BECAUSE WE CAN

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BECAUSE WE CAN

Ask, and you shall receive.”

“Knock, and it shall be opened.”

I was lounging about this Sunday morning, drinking coffee, reading the paper and trying to drag my tired body and creaky knees out the door for my daily run. I was weighted down with what am I going to write about for tonight?

I had several ideas going, several started on my computer, but none that were coming together. So I asked for help.

I sent up a little prayer, a request for ideas and energy to make them work. I asked for the switch to be flipped.

Be careful what you wish for.

I laced up and got out the door. I put the ear buds in, turned on my iPod, and before I was even down the driveway, there it was. Like so many other times when my body is moving, my mind flows, too.

The answer to my prayer came through the words and melody of the brilliant, beautiful and musically gifted Jon Bon Jovi. “Because We Can.”

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Now, before I go on extolling the virtues of the Sister Lode sisterhood, I want to tell you about another group of sisters who make us look like amateurs. Gail and Suzanne know them, but I do not. I do, however plan to get to know them.

There are twice as many of them as us—six, and they are more geographically scattered than we are. And, they travel. All of them. To far and away places, further than we normally do. That’s six women who manage to make it work logistically, financially and harmoniously. There are only three of us who do that. I understand there is one brother, and whether or not he wants to come along, he doesn’t get to. I’m sure they include him in other ways. We plan to reach out to at least one of them with this post, and hopefully you will hear more about them in the future.

For now, you are stuck with Gail, Suzanne and me.

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We are often asked: “How do you do that?” in reference to our travels. They are usually stymied as to the aspects I mentioned above: logistics, finances and harmony.

Well, the answer is fairly simple: We want to, so we make it work. In essence, BECAUSE WE CAN.

I can hear the voices resonating inside many of my reader’s heads about now:

I couldn’t do that with my sisters.”

“I can’t get time off work.”

I don’t have the time or the money to _________(whatever it is you want to do).”
And guess what—you’re right: if you say you couldn’t/can’t/don’t, then you can’t. So start by changing what you think is possible.

Because you can.

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A profound statement from the walls of Camp Gail.

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Deep inside, we all have a more real version of ourselves clamoring to get out. We typically keep them locked up, because if we did let them free, lots of things would have to change. Things that, in the end would be better for us. But change is hard, because that involves work. And, as humans, we strive for the path of least resistance. If we have always done something one way, it’s easier to keep on doing it that way. We know how. It’s like the cattle trails you see worn deep in a pasture. That’s the path they have always walked on, so it is easy and familiar. For a cow to step out of that path and make their own would be difficult, even if it meant getting out to greener pastures.  Gail reminded me that we spent hours as kids traversing those trails, always walking within them, never stepping out to the greener pastures.  Now, as adults, we know that the best journey sometimes lies outside of those trails.

We all have those cattle trails worn deep in our brains. Worn by repetition and chosen every time for familiarity and ease of travel. But there are greener pastures in our heads too, just waiting to be explored.

Just as Jon Bon Jovi has enlightened us with his words and music, several other notable musicians have gifted us with profound lyrics, including several variations on the theme of life being a dance.

Indeed, it is.

Most dances, however, involve a partner. Every relationship we have involves at least one other person. When we step out of our cattle trail and try new things, change our patterns—change our dance, in effect, this requires change on the part of our dance partners.

And, on the Dance Floor of Life, no one wants to be humiliated by surprise dance moves by their partner.

So, be warned: when you decide that you are going to do something you have always wanted to do Because You Can, your dance partner(s) will be left wondering what their new dance step is, and they probably aren’t going to like it. And it will, in their minds, be your most grievous fault. Keep in mind, however, as I recite these lyrics for the fourth time now: “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.”

Now, back to that person we all keep locked up inside, clamoring to get out: whatever or whoever holds the key that originally locked them up—it could be family, parents, current or former partner, friends, social circles, politics or religion–needs to be reckoned with. Because guess what: they’re no longer the boss of you. They are, of course, if you let them. But you can now silence the voice of the oppressor, you can steal the whip and chair away from the lion tamer; take possession of the key. Because you can. Trust me on this one. You start by realizing you have more power than you think you might, and go from there. Realize that the person(s) in your life whose dance moves are most likely to change with your changes, are those who may be the current oppressors. Keep in mind, too, that our greatest enemy is often our self-limiting thoughts, especially “I don’t think I can do it…”

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I found this at a garage sale yesterday. After writing this post, it now symbolizes the key I have to make my dreams come true.

Each of us do, however, have legitimate reasons for staying on our own cattle trails that keep us from realizing our dreams. Family obligations are the most important roles for many, as they should be. Financial limitations are common, but changing the way we think costs exactly nothing. Some struggle with chronic pain or limiting physical and mental illness. Recognize that which you can’t change, but also acknowledge even the smallest things that you can.

Ask for help. Pray for strength and grace. Ask for the door to be opened. And do your part. Ask what you need to do to make it happen, then show up for the work. Always, always ask for the switch to be flipped on. Ask for the energy and guidance to make it happen. It’s out there, just waiting to be accessed. Just be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. (Happy Birthday, Suzanne: Be Careful What You Wish For, August 13th.)

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Back to the inspiration from the beginning of the post: because three is such a good number, here’s a trifecta I want to share with you: (This one’s for you, Robyn!)

