THE SEASON TO CELEBRATE

THE SEASON TO CELEBRATE

It’s that time again, and I don’t like it.  I don’t like the cooler temperatures, I don’t like the shorter days, and I don’t like the thought of cold weather returning.  Call me crazy, but I am in my element when the mercury is in the triple digits. 

I have tried for over fifty years now, but it does no good to be upset about it.  Fall still comes, and behind it, winter.  I try a little harder every year to embrace it, and I think perhaps, I may be just a bit more successful each year.

I am sitting on my porch at 8:40 p.m., feeling the cool breeze.  It is 69 degrees, and I cannot deny that it feels nice.  But with the cool evenings and mornings come the cooler days.  We have had temperatures in the forties this week, and rain for four days straight, no sun.

The backyard pool must come down, and this breaks my heart. 

However, I am seeking out the other joys that arrive only as summer begins to depart.  Like the sunflowers.  For about two glorious weeks at the end of August/beginning of September in Kansas, our state flower is in full bloom in the wild.

This year, my husband planted some in our yard, so we have our own personal blooms to savor. 

I cannot deny that I immensely enjoy this part of late summer.  When it becomes obvious that summer will soon wind down, the state flower steps it up and shows off its unparalleled beauty to remind me that nature’s splendor remains in other ways.  I simply needed to take another look.

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Not that sunflowers aren’t beautiful and grand, but Gail and Suzanne have other, more exciting reasons to celebrate. 

Gail was together with her four children and her two grandchildren two weeks ago.  Her second-born lives in Michigan, and their visits are not frequent enough.  Her grandsons live there with their mother, so these visits are an incredible highlight for all of them.

But Gail, as you already know, can make a celebration out of pretty much nothing.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad day or a wasted day in her life.  She chooses to let the bad roll off her back, and focus on the good.

I want to be like her when I grow up.

Both Gail and I have been married for twenty-plus years, and have lived in our homes that long as well.  Both our husbands and our homes are nothing new, but they are tried-and-true, and we are still very much smitten with both.  There are no big celebrations planned at this time, but there is no need for any.  Every day is a gift to be savored.

Suzanne has quite the opposite news.  She is getting both a new house, and a new husband.  This is super-exciting news not just for her, but for Gail and me as well.  Her husband-to-be got a 127% approval rate from both of her sisters, and while Gail has not yet seen her new house, I gave it five stars.  My husband the builder gave it five stars as well when he checked it out for her.  (This never happens.)  Guys aren’t much into approval rates, but I know he finds his future brother-in-law at least as favorable as the house. 

In the interest of her limited self-disclosure, that is really all I can tell you, and that’s enough for you to know she has a lot to celebrate right now.

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If you recall, one of our mother’s many nuggets of wisdom she shared with us was this:  Always have something to look forward to.

In this year of COVID, our excursions have been greatly limited.  Last weekend, however, my husband and I ventured out to western Kansas to see some of our Sunflower State’s natural beauty that we had not yet taken in.

Topped off by an overnight stay at Gail’s house—along with patio sitting, we had a lot to look forward to last week, and none of it disappointed.

This week, I am anticipating a long-overdue trip with a dear friend.  No details at this point, but suffice it to say that even though our backyard pool came down already, my time splashing in the sun is not done yet for this year. 

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Two years ago this fall, I featured a group of six sisters we know who take annual sister trips—all six of them, which makes us look like amateurs, which we are.  This week, they have been celebrating in Michigan, very close to where Gail’s daughter lives.

May their annual celebrations continue to inspire us, and hopefully you, too.  They set the bar high for making it all work, but when family and fun are priorities, they show us that the sky is the limit. 

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I am sitting on the porch again, this time I am savoring the sunshine and 80-degree temperatures.  The weather is simply splendid, even if it lacks perfection by 20 degrees in my book.  The humidity, however, is a breathable 44%, and I cannot deny I do love that part. 

I am working harder than ever to savor every beautiful day of the fall, even if I know that means the cold will be here soon.  I am working on savoring the cold days, too.  Life is too short and too beautiful not to at least try. 

Kansas has four beautiful seasons, and each one is distinct in its gifts.  The hardest gift for me to accept—no matter which season—is the blessed/cursed Kansas wind.  Gail and Suzanne call it blessed, I call it cursed.

Suzanne’s new house is tucked away on an almost-secret street in our small city, surrounded by trees.  I don’t think she realized until I pointed it out to her that she would not have full benefit of the wind.  This may have been a small downer for her, but the wind, along with all the other simple things to celebrate, are always able to be found somewhere.

Sometimes, we just have to look a little bit, and sometimes, we have to look at them differently in order to call them celebrations. 

But they are always there.

THE LUCKIEST BLACK CAT

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THE LUCKIEST BLACK CAT

They weren’t even “cat people” until they met Blackie. They had to take her; she came with the house. She simply wouldn’t leave.

“Blackie” was our parents’ cat. She was an outside cat, faithfully returning to their step every evening after roaming the neighborhood in their small town every day. She was happy there, and they were happy to have her.   Suzanne found her when she was a kitten and got her for Julia, her daughter.  They lived in the same town as Mom and Dad, and soon thereafter, they moved to a house a bit further away.  Blackie didn’t like their new home, and she would go to Mom and Dad’s house.  Knowing she would be a perfect match for Mom and Dad, Suzanne let her stay, but Julia stayed close to her.

She was indeed perfect for them.

When Mom and Dad died, Suzanne took Blackie the four blocks to her home, fully intending to adopt her again and take good care of her just as Mom and Dad did. She did her best, but Blackie kept returning to Mom and Dad’s house. She wouldn’t stay with Suzanne, so she had no choice but to feed and water her there.

The housing market in their small town was tight at the time, and their house sold quickly. Henry and Debbie were hand-picked from above to be the new owners of Mom and Dad’s house. We couldn’t have asked for nicer people to move into the small home that our parents had lived in and enjoyed for eight years after moving to town from the farm.  Henry and Debbie moved to Osborne from another town, so they didn’t know our parents.

“We’re not really cat people,” they said. But they knew that they would be entrusted to the resident cat if they bought the house, and it didn’t deter them from becoming the new owners. Not only were they the most perfect stewards for the house, but they were the most perfect adoptive owners for Blackie.

Apparently, she felt the same way. While she had been a happy outdoor cat, in short order, she became an indoor cat. No longer could Henry and Debbie say they were not “cat people.” Blackie had worked them with her charm, and now she lived inside the house. Her favorite spot, they told us, was the soft cushion on the seat of the glider rocker.

That chair had belonged to our parents.

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Blackie was not your garden-variety cat. She had special powers; specifically, some form of extra-sensory cat perception.

I mentioned that Blackie typically roamed the neighborhood all day, returning to their step every evening. On the afternoon Mom and Dad died, however, the neighbors told us she spent that afternoon on their step. She knew. She was holding vigil.

