HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAIL: A GIFT OF PEACE

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAIL:  A GIFT OF PEACE

“When I first met Gail, I was impressed by her friendliness, her outgoing nature, and how she always was so funny, kind and generous.”  –Mark, my husband.

“Gail is always so friendly, and she always takes care of everyone.”  –Joel, my son.

“I love Gail.  She is so much fun.” –Skip, my neighbor.

The reviews are in, and they are all five stars.  Gail is all these things, and so much more.

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Gail will celebrate her 58th birthday on Wednesday, February 21st.  She doesn’t care that I divulged her age.  She is proud of it; we all know age is a gift.  She is planning a giant 60th birthday party already.   Gail, Suzanne and I will leave for our annual trip west a week after that.  We will celebrate in high style there—high in the Rocky Mountains.  We probably won’t tell you many details about how we celebrated, though.  Those are privileged secrets.

Gail is six years older than me, and ten years older than Suzanne.  She is the Big Sister Extraordinaire, the acting matriarch of our family now.  She had big shoes to fill, and she is filling them like no one else could.  She stepped into them in her usual grace, striding into her new role that she didn’t want, didn’t sign up for, but was heaped upon her.

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Whoo has the best big sister in the world?  Suzanne and I do!

Gail has always accepted whatever is laid at her feet.  No matter how small or how great, she tackles any challenge with an “I got this” attitude, long before “I got this” became a frequently used catchphrase by women of lesser strength—like me.

So, because she is my sister, and because there are stories to tell, I am going to share a few.  I have already shared my earliest memories of her working non-stop.  If, like most children, my earliest memories are recalled from around age four, Gail would have been ten.  She was already a small-scale Swiss Army Knife, helping Mom with all those tasks that must be performed for a large family:  child care, cooking, cleaning, laundry and on and on.  Mom used to tell the story of Gail waking up from a nap, still drowsy with eyes half-shut and walking by Mom changing the latest baby—it could have been me or my next older brother, or maybe even Suzanne—and she picked up the dirty cloth diaper as if on cue, taking it to the diaper pail while still waking up.  She didn’t need to be told; she knew.

It only intensified from there.  She picked up her pace and productivity, knocking out all that needed to be done without question or complaint.

She continues to knock it all out, and usually knocks it out of the park.  Gail does nothing halfway.  If a job is to be done, it is to be done right.

When she managed the Pizza Hut in Osborne, Suzanne worked for her for a time.  Suzanne confirmed that she did indeed run a tight ship.  She posted a sign that read:  IF YOU HAVE TIME TO LEAN, YOU HAVE TIME TO CLEAN.

Gail works hard, spins those plates I spoke of earlier.  If one plate is done spinning, she throws another up in its place.  She runs on more horsepower and cylinders than any of us dream of possessing.

Every time I hear the term “elbow grease,” I think of Gail.  As a young child who was learning that our language is filled with non-literal terms that don’t really mean what they say, I recall exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard that term, and of course, who said it:  Gail.

I was standing beside, or perhaps behind her as she washed dishes at the kitchen sink—an automatic dishwasher was unheard of; our parents had seven human ones.  She said something about scrubbing a dirty pan with elbow grease.  I remember looking at her elbow to see if there was any grease on it, or coming out of it.  I asked her if there was, and she said, yes, it did indeed have grease inside it, and that is what she was using to get the dishes clean.

I have never forgotten that, and I think of it every time I hear “elbow grease.”  So, as I was trolling eBay for her birthday gifts, I came upon this Rosie gift:

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Even though this effectively spoils the surprise for this small part of her gift bag of goodies, I had to include the picture of the small bar of soap in her bag.

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Mom and Dad had studio pictures taken of each of us around one year of age, and they hung on their living room wall.  As a child, Gail said she thought the reason her hair stood up on top is because she was sitting up on a stool.

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Gail does show kindness and empathy, but ultimately, she helps you get through whatever brings you down with a get over it/toughlove approach, even from a very young age as demonstrated here with me:

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If I stopped here, and you didn’t know Gail, you would think she was all business.  As we all know, all work and no play makes Rosie, Gail, or any other woman a dull girl, so I must tell you also how much fun she carries with her, and brings to anyone in her midst.

My earliest memories of Gail having fun are not necessarily good ones, at least not for her anyway.  I recall waking up at 2 a.m. early one Monday morning to the sound of Dad’s stern voice—it was only stern in such circumstances—when Gail arrived home from a Sunday “afternoon” at the lake with her friends at this hour.

She was grounded for I don’t know how long, and then Suzanne reminded me that as soon as she was released from house arrest, she committed a similar crime, and she was grounded again.

Not that it matters, but just for the record, Suzanne and I were never grounded.

From these earlier episodes of misbehavior grew a matured and more responsible sense of fun within Gail.  I wasn’t part of the train trip from Denver to Las Vegas that Gail and Suzanne went on with a handful of other thrill seekers, but I wish I had been.  I don’t know where I was or what kept me from this excursion, but if I had been able, I am sure I would have signed up too.

Apparently, the train staff didn’t anticipate that many thrill-seekers on one trip, so extreme measures were necessary:  On one stop, one male patron—I would call him a gentleman, but apparently he was not—had to be removed from the train for disorderly behavior.  While he was not initially part of Gail and Suzanne’s group, he apparently knew how to have fun, and was indeed having fun with their group.  Unlike Gail though, he apparently did not learn how to have mature and responsible fun.

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When Gail’s second daughter got married in Hawaii about seven years ago, Gail realized a long-held dream:  she zip-lined.  I, being less adventuresome, will likely never do this.  Nor will I bungee jump, like she has also done.  She is fearless, compared to me.

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When my husband and I were dating, he had a four month long out-of-town project in Osborne when Gail lived there.  His evenings were destined to be monotonous and boring as he stared at four motel room walls—until Gail reached out.  She invited him to join her bowling league, invited her to dinner at her home and always treated him like family.

One of his unique tastes is for anchovies on his pizza.  While not a topping she had listed on her menu, and not typically kept in stock (and not eaten by typical people), she made an exception for him.  She always had anchovies available for him when he wanted them on his pizza.

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Now, it’s time to get down to business.

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IT happened again.  I can’t put a name on IT, because it is so unspeakable.  We all know what IT is.

How can this happen again?  When is this going to stop?  How can one person have so much evil inside them?  What can we do?

The easy answer is to think that since it happened far away from us, happened to people we likely didn’t know, is to say our prayers for the victims and go on our way.  That’s what most of us have been doing all along—myself included.  It’s a good start, but we must do more.

The hard answer is to take a look at ourselves.  Find any small or large seeds of discontent in ourselves and find a way to turn them around.  We all want peace in our families, our communities our country; our world.  But we have to have it in ourselves first.  We can’t give away something we don’t have.

But I’m just one person, my actions don’t really matter,” you may think.  I often think this too.

But they do.  They create ripples, good or bad. And those ripples are far-reaching; we have no idea how far they can spread.

Consistently, it has been found that the people who perpetrate these heinous crimes have been ostracized from their peers; they have been set apart in a negative way.

The innate need to belong to the human group cannot be denied, no matter how much we may want to–myself included.  I find myself wanting to hole up alone more as I age.  But I need people.  Just like everyone else.  Without that connection, we wither as humans, we cannot become the people we were meant to be.

So, back to what can I do?  I can reach out, and you can too.  We can do something as simple as smile at a stranger, or something as complex as forgive an enemy, even if they think they did nothing wrong.  Forgive them in your heart, bless them, and let it go.  Roll your eyes if you have to; that’s how I get through it sometimes.  Forgiveness is really about freeing ourselves, not the other guy.  Letting go frees up a lot of space in our hearts and souls to be filled with good things like peace and positivity.  Try to see the conflict from their perspective.  Remember, often times, there ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me, and we just disagree.

I can’t take any more of this, and I hope you can’t either.  I am searching for ways to crank it up at least  a notch; to find a means to share more peace and positivity. It is in me, and I need to get it out.

It’s in you, too.  I hope you find your unique ways to get it out there, because we all need it now more than ever.  We all need to share our gifts of peace, whatever they are.

Start within.  Find those seeds of discontent, and weed them out before they grow any bigger.  Forgive, and if you can’t forget, then bless them and send them good vibes.  Smile more.  Say thank you.  Tell someone you not only love them, but you like them too.  Say your prayers, whatever they are.