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I spent one year in The City of Brotherly Love, so I like to keep up via the magazine. And, because Catholic nuns of today are typically movers and shakers who get the job done on their own terms, I loved this story. My admiration of the cover boy needs no further explanation. He started a homeless shelter in Philadelphia with Sister Mary Scullion, because they knew they needed to, so they did. Perhaps Philadelphia should also be know as The City of Sisterly Love.

I wish my aspirations were as grand and good as theirs, but, alas, they are not. They are, however, mine, and I am honoring them by remembering that if I start by thinking about things a little differently, and beginning to act by stepping out of my own cattle trail into the greener pastures that are indeed out there in my own mind, I am getting closer.

In order to ensure that my dreams are good for others as well as me, I keep yet another of Mom’s sayings in mind: “If it feels good, and doesn’t break the Ten Commandments, DO IT!”

I am only one-third of the Sister Lode trifecta, so Gail and Suzanne’s words need to be heard as well. Our adventures, our excursions and anything we do together involves their perspective as well, so I went to them to ask for just that: advice to you on how to make the Because We Can idea work for you:

In keeping with Gail’s task-oriented spirit, she offers these:

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Suzanne: “I saw this on Facebook, and it’s never left me.”

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Simple, yet so profound.

I must offer more advice from another group of wise women. In my work, I have the opportunity to get to know many women as patients and family members who appear to defy age, who are living life larger than most their age. If it is appropriate, I ask them how I can be more like them when I grow up. “What is your secret?” I want to know.

Their responses generally include one or both of these themes:

I found what I enjoyed doing and I did it.”

I kept my body moving.”

I do my best to follow these sage words of advice from women who know.

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Because I can, I am taking a summer hiatus from posting. I will return on August 12th, refreshed and renewed.

Eighteen years ago tonight, I was preparing to give birth. Tomorrow, we will celebrate this monumental day with our lastborn.

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Happy Birthday Joel. I wish you all you dream for in life. Go out there and get it, because you can.

 

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I woke up from my Sunday afternoon nap and wrapped up this post.  I turned on my Amazon music, and decided to play Jon Bon Jovi.  I tapped his icon, and the first song in the queue, of course, was Because We Can.

 

GARAGE FOR SALE

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GARAGE FOR SALE

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  Anonymous

 

The guests from last week’s post are gone, I went back to work and the day-to-day routine kicked in again.   In the spring-summer-fall, this routine sometimes includes a Saturday morning trip in to town to check out the garage sales.

Sometimes, when it works, Suzanne and I hit them together.  This week, we did just that.  Gail wasn’t here for the weekend, but she just happened to call as we began the treasure hunt.  Of course, she wished us happy hunting.

Suzanne is the garage-saler extraordinaire.  She was a garage-saler from way back; I only recently became one relative to her long history.  Gail is a half-hearted garage-saler, but she will join us if we are all together and happen to spot one, and she reports she actually hits a few on her own sometimes in her small town.  Gail doesn’t, however, make it a quest like Suzanne and I do.

However, she is planning on having her own soon.  Suzanne has had a few when she lived in her small town, but, as a minimalist, she really doesn’t have much to sell.

I have tried twice to host a garage sale at my rural home, but it seems the distance from my small city is too prohibitive for the masses to traverse.

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Because I am a font of useless trivial information—just ask Gail and Suzanne, I am offering a brief history of the American garage sale as we know it.

Also known as a yard sale, a tag sale, or a rummage sale, the garage sale has its earliest origins in the early 1800’s, when shipping yards would sell unclaimed cargo and excess warehouse items at a discount.  These goods were known as “rommage,” and the sale was called a “rommage sale.”

In the late 1800’s, the name evolved to “rummage sale,” and they were offered in churches and other community spaces.  A variety of goods from various sources were included in an effort to liquidate miscellaneous merchandise.

The garage sale as we know it today was likely born in the post-war 1950’s-60’s decades.  The economy was bright, and the average consumer had much more spending money.  So when they spent their money on new things, the old things were cast off in a garage sale for others to buy and use.  The suburban expansion created the perfect set-up for the garage sale to be held in one’s neighborhood.

In the early 1990’s, garage sales continued to proliferate.  Consumer spending was good, which left more stuff to get rid of.  Newspaper advertising and cardboard signs were the primary means of advertising.  As this decade progressed and the internet became an everyday tool, it was used to advertise and locate garage sales.

Myself, I use both.  And, like Suzanne and I did today, sometimes simply driving around down is the best way to find them.  Some of them are not advertised online or in the newspaper, and they rely on signage on street corners.

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I found some very interesting garage sale signs online…

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I did some informal research online (which, along with reading books, is how I gather most of my useless information that I use to impress Suzanne), with a very specific question in mind:  Is the garage sale a uniquely American phenomenon?

My research results were minimal, but apparently other industrialized countries have such sales in an effort to shed their unwanted “stuff.”  I did find one source that reports that European countries do have them, with England calling them “boot sales,” because they are held out of the trunk or the “boot” of one’s car, just like we hold our “garage sales” out of our garages.

Without further research, I can be fairly certain of one thing:  Americans are expert consumers, and we have more relative wealth than most countries in the world.  Therefore, we have more stuff—and too much of it.  So, casting it off in a garage sale is how many of us get rid of it, and how many of us find more.

Suzanne and I are always on the lookout for clothes.  Perhaps one-third of my wardrobe is from garage sales.  I like used clothes, mostly because I’m cheap.  And, I already have a ridiculously large wardrobe, so it is pointless to spend a lot of money on them.  Most everything else is bought on clearance at my two favorite stores:  Marshall’s and TJMaxx.