Four days later, on the morning of their funeral, Gail was getting ready for the service at her mother-in-laws house.  It was just across the street, across an open lot from Mom and Dad’s house.  She saw  Blackie  in that lot, apparently holding her own memorial for her beloved owners. In that lot, there was a gathering of neighborhood cats. It appeared that they had loosely formed a half-circle around Blackie, as if she were delivering her own eulogy to honor her owners who had just passed.

Blackie surely felt lost without Mom and Dad there, but she survived, as cats do. Suzanne continued to take good care of her, and attempted a few more times to take her to back to her house, but she always made her way back to her “real” home.

Henry and Debbie became friends with our family; their kindness during our time of mourning was beyond words. They felt honored to live in the house our parents lived in, often commenting that they wished they had known them. We hate to brag, but it was something about how great their kids were, so surely the parents of these fine folks must have been outstanding people.

They were.

Unfortunately for us, they have since moved to a nearby small city for work reasons. We will always be thankful for their stewardship of Mom and Dad’s house, but especially for their friendship, as well as their tender loving care of Blackie.

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I’ve heard it said that dogs often take on the personalities of their owners, but I can’t say I have heard—or seen the same—with cats. Cats seem to have their own personalities, their own agendas. Blackie, however, was always a kind, obedient and docile cat, not to mention smart. Of course, this is a direct reflection on our parents, and then Henry and Debbie.

Henry was famous for posting great stories about Blackie on Facebook. His post detailing her last day is below:

If you have spent any time with me in the last few years, you have probably heard me talk about Blackie the sweet cat. She has been with us since we moved to Osborne in 2008 and she was already several years old. We think she was 17.

Blackie’s health has been failing this summer. Thursday, Blackie was able to wander around the yard awhile, but by Friday night it was obvious it was her last day. Those of you who knew her know that she was an amazing cat.

Blackie was smart and obedient. She had a pretty good vocabulary of words she understood and would obey quite a few commands. We let her sharpen her claws anywhere she wanted on the carpet. One day she decided to use a nice rug instead. I told her NO and she never clawed that rug again. That was well over 10 years ago.

One of my favorite things to do with her was to have her hunt for treats. I would tell her “HUNT,” and give her hand signals like you might for a bird dog. She would follow the signals. When she got close I would say “LOOK,” and she would stop and carefully search the immediate area until she found the treat.

Everybody loves their pets and hurts when they are gone. Many tears in Hays tonight.

Thank you to the Ketter family for letting Blackie be a part of our lives. Thank you to the Osborne and Hays Veterinary Clinics for the care they gave Blackie (and us) through the years.

The first picture is as a kitten with Julia (Suzanne’s daughter) who has so graciously allowed us to have Blackie with us. The second photo is the last one of her drinking from the bird bath on Thursday.

I love the last photo because yes Blackie was a black cat and this is the most Black Cat photo we have of her.

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 Blackie as a kitten with Suzanne’s daughter Julia

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Blackie’s last trip outdoors on Thursday of this week

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Blackie was truly a black cat.

I’m not even a “cat person,” but I had to wipe a few tears as I copied this.

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Gail, Suzanne and I mourned together by phone this weekend.  Suzanne and I were consoling each other yesterday after we got the news.  I had this thought already, as well as the awareness she then had, but she verbalized it first:

It’s like the last living piece of Mom and Dad’s history is gone. Wait, I guess all seven of us are still here…”

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My faith assures me that a person’s spirit lives on in the next world. Until now, I never though much about an animal’s spirit. Being farm girls, Suzanne and I recently talked about how we knew from early on that animals on the farm—whether it was livestock, or the multiple farm cats and dogs –were destined for a very temporary stay with us. It was the way of the farm world. I remember mourning several of our farm dogs when they passed. They had become family members in a sense, but life always went on.  Several cats became beloved as well, but none were as special as Blackie.

I haven’t felt this moved by an animal’s passing since then. Blackie was indeed a part of our family, then she lived on as a part of Henry and Debbie’s family.

I believe her spirit lives on. It has too. She was too smart, too kind, too special for her spirit to be gone forever. I believe this with all my heart.

And I’m not even a cat person.

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 The luckiest black cat ever, looking out the front window of Mom and Dad’s/Henry and Debbie’s house.

LIFE IS GOOD AFTER FIFTY

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LIFE IS GOOD AFTER FIFTY

And we should know.

As of today, August 16th, 2020, the three sisters of The Sister Lode are officially fifty years old or older. Suzanne celebrated her 50th birthday today, and, as much as we could, we helped her.  Her initial hopes of spending it on an exotic beach were reduced to a day in our backyard above-ground pool. In the end, those hopes were dashed, too. There wasn’t even any sand, and, we didn’t even get wet today. We were ready, though. Ready with our respective spirit animals of the sea, and they had to huddle together to fight the storm.

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The rain started with just a few drops,

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then storms rolled in around noon.

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The clouds lingered. When it did warm up, the pool water was too cold, so Suzanne found a dry spot inside Gail’s whale/narwhal.

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Our friends Bonnie and Judy showed up again, just as they did a few posts ago. They were ready to celebrate, too. These sisters were dressed to the nines again, but didn’t bring their suits, so they took a quick float on my seahorse.

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Suzanne’s love of mermaids became the theme for the weekend, but the overriding theme was that age is indeed a gift. Fifty may sound old until you get there, and we have decided separately and together that life is indeed good, no matter what the age.

It’s always Fifty-o’clock somewhere.

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I resurrected my Life is good® T-shirt from my birthday four years ago to further the festive mood,

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and Gail reminisced about her epic 60th birthday party in February. She, too, wore one of her many Life is good® shirts, as this is one of our favorite ways to share the love.

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Suzanne’s daughter made the short trip to join us, she is always a welcome smiling face.

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We enjoyed family and plenty of good food, and, of course, good porch-sitting.

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Each of us has an affinity for separate sea creatures, forming them independent of each other. This tells me that a part of each of us belongs to the beach, and we hope to find one again soon.

Suzanne loves mermaids because, if one had the power to escape to places where few would follow like these mythical creatures can, she thinks that would be fabulous.

Gail loves whales because they are a powerful presence to be reckoned with. She doesn’t fully realize it, but so is she—in a very good way.

I love seahorses because they are unique creatures in several ways. The male gives birth, and they are known to swim vertically as well as horizontally.   I like to think I don’t always follow the “normal” patterns in life when I find a way that works better for me.

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Last time I posted, I wrote that as long as we have the power to change a situation, we should never lose hope. None of us can change the pandemic situation that is dictating the new rules, but we must do our part. We decided to wait until perhaps her 51st birthday to try for the beach getaway. It doesn’t matter when, celebrating safely is always a good idea.

We are holding on to that hope, because we are doing our part.

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Happy Birthday Suzanne. Life is indeed good.

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Whenever your birthday is, happy birthday to you, too. And never forget that age is a gift.

ASK…AND HOPE

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ASK…AND HOPE

I live in a rural area.   When I take my daily run, I begin on the highway, and go half a mile in either direction before I turn on to a gravel road. The highway is well traveled, and these side roads have some traffic as well.   In my 22-plus years of running along these roads, I have found some interesting treasures on the roadside, but none as interesting as the one I found a few weeks ago.