Speaking of prayers, I must use this platform to spread one of the most timeless ones, one that, if we all simply followed it, we may never have to say not again again.

I have written about The Letter our mother left, and I will likely write about it again.  She asked us to live our lives by the prayer of Saint Francis, commonly known as The Peace Prayer.

Along with The Letter, she left seven prayer cards, one for each of her children.  Per her written instructions, they were handed to each of us by the priest at their funeral in front of 500-plus people.

Given that, and in light of this week’s tragedy, I’m having a little trouble feeling that I don’t need to do a little more than I am already doing.   I want to say that I was trying my best, but I can do more.  I have put it just below my bathroom mirror, so that it stares at me every day until I say that prayer at least once daily.  And then I must do something about it.

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This is heavy stuff, especially after Gail’s birthday tribute.  However, Gail has a birthday gift request for you:  She has a Facebook group called Mom’s Message–Instrument of Peace (click on about tab) that she started many years ago. ( If you had previously joined, somehow, Facebook zeroed out the membership, so please re-join.)  Go to it, and consider joining to further Mom’s message of peace, if you haven’t already.   Then, figure out what you can do.  Figure out what gifts of peace you can offer those in your life.  Also, if you are on board, and you are reading this through Facebook, consider reposting this blog on your page.

And, in honor of Gail, never forget this:

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Happy Birthday Gail.  Here’s a toast to peace.

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It’s time we put some elbow grease on this problem.  And don’t forget the ripple effect–what you and I do matters, so let’s do something good.

WE CAN DO IT!

 

A WALK IN THE PARK

 

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A WALK IN THE PARK

It happens roughly 360,000 times daily on our planet, and about 11,000 times every day in our country.  Our mother experienced it seven times, and so did the three of us—collectively.

We all brought life into the world.

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Suzanne’s daughter Julia celebrated her 22nd birthday on February 1st, and it brought back sweet memories of the day she was born for me; sweet-bitter memories for Suzanne:  sweet with the final product, bitter with the struggle it took to get her here.  It made me reflect on my experiences as well.

Like my two reproductions, Julia was born in my small city.  Suzanne was living in her former town, near Mom and Dad.  She developed pre-eclampsia, which translates into potentially dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy.  She couldn’t safely await her delivery in the small hospital in their town, so she came here.  She was admitted for close monitoring, and fared quite well—initially.  So good, that her attending doctor allowed her to come home with me, as she would be just a mile away from the hospital.  As long as she came in daily to have her blood pressure checked, and it was okay, she could await her Big Day in the comfort of my small duplex with me and my husband.

That lasted one day.

Her blood pressure went back up, and she went back in to the hospital.  My babies were not yet born, so I had time spend with her.  I recall many evenings sitting with her at the hospital, and an occasional wheelchair ride around the place for a change of scenery for her.

Two weeks later, her big day arrived.  But then, Big Day turned into Big Night, and Big Day again.  After 40 hours of labor, the doctor decided it was time to take matters into their own hands, and perform a C-section.

Mom and I had camped there with her for most of those last two days; I went to work during the day and came back, and Mom stayed.  Mom was always the faithful Mom.  Suzanne will recall—still with disbelief and disgust—that I asked her to make sure she waited to deliver until I returned from a meeting I had to go to.  Was that too much to ask after thirty-plus hours of labor?  I didn’t think so.  Apparently, she did.  She still does.  Now that I have been in labor for longer than I cared to be times two, I realize it was a bit selfish of me to make such a request.

No matter, she waited anyway.

Perhaps it was the impending C-section that she so desperately didn’t want, or the baby that decided it was finally time to make her grand entrance, but surgical delivery wasn’t necessary in the end.

Julia Michelle arrived just before 6 a.m. on February 1st, 1996.

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She grew into a particularly beautiful little red-haired girl,

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And an even more beautiful red-haired young woman.

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Much to her surprise, her college roommates threw her a party on her birthday this year, complete with her cousins in attendance, even one who made the hour-long trip from another nearby state university.  She had no idea, she said.

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Twenty two years.    Where does the time go?  As if any of us have the answer to that question.

Gail has been a mother to her children for 34, 31, 19 and 17 years, respectively.

I have been a mother to my offspring for 20 and 17 years.

That’s 160 years of motherhood between the three of us, which still doesn’t hold a candle to Mom’s 293 years of motherhood.

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I have many friends who adopted their children.  I heard a story from a friend this week about the adoption of her children:  A young couple who struggled in many ways knew they could not give their two young daughters—ages one and two–the life they deserved.  Addiction and poverty ruled their lives, and they made the loving choice to find a better home for them.  I was so touched by the birth parents wisdom, and the adoptive parents’ acceptance of this gift.

I remember holding my firstborn son.  I looked at him, and thought: “I couldn’t love you any more or any less if you fell out of the sky into my arms.”  No matter how he arrived, he was my son, and any degree of love I had ever experienced for another human had just expanded exponentially.

I read this fitting adoption analogy:  Let’s say you had two back-to-back trips planned—one to Paris, then one to Hawaii.  If the Paris trip was changed to Switzerland, it would take nothing away from the Hawaii trip.

No matter which trip you take, they all end up at the same destination:  parenthood.

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Gail delivered her first child on the last day of August 1983.  I remember the day.  She delivered at the same hospital the three of us were born at, and by the same doctor who delivered us, and he delivered her dad as well:

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Her second daughter was born in a slightly larger nearby hospital with her new doctor, almost three years later.

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They lived in Osborne until Gail remarried and moved west.  Her next two were born fifteen and thirteen years later in the same town where Gail went to college.

 

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Like everything else in life that requires a struggle, Gail took childbirth in stride.  I’m pretty sure she was back at work later in the day after each of her children were born.

Painkillers?  Who needs them during childbirth?  Certainly not Gail.  She scoffed at the idea of medication to ease this pain, the pain that was a woman’s privilege.  Having no medication to slow her down, her deliveries were quick.  Again, she had work that needed to be done, and she didn’t have time to labor very long.

Suzanne, in her prolonged and interminable labor, signed up for the maximum doses of anesthetic as soon as she could.  Good girl.  Little did she know how much and how long she would need it.

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When left to their instincts, many animals in the wild will sneak away in the cover of  night to give birth, which is exactly what I did both times.  The first time, it started just before midnight, and the second time it began just after midnight.  Both times, it lasted about seven hours.

Being the semi-natural birth mother I aspired to be with my first birth, I decided ahead of time I could make it without an epidural.  I did make it, but I did have milder drugs to take the edge off.  In the throes of it all, I fully realized I had no idea what I signed up for, wondering just how leisurely it might have been had I signed up for the epidural.

Just over three years later, I was back in the delivery room.  This time, I had personal and practical reasons for not getting an epidural:  I made it through before, and our lovely new insurance policy through my husband’s employer wouldn’t pay for it.  They would cover any complications during birth, but not a normal birth.  Go figure.

So I did figure.  I figured out what I needed from the hospital to experience a safe, econo-birth, and what I wouldn’t need.  I was employed there at the time, so I took a little trip to the labor and delivery floor, and put in my order ahead of time.  An epidural would cost over $800 out of pocket, so I didn’t check that box.

Then, in the throes of the prolonged final stage, I remembered that, just over three years ago, I swore I was NEVER going to do this again and why. I kind of forgot that I made that promise to myself.  That memory came roaring back crystal-clear at that moment, but alas, it was a little too late.

Recalling that the epidural would cost over $800 helped me get through.  I traded  delayed pain in our bank account for the immediate pain, and I made it—again.

In the end, it was all worth it—again.

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My first reproduction at two months,

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and his little brother’s arrival.

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My swheat firstborn with my dad in the combine at harvest.

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And my second.  Whenever I need a laugh or a pick-me-up, this picture does it for me.

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My boys have grown up.

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When I am visiting with a woman who is preparing for childbirth for the first time, I smile to her, and smile even bigger inside.  I know the journey she is embarking upon, and it will be unlike anything she has ever experienced.  It will be likely be exponentially more painful than anything she could imagine, and it will likely be more incredible and beautiful than anything she could image.

Knowing there are no words to describe it, I smile warmly, wink at her, and tell her, “It’s a walk in the park.”