Besides being good for the earth, and doing my part to decrease American consumerism, buying used clothes works for my overactive imagination.  I like to think that perhaps these garments traveled the world with their previous owner and have travel tales to tell.  Better yet, I like to think that just maybe they got peeled off their last owner by a handsome man and thrown in a heap on the floor—you know, like in the movies.

So today, I found a few more pieces of my favorite brands and styles.  And, in case I haven’t already impressed upon you that my stepson’s wife Lindsay is simply delightful, I will further reinforce it here:  she, too, likes used clothes from garage sales, she is my size, and we like a lot of the same brands and styles.   As a further bonus, she buys their children mostly used clothing at garage sales.  I found multiple pieces I am pretty sure she will love, and they were cheap—just like me.

If you know me well, you likely have received a garage sale treasure as a gift—gag, or the real thing.  I am not above offering these treasures to my loved ones.   If they are cool with that, then I love them more.   Suzanne and I have an unspoken understanding that if either of us finds something the other can no longer live without, we buy it, give it to them and expect no payment.  It all shakes out in the end, I am sure.

Gail, Suzanne and I are always on the lookout for cool stuff for our homes.  If I had to describe my decorating style in my home, I would call it “garage sale eclectic.”  For me, it is whatever catches my eye.  No unified style, just whatever speaks to me.

In my research today, I found a few stories of real treasures found at garage sales, like original artwork by famous artists and valuable pieces of history.  I haven’t got any stories quite that awesome, but I know what is valuable to me.

My mosaic art/random art hobby is fed from garage sales.  And books—I have dozens of great books others have decided to share, and I am forever grateful to them for sharing the love of good books at rock-bottom prices.

So today, Suzanne and I found a few small goodies.  I am pictured here at the end of the morning with my haul, including:  four pair of jeans for our granddaughter Avery, two sweatshirts–one for me, one for Lindsay, a green light bulb, 2 pretty scarves, a glass water bottle, one Christmas ornament and a patriotic Beanie Baby (on top of the pile) that will be used in next year’s Independence Day decorations.

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Suzanne found this awesome shelf, her catch of the day:

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We tried out the balance board, but neither of us felt the need to work hard-core on our balance, even though we obviously should.

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This awesome hat came home with Suzanne.  Despite the 90-degree temperatures this morning, it won’t be long before she will be sporting this on her head for real.

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She told me about a sale she had driven by that consisted of two unattended tables with a sign that said “Free.”  We went back to it and the house looked strangely familiar to me.  Turns out it was a house my husband recently remodeled for the owner.  Then, several weeks after that, my college-age son was looking for a cheap couch for his dorm room.  He answered and ad on Craigslist for a free couch if he could pick it up.  Turns out it was the same house.

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Our small city of approximately fifty thousand really is small.

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Suzanne dropped me off at my car, and I spotted a sign for another nearby sale that she said she had been to, but didn’t find anything.  I decided to stop.  I pulled up and remembered the house from last year.  I remember they had cool stuff, and the proprietors were cool people.

Again this year, I wasn’t disappointed.

In my never-ending quest to find good books, this one caught my eye.  A great topic for these great middle-ages I am living through, by an author with a great first name.

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And speaking of great first names, the owner agreed cheerfully to a picture and to a spot in this blog.

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Thank you, Mark.

I promised my husband Mark I would do my best to live by the one-in, one-out rule.  So far today, I’m not doing very well.  I need to go get busy getting rid of some stuff…

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To give credit where it is due, the award-winning book pictured and mentioned above is available on Amazon and other online booksellers:  Brehony, Kathleen A:  Awakening at Midlife:  Realizing Your Potential for Growth and Change.  Riverhead Books, copyright 1996.  I just got into it, and it is a great read.

 

 

 

STARS AND STRIPES AND SISTERS FOREVER

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STARS AND STRIPES AND SISTERS FOREVER

“Game on,” was the thought Tana said was going through her twelve year old mind when I arrived as their new babysitter.

Except that in 1984, that phrase had not yet been coined.

It was probably something like: “We’ve run off all the other babysitters, and we will run you off, too.”  Or, “You have no idea what you’re getting into, but we plan to show you.”

It probably didn’t help that one of the first things I said after the initial introduction, upon meeting their cat was “I don’t like cats.”  I proceeded to show them that if you blew in a cat’s ear, it would shake its head vigorously.

I thought it was funny.  They didn’t.  Neither did Cinnamon.

That was 34 years ago, and, having survived those crucial first few weeks, we are now bonded forever.  I’m not exactly sure what I did to win their trust after that cat incident, or what I did to make it strong enough for them to decide they wouldn’t run me off, but I apparently did something right.

And—mercifully, I have a new respect for cats.

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Tana and Amy were twelve and eight respectively when we met.  They spent the summers with their dad on the farm, which was close to ours.  They lived with their mother in Arizona during the school year.  Their dad was a busy farmer, and he needed a babysitter, as well as a household manager.

I made the grade well enough to keep coming back for many more summers.  Even when they were no longer in need of babysitting, they brought me back.  It was a great summer gig for a college girl.  And when that was over, we kept each other—as friends.