I have had intermittent trouble with my left knee, and now my left hip is making noise, too. I had a quarter mile left to go on this particular day, and I gave in to the pain.

Maybe I need a new knee,” I thought.

Maybe I need a new hip, too,” I added.

“Maybe I just need a whole new leg.” I left it at that.

Now, I don’t wear my glasses when I run, so I can’t see small things clearly. However, not even 100 yards after I sent up that request,  I ran right by this treasure. I realized I’d better go back and take another gander. It was flesh-colored and only several inches long, so I couldn’t quite visually decipher it.

I bent down to pick it up.

Be careful what you wish for.

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It was even the left leg. I guess I needed to be more specific, because it was obviously too small, and a bit battered from the roadside trauma.

Prior to this find, my most interesting roadside treasure was a beautiful blown-glass marijuana pipe. Initially, I left it behind. I didn’t want to be in possession of paraphernalia, which, as I understand, is a crime in my state.

It was still there the next day, so I picked it up. I incorporated it into an art project and gifted it to a friend who was moving to a state where she could be legally in possession.

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I recall an article written by a famous TV doctor who told the story of his patient, a woman who, without life-saving surgery, was sure to die. No one had survived her condition without surgery. Her religion forbade such invasive procedures, and her family chose instead to gather around her and pray for her.

This doctor expressed that he was incredulous with disbelief, unable to understand how anyone could deny their loved one this life-saving treatment. Without it, his expertise told him she didn’t stand a chance at survival.

But she did survive. And he reported that he would never again doubt the power of prayer.

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It helps me to think of prayer—the kind where we ask for things (my most common form), as a flexing of our spiritual muscles. When we pray—whatever form it may take, it can be an individual, or in this woman’s case, a collective flexing of many muscles joining together, directing their spiritual energy toward one goal.  The more people praying, the greater chance of the petition being answered. Think of it as a group of people lifting a car off of a person, whereas one person may not be able to do it alone.

But asking alone is okay, too. Asking for something in prayer and knowing that some force greater than our own is listening is a gift of grace. If you have ever asked for anything from this divine source, however, you know that your wish isn’t always granted. This may very well be a good thing.

I believe our prayers are always heard, even if they aren’t answered. Sometimes, as in the case of my new leg that was immediately granted, it is apparent that our prayers need to be specific. I should have described the leg I wanted a little better.

I believe, too, that no matter how jumbled and disjointed our prayers may be, the meaning is always heard.

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I believe that sometimes, we ask for things that are not what we really need. We think we know what we need, but perhaps we are not ready for it yet. Or, maybe it is indeed what we need, but we need to do a little more work on our own to get there.

I remember many nights of homework with my boys. One in particular stands out. My youngest son heaved his heavy backpack up on to the kitchen counter while I was doing the dinner dishes on the other side of the counter.

“Mom, will you help me with my homework?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “But you haven’t even started. You need to do everything that you know how to do, and then I will help you after that.”

He looked up at me with a groaning expression, as if to imply that I would make it a whole lot easier for him if I just helped him from the start, even before he did his part. Of course, it would have.

I was busy doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, and he had the ability to get at least some of it done. Sure, it would have been much easier for him if I helped him, but he wouldn’t learn that way. Plus, I knew he could get it if he tried. He had the knowledge and the know-how.

I think that sometimes we are able to do more than what we attempt; we have the ability. It is much easier, however, to ask for divine intervention to make it easier for us to reach our goals. But we wouldn’t learn that way. And we wouldn’t be using our gifts and knowledge. Plus, I think God is busy doing the dishes sometimes and we can get started while he finishes them. When we deplete all our energy, when we have utilized the gifts we were given to figure these things out, then I think God steps in.

And, just like I smiled upon my son for putting his resources to work and exhausting them to get closer to the solution before I helped, I think we are smiled down on from above when we do our homework on our own, as far as we are able.

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Since I gave up hope, I feel so much better.”

Even though Gail and Suzanne don’t remember, I recall Mom saying this. Now, it needs to be qualified: I believe she meant that it was a relief to give up on changing other people, not to give up hope on a brighter future, brighter because you have done all you can do to make it that way, and you have said your prayers.

The world right now needs hope. If, like me, you are feeling a sense of doom about the current state of our world, it is helpful to remind ourselves that there is indeed hope. We should not give up hope on a brighter future. But right now, we all need to do whatever we can to keep ourselves and others safe; this is our homework right now.

Gail, Suzanne and I are products of Small-Town Kansas. For the last sixty-plus years, our hometown has hosted an incredible festival. The Tipton Church Picnic takes place on the first Saturday of every August. Festival-goers come from far and wide to take place in the various activities that keep our private, Catholic high-school operating. It has always been one of the smallest high schools in the state, but it keeps going strong.

Except this year.

It should be happening right now as I write on Saturday evening. Even though I don’t always go, and we weren’t going to make it this year due to a family wedding that we didn’t go to either, it still breaks my heart that it is not taking place.

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Last year’s festival.  The high school is on the left.

The auction that typically brings in over six figures will now take place online, as will the raffles. Without fail, the generosity of the attendees has provided an abundant windfall every year to keep the school doors open. I have hope that, even though it is taking place virtually, it will again prove abundant.

The full-course chicken dinner—complete with homemade pies—will not happen either, nor will the locally famous burgers be sold by the thousands well into the night.

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Last year’s feasts, pictures courtesy of Gail.

I consume both, and to honor this, I made peach pies today. Even though they were made from fresh, luscious Colorado peaches, it won’t taste as good as the pie at the Picnic.

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My boys are grilling hamburgers and while they, too, will be delicious, it won’t be quite the same.

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Gail is celebrating on her own with a cold one in the classic koozie that is an annual souvenir.  Being the gamblers she and I are, we always practice hope in that we will be big winners at the raffle…maybe this year.

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I have hope that next year, the Tipton Church Picnic will happen again. I’m going to ask.

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There is another small Kansas town that, by its very name, exemplifies the spirit of Kansas. I drove through there on my travels last week.

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We are a tough bunch, and our hope and faith will get us through.

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Gail, Suzanne and I are aunties again. Late in June, our brother and his wife added to their family. Their son was born here in the hospital in the small city Suzanne and I live in. Initially, both mother and baby fared well, but complications arose. Blake had to spend a week in the NICU, and his mother pulled through after her crisis. I don’t think I’ve prayed that hard in a long time.

Suzanne and I were able to visit with them—minus the baby—in the lobby after passing the COVID screenings. Spending time with them gave me hope that they were going to be okay, because their hope and faith were obvious.

As I waited for them before one of our visits, I picked up a magazine and leafed through it. Inside, someone had left a handwritten message, asking for hope and help with prayer to get through their crisis. Even though I have no idea who it was, my heart broke for them, and I haven’t forgotten about them, haven’t lost hope for them. I continue to ask for help and grace for them, whomever they are.

