh bells and red buffalo plaid flannel pjs.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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the old deck. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

the old boards creak. and, at night – when it is bitter cold out – they pop, like the sound ice makes under your feet on a frozen lake, only not as treacherous.

in the summer he replaces the deck screws that have risen, stubbed-toe-tripping-hazards, worry about dogga’s paws. in the winter it is clear of all summer amenities. with just the old wooden glider and chair left, it is sans wrought iron, sans outdoor rugs that define its space, sans umbrella shielding our eyes from the sun while we dine, sans old door and happy-hour two-step ladders that hold wine glasses, sans fire column, sans record player, sans lavender and lemongrass. to look outside at the deck – even without snow – it is obvious that winter is approaching, the starkness is blatant and a little sad. we speak of a tree for out there and, if we go to the forest to cut one down we may cut down two and place one outside so that we can see it – lit – from the window.

the old deck has gone through many iterations, first built – by a dad and a grandpa – to help keep tiny toddlers safely playing – a railing all around and gates. a bright plastic little tikes picnic table anchored one end, with a round wrought iron table and chairs on the other end. back then, it was a place for snacks and bubbles, matchbox cars and babydolls, a turtle sandbox, and children dancing to a fisher-price cassette player.

the toddlers, past toddling, grew fast and, eventually, the railing and the gates were removed and the deck, still with the same wrought iron table, was open to the backyard, easy access to the swingset and the fort and, then, the basketball hoop.

years later, with the addition of the stone patio, it would be the place people would gather – for fourth of july barbecues, for the-big-dig day of the pond, for slow dance parties, for pre-wedding gatherings, gatherings for any reason. the old wrought iron table, another coat of rustoleum black paint, still holding vigil for food and gaiety.

and then, since it had no railings, it became the perfect place for ukulele band. folding metal music stands and bag-chairs, edge-of-deck-sitting, clothespins and laughter, there was no stopping the fun, the music-making and community, and, after, all would gather around the old wrought iron table and gnosh on schnibbles everyone brought along, to prolong time together.

during covid the deck became a place of comfort, a necessity for peace of mind. we slowly researched and watched for sales and added pillows and rugs and an umbrella-that-made-all-the-difference for dinners around that old wrought iron table, a little decor and some clay pots and plants for our outside sanctuary. we took refuge there, from cold days to the return of cold days – outside as much as possible.

and now, the deck is blank again, save for the snowflakes. the old wrought iron table and chairs are carefully stored in the garage and we can hear the boards pop and crackle from inside the sunroom and from here, sitting on the bed, writing this – the grey day outside begging for sun, the old deck waiting to see just how we might holiday-it-up.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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cheese curds and awe. [d.r. thursday]

the table is staged, ready for diners. linen napkins rolled, silverware inside. water glasses turned over and candles unlit. waiting.

block 37 on state street in chicago has at least a dozen eateries, a highrise group built post-2005 of dining restaurants with napkin rolls, bakeries with cupcakes and sticky donuts, coffeehouses and grilled cheese spots. all waiting for eaters. there are shops and there is a residential development, multi-use skyscrapers.

eighteen years ago today. block 37. the yamaha concert grand was on an outdoor stage in the sun in a tree-canopied park when we arrived. boom mics. monitors. staged. ready. waiting.

it was the tour of hope, a giant oncology event sponsored by bristol-meyers squibb. lance armstrong, a cancer survivor and chosen sports hero for those moments, was biking – with an entourage – across the country to raise awareness about cancer and survivorship and hope. and we were there to be part of the rally. the piano and boom were waiting for me.

in the way of not-knowing-when-important-stuff-is-happening, we meandered through the people getting ready for the arrival of the posse of bikers. we sound-checked, we did early photo shoots, we sipped water on a perfectly-perfect early fall day.

it was the day i met him. a dear friend who i’ve only seen in person once in my lifetime. scordskiii became the rock in my world as the years went by and, were we to sit and visit over coffee or sushi or a glass of wine, i suspect the conversation would be easy and constant, filled with reminiscing and laughter, not just a little wonder, and hushed moments in awe of it all. this would be a good thing. eighteen years is a long time.

we are slowly coming out of the cave. slowly. ever-so-slowly. we have actually been to a couple restaurants now. and this day – last week – was one of those times.

the tables at the restaurant were ready and we walked in to find david’s dear friend waiting. they have known each other for decades, though – since they live far apart – they haven’t had opportunity to see each other much. no matter. it is the gift of true friendship. the moments when all time sloughs off and, in awe of this magic, you return to the organic core of your relationship.