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Every year for the last I-can’t-remember-how-many, they come to visit for the July 4th holiday from their homes in the Phoenix area.  They bring their husbands and children, who have grown up knowing that “Kathleen’s house” is the Independence Day destination, as well as their summer vacation.  According to their mothers, they begin asking months in advance “How long until we go to Kansas?” and “Why can’t we stay longer?” and “Can’t we go in the winter too?”  I take all these as confirmation that I did indeed make the grade as their mothers’ babysitter all those years ago.

“My friends ask me ‘So, what do you do there?’” Tana said.  “And I say ‘Nothing.  We do nothing.’ And they look at me like I’m crazy.”

But a lot of nothing is what we do indeed.  Nothings like working on puzzles.

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swimming,

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and baking.

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And, of course, eating.  After we bake and cook, we eat.

This “nothing” is what makes it so much fun.  All three of us feel that having a plan and packing a vacation full of activities is sometimes counterproductive, creating stress of its own, which is exactly what vacations are meant to avoid.

We did take a day trip to their hometown, the same town they were born in.  Gail, Suzanne and I were born there, too.  “I’s born in Osborne…”

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Our two-car convoy approaches their small town.

Lunching at the Pizza Hut there is a highlight, the Pizza Hut we ate at all those years ago, and the one Gail managed for years–just in a new building now.

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Stopping along the way at the newly re-opened family market on the way home in Lucas is a highlight.  We stopped there on our way to Osborne for the Loads of Sisters (November 19th)  post to procure some of the locally famous meats from this iconic market, the market that was our dad’s favorite place to stop for meat and conversation.

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Then, having passed by too many times before, we finally took the tour of the locally—and regionally—famous Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas.   And yes, there really is a visibly entombed dead guy there.  He built this unique creation, and it was his wish to be preserved as such.  If you are ever in the vicinity, it’s worth the stop.

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The second-place finisher in a national public restroom contest, this work of art is not to be missed.  Whether or not you have to go, you have to go.

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Nothing is too sacred to be added to the mosaic art that makes this restroom unique, the mosaic art that validates my favorite form of art to create.

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The food and libations, the company and conversation, the heat, the pool—it’s all part of the porch experience at our house.

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Besides all this, there are some secrets this porch holds, memories that require one to be present to win.

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Tana gave this gift to me at the end of the trip, and I treasure it.

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Independence Day has come and gone again, just like holidays, and every other day does.  The guests have returned home, and it’s back to work for me Monday.  The memories remain, and the seeds of anticipation for next year have been planted in all our minds.

This Independence as a nation, as well as our personal independence, needs to be celebrated every day.  We are a free country, thanks once again to the brave men and women who made—and keep it that way.

Just like the soldiers fulfill their duty, each of us has a duty to ourselves to free ourselves from anything that holds us back from living our lives to their fullest.  Too many people, I learn more each day, are held in chains by their own bitterness and regret, their closely guarded pride and useless fears, and lack of complete awareness of all things beautiful that surround them.  I can write this only because I am one of them still.  I feel a continued evolution away from all of these, but I know it will be a lifelong journey.  A journey it is, not a destination.  If I—or any of us—think we have it all perfected, perhaps another look would enlighten us to yet more joy we could unearth and hold within.

Not to be confused with happiness, I have learned that joy is the deeper of the two, the feeling that no matter what sadness may befall us, we have a deep well within to sustain us, a well that will never run dry, even when happiness is in a drought spell.

Happiness, if you dissect the word, looks too much like “happen,” happening” or “happenstance,”  all of which suggest it depends on external things that we may have no control over.

The longer I live, the more I realize it is my duty to myself first, then to my fellow human beings, to find any and all things that make me happy and add to that well of joy, so that I may first savor it for myself, and then share it with others.

As a sister to Gail and Suzanne, I find deep joy having them in my life.  This blog, I hope, gives you an insight into this well within me that seems to become deeper with time, thanks in large part to them.  I am so grateful that Tana and Amy kept me, long after they needed me.  They didn’t have to.  They have made my well inside deeper.

Like most sisters, we have had heartbreak in our own lives and within our family.  So, too, have Tana and Amy.  Like us, they have stuck together through thin and thick.  They were the only two children of their parents, having each other as constants when they divorced.  They rode through storms of many other forms of loss and sadness, and came out victorious, and with a stronger bond after the storms cleared.

Some sisters, I know too well, do not have this resilience.  Some sisters, sadly, don’t ride out the storm.

I recall being struck by this statement I read after our parents died:  The two people who knew you the longest are gone.  Sisters and brothers are second only to parents for most of us in terms of relationship longevity.

I know, sadly, from seeing others struggle with their families, that the peace I have with my sisters, and the peace Tana and Amy have, is not universal, not a gift granted.  It may take work, and for some sisters, no solution can be found.  Some sisters—and brothers too—cannot find that middle ground to meet upon; cannot bridge the chasm that lies between them.

Once again—the third time within The Sister Lode, I will make a reference to a profound lyric from a classic 70’s song:  “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.”

Tana and I had the privilege of seeing this rock icon who first performed this classic song, right here in the downtown of our small city:  (Amy departed that day, so she wasn’t able to join us.)

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Sometimes, if we step back and simply try to see the situation through their eyes, we may come closer to meeting in that beautiful middle; not being a good guy or a bad guy.

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Stars and stripes are forever, and so are sisters.  Forever is a long time.  Except when it’s not.  Forever could come tomorrow for any of us.  Please make the most of whatever is left of forever; none of us know how long that could be.