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Asking for help from above and all around is sometimes all anyone can do in the most desperate of times.

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I began this post early this week. Mom, in her usual style, found a way to let me know she is still with all of us. I have referred many times to her “pink book,” and when I opened it Friday, she had highlighted the entire title. I think this means she liked the entire passage for that day.

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I believe I will believe. And ask. And receive. And continue to hope. Sometimes, the asking is as basic as simply asking for wisdom and strength to know how to use your gifts. I believe this is our homework right now in these crazy times. God is probably pretty busy doing dishes and cleaning up bigger messes than mine or yours, but when we have used all our resources, I believe we will get the help we need.

I believe I should have been more specific when I asked for the new leg. If I had, perhaps I would have been granted the right left leg.

I believe that these tough times will pass, and although we may not be able to be as carefree as we were in the past, there is hope for happiness to return.

Loss in life has taught me that we can endure more than we think we can.  And in the end, we emerge stronger, more faithful, and believers in hope for brighter days.  And those brighter days  will indeed come, but we may have to ask.

And, as Mom and Dad taught us, don’t forget to say thank you.

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Ban Breathnach, S. (1995). Simple Abundance.  New York, Warner Books

HOME IS WHERE THE SISTERS ARE

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HOME IS WHERE THE SISTERS ARE

Last weekend, I had the privilege of spending time on our family farm. And, as a bonus, three of our four brothers were there. Spending time with them is always welcome. However, neither Suzanne nor Gail were there.

This weekend, I got to see Gail and Suzanne.

Unlike harvest, this visit wasn’t planned. It was an impromptu decision both Suzanne and I made to make the trip to Gail’s house for the weekend only 24 hours before we took off. We were bored, tired of staying home, and Gail, in her usual gracious style, invited us to come.

Sometimes, spur-of-the-moment decisions are the best. Sometimes, like this weekend.

We took off separately late Friday afternoon with our respective other halves, arriving at Gail’s with daylight to spare. The patio called, and we answered.

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Four years ago this week, Gail, Suzanne and I arrived on St. Pete Beach, Florida. Even if no one else thought so, we owned the place for four days. It was epic, and it was the topic of my first blog post three years ago. We had hoped to make another such historic trip for Suzanne’s upcoming milestone birthday, but it appears that travel restrictions will keep that dream from coming true.

I take a summer vacation with my husband and sons as well, but it appears we won’t be going anywhere this summer. Our boys are now grown and independent, and perhaps have better things to do, but even if we could, there may be nowhere to go.

Thus, this trip to Gail’s house—in one of only three counties in Kansas that have zero reported cases of COVID—may indeed be our summer vacation.

It’s always a vacation when my sisters are there. Without our mom on earth, home is now where my sisters are—no matter where we are. The beach in Florida is one of our favorite destinations, but Gail’s is a close second. It feels like home when the three of us are there.

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It should be no surprise to any of you who know us, either in person or through the blog or both, that we make our own fun, no matter where we are.

It may be dancing to classic rock at 11:15 in the morning in Camp Gail—the highly personalized spot we hang out in at her house, the spot where our four pictures at the beginning of this blog are taken,

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touring the new-to-her house and yard she recently bought to renew while still keeping the retro look,

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watching her in the garden–she loves it,

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or welcoming Sunday morning back on the patio.

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And, of course, we never tell all when we get together, just some. There were a few antics that will remain just between us, because that’s how we roll.

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We will give you a little teaser about Judy and Bonnie, two sisters who joined us this weekend.  They are my latest garage sale treasures, and they were sworn to secrecy regarding our antics.  You may see more of them in the future.

We hit the one garage sale happening in Gail’s small town, and shopped where we could—including the thrift store.

We ate high on the hog, and indulged in our favorite libations.

Our significant others enjoy time together as well, which is always a bonus.

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It is now Sunday evening and we are all back in our respective homes. The party is over, but there will be more.  This post is purposely short, because, again, we don’t tell all. Plus, we spent most of our time hanging out, which left little time for writing. That’s how it’s supposed to be when we are together.

If you have your mother here, make sure take the time and make the effort to find home within her presence. If you don’t, and you have a sister or sisters, may you find that peace and joy with her/them.

It’s the next best thing, and it can be wonderful. We are living proof.

HOME Swheat HOME

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HOME SWHEAT HOME

Yesterday for lunch, I enjoyed a turkey sandwich. For dinner—or supper, as we call it on the farm, I had a juicy burger in a soft bun. I savored a sliver of single crust raisin cream pie for dessert.

Last week, our family had take-home pizza, and we enjoyed every bite. I made a cake for dessert, and today, we plan to partake of a loaf of whole-wheat take-and-bake bread.

All these goodies are made possible courtesy of wheat, the staple crop of Kansas.

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Yesterday, after I enjoyed that turkey sandwich, I took off for my annual trip to the harvest field. My brothers had an afternoon of cutting left; harvest took place this year in between the rains. I was worried they would finish before the weekend, but there were a few hours of harvest left for me to enjoy. I haven’t missed a harvest since 1990. It is the high point of the year on the farm, the time of year that brings back my fondest farm-girl memories.

Along with our four brothers, Gail, Suzanne and I grew up on this farm in north-central Kansas. It is now a fourth-generation Kansas family farm, and this heritage gives me untold pride. Two of our four brothers continue to demonstrate stellar stewardship of our family legacy, and I cannot express in words how grateful I am to them for that. Our nephews show promise to maintain this legacy in the future, and this sense of family attachment to our parcel of the Kansas earth is something that will continue to give me a secure sense of home.

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The house we grew up in–the house that built us, was over 100 years old when we lived there. It housed us all for many years, but it was time for it to come down. It’s spirit lives on, and one of our brothers lives on with his family in a new house built just up the driveway from where it stood. A garden now occupies that spot, a fitting tribute to the plot of land that grew our family.

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At the crest of the hill that slopes down on one’s final mile to our farm, the panoramic view is one that never fails to warm me. It was already 90-plus degrees, but I welcome this kind of warmth, no matter what the temperature is.

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Much of our family’s land lies “over west” from our farm, the term we have always used to refer to the farm ground several miles west of our farm. Today, however, the remaining wheat was within view of the farm; I don’t remember a trip where I was able to enjoy the proximity of the farm for my afternoon in the harvest field.   The two combines worked across the road from each other, and the two semi-trucks were kept busy being filled and refilled.

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I hopped into my brother’s combine when I arrived; his son ran the other combine across the road. This time in the cab is the best view of the action, as the reels comb the wheat into the header to begin the process of separating the wheat from the chaff.

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The tractor-driven grain cart allows the combine to continue cutting without stopping to drive to the semi.  The tractor pulls up alongside the combine, moving forward along with the combine as it simultaneously dumps a load and continues to fill the bin.

A local farmer once told our dad the story of his city-slicker relative who came to the farm for harvest, and, upon observing this sight, commented:

“It’s amazing how that reel pulls the combine through the wheat.”