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I didn’t give birth to him, and he didn’t fall out of the sky into my arms, but my stepson Matt has been a gift from Above for me.  I married his dad when he was eight years old, and he has always been a part of our family.

He is holding our firstborn,

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going through the rite of passage into adulthood,

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and now with his own reproductions.

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They live in Wichita now, not even 100 miles away–closer than ever before.  We are thrilled.

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My siblings and I grew up with one cousin.  He lived in Wichita with my mother’s older sister and her husband.  He, too, like my aunt and his dad, was blind.  My mother’s two younger sisters were considerably younger, and didn’t have children until we were adults ourselves.

I remember being jealous of my childhood friends who would talk about the fun they had with their cousins.  We didn’t have cousins that we got to hang out with on a regular basis.  I never forgot the feeling that we missed out on something great; this cousin thing.

I am so thankful that my children have cousins their ages they got to grow up with, and hang out with.  We always took whatever opportunities we had to get together as adult siblings, which meant our children got to hang out with their cousins too.  Gail and Suzanne sent me pictures of our children together, and I found a few myself.

There were many others with our brothers’ children as well, but it was hard enough to narrow the field down to a few with these:

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We are the women we are, as well as the sisters we are to each other–in part –because of our children.  They have taken us on a journey; a trip to a place far more beautiful than Hawaii.  We had one of the best examples of motherhood to follow with our mother, and for that, we are forever grateful.

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Mom taught me all I know about motherhood.   She made it look so easy.

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Thank you, Mom. After childbirth, it is mostly a walk in the park. 

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Mom with Julia, the birthday girl.

 

 

 

 

 

NOT HER TYPE

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NOT HER TYPE

Actress Mary Tyler Moore.  Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, Jr.  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  Author Anne Rice.  Baseball great Jackie Robinson.  Pop singer Nick Jonas.  Actress Halle Berry.  Rocker Bret Michaels.  Gail’s daughter Lydia. 

The answer is:  They all have/had Type One diabetes.

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I am guilty too.  I worked in the medical field for twenty-plus years, and I didn’t know the difference.  That is, until I had a patient who had Type One.

I knew there was Type One and Type Two, but I really didn’t know the difference; didn’t pay attention.  It wasn’t important to me.

I learned a lot from “Thomas.”  I learned it can be a matter of life or death.  I learned that even small amounts of things like ketchup must be counted into one’s daily carbohydrate count.  I learned it is not an easy road to be on, and it is a lifetime road.

Most importantly, I learned that unlike most Type Two cases, it could not have been prevented through diet and lifestyle choices.  His body simply turned on him.

I felt for Thomas, I still do.  I wonder from time-to-time how he is doing; he had had a stroke in his mid-fifties, and was forced to leave the job he loved.  I still wish him the best on this doubly hard road he is on.

On October 16th of last year, Gail’s 17 year-old daughter Lydia was handed this diagnosis.  I quickly recalled the difference between Type One and Type Two.  She quickly learned it.

And I am paying even closer attention to the difference now.  It is even more important to me now.

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Lydia hadn’t been feeling well for some time.  She complained of feeling vaguely ill, tired and lethargic.  Also, her appetite increased so she ate more, but at the same time she was losing weight.   She then began to suddenly experience extreme thirst, and frequent urination.  Then, her eyesight began to suffer.  Her local physician diagnosed it, and immediately sent her to a pediatric endocrinologist in Denver, some 3 ½ hours from their home in western Kansas.  His medical expertise and dedication to her health began the quick, but lifelong change in Lydia’s lifestyle habits of food and liquid intake.  Gail has taken her back three times since then, and is scheduled to return every three months.

Depending upon her daily carbohydrate intake, her daily routine now consists of finger pricks at least four times daily, and up to four injections of insulin into either her leg, arm, or stomach.  She, and every other person with Type One diabetes, aims for a blood sugar level of 100, with a range of around 70 to 150 considered acceptable.

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This will be done every day for the rest of her life.   The future may hold a pump for her, which is what some people with Type One diabetes use instead of regular injections.

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Because I didn’t know a lot about diabetes, I may have been one of those who tried to offer people well-meant encouragement toward a brighter future, one that may include “recovery” from this disease by watching their diet; changing their lifestyle.  Because I didn’t understand the difference.

Which is why some people have tried to offer the same advice to Lydia.

On one of her first visits, Lydia’s endocrinologist offered her two pages of inspiration, two pages that opened my eyes to the realities, the misconceptions and the management of Type One diabetes.  Following are excerpts from those two pages.  No author was named.

“No one ‘causes’ Type One diabetes to occur.  It’s usually an autoimmune process that might have been slowly going on for years within the pancreas.  The pancreas cannot produce a sufficient amount of insulin to meet the patient’s metabolic needs.  Then, and only then, will blood sugar levels rise outside the normal range.  And it’s only then when the classic signs and symptoms of diabetes happen:  increased thirst, increased urination and maybe weight loss…The patient is not ‘broken’ by this condition.  They can and should do all the things they did before, and strive to fulfill whatever plans they had already set for themselves.  Diabetes should not be an obstacle to this, unless it is placed there by the patient, family or a health care provider.  Since the child is not broken, there is no reason to have pity.  While the diagnosis is unfortunate, it is not to be used to diminish the person.  It is a medical prejudice we just don’t need.  You will find plenty of pity served up your way for the less informed.  Let it roll off your back.  Don’t let any of it in.  It can be a poison…And in dealing with the less informed, I advise new patients to beware all the free advice and counsel from others.  Some of it may be helpful, at the outset it’s best to verify any diabetes statements you hear or read with your diabetes educator…just remember the average diabetes IQ of most Americans is quite poor…never use the words ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in the same sentence with a blood sugar value.  Blood sugar levels are not measures of morality.  They are simply measures of the amount of glucose dissolved in a small sample of capillary blood from the fingertip at a given instant in time…The path to living well with diabetes is full of detours, potholes, narrow roads, false idols and at times open highways with no speed limits whatsoever.  It’s just life.  Don’t give it any more dominance over you than it deserves.  Respect it, then master it.  Make it work for you.  Stay one step ahead of it as much as you can.  It is then you will have learned the secret to living well with diabetes.

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Insulin:  a hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose in the blood.   Glucose is transported through the bloodstream and used to provide energy for every function of your body.  Glucose is to your body what gasoline is to your car. 

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Lydia didn’t create this problem through poor lifestyle choices.  Her body’s immune system mistook the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas as invaders, and wiped them out.  Now, she must replace these cells daily through doses of insulin self-administered with shots.   The amounts are determined by her blood sugar levels she reads after she pricks her finger multiple times a day.  It is important to remember that Lydia, like many Type One diabetics, doesn’t feel as well overall as she once did.  Mornings are especially difficult for her, because the overnight hours can throw her blood sugar off-balance, and she simply doesn’t feel well.

Imagine having to pump your own heart, or to have to tell yourself to breathe in and out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365…forever.    Some people with Type One diabetes have likened it to that.  When your pancreas doesn’t secrete insulin, your body cannot control blood sugar levels, and your body cannot live forever like that…

Type One diabetes is known as an autoimmune disease, whereby the immune system of the body doesn’t recognize its own good cells, and attacks them as invaders.  Other autoimmune diseases include lupus, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as a long list of others.

 

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Let’s cover some ugly, but necessary facts about Type One diabetes:  All information is taken from WebMD and/or JDRF.com.

*It was formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes, because its onset is typically in childhood.

*Symptoms usually start in childhood or young adulthood; the average age of onset at 14.

*Type One accounts for 5-10% of all diabetes diagnoses in the United States.

*1.25 million Americans are living with Type One Diabetes, including 200,000 people under the age of 20, and more than one million adults over age 20. 

*By 2050, 5 million people in the United States are expected to have Type One Diabetes, with 600,000 cases in people under age 20.

*Between 2001 and 2009, there was a 21% increase in the prevalence (existing cases) in people under age 20.3 years of age. 

*Research is ongoing, but there currently is no cure.  It cannot be prevented.

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In contrast, Type Two diabetes can typically be prevented or delayed with a healthy lifestyle, including eating sensibly, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.  There may be no symptoms before diagnosis.  It is typically discovered in adulthood, but increasing numbers of children are being diagnosed with Type Two diabetes.  Insulin is typically produced, but it is either not enough, or the body doesn’t recognize it and use it properly.