I hate to brag, but I am kind of an authority on this subject:  life can change forever in one second, loved ones can be gone in a blink.  If you are at peace with your sisters and any other loved ones, celebrate it every day.  If you aren’t, do what you can to meet in the middle, and perhaps just disagree.   I get that some people will not budge one inch toward the middle, and we have to leave them in their far left or far right.  As long as you have tried.  If they were gone tomorrow, I hope you would find peace with whatever efforts you made.  If you think perhaps there is more work you can do, then do it.

Until every day is Independence Day.

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My life is coming full circle– I find myself liking cats once again.  Thank you, Tana and Amy, for giving me a second chance after my failed first impression with Cinnamon.

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Suzanne was able to join us for our July 4th celebration, but Gail was not.  Gail was here for Memorial Day weekend, and we celebrated then, as we always do.

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In her absence, Suzanne and I had our own little pool party yesterday.  Anytime there is laughter, Gail is there in spirit.

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FREEDOM ROADS

 

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FREEDOM ROADS

Hit the road…The Road Less Traveled. ..The road to a friend’s house is never long…Take the high road…Get this show on the road…Country Roads, Take Me Home…Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.

As I write on Friday evening before Sunday’s post, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of one set of guests, with the other set arriving in two days.  Crossing 1,053 miles of American highways today, they will be here in less than an hour.

They were my guests last year for the July 4th week last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and…

They visit every year.  They, too, are sisters.  They are dear to me for a very special reason.  They were with me in the Swheat Girls Part Two post (July 9th), and they will be featured again next week.

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The Sister Lode was conceived on a road trip, one of many my sisters and I took–and continue to take–to Colorado.  Contrary to what may have appeared from the trip by air I featured in my first post, The Sister Lode was born on the road.

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Our country has thousands of miles of Interstate highways, having been signed into creation by Kansas’ own Dwight D. Eisenhower.  Almost every workday, I travel across the very first paved section of Interstate 70 near his boyhood home and final resting place of Abilene, Kansas.

This complex grid of roadways can carry us nearly everywhere we want to go in this great country.  As I age, however, I find myself wanting to take the back roads whenever possible, just like our Dad always did.  The interstates are too busy for me.

I spend a great deal of work time in my car, mostly traveling between home health appointments. The odometer on my beloved Stella, my buggy that takes me to and from every day, now reads 87,227 miles.  I bought her not quite two years ago with 36,453 miles on her gauge.

I drive a considerable amount of my miles in a neighboring county.  The beautiful and regionally famous Flint Hills are within my routes, and it has been a natural pleasure to drive through this natural tallgrass prairie.

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The tallgrass, as well as the wheat and every other crop, depend upon ample rain–but not too much–in order to flourish.  Perhaps that is why one of the roads in this county is named just that:  Rain Road.   I have noticed the sign at three different intersections:

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April of this year, before the cruel winter relented.

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May, when Mother Nature finally gave in.

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Summer, my absolute favorite season.  More rain, please.  

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Gail, Suzanne and I grew up on country roads that carried us to and from our small hometown five miles away.  The first two miles were—and still are—gravel, the last three are paved state highways.

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Standing at this intersection on the south end of our hometown, those 3 miles stretch out in front of the camera.  The ribbon of white in the distance is our road.

We learned how to drive first on the farm—around and up and down the driveway, then on the roads and finally the highway.  The gravel roads provided a challenge in inclement weather, forcing us to learn how to drive in mud and snow. The hills had to be negotiated with any oncoming traffic, which sticks with me to this day:  when cresting a hill, get as far to the right as possible and slow down. The roads, just like all our other public spaces, must be shared. The other parties must be respected.  We don’t own the road.

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The long hill leading to the highway from our farm.

Two weeks ago, I went to the farm for my annual harvest visit.  As I approached the last stretch to our farm (above), I recalled the days years ago when these hills were not opened up.  The “Rock Hills,” as we called them, were cut into the hills when they were created.  In our school years, if a blizzard was setting in, Dad would come to town to pick us up so that we didn’t get snowed out.  The hills would easily drift shut, so Dad came to pick us up before that happened.  When he showed up in the classroom doorway, we knew we had an automatic “snow day” for the rest of the day and probably the next, even if no one else did.  I recall a silent “yes!” as I packed up my books to go home.  I’m sure my siblings did the same.

In this part of the country, these roadway negotiations often take place with farm machinery.  The gravel/dirt roads and the smaller highways are fair game for tractors and even combines.  Whenever I get behind one of these slow-moving behemoths, and I find myself frustrated at my reduced pace, I stop to remember where I came from, and where some of my food comes from.

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You may even see them on city streets—in smaller towns, of course. 

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(The above four pictures were taken randomly, and the fact that all four feature green vs. red machinery is in NO WAY a personal endorsement of the green over the red. Remember, I am an International Harvester girl from an IH farm.)

When I went to the farm, I left Stella in my garage—she’s a beautiful glossy black color, and I had just shined her up—and took my son’s truck.  Or, as we say on the farm, pickup.  It was a better vehicle to take on the country roads.

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The panoramic view opens to the west as I approach the harvest fields.  

When I left the wheat field, I decided to take a trip down several different memory lanes that were the country roads of our youth.  We used to drive them to get to the best fishing ponds, and I recall many trips on the school bus on some of them.

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Just south of our farm, the first hill allows a beautiful view of our hometown.