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Amazing indeed if that were how it worked, but it’s more complicated than that. Life is usually never as easy at it looks to the unaware eye, and this situation is no different. In the end, though, the wheat is separated from the chaff, carried to the bin and awaits its turn to be dumped into the truck.

Some of the wheat is stored on the farm in a bin as seed wheat for next year’s crop,

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Business decisions between the farmers are made at all phases of the harvest.

and the rest is transported to the elevator down the road.

The other half of my harvest agenda is a trip in the big rig to the elevator.

The truck is first weighed and the driver identifies the account,

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Then the wheat is dumped from the truck into the pit.

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The hopper is wide open to dump the wheat down into the pit

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Where it awaits its vertical trip up into the elevator and is eventually hauled away by train.

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The elevator hand closes the hopper, and we’re off for another weigh-in to determine the amount of grain deposited.

And then we head back to the field to do it all over again multiple times. Except this year, there was only one more load remaining. My brother informed the elevator hand he would be back only one more time; their harvest work is almost done this year for my brother, and for most area farmers.

This year, unlike any other year I can remember, I got to savor the sweet smell of fresh-cut alfalfa, as the farmer they hire to swath this beautiful and fragrant livestock feed did his rounds in the field next to the wheat field we were in.

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My brothers don’t own a swather; it is one of the few jobs they hire out.

Our younger brother took a panoramic video of our farm from atop the grain bin:

 

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Knowing that my family—and that grilled burger will be waiting for me for supper, I head out after the elevator trip. Not, however, before I make a cruise through our small hometown.

The long hill to town marks the ascent out of the beautiful valley our farm inhabits.

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At the top of the hill, four miles away, our hometown pops into view.

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The warm memories of my youth flood back as I see the school we all graduated from,

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The church we all grew up in,

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And our parents’ final resting place.

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Our childhood home may no longer stand, but this community—the community that built us—still stands. Despite the demise of much of Small Town America, Tipton, Kansas has continued to survive and thrive as the even-smaller-than-it-was-when-we-grew-up-there dot on the map, but as a community, its members know the importance of keeping it alive.

I will forever be grateful for our beginnings in this town, and to its current members for sustaining its legacy with hard work and pride.

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Even though I grew up on a farm, I am helpless to drive a combine or truck. For the most part, our four brothers helped Dad, and the girls helped Mom. I can, however, still make a mean cherry pie and fry up a big chicken dinner on command.

Gail, however, was the Swiss Army Knife who could do it all because she had to. She could probably even figure out how to haul wheat in that big rig if she had to; she learned how to drive a smaller grain truck that is mostly phased out of most modern farm operations. She doesn’t have a CDL that would allow her to legally drive it, but in a pinch, Gail’s resourcefulness would surface. I wouldn’t get near that driver’s seat, but Suzanne reports she did drive a short distance on a dirt road with a lot of assistance from our brother in the passenger seat.

The high-tech combines of today may confound Gail, but I know she handled the older ones with ease.  Both Suzanne and I attempted a quick spin in the combine several summers ago, but again with assistance right next to us in the cab.  Another one of our brothers dutifully and gladly takes a harvest leave every summer from his gig as an airline captain to pilot that behemoth machine, which is much appreciated by our farmer brothers. While he has an autopilot in the cockpit, the combine requires hands-on attention at all times.

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Some of the big cottonwoods still stand on the farm,

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And the woods behind the house where we explored, hiked, built forts and sometimes hid out still stand.

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Our farm-girl heritage still stands within each of us. We still know the value of hard work, we aren’t afraid to answer the call in nature if we have to—our house had one bathroom for nine people, and we know where our bread comes from–and the work involved in bringing it to us.

I have to wrap up and enjoy my Sunday dinner. My Mark-of-all-trades husband cooked up a steak lunch for us—dinner, as it is called on the farm—complete with a loaf of take-and-bake bread.

I know where it came from.

Swheat.

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THE THRILL OF THE FIND

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THE THRILL OF THE FIND

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” –Unknown

It’s that time of year again. And, despite all that 2020 has had taken away in its first half, the beloved garage sale did not fall prey to our new culture of COVID. There may be a few changes, and requests to distance and wear masks, but the all-American garage sale is back.

Suzanne and I are thrilled.

Garage sales were a distant reality when we were growing up. For starters, we lived in a rural area outside of a small Kansas town. And—perhaps most importantly, it seems that when we were kids, people didn’t consume material goods only to sell them a short time later in a garage sale. Most families—ours included—bought only what they needed, and used it until it was no longer able to be used. When we outgrew clothes, they were passed down to the next kid, or perhaps given away to someone else’s kids.

Suzanne reminisced about the first garage sale she ever went to. She was ten years old at most, and we were in Wichita visiting our grandparents. There was a garage sale across the street from them, and she walked over with Mom and our younger brother.

“The idea of shopping in someone else’s driveway was the coolest thing I had ever seen, and I thought ‘why don’t more people do this?’”  she recalled. “And then it was probably at least ten or fifteen years before I went to another one.”   She has loved them ever since.

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There are almost three times more storage facilities in America than there are McDonald’s restaurants.   We have become a culture of “stuff,” as evidenced by our need to store it outside our homes. Storage facilities have boomed since 2011, per U.S. Census data regarding private construction spending. In 2011, $241 million was spent on mini-storage facility construction. In 2018, that number had increased to nearly $5 billion. Americans need more space for their stuff.

There is my trivia for this post. My hope is that it helps you understand the surge in the “stuff” that shows up in garage sales. Suzanne and I aren’t complaining, it provides the basis for one of our favorite summer pastimes.

Gail is not a garage sale-er. She does enjoy estate sales; she even has the power to create one when there was not one planned. I’ll explain.

Perhaps you remember that she purchased “Lola,” a 1974 Chevy Nova from the family of a dear woman named Lola, who had moved to the nursing home in her small town. She treated herself to this gem as an early 60th birthday gift.

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As Gail does with people she gets to know, she got to know Lola’s family quite well. So, when Lola passed away several months ago, Gail was in touch with her son, who was making arrangements to clear out his mother’s house and eventually sell it and her remaining possessions. Gail, in her usual style, stepped in and offered to take a few things off his hands. What started as a few small transactions became a one-woman estate sale.

 

The fixtures and the furniture were too much for Gail to pass up.

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The retro kitchen speaks for itself.

On top of many treasures that Lola’s son sold to her, Lola’s house is now hers as well.

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#ALLTHINGSLOLA

It may become a vacation getaway, a hunting lodge, a weekend rental, or all the above. It may become a hangout for Gail. With Gail, all things are possible.   And these are all good things.

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Suzanne and I had a grand plan for our Saturday morning garage sales. The small town of Lindsborg, Kansas is just 30 minutes from my home, and this “Little Sweden” community was hosting its annual community-wide garage sale event.

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We were in.

We arrived early, and I found my greatest treasure of the day at the very first sale. It seemingly jumped off the table into my hands as I walked up the driveway.