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In her usual take-charge style, Gail stared down this diagnosis along with her daughter, sending it their message:  “You’re not the boss of me.”

And it’s not.

Lydia has continued down this new road, the road she didn’t want to take, the road she will take for the rest of her life.  But she is doing it with grace and style, even when her blood sugar isn’t quite on the mark, and she doesn’t feel great.   In her last visit to her endocrinologist, her reports were stellar, which means she is figuring out how this thing works.

Her mother’s sense of humor is a boost to any one struggling through any tough times, but having Gail for a mother during these challenges is truly a gift.  Gail has also had to be her cheerleader on the tougher days, as well as her coach.  She makes her get out there and play the game of life, even when she doesn’t feel up to it because of the diabetes.

People have asked Gail how Lydia is handling her new diagnosis.  Often, she replies that Lydia is handling it better than she is, because it is so hard to see your child not be as healthy as they once were, and as a mother, you always want to fix things for your child.

Gail purchased this shirt for her daughter:

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We know the value of laughter during tough times.

Suzanne, with her trademark sense of humor—as well as her now-absent thyroid, also faces a lifetime of treatment.

“It’s okay,” she told Lydia. “Only the REALLY cool girls get to see endocrinologists.”

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Every day I work with illness, injuries and diseases as a speech therapist.  In one second, someone’s life can change forever with a stroke or a head injury.

Unbeknownst to her, Lydia’s life was slowly changing long before she knew it.  Her pancreas was slowly shutting down its production of insulin before diabetes made itself known.  In that one second the diagnosis was delivered, her life changed.

When I see people in the aftermath of perhaps their one tragic second, or as they try to navigate their way through a new life they didn’t sign up for–the new road they must take, there is one element of progress and peace-making with this new life that I realize more and more as I practice is crucial:  optimism.

I don’t see gains made when the patient has given up and given in, resigning to their new diagnosis and letting it rule their lives.

Real progress simply doesn’t happen with negativity.  A positive attitude is non-negotiable for leading a fulfilling life when that life doesn’t look like it once did.

With her mom’s and her dad’s help—as well as the rest of her family, and all of us too, Lydia will continue to lead the fulfilling life she always has.

Type One diabetes didn’t keep any of the incredible people in the list at the beginning of this post from following their dreams and achieving great things.

Nor will it stop Lydia.

SHE CAN DO IT!  SHE IS DOING IT!

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As a new student in the diabetes classroom, I am learning.  In the interest of keeping this blog short, there was much more information that could have been included, but wasn’t.  I wanted to provide information to allow others who may have not known the distinctions between Type One and Type Two diabetes, just like I didn’t not long ago.  I wanted to share the inspiration that Lydia and Gail are demonstrating for anyone else who struggles.

Unfortunately, I know that at least a few readers will find this information all too familiar, because they, or a loved one struggles with Type One diabetes already.  You all have been experts at this for a long time, and I have only finished Diabetes 101.  If I have misrepresented any information, please let me know.

 

This post is dedicated to Lydia, and anyone else who struggle with Type One diabetes as a  child or  an adult. 

 

 

 

 

 

WEATHER GIRLS

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WEATHER GIRLS

“The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.”   Jimmy Buffett

Let’s talk about the weather.  That sounds simple enough.  Except with Gail and Suzanne, it’s not that simple, not just a casual conversation starter.  Weather is serious business for them, at least, certain kinds.

I posted previously that both Gail and Suzanne love the wind.  I loathe the wind.  Call them crazy.  Go ahead—I did.  The wind makes me want to pack up and leave my home state; my home.  My husband threatens to challenge them to carry a large sheet of plywood or a roof panel in the wind.  Then tell us how much you love the wind.   He does love my sisters, but on windy days, that love is challenged.

There was a time in our younger lives when our family’s livelihood—not our lives, though—depended upon the weather.  Growing up on a farm, we realized that Mother Nature heavily dictated our family’s annual bounty—or relative lack thereof.

Now, it is a factor that is considered heavily for our quality of life, no longer our livelihood.

It can still dictate the livelihoods of our two farming brothers.  Droughts, floods, high winds, hail and tornadoes can, and sometimes do decimate a crop.  Their day-to-day operations are dictated by the weather as well.

Our brother David makes his living in the air, and is responsible for his, and 100-plus souls.   As the captain, he has to decide if the weather should let them go up, keep them up, stay on the ground or go around it after going up.

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His son Nick is a newly minted atmospheric scientist.  It didn’t surprise any of us that he took after his dad in his vigilant watch on the weather.

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We are proud to claim a resident meteorologist in our family.

Other than exercising extra caution while driving, the weather really doesn’t affect the livelihoods of the girls of The Sister Lode.  Sometimes, like in the last few weeks however, I had a blessed, glorious Snow Day.  I am not willing to drive from my rural home–typically 30-plus miles–when the conditions are dangerous.  My work is not that important.

You would think the weather determines Gail and Suzanne’s lives, livelihoods, happiness, and general existence.  They are a little over the top in their love for certain conditions that most of us find unfavorable.

Perhaps it was Gail’s initiation into this world, those first six weeks I mentioned in last week’s post that were spent snowed in with Mom, Dad and our oldest brother.  Perhaps that is why she so loves snowstorms now.

To her heart’s delight, she got a good one last weekend.  The one that kept her from joining Suzanne and me for Mom’s birthday shopping trip.

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Suzanne loves storms in general, and speaks of her disappointment when the weather forecast for strong storms doesn’t deliver.  I must add I feel that too.  I do love a good thunderstorm.

Gail fondly refers to strong winds and/or tornadoes as “wind events.”  A local friend lost several structures to a tornado, and she coined that term.  Gail latched on to it.

If you know Gail, you won’t be surprised by her contribution here—and I quote:

“There is nothing you can do to change it outside of moving, so embrace it.  And I would like to add ‘quit your bitching.’  There are a lot of things worse than the weather.  Be glad you have sight to see and ears to hear the weather.”

If you don’t know Gail, let’s just say you usually know how she feels about an issue.    And that’s all good.  I look up to her for many reasons; her ability to express herself assertively is one of them.

Suzanne, in her trademark short-and-sweet style gives this simple advice:

“Get over it.”

I proposed this question to both of them:  “If you had to live with one set of weather conditions every day for the rest of your life, what would they be?”

Suzanne: “Eighty degrees, cloudy, windy.  You can’t get it windy enough for me.  No sun.  I’m kind of like a vampire.”

Gail:  “Eighty-five degrees, hot, full sun, heavy breeze. You can interpret heavy breeze however you like.”  Keep in mind she loves wind.  As a matter of fact, she thinks the term gale force winds should be changed to Gail force winds.

And from me:  One hundred degrees, full sun, and a light breeze.

Call me crazy.  I know you want to.  But you have to call them crazy as well.

I must add that on the most windy of our windy days, I want to give it all up and move away.  It has the opposite effect on me.  I simply hate the wind.  I have realized I must simply let them have their love of the wind, no matter how much I hate it.  I struggle as I write and that’s okay.  

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Twenty degrees.  Sunshine.  No wind.  These are my favorite weather conditions for my morning run.  Such were the conditions this morning when I conceived the idea for this post.  I realized how good I feel not only when I run, but how much the weather affects its quality.    I also feel my mind running, reeling, loosed in a field of possibilities for words on paper.  When I get home, I often jot down a few ideas that came to me because I know from experience if I don’t, they will be gone.  Sometimes it is an exact string of words, a complete sentence that I must dictate repeatedly to myself as I run home in order to preserve it.  Sometimes, it is simply a vague idea.  Today, it was this idea.

On Monday, Mom’s birthday, I ran into blinding snow for a few minutes.  I knew I would round a curve soon behind the trees and have the snow blowing at my side instead of in my face.  I knew I would be fine for a bit if I sucked it up and let it hit me, so I did.  I have done it before.

If there’s no ice, and it’s above ten degrees, I try to get out to run.  Preferably with the wind at my side or my back.  I needed this run today, more than most days.