we had fried wisconsin cheese curds. it was a farm-to-table restaurant. we were surrounded by relics from farms and warehouses, all dating back, maybe even a century. we sat and sat, talking, sharing. people came and went around us, though no one was seated close.

i glanced at the other tables when we stood to leave. the napkins were rolled and the water glasses were turned upside down. and the dining tables were waiting for the next time people would sit and ponder life, its questions, its challenges and joys, the next time people would share a little space together. the next time people would look at the face of a dear friend before it was time to go.

the years…they fly by.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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this. a happy swiss cheese plant. [d.r. thursday]

there is a magazine i look at most every day. it is a simple-magazine publication and features container gardens of all sorts. each time i page through it i see something new, get ideas, wonder about unique re-purposing, changing old typewriters or baskets into succulent planters or large-animal feed scoops or galvanized tubs into fence pots. the photography shows beautiful plants in all seasons of growth and it makes creative juju pick up pace.

we walked slowly through the daniel stowe botanical garden with our daughter and her boyfriend, enjoying every second. the greenhouse was steamy and we got misted as we walked. gorgeous orchids punctuated the tropical plants. we stopped to read information, take pictures, admire textures and the colors that looked like dr seuss had taken crayons to everything.

the monstera deliciosa (or aptly-named swiss cheese plant) captured our attention. nature has a way of making sure that rainwater and dew are properly retained yet the leaves are not perpetuating algae or molds, fungus or disease. amazing. instead, waxy fronds or holey swiss-cheesed leaves let the droplets roll off, keeping them open to sunlight. each plant has its own system for balance, all depending on its ever-changing circumstances.

the day at the garden was over too soon; visiting is like that. there were only a few days and it’s hard to fit months and months of not-seeing into bits and pieces of 72 hours.

i now know why my sweet momma always had lists when i called or visited with her. there were things she wanted to know, needed to know, that she didn’t want to forget to ask. there were tiny and big questions about my daily life she wondered about – the extraordinary and the mundane, my feelings about things happening in the world, curiosities she had about my comings and goings and adventures and challenges and transitions. she just simply wished to hear my stories, have a window into my life. without being too invasive, without crossing the ever-changing-invisible-tightrope-line, she wanted to share in it, be a part of it. i get it.

kc, my bonsai gardenia plant, is difficult, “one of the most loved and challenging plants”. i never know if i am watering her enough or too much, if her brown-edged leaves are due to too much attention or too little attention. she has not had a bloom, though she did have two hopeful buds. she is not easy, but she is beautiful and particular and i am determined. charlie, my heart-leaf philodendron, the other plant that was also a lovely gift from my beloved daughter, is easy. she grows no matter what. she is healthy and thriving. she is green and lush and i can practically see her smiling. charlie is the opposite of kc. treasured plants on our garden table in ever-changing light and seasons as they grow, so much like the diversity of real living, i talk to them every day; i appreciate and adore them. they are lessons.

and it occurs to me that these two beautiful plants, both on the table in our sunroom, are – indeed – the spectrum definition of motherhood, the nature of every single cherished relationship, the easy-hard, the fragile-resilient, the holding-on-letting-go, bursting blooms and foliage or the missing of blooms, the learnings, the balance of unconditional love. perhaps a good addition would be this happy swiss cheese plant, a reminder to let it all roll off and keep on keeping on.

no wonder my momma had so many plants.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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the west wall. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

it’s the west wall. and every morning as the sun streams in across the room, we comment. it’s one of those images that you anticipate, that stays with you, that you miss on cloudy days – a new day captured between miniblinds. and, because we were there and so was he, we know the shadow in the bottom left window pane is a shadow of dogdog’s furry ear and the nape of his neck. his ritual – laying on the bed with us in the morning as we sip coffee and the sun works on rising.

it will soon be a year since columbus – david’s sweet dad – died. it is now just days away. i knew him for merely eight years. but he was easy to adore. he still is. i talk to him every time i get into big red, feeling his presence as i crank up country music and roll down the windows. i don’t even know if he cranked up country music and rolled down the windows, but i sense his approval and it makes me smile. he had a gentle way about him and his shadow leaves soft edges in my heart. i told david that it will get a little bit harder each day now. there is no changing that. not feeling his absence is like trying to keep an open candle lit in the wind. impossible.

the anniversary of his leaving-this-earth forces one to recognize mortality. when my big brother died, it foisted upon me an absolute sense of a lack of infinity – time goes by and the world continues on, yet there will come a time that our relationship with the world will no longer feel the same and our shadow will be a little less pronounced, a little less definitive, a little fuzzier, though no less present. when my poppo and then, three years later, my sweet momma died, i was struck by the sheer ludicrousness of how wrapped up we all get in everylittledetailofeverything. it felt like we should spend more time shadow-dancing together in the sun and less time in the actual shadows. there is no time to waste. we learn it – and forget – again and again. and again.