I was on a quest to drive to the pond another mile south and a bit west that was the scene of our record catch on a fishing trip perhaps 40 years ago—I believe it was 30-some fish.  As I approached the pond, I realized it was not in the best interest of my son’s pickup to go any further.

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The bank of the record-setting fish-catch pond is to the left.

I backed up and took a turn further south, winding through a better-graveled road.  I had to stop to snap this picture, because the roadside wildflowers are an integral part of these warm memories of our country roads.

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Suzanne reminded me that Mom would often dig these up and attempt to replant them at home, but I don’t remember them thriving.  Wildflowers, I guess, are supposed to remain wild.

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I rounded the curve around this Memory Lane, realizing I likely hadn’t been this far southwest of our farm since I babysat for a family who lived a bit further in high school.  I kept going southwest until the roads no longer held memories.  Then, I turned east to head home.

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My family and I are hitting the road later this summer for an approximate 1,450 mile journey.  Like Dad loved to do, I want to take the back roads.  The fast pace of the Interstate highways leaves less time and space to savor the natural beauty, as well as the man-made wonders and attractions along the way.  Given the distance, however, we will likely travel a combination of both.  Either way, it will be new ground covered for three of the four of us.   We will explore this Land of the Free by car, crossing state lines and going wherever we choose in this Home of the Brave, which is but one more freedom we are privileged to enjoy.

Gail, Suzanne and I will enjoy another road trip this fall, another in an ever-increasing series.  We have no intention of ever stopping.  Three women traveling wherever we choose in this free country, a country that has never denied the right to drive to any woman.  Saudi Arabia recently legalized driving for women, a freedom every American woman–myself included–has likely taken for granted.

This, and every other freedom begs recognition and gratitude during the upcoming Independence Day observation.  May yours be enjoyable and safe, and may you keep the spirit of Independence alive within every day of the year.

Happy 242nd birthday, America.

Let Freedom Ring, and thank you to all the men and women who made, and continue to make it free.

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AFTER HARVEST

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AFTER HARVEST

Night and Day.  Black and White.  All or nothing.  Abundance and Lack.

Sometimes it is one extreme, often it is somewhere in between.  As an adolescent in the late 70’s/early 80’s, I was sensitive—overly sensitive, as I see now—to the whole abundance and lack thing.  In my young mind, it was simply one or the other.  Plenty or scarcity.  Usually never just enough-which is what we always had.

Looking back now, I see that it was always enough, and, seeing it with my adult eyes, I view it now as plenty.  But I didn’t see it then.

Like so many things in life, it is rarely black or white.  It is usually an undetermined shade of gray.

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I went to the farm last weekend to partake of the annual wheat harvest on my family farm.  My two farming brothers had just got harvest into full swing, and I was able make the trip on the day they began.   Gail and Suzanne were not able to join me, so I went solo.  I would have preferred to have their company, but this did not deter me from making the trip.  I have only missed one in my entire life, and I was living far away from The Wheat State that year.  Mom sent me a card with several heads of wheat in it, in her usual thoughtful style.  I wrote more about that last year in Swheat Girls (July 2nd), and I could go on about that and so much more surrounding harvest, but that much was already written, so I will bring you the new.

I arrived in the field in the mid –afternoon hours and found both brothers across the road from each other in their respective fields; in their respective behemoth harvesting machines—both of them red, of course.

I found Ryan making his rounds (squares?) on this side of the road, so I jumped in the combine for the required ride.

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It was dusty, dirty and windy, and just as last year, I loved it.  I got dirty, although not as dirty as I’d hoped, because it was overcast, and not sunny, not hot and still as it was last year.  I didn’t get as sweaty as I wanted to either, but I tried.  That is part of the experience, you know.  The sweat, the dirt, the wheat dust.  Bring it on—at least on to me. It’s not quite as fulfilling without it, but I took what I could get, just as every farmer does out of his wheatfield.

Suzanne and I getting dirty and dusty in last year’s wheat field.

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Last year’s wheat dust hung lazily in the air with no wind to scatter it.

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A ride to the elevator is in order; as it’s not a complete harvest trip without it.  My younger brother had a load ready, and we labored down the dusty dirt roads with the full semi-trailer behind.

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Waiting for our turn at the elevator.  The moisture sensor takes a sample on the truck in front of us, measuring the moisture content on each load.  This matters in the end, as too much moisture gets a big red mark on your wheat’s report card, followed by a dock in your payment.

The trip back to the field was faster, lighter and a bit more urgent, as the wheat was waiting.  Waiting to be cut, augered into the grain cart and then into the semi again for a repeat trip to the elevator.

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I got it all in within a matter of a few hours.  I was fulfilled.  The trip was quick, but I got the job done.  The next day, it rained.  My timing was perfect.  The rain was welcome, with more to come later that week.  Even though it interrupted harvest, it was welcomed because of the dry conditions.

So it is not yet after harvest on the farm; it is still during harvest, even with the interruption.

After harvest, in the sense I am writing about, comes not after the last load of wheat is cut and hauled.  It comes after the final reckoning, after the farmer’s balance sheet is tallied to see where on the abundance/lack spectrum the numbers fell.  The numbers are black and white, and the results can differ from the expectations by as much as night to day; all or nothing.

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In the time period from the late 1970’s to the mid 1980’s, the American farm economy was in crisis.  The interest rates were at record highs, while the prices for grain were at record lows due to record production.

I remember Dad saying “The farmer is the only businessman who doesn’t get to set his own prices for his products.”  And, like most everything else Dad spoke, was so true.