I missed Mom more that day.  I wanted her here to celebrate with me, even though I knew in my heart of hearts that she was much happier where she was now, and probably wouldn’t come back, even if she could.  I had a great day with Suzanne on our shopping trip for her the day before.  We had a great three-way speaker-phone call with Gail on the way home.  We had been through this day eight times without her already.  Still, I wanted her here.

I finished my run; the snow relenting to a flurry.  I was glad to get out and run through these blues in the gray weather.  I felt better, but the weather stayed gray.  I wanted blue skies, but gray they stayed.

So I stayed a little gray too.

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I am solar-powered.  I have come to realize this, and I am trying to make peace with it on the cold and overwhelmingly gray January days like Monday.  Mercifully, they typically relent quickly, and within a few days, I can tolerate the January weather once again.  Just three days after those gray skies prevailed after the mini-blizzard, we tied our record high in my small city at 67 degrees.

On our way home from our shopping trip last Sunday—at 57 degrees, we saw one of these:

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Suzanne and I, having recently been there and longing to go back, know the weather there.

At that moment, the blizzard was raging at Gail’s house.

“Imagine you are the people in that car from Florida,” Suzanne said, “and you keep driving a few more hours west, and you go from this to a blizzard.”

Such is our bipolar Kansas weather.

The best birthday gift I get every year in April is from Mother Nature, who typically has the trees hung with green, and a bed of fresh, green grass laid just in time.  She has only forgotten my birthday a few times, and the gift shows up a little late.

I love green, which is why I keep it alive in my home year round:

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I learned this from Mom and Gail.  I remember a house full of plants as I grew up, and Gail always had her home green inside too, ever since I can remember.   She still does.

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Gail bequeathed this behemoth plant to me after she closed her donut shop.  She didn’t have space for it in her house.  It seems to like it by my window.

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The dull, lifeless brown outside is made slightly more bearable by houseplants.  Suzanne claims no talent at keeping plants alive indoors, so she doesn’t try.

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The recent weather has me thinking about my absolute favorite weather.  Prior to this last blast, I had decided I loved the frigid cold.  As I age, I realize I like the extremes more.  Extremes like zero degrees.  At least, I thought I did.

Who was I kidding.

I have never wavered on the other extreme.  100 degrees is still my favorite.  I would take it any day, and the zero temps had me longing for it.

My husband Mark told me the story of a spring/summer building project he supervised for a government agency a few years ago.  It was managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the engineer for this project was from Maryland. When it became windy, this engineer produced his anemometer, a tool for measuring wind speed in MPH.  According to his interpretation, any wind speed past 22 MPH was ruled too fast for safety, and the project would have to wait until the wind receded.  Any equipment that was in the air—such as a telescoping lift—could not be used.  Mark quickly showed him the government-issued OSHA regulations posted right on the lift that allowed use with wind speeds up to 40 MPH.  Further, in the most functional illustration, Mark quickly let him know that he would be happy to stay home—with pay—on these windy days, and the project may eventually get done in the next few years, instead of the next few months.

The show went on, and the anemometer was never seen again.

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Apparently there is a weather-related Bermuda triangle in western Kansas.

Mark told me another story about a trip home from his grandparents on Christmas day when he was about ten years old, not far from where Gail now lives.

The snow was so heavy, Dad had to open the car door to check to lines on the highway every few minutes to make sure he was still driving between them.”

Suzanne and I were recalling a trip very close to that same place we took several years ago.  We were traveling west to meet Gail in early March for our annual Colorado trip.  There was no prediction that we knew of, but we encountered a freak, brief mini-blizzard about an hour from Gail’s house.  The snow became heavy, deep and slushy, as the temperature hovered just below 32 degrees.  We struggled to see the road ahead (we didn’t have to open the door to see the lines, though).  We called Gail, and she didn’t believe us because the sun was shining there.

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“Every winter has the sun within its heart.”

I put Steve Winwood on as I sat down to wrap this post up; anticipating his show in my small city just five weeks from tonight.  These lyrics jumped out at me.

Today, the predicted high was 46 degrees with sun.  “I can live with that,” I thought.  Hoping it would be true, I hung my laundry out this morning.  So far, it hasn’t climbed much above freezing, and as I write, I see the sun trying to poke out to tease me, because now it is gone again.

The coldest, cruelest winter days always bring hope.  I have survived 50 Kansas winters—I spent one in Pennsylvania–and I will survive more as long as I am here.  This is home, and I have made peace with it—most days.  Spring springs with green and hope, and I always find myself in a higher place when that happens.

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It’s not too early to start Christmas shopping for those perfect gifts that I always find for Suzanne and Gail.  Perhaps this year it will be an anemometer.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!

Mom never missed a birthday for any of her seven children.  That was 296 birthdays, if my math is right.  When we were grown, she would send a card or call, or both.   In our younger years at home, she always made sure to observe the birthday with a cake and a small celebration.  We always got at least one small gift when we were kids.  We each got to host one large party when we turned ten.

She not only never forgot our birthdays, she could tell you what time of day each of us was born, our weight, and our head circumference.  Whenever possible, she would call at the exact birth minute.

I gave birth only twice, and I think I can remember the exact minute of their births; I remember the hours at least.  I’ve got their birth weights committed to memory.  I have no idea what their head circumferences were.

Suzanne just informed me during this writing that she could remember our actual due dates as well, and when we started walking.  Gail added that she remembered our chest circumferences, too.

The least we can do is remember her birthday.

And we still do.

When Suzanne lived in Osborne near them, she would take Mom on a shopping trip every year; Gail and I would come when we could.  On her last birthday in 2008, Suzanne and I took her to Grand Island (A Grand Overnight Island Getaway, December 10th). That year—as usual—we went to TJMaxx.  Mom helped me pick out a new purse.  It would come to signify the last excursion I took with Mom.

The next year when her birthday rolled around, I found myself recalling bittersweet memories of that last birthday trip.  I decided to chuck work for the day and take a shopping trip in her honor.  Every year since then, I have done the same on or near her birthday.  Sometimes, Gail and Suzanne go, sometimes I go alone.  Always, I go to TJMaxx.  Always, I buy a new purse there in her honor.

On Sunday, January 21st, Suzanne and I will be shopping a day early in her honor.  Gail is hunkering down for another western Kansas blizzard as I write, and cannot make the trip.  We will have another celebration in her honor in just six weeks in Colorado.

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My heart is heavy this week with the news of the 13 siblings from California who were found malnourished, tortured and hidden away in their home.  I cannot shake the reality of this incomprehensible situation; cannot wrap my mind around it.  How could two parents be so horribly abusive to their children?  How could they continue to reproduce?  How could they be surprised when they were arrested, as if they did nothing wrong? How is this fair?  (It’s not.)  How?

How, I must also ask, were we so blessed to have two incredible parents?  How else can I give thanks for what we had?

Mom saw to that in Peace, Sister (July 16th).  If we can share the peace they left us with the worlds each of us live and interact in, that would be the best birthday gift we could give her every day, not just for her birthday.

We are all connected, all of us.  Even to those 13 children.  We are all in this together, and any good deed—large or small—creates a ripple.  I try to do what I can to create good ripples, and create them often.  That was Mom’s last wish.   But that’s hard.  Most days, I fail miserably.  It’s easier to do what I want, to do what benefits me first.  I fight this every day.  But Mom’s wish is a good reminder, so I keep trying.

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Mom lost her mother to leukemia when she was just eight.  Her older sister Jeanne was blind, and was away at the Kansas School for the Blind in Kansas City during the school year.  Our grandpa, along with help from his mother and other relatives helped to raise Mom and Jeanne.  Having only eight years with her own mother had to be heartbreaking for Mom, but she obviously had a strong seed planted within her from this short time to teach her how to be the incredible mother she was.  With the other positive maternal influences from her grandmother and aunts from that point on, Mom was given a gift of incredible motherly love, even if it wasn’t from her own mother.  When Mom was 12, her dad remarried and Mom gained a wonderful stepmother, who  eventually became our grandmother.  She was the only grandmother we ever knew, because Dad’s mother died when he was eight as well.  His dad didn’t remarry.  Mom soon got two more sisters from this union, something she was so excited about.  Having a mother again, as well as two more sisters was something she so longed for, and she got it.

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Mom never liked to have her picture taken, but somehow I think she wouldn’t mind me sharing these pictures from her youth.

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The picture below is one of the few I found of her with her older sister and their mother.