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As a bonus, we saw someone we knew at the first sale. We even got to see her again at another garage sale later in the morning.

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Lucy was Gail’s area supervisor when she managed the Osborne Pizza Hut.  Suzanne worked there, too, so she knew her then as well.  Now retired, she lives in Lindsborg and she enjoys her time off doing whatever she pleases, including going to garage sales, and spending time with her granddaughter, Chloe.

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If this picture looks familiar, that’s because Lucy made the four-hour trip to Gail’s birthday party in February, shortly before the COVID shut-down. Gail makes friends even with her own boss, which likely doesn’t surprise you, if you know Gail.

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We found Lucy for the second time in this beautiful outdoor haven, in the courtyard of a local museum, dedicated to a local artist.  I found a few other treasures there, too.

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He sculpted this statue of our favorite saint–Mom’s too, Saint Francis.

Suzanne’s favorite find of the day cost her an entire quarter:

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This picture was the second runner-up:

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The town is a beautiful burg, with unparalleled Swedish—and American—charm.

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If you haven’t visited, I highly recommend you do.

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As noon approached, the sales dwindled, and we had plans to scoot on down the road to Hutchinson, where Suzanne needed to pick up a small dresser she had purchased at a garage sale when nearby Inman had their city-wide sales. She went with a friend, and left it at her house. After a delicious lunch and the dresser pick-up, we got to go to my favorite store:

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It had been over five months, much too long.

We’re already jonesing for the next round of sales. Even though Suzanne is the minimalist, she enjoys finding new treasures when they feel just right. Unlike her sisters, she wants to find only a few things, and she is satisfied.

I typically overdo it, and send a few things to my give-away pile as soon as I get home. But that’s part of the thrill for me, the thrill of the find. Which likely explains why I love to shop at my favorite store pictured above.

I just wish I wasn’t thrilled by so many treasures, and so does my husband. But he knows me well enough to know what brings me small measures of joy, and he knows I will pass them on in due time.

Life is full of treasures, and I don’t mean just at garage sales. Greater than that, there are many joys to take from life, many treasures that can’t be purchased at a garage sale or any store.

Whatever it takes, I hope you search for and find the meaningful treasures in your life. You’ll know them by the thrill of the find.

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THE BEAUTY OF JUNE

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THE BEAUTY OF JUNE

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”                L.M. Montgomery

Second only to July in my book, June is one of the most splendid months of the year.

My mind and heart hearken back to my childhood, where June meant the beginning of the three carefree months of no school, hot weather, picking cherries, swimming lessons, Father’s Day and the beginning of wheat harvest. The cherry-picking and swimming lessons weren’t always good memories then, but they are now. I love to swim, and I am so glad our parents took the time and effort to make sure we knew how. I was scared of the water when I first started, but not anymore.

I hated to pick cherries then, but I love it now. I remember Mom waking us up early to beat the heat with our cherry-picking. We climbed our two cherry trees with a small bucket, and didn’t get down until it was full. This was followed by an afternoon of pitting cherries at the kitchen sink. It was torture then; I love it now. My husband planted a cherry tree for me in our backyard several years ago, but the frost got the blooms this spring, so there will be no cherries this year.   I did just find a bag in the freezer from last year, so that will still make a good pie.

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LAST YEAR’S CHERRY HARVEST

Today, June 21st, 2020, is Father’s Day. My family gathered at our in-laws to celebrate the fathers in the family. Good food, drink and company were enjoyed by all, as we always do when we gather there. Father’s Day has become a sweet-bitter observation, instead of the mostly bitter day that I felt for the first handful of years after our dad was gone.

To anyone who has recently lost their father, who feels only the bitter, my heart breaks for you. But, I want to let you know that time heals, and in the coming years, Father’s Day will be sweet-bitter for you, too.

I promise.

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LAST YEAR’S WHEAT HARVEST

I remember celebrating most Father’s Days of my youth in the harvest fields. Dad and my brothers would be hard at work cutting and hauling wheat. This year, harvest has not yet started on our farm, nor is there much harvesting happening where I live, 80 miles south of there. The wheat harvest begins first in the south and moves north as the climate dictates.

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30 miles south of my home, a farmer is moving his combine to the field to cut. Note the red machine, vs. the green. My International-Harvester farm-girl heart will always favor the red ones.   I don’t mind getting stuck behind slow-moving farm machinery, because they feed me, too.

Today, however, the climate here is one of unrest, as we wait for severe thunderstorms to roll in, further delaying the onset of harvest.

Aside from the fly in the ointment that storms cause for harvest-hungry farmers, these storms are another thing I like about June.

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Garage sales and lemonade stands are another sure sign of summer.

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Last night was the summer solstice. The annual “longest day of the year.” The sun shone longer in the sky than any other day, and I always observe this peak day. The days will slowly, almost imperceptibly become shorter day by day until the winter solstice occurs on December 21st. I crave sunlight, and welcome each lengthening day until the summer solstice, and now, knowing that the days will get shorter, I will again welcome the longer days starting in December.

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We were at our brother’s house near our family farm for the last year’s winter solstice. Here, the sun is setting on the shortest day of the year.

July will arrive in nine days. So will our annual guests. I will eagerly welcome both, and we will celebrate the first week of July together.

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July, with it’s honor of being the hottest month of the year in Kansas, as well as a week with some of my favorite friends, Independence Day—my second favorite holiday, and perhaps a family vacation, is my favorite month of the year. My three favorite things about Kansas are July, June and August—in that order.

Because I was born in mid-April, I came into being in July. Perhaps this is why I love July so much. Independence Day, with its fireworks, food, family and freedom, should be savored year-round, keeping its spirit alive in our hearts all year, just as we should with Christmas.

Independence–to me, means letting go of those things that hold us back and limit our happiness. With or without fireworks, it means freedom. None of us who enjoy this liberty should ever take it for granted.

As I anticipate another Fourth of July, I am delighting in decorating my home in a patriotic theme. I started on Flag Day—another great thing about June that occurs on the 14th. Today—Father’s Day, I am holding the memory of our dad close to my heart. I am also celebrating the father who made me a mother, and doing all I can to savor the beauty in every day, no matter how many minutes of sunshine it offers me.

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Our dad enjoying a lunch break in the harvest field.

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Last night’s fiery sunset was a fitting exit for our brightest star, shining longer than any other day of the year.

Happy summer solstice, happy summer, happy Father’s Day, and Happy June to you.

It’s a beauty of a month.

RED LEATHER COWBOY BOOTS

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RED LEATHER COWBOY BOOTS

Some crazy things come over certain women after fifty. Certain women like me. I was fifty when I got my first tattoo. I have adventurous ideas to bring to life and more inhibitions I plan to shed during my next fifty trips around the sun, so stay tuned.

Last fall, I made a pact with my childhood friend Shari that we would both buy ourselves cowboy boots for our next birthdays. She, too, plans to step out of some longstanding self-imposed boundaries, so the cowboy boots idea felt good for both of us.   We decided there’s no better way to step out of those boundaries than in cowboy boots.  Or perhaps we should call them cowgirl boots.