The 1980 grain embargo against the Soviet Union brought exports to a record low, while farm debt for land and equipment rose to a record high.  Many farmers were unable to make their payments, so their farms were foreclosed upon, including several in our small farming community.  The auction block was the formidable potential enemy for so many Midwestern farmers during this time.

I know most farmers were worried about their own finances during this time, including our Dad.  I could hear it in the things he said, and as a sensitive kid, I could feel it, too.  He was worried, and so was I.

In the end, our farm survived.  It still does.

And so does my tendency to feel a sense of lack.  Those impressions made in childhood die hard.   In the face of my own relative prosperity now, my relative abundance compared to that of my childhood, the darkness of lack still lingers sometimes, still haunts me with thoughts of what if it’s not enough?

I know now I have power over that darkness, like so many others I have conquered.  Realizing our own strength is always the first step.

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If I wanted an extra material something as a child, something that was not a necessity or a need such as an extra pair of shoes, or perhaps a Barbie doll, I would bring that request to my parents.    If it was close to harvest, my answer from them would always be “We’ll see after harvest.”  After harvest –in my young mind–became code for it will either be abundance or lack, so we will see which one it is.  Black or white.  All or nothing.  Night or day.

Gail and Suzanne recall the same answer.  We all heard the same answer:  “After harvest.”

At least, that’s what the girls in our family heard.

The girls were inside during harvest, primarily preparing the many elaborate meals for the harvesters.  Dad and our brothers were the farmers, and they worked morning to dark—and as late into the night as the wheat straw allowed.  It becomes tough as night falls, and harvesting is no longer possible.

Suzanne and I reminisced yesterday about all three of us helping Mom prepare a full-on feast to be taken to the field.  A feast no different than the ones she normally cooked and served in the kitchen around our large table of nine.  A hot meat-and-potatoes meal complete with bread—sometimes homemade—and vegetables, and likely a dessert.  We prepared it as usual, then loaded it up and took it to the field.  The tailgate of the pickup was the dining table, and we raced to get to one of the two wheel hubs in the box to sit on, as these were prime seats.   We savored it with them as they took a short break, then came home to clean up the pots, pans and plates, and get ready to do it all over again.

In the spirit of Waste Not, Want Not (January 14th), Gail recalled that we saved our sugar sacks, as they were heavier, and somewhat insulated.  Dad would pack his only thermos full of coffee when he took off for the field, and we would pack a refill of coffee in a recycled mayonnaise jar, tucked inside of the sugar sack to keep it warm.   In another sugar sack, we packed another recycled mayonnaise jar of cold water to refill his water jug.  Small coolers were essentially non-existent, as were insulated bottles that are everywhere now.

Gail reports she still saves her sugar sacks.  Mine go in the recycling crate.  If you recall from The Baker, The Long-John Maker–and Suzanne (December 3rd), Suzanne doesn’t bake, so I don’t think she even purchases sugar by the bag.

These honorable duties were our jobs as girls; the boys helped Dad.

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One of our brothers made a surprise visit to our small city for dinner last night.  He and his wife decided to make the 80 mile trip from Wichita to have dinner with Suzanne and me.  We welcomed the gathering, as usual.  Good thing he treated us, because after dinner, while chatting at Suzanne’s place, the truth came out:

We asked him about his memories of the “after harvest” determination, and apparently, there was a double standard.  His memory was that during harvest, not after, Dad would discuss the “harvest wages” with the boys.   This apparently meant there would most certainly be some small, extra token of appreciation for their efforts.  David’s only recollection of what any of those annual tokens were was a new fishing pole.

If you know our family, you can imagine the good-natured banter that took place at that point.  A strong sense of humor prevailed between us three siblings, as it typically does between all of us.  We know, just as we always did, that fairness and equity among their seven children was the rule.

 

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David lived in our small city for a time, and the iconic pizza restaurant was a hit for us all .

We can choose to live with a mindset of abundance, or we can choose to believe in scarcity and lack.  We get to decide.  It doesn’t matter what your house or your car or your bank account look like, the truth resides in your mind.  It is a choice.

And, having chosen to believe in both extremes at various points in my life, I can tell you that choosing a mindset of abundance is always the best choice.

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May all your harvests be abundant, and never stop separating the wheat from the chaff.  

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My hometown lost another legend last week.  The mother of a dear friend passed away after a long and blessed life of 84 years.  She mothered six children, one of whom passed before her.

She was a wife and mother, an artist, a master gardener, a knowledgeable and compassionate nurse who was called upon to be the small-town doctor at times.  She leaves a legend behind of all these things, which I will always remember her for.

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Tracy and her dear Mother Mary.

I remember her for other things, too.  She always laughed and smiled, no matter what her circumstances.  She laughed through sadness and illness, which were no strangers to her.  I lived with Tracy—one of her four daughters—in college, and she came to our college town for extended cancer treatment.  She stayed with us during this time, witnessing me coming in too late, even for a college girl.  She laughed at this the next morning, in her usual style.  I got to know her on a new and deeper level, now more as an adult than a child, which had been my relationship with her before college.

May her smile and laughter live in our memories forever.

 

 

 

 

THE HONORABLE DAD

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THE HONORABLE DAD

When I was pregnant the second time, I craved ham sandwiches.  And, unlike my normal habits, I ate them in the middle of the night.  I never did before, nor do I now, get up and eat in the middle of the night.