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She wouldn’t have approved of me sharing this next picture if she were here, but, again, I think she is okay with it now.

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Our sisterly consensus is that it was taken on her 70th birthday.  She would celebrate her 71st birthday, and be gone six weeks later.

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Mom’s birthday is an important landmark in my writing endeavors.  When I was limping along in my struggle to write my  book, I realized I needed a deadline, a self-imposed limit to my tendency to slack.  I decided Mom’s birthday would be the perfect target, and I let her know that.  I gave myself one year to finish writing, get it self-published and get it out.  I told her on her last birthday that I would have it finished by her next birthday, and I meant it.  I got busy writing.

Six weeks later, both Mom and Dad were gone.  My heart was shattered, and I was sure I would never be able to write again.  Then, I remembered my promise to Mom.  I had no choice but to move forward.  I would miss her birthday deadline the next year and take more time to eventually finish the book, but I did finish it.  I know she understood.  Without her birthday deadline, I may have let it go.

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A birthday is a celebration of the fact that that someone arrived in the world, was sent to fill the space created for them.  It is an annual observation this arrival, and the fact that we have made it a better place (hopefully).

Our mother certainly did.

On Monday, January 22nd, we will celebrate her arrival here, the space she filled and all the ways she made the world a better place. She is gone from this plane, but she is still with us in so many ways.  She wanted us to know this, and to never forget it.   She would have been 81 years old.

I have spoken of The Letter she left us in previous posts, and I while it is a private family treasure, I want to share the last line, one sentence that continues to comfort all of us:

“Please don’t think I have left you, I am still very much with you.”

We are still very much with you too, Mom.

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When Gail was born in February 1960, there was a massive snowstorm that socked Mom, Dad, Gary and Gail in for six weeks.  They lived west of our family farm, deeper in a hilly area that couldn’t be reached due to the snow.  Gail said Mom spoke of how she treasured this precious time together as mother and new baby.  Now, the irony is that Gail is getting snowed in and can’t make it for Mom’s birthday/shopping party with Suzanne and me this year.

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Just got home from the birthday celebration.  I think I am going to love my new purse.

Happy Birthday Mom.  The world is a better place because you were in it.

 

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

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WASTE NOT, WANT NOT

I would be thrilled to host you as a guest in my home.  If you do come, however, I must make one thing abundantly clear:  If you feel the need to use a paper towel in my kitchen, PLEASE use only one. And please make sure you tear off the smallest pre-sectioned section possible.

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Paper towels are not to be wasted on frivolous purposes such as simply wiping your hands dry after you wash them.  That’s what the kitchen towel is right there for.  The paper towels are for things like wiping grease off the floor, or wiping the dead fly off the counter that you just swatted.  And for the love of Pete and all things reusable, if you feel you must dry them with a paper towel, say if there is greasy residue or the possibility of contagion or contamination on your hands, then it is allowed.  Otherwise, use the towel.

This is what we learned as kids.  Not overtly, not dictated word-for-word, but slowly, methodically over a period of years.  We all learned that paper towels are expensive, and should not be used unless absolutely necessary.  Thus, I have stocked up on them, but only the brand that comes apart in small sheets, and only purchased when they were on sale.

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Gail and Suzanne have confirmed the same feelings, and the same policy in their homes.  Feel free to visit them as well, but expect the same rules about paper towels.

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We grew up in a farming family with seven children.  Nine mouths to feed, nine bodies to clothe, and nine people to shelter.  Our farmhouse was small and old, but big enough.  It was always full of love.

We always had enough of everything else, too.  Enough, but not much extra.  Thus, the need to conserve, economize and save.  We practiced the most original form of reduce, reuse and recycle before we even knew what we were doing; before it was cool.  It was out of necessity, and never questioned.

Laundry for nine people seemed to be a full-time job for Mom.  Some of my most vivid memories of her were in the laundry room for hours on end.  Sorting, washing, drying, sorting, folding and putting away.

Drying was an outdoor affair whenever possible.  The dryer produces heat, thus requiring more energy.    Whenever possible, the clothesline was the dryer.

Gail and I have faithfully carried on the clothesline tradition—even in the winter.  Wednesday, in the 60 degree January heat, this was the scene on my back porch:

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The very next day, this was the scene outside.

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Therefore, this was the scene in my basement.  Welcome to our fickle Kansas weather.

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Gail had a similar scene in her home:

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Her plants love the humidity from the damp clothes, she says.  I think the humans do too; the laundry acts as a humidifier in the dry winter weather as it dries.

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And the socks–she shudders at the idea of her college-age son drying his socks in the dryer all the way when he does laundry in the dorm, and so do I, now that she brought that to my attention regarding my son.  That, as we should all know, weakens the elastic, thus reducing the longevity of the sock.

WASTE NOT.

My husband built our house, and when we moved in 21 years ago on March 1st, I said, “just string me up a temporary clothesline on the back porch.  When the weather gets warmer, you can put one up in the backyard.”  I changed my mind.  It is now known as our redneck clothesline, because I hang our clothes on the porch.  It was just too easy to step out the back door, hang them up and call it good.  And, by the way, I am proud to call myself a redneck.  Its origin is the fact that hard work in the sunshine may create a sunburned/suntanned neck.

When Gail and her husband moved into their home as newlyweds, she issued an ultimatum:  Either replace that rinky-dink umbrella clothesline in the backyard with a REAL one, or else…He quickly complied, she reported.  

I do use my dryer when I cannot hang clothes out, but not to fully dry each load.  Call me crazy, but I use it as little as possible.  I may give each load a bit of a whirl to minimize wrinkles, but then I hang them on the bar stools, or wherever they will go.  I even purchased a deluxe drying rack, which probably hasn’t paid for itself yet, but it will in time.  It’s the principle.

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Gail will concur; she, too hangs out laundry whenever she can.  Suzanne, however, is not the clothesline enthusiast we are.  And that’s okay.

When Suzanne’s daughter was about three, they visited and stayed over.  They did a load of laundry, and used the dryer.  This was in April.  In October, when I used the dryer again, I found a pair of her daughter’s pants.

Mystery solved, but she had likely grown out of them by then.

Speaking of appliances that generate heat—and are thus more expensive to run—I baked a turkey breast for dinner tonight on this cold, snowy day.  When I took it out, I turned off the oven and opened the door a bit to let the heat out, hopefully to give our heater a miniscule boost.  Every time I do, I hear Mom’s voice: “We’ve already paid for it.  We might as well use the heat.”    So we do.

Gail attended a baby shower yesterday, and when the guest of honor stacked up all the gift bags and proceeded to the trashcan with them, Gail swooped in, saving them from a certain, wasteful death.  She told me today she even saves the tissue paper, giving it the royal steam treatment to make it wrinkle free for its next incarnation.  If she doesn’t use the bags or the paper, she will pass them on to someone who will.

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She’s brilliant and frugal.

I took my boots off–one of several pair of perfectly-fitting winter-weather boots I now own–this evening after a long, cold, busy Friday, and smiled at my own handiwork:  the sloppy, yet effective mending job I had performed on each sock around the big toe was still holding, and here’s my secret:

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Socks were not to be simply thrown away when they became holey.  Oh, no no, they were to be mended.  Mom taught us to simply insert the lightbulb, push it down to the toes—or the heels, wherever the hole was—and use the hard surface of the bulb to make the stitching easier.

In my continued efforts to purge, however, I must confess I actually threw away an otherwise perfectly good pair of black knee socks several weeks ago.  The guilty pleasure was worth it, but I have another pair I plan to mend with the bulb.  I can’t let myself waste more than one pair.

Speaking of footwear, my husband delights in retelling the story of his childhood that lacked overshoes.  They, too, were frugal out of necessity, and snow boots were a luxury.  They simply saved plastic bread sacks, slipped them over their shoes, secured them around their ankles with a rubber band, and it worked.  It had to.  There were four kids to feed, clothe, shelter and shoe in their home.

I sent a draft of this to Gail and Suzanne, and they reminded me that our family did that, too. It seems there were never enough snow boots/overshoes to go around, so whichever kid(s) had a pair that fit,  they wore them.  The other kids wore bread sacks.  Suzanne claims that she remembers me always fitting perfectly–Cinderella-like–into one of the more deluxe pair of boots.  Perhaps that’s why I don’t remember the bread sacks.