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I met Kate earlier this year. She was warm and friendly, and her quiet but strong spirit cast an aura that graced all of us in her presence. I noticed that even before I noticed her red leather cowboy boots.

Much like the moment when I knew my husband would be the one, I knew when I saw her boots that I would buy red leather cowboy boots to fulfill the dream, as well as the pact with my friend. Still, it seemed brazen and a bit too daring for a woman like me, a woman who may appear conservative and reserved on the surface, but I’ve gathered that what lies beneath surprises new friends—in a good way.

The doubts began to surface. Kate was obviously younger than me; perhaps I was too old for such a statement. She rocked those boots, but could I pull it off without looking like a fool? The doubts continued to nag, and I continued to try to shush them.

The more I tried to quiet the little voice that told me to pursue the boots, the louder it got. I made up my mind, and I wanted to let Kate know how she inspired me. We were now Facebook friends, so on Friday, April 3rd, I sent her a private message, confessing that I had coveted her boots since I saw her in them, and I wanted a pair like them. In short, I wanted to be like her when I grew up. She kindly replied, and wished me well on my quest.

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The next morning, April 4th, I was reading my daily book, the one I gave to my mom—she loved it, the one I got back when she died, and now the one she speaks to me through when I read it (almost) every day. So many times, the words on those pages for that particular day are exactly what I need to hear, and I realize she is still advising me almost every day if I just listen.   On April 4th, however, I realized I hadn’t yet read April 3rd—the day I sent Kate the message on Facebook. The topic of the day on April 3rd was finding out what your secret life would look like if you took the small steps you could take to get there.   I went back to read it, and near the bottom of that day’s page, in the words of the author’s quest, this is what it said: “Maybe it’s as simple as realizing that I’d really love to wear beautiful red leather cowboy boots.”

I had to re-read that. And read it again. Then one more time. That sealed the deal. I would indeed buy red leather cowboy boots. Mom told me to through the book, and Kate had inspired me.

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Later that week, I looked ahead on Facebook to see who else was having a birthday soon. I already knew a few friends who were my birthday buddies, and a few celebrating shortly before or after. There, however, on my birthday, was a new friend, someone I had met earlier this year.

I had to read it again: It was Kate.

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Shopping for these boots would have to wait. I didn’t want to go out shopping for non-essential items in the early days of the pandemic, and, I wanted to wait for my friend Shari so we could shop together.  I certainly couldn’t buy them online. My feet—the delicate creatures they are– needed to try them on in person to ensure a good fit for such an investment.

That day was last Friday when Shari came to town for her birthday. I wrote about our celebration and hiking trip in last week’s post, but I didn’t write about our boot-shopping trip.

I was working down the Interstate in Abilene that day, which was on her way to my home. My work schedule was set almost perfectly to meet her as she arrived. We lingered in Abilene for a while, and hit the western store on the way out. There was a multitude of boots on the shelf in my size, but I didn’t see any red ones.

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Shari browsed, and I continued to peruse the selection, thinking perhaps if I looked hard enough, a red pair would appear on the shelf.

They didn’t. However, as Shari was seated trying a pair on, she spotted a red pair on display on an endcap close by.

“How about these?” she asked. I hadn’t noticed them. I am usually the one with the shopping eye, so she was quite proud of herself for seeing them before I did.

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There was a pair on top of the box, and a pair inside the box. They were the only two pair there. They were beautiful. And perfect. And red. And one pair was my size.

It was as if sunbeams from the heavens shone down upon my feet in those boots, and, just like when I finally got my haircut a few weeks ago, the angels sang from on high.

They fit. They felt good. They were red and beautiful. They were expensive.

Shari didn’t find the perfect pair, so I hesitated to purchase mine without her, even though she encouraged me to if I wanted to. We went on to my house and enjoyed Shari’s birthday dinner with my family, as well as Gail, Lydia and Suzanne. The company was great, the food was good and the laughter was good medicine.

Still, the thought of the boots lurked in the back of my mind.

I found them online, and, of course, they were cheaper. But, I resolved, if I was going to buy them, it was going to be in my beloved Abilene.   Abilene, Kansas, rich with Cowtown history as an important stop on the historic Chisholm trail. Abilene, Kansas, the small town I have loved ever since I went there to see the Eisenhower Museum when I was ten years old. Abilene, Kansas, where I now work nearly every day, and my heart still skips a beat when I drive into town. Abilene, Kansas, where the school mascots are the Cowboys and Cowgirls. Abilene Kansas, home of Rittel’s Western Wear, a family-owned business that deserved my business, especially in this time of widespread economic turmoil.

I have a long way to go in turning around my shopping patterns to more strongly support the Mom-n-Pop businesses, but if I bought them there, this was a step in the right direction—in a pair of kick-ass boots, of course.

It was Friday. I had some time to consider this investment before I went back to Abilene on Monday. Both Suzanne and Shari knew, I think, that I would indeed return to the store to buy them. Gail, not fully being in tune to the cowboy boot thing, thought they were cool, but I don’t think she had the prescience Suzanne and Shari did.

They were right. I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and I couldn’t wait to get back there on Monday.

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The owner, Jacque, was there, and so was Courtney, her able assistant. Both of these women were in the store on Friday when Shari and I were there, and they both remembered us. They couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly, which, of course, sealed the deal.

I am now the proud owner of Red Leather Cowboy (Cowgirl) Boots.  I will do whatever I can to help Shari find her perfect pair, because she helped me find mine.

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Without any influence from me—or Shari, Suzanne bought her own pair of cowgirl boots several weeks ago. I didn’t know she, too, had been thinking about making the investment for some time. For her, the style was perfect, the price was right, and she had a gift card to this store. For her, this was the jackpot trifecta that convinced her to buy the boots. Perhaps most importantly for her feet, they were comfortable.

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Now, we need to work on Gail to buy herself a pair of cowgirl boots as well. She can’t be one of us when we wear ours if she doesn’t have her own pair.

I neglected to recall a major part of Gail’s personal history  that is relevant to this blog.  I completely forgot about the cowgirl chapter in her life, but she reminded me after I left it out of the first draft of this blog I sent her.

Thirty years ago as I was wrapping up my year in Philadelphia, Suzanne called me and expressed her concern about Gail.

Something has really come over Gail.  She’s getting into this new country music that’s coming out; she’s really going crazy over it.  There’s this one singer that she thinks is so cool.  HIs name is Garth Brooks.”

Gail did confirm that she had indeed gone country for a spell.  In effect, she was country when country was just becoming cool.  She had the cowgirl boots then, as well as the western shirts, and probably the belt buckle and the hat.  She no longer has any of them.  She does still listen to country music.

It shouldn’t  take much for Suzanne and me to get her outfitted in a pair of boots again.