in the way of shadows and energy and love, we know that our dogga can feel us, despite our temporary absence from him as we travel. just like the people we love – here and not here – he is right with us.

the west wall reminds us.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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vine-climbing. [merely-a-thought monday]

the 1977 graduating class of john glenn high school chose this song as our theme song. before the decision and ever since, it has remained a favorite. seals and crofts dominated our senior variety show – the one for which i wore a full wet suit including fins and played a piano duet -, our graduation, our prom, our yearbook. they played over and over in my bedside cassette player, on radio, on stereo systems throughout elwood and, likely, everywhere.

“so, i wanna laugh when the laughing is easy.

i wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile.

i may never pass this way again,

that’s why i want it with you…”

(jim seals, dash crofts – we may never pass this way again)

just last week jim seals died. he was 80. and suddenly, again, time flashes in front of us.

because somehow, listening to their music, i am back at 17 or 20 and they are in their early to mid thirties. but the years come and go and the journey keeps journeying, faster and faster it seems.

and so the moments and presence become infinitely more important and the stuff becomes less. the grand illusion of foreverness becomes foggy and we learn – little by little – sometimes, though, with ferocity – that we must be-here-now. we graduate and grow and regress and grow again and start to see that full spectrum is not so bad – that belly-laughing and weeping are both, indeed, necessary and that as we vine-climb from dirt to sky we are only really here to be with each other.

our beloved daughter was here for a couple days. any time we see her or our beloved son are those kind of rare-gift moments. we giggle and poke fun and talk and reminisce and ponder and there’s eye-rolling and i am astounded by them and, always, i cry upon their leaving or upon our parting. it is the hard part.

i know that we just never know. life has a way of teaching us that – again and again – though it is easy to forget, to push it aside. but the further up the vine we get, the more we recognize it. it is all so fragile. we may never pass this way again. simple. true. a calling, an imperative to say the stuff, to be vulnerable, to experience, to love, to acknowledge, to laugh, to cry, to be-with.

good choice of song, jhghs.

“all the secrets in the universe

whisper in our ears

and all the years, they come and go

and take us up, always up…”

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


					
		
	


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in it together. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

the up-north gang makes plans that feature rest rooms. we travel distances – often caravaning – but we know that we will be stopping. no ifs, ands or buts.

the drive to cedarburg is not long, but the last thing any menopausal woman OR – let’s-face-it – man wants to do upon arrival anywhere is to desperately look for a bathroom. there is no time for that. no one wants to feel imperiled by the call of nature.

it feels somewhat irresponsible to be writing about paper bags and tic-tacs and mini-mart restrooms while russia invades ukraine and people’s lives are in jeopardy. it feels a little like it could be interpreted as not-paying-attention. we sat with our coffee this morning and talked about families packing up a few things and leaving…just leaving…with no place to really go, not knowing what to take, separating from the men in the household who have been ordered to stay, conscripted. it is nothing shy of terrifying and we wonder, yet again, how it is that this world is so conflicted and broken. yet we look around and we see evidence of division and suffering and methods of control everywhere.

and so, last weekend, our little field trip to cedarburg’s winter festival was exactly the right thing to do. we stopped at the gas station we always stop at. they had added two new restrooms, good news for a bunch of 60plussers on the move. less waiting that way. we watched the sled dogs race, we wondered about whether the river had been frozen the day before for the bedraces. we wandered in and out of shops and finished our day all together in the tiny bar of a bed and breakfast there. faces reddened from the wind, laughter up and down the table.

our up-north-gang mini roadtrip was before the invasion. i would choose it again, though. because we need to be reminded – over and over – that those are moments not to be taken for granted. the silly oh-my-gosh-i-need-a-restroom-right-freakin-now shared times of this gang as we age and age. the familiarity and ease of people you have spent time with, people you are in menopause with, people who talk about utterly anything. presence is not to be underestimated.

we are fortunate. and we know it. and as we give thanks for all we do have – including people we love and new mini-mart restrooms and winter festivals and freshly fallen snow – all under a sky of freedom – we also lift up those in a land not really so far away. and we hope for their safety, their very lives and an end to conflict they did not choose.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

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better. [two artists tuesday]

if you are wondering which type of heater is warmer – the standing-propane or the pyramid-propane – we would have to answer specific to one experience where we were surrounded by both. though i don’t believe the standing-propane was functioning 100%, the pyramid-propane on our end of the table seemed much warmer. nevertheless, we would likely purchase the more highly-rated standing propane. i guess. visually, this pyramid is kind of like watching a fireplace, so there is that to consider as well.