***********

Given these reports of my wasting not, I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was to find this utensil:

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It is a miniature spatula that gets up inside the neck of a condiment bottle to scrape it out, as well as deep inside to scrape the edges, thus leaving no ketchup/mayonnaise/mustard behind.

When I spent the summers with Tana and Amy (Swheat Girls, July 9th), they would ridicule my efforts at scraping a condiment container clean. It’s empty–just throw it away!”  I can still hear them saying this all those summers ago.  Much later, when they were on their own and realized the importance of wasting not, they both acknowledged they now realized the importance of scraping the jar clean.

*************

Recycling as we know it now wasn’t in vogue when I was a kid, but we had our own ways of taking care of business on the farm.  Whatever would burn was burned, and the rest was taken to our own personal landfill not far from the house.  There was no such thing as trash service on the farm.  Table scraps—there weren’t many besides bones–were fed to the cats and dogs.  We ate whatever we could; clean your plate was the spoken and unspoken rule for every meal.  We weren’t allowed to be picky eaters; no such thing at a table for nine.  And whatever is left over needs to be eaten at another meal before it spoils. Knowing full well that some of the food on my plate now would look  better in the trash than on my thighs, I still struggle to leave anything there.  If I took it, I’d better eat it.

WASTE NOT.

In the last twenty years or so, I have become very faithful about recycling what I can.  Plastic, glass, newspapers, cardboard, office papers and aluminum are never thrown away in my home now.

Until about a month ago, my small city had a wonderful, self-service, privately-owned recycling center.  In a cruel twist, it was closed.  I, and its other patrons were left wondering what our options were.

It is true that when God closes one door, he opens another—but the hallways are a bitch.  In the last month or so, I found myself in this hallway.  I couldn’t bring myself to throw away all these recyclable materials; that would be so wasteful, not to mention ecologically irresponsible.

I had heard through the grapevine that a nearby town—Abilene, my Someplace Special (September 10th), and the town I work in almost every day, has a fabulous recycling center operated by the city.    I was going there anyway, so it was a no-brainer.  I loaded up my car like I always did, but took it a bit further down the road.  This door that opened was even better than the one that closed:  It is a drive-through;  no need to get out of the car because it is full service.

WASTE NOT.

If, like me, you live close to Abilene, please consider taking a little trip over there with your recyclables.  There are many restaurants and shops in Abilene too, and of course, the Eisenhower Museum.  Make it an excursion.  You won’t regret it, and I would be happy to give you advice on all the wonderful places to visit.

*************

Mom’s kitchen frugality was not limited to paper towels.  Aluminum foil was wiped down and reused, and plastic storage bags were washed out and reused as well.  While I am not as hell-bent on reusing plastic bags as I am limiting paper towels, I do wash and reuse them sometimes.    I rarely reuse aluminum foil.  Shame on me.

Suzanne tells me she is faithful to Mom’s policy of reusing both foil and plastic bags.

The paradox here and now is this:  I can afford to use multiple paper towels.  I can afford to throw away a pair of socks.  I can afford to buy all the Zip-lock bags my heart desires.  But the need for frugality in these particular areas is so deeply ingrained in me, that I likely never will.

And that, my friends, is not a bad thing.

Other things, perhaps, may need to be revisited.  Many of us who grew up with little extra learned—out of necessity—the value of hard work, and a lot of it.  This, too, is a good thing.

Until it’s not.

Many of us no longer work to survive, although most of us have been at that point in our lives at one time.  Many of us work for more than the necessities:  we work to pay for our lifestyle choices, myself included.  Many of us keep working more and more to pay for what amounts to less and less.  Again, sometimes this is a necessity.  It is up to you to decide, in your personal/financial life, if it is.  It is up to you to decide if the time you are spending at work is time well spent, or time that could be spent better.   Recall that the standard eight hour workday is a product of the Industrial Revolution.  We are well into the Information Age, which doesn’t always require three eight-hour shifts.  Perhaps it is perfect for you, perhaps even more than that is what you need.  Maybe it’s less.  Just think about it.

Money is a renewable commodity, time is not.  If we could bank time like we can bank money—with interest—we would all be rich.

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT.

Nobody puts their net worth, the hours they spent at work on their tombstone.  We’ve all heard that before.  We etch our loved ones, perhaps our hobbies or pets in stone to make a statement about who we were.  We don’t inscribe our possessions, nor can we take them with us.  As the legendary George Strait sings, “I ain’t never seen a hearse with a luggage rack.”

Just think about it.  I think about it, and I see how, perhaps I am talking out of both sides of my mouth.  I speak of getting rid of stuff, the beauty of purging.  I write about deciding if the hours I work, and the things I spend my money on are aligned with my values.  I see how hard it is for me, and probably for most of us.

Yet, as soon as I finish writing this, I am leaving to go to my small city to meet Suzanne at Marshall’s, one of my favorite shopping meccas.   Their semi-annual yellow-tag clearance is going on, and I want to go shopping; perhaps I want more stuff.

I want to WANT NOT, but I’m not there yet.  I am thinking about it, and thinking about what I need to change.   Awareness is the first step.  And with Suzanne, she will do her best to make me shop like a minimalist, just like she does.  At least I can say I am doing pretty good at WASTING NOT.

We welcome your comments about how you wasted not in your youth or adulthood, or both.  Perhaps more challenging than that, please let me know how you want not.

Oh, and if you need a gift idea for my April birthday, consider paper towels–you saw my favorite brand in the picture.   The toilet tissue was a great gift idea for Suzanne (Be Careful What You Wish For, August 13th), so I thought perhaps I would ask for paper towels.

SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO

 

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SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO

When my boys were perhaps ten and thirteen, I asked them what their favorite day of the week was.  Without hesitation or delay, they resoundingly answered:  “Friday.”

“But you are in school on Friday,” I replied.

My older son responded quickly:  “I know, but you know that you have the weekend ahead.”  Sullied already at this tender age.

We normally kept their intake of candy and soda to a minimum, which made them look forward to getting it.   So, in an effort to ease their Monday pain, I decided they would each be treated to a can of pop and a candy bar after school on Mondays.  For several years, this worked well.  I kept both on hand, and they loved it.  They tell me now it helped them get through Mondays.   I gave them something to look forward to.

***********

ADVISORY:  This post is heavy stuff, and not really funny.  I am writing about it only because it is something many of us share, but don’t share with each other.  I know the power of the group, and if I can make even a few of you feel a bit better by knowing you are not alone, then my work for the week will be done.

Oh, and there are few pictures.  Sorry, but you don’t really want to see pictures of most of this.  I promise I will do my best to bring you back up by the end.

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The post-holiday/dead-of-winter blues came calling last week.  These unwanted visitors found me, perhaps they found you, too.  They typically make their rounds this time of year, probably because they know the field is fertile, and the targets are easy to hit.  Quietly, in their sneaky fashion, they ambushed me.  I wasn’t prepared.  As the temperature outside hovered near zero, I felt my personal weather inside freeze over too.  I tumbled, slowly but surely, down into the abyss.

I have been down there before, so I recognized the terrain.   I hate it.

Their vague, dark presence shape-shifted slowly into a single creature, thus leveling the playing field to one-on-one.  This would be to my advantage in the end.

“Damn you!”  I said to the beast.  He had found me again.

Then, as suddenly as he accosted me, I made a snap decision, a choice:  “This doesn’t work for me.”   I decided to fight back.  I realized I was in control, not the other way around.  I wasn’t powerless, as I often think I am.  Neither might you be at times like these.

I’m sick of your crap,” I said to him.  “I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Then, the coup de grace, my death blow to him:  “You’re not the boss of me.”

And I got up.  I was still at the bottom of the pit, but I was standing up.  He threw his weight around, trying to hold me down, but I fought back.  I moved.  I pushed forward.  He pushed back.

I started to act.  Action begets action; this I knew, so I simply moved.

I vacuumed.

I put my laundry away.

I tidied up my room.

I was feeling better already.  I still felt his presence, but I was edging him out, and he wasn’t too happy about that.  He wanted the stage front and center, but I had effectively shoved him off to the side a bit.  I kept moving and doing.  I did things I enjoy doing.

I read a good book.

I did a few yoga stretches.