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When we were kids, we bought all our shoes in nearby Downs at Stigge’s. They were the local purveyors of clothes and shoes, and if you are a native of our hometown or the area, please give us an Amen in the comments if you shopped there, too. At some point while I was in high school, Stigge’s moved across the street into a new building, and aptly renamed themselves Stigge Villa. They sold shoes on one side, and housed a locally famous bridal store on the other side. Another family-owned business—True’s, moved into their old building and continued to support the fashion trends for the area. As far as we all knew in those pre-internet days, we were all stylin’ in north-central Kansas with our clothes and shoes purchased in Downs, Kansas.

There was always something magical about new shoes.  I remember the thrill as a child, and it is still there every time I get a new pair as an adult.

I also recall that in our childhood, both Gail and I had to wear “corrective shoes” that were sold at Stigge’s. I remember Leo, the proprietor and corrective-shoe expert fitting us for these beauties. If I’m not mistaken, the politically correct term now is “orthopedic shoes.”   Our dad escaped the draft due to his flat feet, and without them, we may not be here, so if we did indeed inherit our imperfect feet from Dad, then we shouldn’t complain. I do remember the shoes were rigid and less than fashionable. Apparently, I’ve blocked out any further memories of them, because that’s all I can recall.

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Gail was able to save one of her corrective shoes from years ago.  It is proudly on display in her private room in her home, “Camp Gail.”

Unlike my current shoe collection, I do recall that I likely only had one pair of these corrective shoes, because they were expensive, we weren’t rich, and my feet were still growing.

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So what is it about shoes? Why does a woman like me—and many others too, apparently, delight in owning a ridiculous number of shoes? Because I am a trivia nerd, and I like to know how the mind works, I dug into some online research. I am reporting what sounds like a good answer:

Unlike other pieces of clothing, shoes are sculpted. When we are not wearing them, they remain in the same shape, as if they are a sculpted work of art. Our other body coverings lose their shape if we are not inside of them. Therefore, shoes seem to have their own personality apart from other clothes, and if their personality aligns with out tastes, then we like to wear them.

Shoes, again unlike other pieces of clothing, affect our stance, our posture; the curve of our bodies. They can make us stand up straighter and command more attention.   They often make their own unique sounds in action, which can give us a feeling of power when we walk in them.

In short, they have the power to make us feel powerful.

Shoes, of course, are necessities. We need them to protect and cradle our precious feet. We couldn’t remain ambulatory without them for long, unless it’s summer on the farm and one’s feet are tough as shoe leather, as all of us eventually trained ours to be every summer by going barefoot outside as much as we could.

Deeper than all of this, though, is the fact that shoes connect us to the earth. We are grounded through our shoes. We make contact with the ground, the floor, the sidewalk or the street, and we are one with the earth.

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It’s 96 degrees here right now, and I don’t know how soon I will wear my new cowgirl boots for their inaugural trip out. I won’t wear them often; I’m not a cowgirl at heart, but that doesn’t matter. They are now a part of me, and when I wear them, I will feel a special connection to the earth, and to that adventurous woman inside of me I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Plus, they are red shoes, and I am a Kansas girl. I have several other pair of red shoes—shocker, I know—and I always tell people when they comment that every Kansas girl needs red shoes. Perhaps I will expand that notion and reply to any comments regarding my new boots that (almost) every Kansas girl needs red cowgirl boots.

Thanks to Kate for her inspiration and to the author Sarah, for Mom’s message through her book.

I hope you can find a way to take the steps toward the secret life you desire for yourself, with or without red leather cowboy boots.

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Giddy-up.

 

Ban Breathnach, S. (1995).  Simple Abundance, New York:  Warner Books.

SIMPLE CELEBRATIONS

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SIMPLE CELEBRATIONS

It’s party time. If a party can be defined by a group of people celebrating an event or occasion, then yes, it is indeed time once again to party.

And by party, I recommend staying within the recommended guidelines that we are all aware of.

I had a little party at my home this weekend. A dear friend since childhood was celebrating her birthday, and I had the privilege of helping her do just that. Shari was traveling through on her way to see her parents in our hometown, so she spent Friday afternoon and evening with us. We even continued the celebration yesterday morning. I will expand on that later.

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Birthdays are obvious times to celebrate. Marking another successful trip around the sun should always be a festive occasion. It was for her, and the rest of us as well. Our neighbor was celebrating his birthday as well, so our group of eight serenaded him in his yard with a birthday carol at his front door.

Gail and her 20-year old daughter Lydia were here, too. Lydia had her every-four-month checkup with her endocrinologist in Salina, and she got continued good news regarding the battle she continues to wage–and win–against Type One diabetes. That’s cause for celebration.

Suzanne came out to spend the evening with us as well. If you recall, Suzanne’s encouragement to Lydia when she began her diabetes treatment was this: “Only the coolest girls get to see an endocrinologist.” Another occasion to celebrate is that Suzanne’s recent visit to her endocrinologist in Wichita brought good news as well: almost eight years after her thyroid cancer diagnosis, she remains healthy.

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Living in our strange new COVID world, finding reasons to celebrate any cause large or small is a way to keep looking at the sunny side. Despite all the bad news we are continually hammered with, there is still good news out there. Here’s an example: an elderly, extended family member of ours was dismissed from the hospital back to his home after his battle with COVID. That’s good news, even though the diagnosis was bad news we all naively thought would never strike our family. And, as more bonus good news, other family members who helped take care of him before they knew the diagnosis have tested negative.

And here’s further reason to celebrate with good news about my health: the tick that hitched a ride on my ankle yesterday morning was easily and completely removed. My husband, armed with the tweezers, plucked him out while Gail talked me down from the ledge the tick put me on.

It’s our choice. All day, every day. We can choose to celebrate the positive or magnify the negative. It’s always our choice.

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Mother Nature continues to offer us unlimited reasons to celebrate the beauty in every day. She has carpeted the earth in a lush green with the recent rains, and vibrant green leaves adorn the trees and bushes. Flowers are blooming, and summer is almost here.

Given this generous gift from her, my friend Shari and I decided to accept Mother Nature’s gift, and hike the trails at nearby Wilson Lake. Hiking is something we both enjoy, something we plan to do more of.

Suzanne went home Friday night, and Gail and Lydia stayed overnight with us. As a bonus, a friend of Gail’s since childhood came out for coffee Saturday morning. We all visited for a bit, then Shari and I took off for our hike.

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It was a beautiful day, and the state park area around the lake was re-opened, with many other people enjoying the outdoor space as well.

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The trails were lush in places,

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Rocky and barren in others,

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But always beautiful.

We were hungry hikers at the end of the trail, so we savored the made-from-scratch German lunch at a local restaurant aptly named Made From Scratch. I hadn’t sat down for a meal in a restaurant since March 15th, so this was a celebration of sorts for me as well.

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Celebrate. Whatever occasion, reason, victory or birthday, and within sanctioned limits in these COVID times, find a way to find the good, and share it in a small group now, and hopefully a larger one later.  We all need each other, and we all need to celebrate.  I think most of us have realized that in these last few isolated months.

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