the windchill dropped to about 17 degrees in the courtyard, yet, there we sat, with big blankets and glasses of wine, between the two heaters. we weren’t the only al fresco table in the outdoor space of this restaurant just north of chicago. another table of patrons was also doing the safe-thing and had gathered outside to dine together post-holiday.

we were there with our son and that in itself kept me warm. it was time to celebrate and we had bags of gifts for him to open. i cannot tell you – though i suspect i needn’t try as this is a universal feeling – what it felt like to hug him when he walked through the back door to join us. it had been kind of a long while and i was kind of giddy. wine and soup and good food, even dessert, and hours later we parted. glenn – the maître d’ – held his hand over his heart on our way out; i did the same. these times. “strange times call for strange measures,” i texted a friend. we three laughed together at the-table-in-the-snow-shoveled-courtyard about how indeed strange. and i was inordinately grateful.

these strange times continue and continue, it seems. here we are – rapidly approaching two years of this pandemic affecting our behaviors, our actions, our plans, our health, our travel, our work, our safety and security, our relationships, our out-and-aboutness-in-the-world. we have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted. we have worn masks – better and better and better ones – everywhere, even when barely anyone else has. we have distanced and isolated and avoided crowds. we have gone through a lot of hand sanitizer.

and yet.

as the new variant explodes around the world, we watch various stories play out. the tennis player – a gigantic role model – who refuses to get vaccinated, expects to play in the international arena, receives an exemption from a locale but not from the country of australia – has a hissy fit. i suppose i wonder why he, a breather-of-breath-in-and-out-the-same-way-you-or-i-breathe, feels he is above doing what-is-best-for-the-world. for that matter, i wonder why anyone feels that way. truly. a moot point at this juncture. it is two years – years – now.

in the meanwhile, we do the best we can. we are missing a lot. we know that. there is a precious great-nephew i have not yet met. there are indoor/in-the-car/in-restaurants/at-our-home/at-their-homes/up-close-and-personal moments we are not sharing with others we love, with others who make our personal world what it is. most of our spare time has been outside or alone. we wonder how and when this will change.

i write “better” on our flying wish paper, crumple it up, uncrumple the crumpled, shape it into a cylinder and light it. the wish for “better” flies off to come true, tiny bits of ash floating.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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no anonymity. [k.s. friday]

anonymity is not a strong suit of airbnb. and, for us, that’s exactly the point. the relational piece of staying in places other real people own does not usurp privacy. but it offers a glimpse into lives – those which you may never have peeked into otherwise. without reservation, i would say that most all of the airbnbs we have stayed at have been owned by someone with whom we’d love to be friends.

the window that opens when you unlock the front door to the tiny house, the condo, the bungalow, the loft, the cabin, the cottage is an invitation. on the most basic level, it is an opportunity to see how someone else makes a space a home, how it’s designed, how it’s appointed. it is an opportunity to reconstruct – in your mind – something about your own home, an idea to take with you. it’s a chance – for a bit of time – to experience another place as-if-you-live-there: to wander and cook and porch-sit and immerse, even a little. when you stay in the vicinity of the owner’s place it changes things, for then, on a whole ‘nother level, it’s an opportunity to see morsels of how someone else lives, their real-life. and when you have the chance to meet the person or people who host where you are staying? that is a gift.

sitting on the adobe open-air-to-the-mountains-balcony off the bedroom in ridgway, in rocking chairs on the front porch on the farm in kentucky, at the table overlooking snowmass, under the après sign in breckenridge, watching people go by in tiny brevard. it is not without wonder we think about places we will stay someday.

and, i guess, not surprisingly, there’s something about all these places that makes us say, “we could live there.” something different than what any hampton inn, our hotel chain of choice, can offer.

it is not randomly that i pick out places to stay when we travel. i carefully consider location, amenities, the presence of light, whether or not we can cook, if there is outdoor space, a fireplace, a kitchen counter where we can chat. i look at pictures and read reviews and one will always jump out as a place that looks like us. so not so random.

and i guess it is not random either that we meet people – it boils down to the people – who stand out. they are living lives and opening themselves up to others. in providing more personal lodging they are reinforcing the humanness and opportunity of travel. they remind us – again and again – to be just a little more vulnerable, just a little more open. we don’t walk in someone else’s shoes, but to stay in someone else’s home, even for a night, has given us the tiniest chance to know them and to get where they are.

we are not here to live anonymously.

*****

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read DAVID’S thoughts this K.S. FRIDAY

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