I got my colored pencils and color book out and filled in the black and white with color.

He was still lurking as I crawled back to the surface.  He was pissed because he knew I was winning the battle, and I would continue to win the war, too.

And I did.  He moved on, hanging his head low in defeat.

***********

There are times in life when it’s not that easy.  I have had long periods of time when I couldn’t shake the blues, or when I needed help beyond my own powers in order to pull through dark days.

About two weeks after my parents died, I took off out of my driveway for my daily run along the highway, but well into the grass on the side of the road.

My beloved doctor, the healer who had delivered my two babies and had cared for our family for over ten years, lived just past my rural home.  She drove by my house every day on her way to heal many other people.   On this day, she stopped.  Pulling over into the grass next to me, she got out of her car and, exercising her healing powers right there by the side of the road, gave me a hug.

I am so sorry,” she said in her genuine, heartfelt healing way.

“I’m okay,” I replied, as a tear fell from my eye.

She wiped it, and said, “No, you’re not.  I will do anything I can to help you.  I will write you a prescription if you need it to get through.  Anything at all, I will do what I can to help you.”

And then she got back in her car, apologizing for being in a hurry, but she had surgery to attend to.  She always found a moment to help, no matter how busy she was.

Perhaps I should have taken her up on that.  I saw her several months later for my annual physical, and after listening to my heart, she said, “It’s funny, you can’t hear a broken heart.”

I chose not to take any medication.  Sometimes I wonder if it would have helped me through those darkest of all my dark days.  It may have healed my broken heart a bit sooner.   It helps many people, and it may have helped me, too.

I kept running.  That was my drug; my solace. It still is.  As long as I can move, I plan to get out there every day and crush the blues; stomp on the demons when they call.  And they do call from time to time.  They do still win a few battles, but so far, I am winning the war.  They’re not the boss of me.

I did seek out a grief support group in the summer after my parents died in March.  I knew the power of the group, a group that has been there.  I attended one, and I realize I should have researched it a bit more, because it consisted mostly of elderly widows and widowers. I left feeling worse than when I arrived.  The prevailing mood of the group can be summed up in the comment made to me by one man:  “It’s been five years since my wife died, and it hasn’t gotten any better.  You just have to live with it.”

While I do believe firmly in the power of any organized support group, I realized there likely was not group specifically for middle-aged women who had recently lost both of their parents in an accident, so I resigned myself to the notion that my family and friends, and especially my sisters would be my best support group.

And they have been.

***********

There are skilled, knowledgeable and experienced professionals who can help turn even a locomotive around to a new destination, who can offer a new perspective on old problems, and generally can help get a train wreck back on the tracks.  I have sought out such help in the past, and I urge anyone who may feel the need to consider it.  I am a better woman for it.  Our mother used to say it was a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help.   We owe it to ourselves to use every tool in the shed we need to get through these tough times.

We all feel pain, and we all deal with it on our own terms.  I look up to Gail in so many ways, and her way of dealing with such pain works for her, but I needed more than my own powers.  She believes in the need for help, but provides her own.  Keeping busy, spinning all those plates in the air and reminding herself she is stronger than all of that crap is her way of moving forward.  I think the blues are scared of her, and they should be.  It would be a losing battle from the word GO.  So they stay away.

Perhaps they are learning that they shouldn’t mess with me, either.  They are learning I am cut from the same cloth as Gail.   I’m on to their sneaky ways, and that simply doesn’t work for me.  Perhaps Gail’s inspiration to beat the blues is finally reaching me.

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WHY I POST ON SUNDAY NIGHTS

This was the original title for this post.  I wanted to share my weekly blog on Sunday nights, which, to me, is the darkest of all evenings.  I have long fought the temporary blues that begin to settle in the late afternoon hours on Sunday, reminding me that the night is coming, followed by the hardest morning of the week.  At least, what I perceive as the hardest morning.

Except that Monday morning usually turns out just fine.  I realized I spend an entire evening dreading its arrival, making that evening worse than the following morning, effectively wasting a perfectly good evening.

I have learned I am not alone.  This seems to be the prevailing notion among those of us who work a standard work week.

During the four year period when I was between degrees, I led a gypsy-like lifestyle, holding several jobs in an effort to utilize my illustrious degree in sociology.  One of my many endeavors was waiting tables.  It turned out to be one of my favorite jobs of all time.  I typically worked Friday-Saturday-Sunday nights, and the manager kindly gave me Mondays off.  I loved Mondays then.  It didn’t take me long to welcome them after dreading them all my previous working years.

It didn’t take me long to return to the Monday morning dread when I returned to the standard workweek.

We seem to be programmed that way, so whatever we can do to undo that pattern is a good thing.  Which is why I chose Sunday evenings as my weekly post night.  Just as much for me as for you, dear reader, I hate to admit.  Of course, I wanted to offer some positivity for my readers, but committing myself to a weekly Sunday evening post gave me some purpose, a goal to achieve, and something to look forward to.

I cannot put into words my gratitude for the positive change I have felt on Sunday nights since I began this endeavor.  Your readership and feedback have made me look forward to Sunday nights now.  Some of you have mentioned that you look forward to Sunday nights to read my posts, and my heart swells to know I actually helped you through this evening, which many of you likely dread as well.

Our parents gave us so much wisdom, so much positive influence that should be shared.  I remember this advice from Mom:  “Always have something to look forward to.”

This advice has helped me beyond measure.  When I find myself battling the blues, I focus on something—anything—in my near future that will bring me any measure of joy—even something so slight as getting back to a good book before bed that night.  In these short, dark, cold days of winter, I especially need to have something on my calendar to anticipate, something to look forward to.  Throughout the year, too, I try to keep something planned, even if it is a movie night, or a lunch date.

Something to look forward to.

I have read that when planning a big trip, allow yourself plenty of time to plan, and especially to anticipate it.  Don’t deny yourself the joy of looking forward to it, because, if you think about it, that really is half the fun.  When the time arrives for the trip to commence, we all know how quickly it flies from there.

Which is precisely why Gail, Suzanne and I plan our trips twice each year, knowing full well how much fun the anticipation is, how much we enjoy looking forward to it.  As soon as we return from one trip, we begin to anticipate the next one.  It’s how we get through.

On March 4th of this year, our family will observe the ten year anniversary of our parents’ passing.   We have turned March Fourth into March Forth, and we will continue to do so.  Gail, Suzanne and I are planning our usual Colorado trip, plus a little something extra for the ten-year jubilee—we really are celebrating their lives, not mourning our loss—but we’re not sure just yet what it will be.  We likely won’t give any details ahead of time, and we may not even share the juicy details afterward.  These trips and our experiences on them are our secret, sacred shared bond.  We’ve earned it.

When we return home that Sunday night, March 4th, 2018, I will then attend an 8:00 pm concert with my husband and neighbors in my small city.  My mother knew how much I have always loved the classic English rock music of Steve Winwood, and she has arranged for him to play live for me—and several thousand other people—on that special night.

I have so much to look forward to.

************

I read this long before my parents died: psychologists theorize that if a person loses a loved one, given enough time, they will return to their former state of happiness or unhappiness.  They referred to it as a “fixed point,” meaning that after the fluctuation smoothes out, the dial goes back to where it was before the loss.

I wasn’t buying it.  No, not me.  I would have to be buried next to my loved one.  Throw in the towel; I would be done.

But I wasn’t done.  I moved on, we all did.  At that point, that is the only choice.  And now, almost ten years later, I can say that not only have I returned to that fixed point, I have blown past it.  It took precious time and effort, but here I am; here we all are.  Life is so good.

***********

My hometown lost a legend this week, an iconic figure who was a close friend of my parents, whose large family grew up with mine.  My heart breaks for them, but they are living the faith their father died in, and they, too, will return to that “fixed point” in time.  My prayer is that they, too, will blow past it.

Edgar was a comedian in his own right, and a musician as well.  He couldn’t read a note of music, but he could play the piano by ear like you’ve never heard.  He delighted in playing for groups large and small.

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Godspeed to you Edgar.  May you rest in peace, but also in laughter and music.  Heaven gained not only an angel with you, but an entertainer as well.  I will do whatever I can to help your family realize that while they feel the pain right now, they, too, have so much to look forward to.  And please tell my parents we are looking forward to seeing them again someday.