But I did then.

Getting up and going downstairs to the kitchen in the middle of the night was a taxing effort as my pregnancy progressed.  Preparing the ham sandwich was another effort.

In his usual, unique thoughtful style, my husband found a way to take away all the work, and make it sheer enjoyment: he fixed a ham sandwich for his lunch the next day, and an extra one for me.  Then, since the springtime temperatures at night were cool but not freezing, he opened our bedroom window and placed the sandwich (in a baggie) in the window between the screen and the glass.  He closed it, thus creating a refrigerator for the sandwich.  All I had to do was get up and go to the window to get my sandwich.

And I did.  And I loved it.  And I loved him for it.

And our son still loves ham sandwiches.

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Being pregnant is sometimes sheer joy, but often times it is sheer misery.  I experienced both.  My husband did whatever things—both small and large—that he could to turn the misery to joy, or at least to alleviate some of it.

When we were dating, I had a built-in barometer to assess his potential fitness as a future reproductive match for me:  he already had a son.  I liked what I saw, so I deemed him acceptable—if not excellent—as a match.

He was then, and continues to be an honorable—and excellent–dad.

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I thought this picture was taken on Father’s Day, but given my long sleeves and long pants (right), I think perhaps it was Dad’s birthday in March.  Suzanne is on his lap, Gail is in the back.

So too was our dad.  He was an honorable dad, man, husband and human.  He was fair and just.  He spoke his mind, which were always words of wisdom.  He was respected by all, and he knew not a stranger.   For all of this, I am forever grateful.

I know that not every dad is worthy of this honor.  I know there are many fathers—and mothers too—who are not honorable.  Who do not deserve to be a parent to their beautiful and innocent children.   Who do not treat their children with love, respect, caring kindness and tenderness.  Who did not want to be parents, but found themselves in that position.

There are many mysteries in life, and that is one of them.  How such gifts in the form of children are given to parents who are not honorable.  I don’t have an answer, and I don’t want to bring you—or me—down any further by discussing it.

Instead, simply pray for the children, and pray that future potential parents are somehow better chosen.  And if you are a parent, keep being the best parent you can be.

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If you have ever paid attention to the composition of a pasture full of cattle (I’m a farm girl, remember, so bear with me here), you will notice an imbalance between males and females.  In order to reproduce cattle, farmers and ranchers will place the heifers—adult female cattle—in a pasture with a bull—the male.  But there is only one bull for multiple heifers.  It only takes one bull.  More than one would cause disastrous conflicts between the bulls, but I digress…img_20180615_080341675.jpg

This was the scene at the edge of our backyard yesterday.  The cows come home to our home every once in awhile.

In the human animal kingdom, males can reproduce hundreds, if not thousands of times in their adult lives.  Females, who have approximately 30 fertile years, can reproduce at a maximum of about once per year.  Thirty is a generous estimate, but the world record for most babies delivered is 67, in 27 pregnancies with all of them being multiple births.  I could not find a statistic for most births to one woman without multiples.   Most women—myself included—strive to keep it in the single digits.  In 2015 in the United States, the average birth per woman was 1.84.

I have a point here:  females have a much higher physical stake in the reproduction process.  One cycle of reproduction, from fertilization to potential repeat fertilization, is about one year.  That is, if everything goes like clockwork.  The physical toll is increasingly measurable with each successive pregnancy.  For the male, there essentially is no physical toll.

Call it instinct, call it pure motherly love, but there is a force that nearly every mother feels for her child.  If she is the biological mother, she has carried it within her for approximately nine months, then she endures otherworldly and possibly excruciating pain to give birth.

This is not to take away from the love a father feels.  I am simply stating that he does not experience the same physical and hormonal phenomena that a woman does.

Sadly, there are too many stories of women who choose not to stay with their offspring.  If we are to call it instinct, then perhaps this would never happen.  Even in the animal kingdom—I have seen it on the farm—mothers sometimes abandon their young.

There are many stories of fathers leaving their children as well.  In the face of divorce or desertion, too many fathers simply walk away.

But I also know of many fathers who lost their children’s mother to divorce or desertion, and remained the only present, active loving parent.  Sadly, I know a few who lost their children’s mother to death, and the love and devotion they show to their children cannot be exceeded by any degree of motherly love I have ever witnessed.

Many fathers have stepped up to become a father to children that were placed in their lives through circumstance instead of through birth.  Any father—or mother—who takes on children and raises them as their own deserves a special place in heaven—as well as on earth.

My point is this:  fathers can more easily walk away, and they more frequently do.  But most often they don’t, and those fathers are the ones we are honoring today.

Both Gail and Suzanne were single mothers for a period of time.  I bow down to each of them; I never had to face that challenge.  Gail told me today that her oldest daughter wishes her a Happy Father’s Day each year, as well as Happy Mother’s Day.  She realizes now that she was both mother and father to her for a long time.  Many parents have to be both, and they deserve recognition every day of the year.

Speaking of the animal kingdom, I have long had a fascination with two different species:  in college, I collected penguins.  Not so much now, but they still intrigue me.

I did not know this fact then:  the male emperor penguin incubates the egg by sitting on it for two months.  He cannot leave.  Even when the mother returns home late from the sea, the male has to feed the chick, even if he hasn’t eaten for months.   If you want your heart warmed but also perhaps ripped out by a true story from the animal kingdom, watch the documentary March of the Penguins.  It details this very phenomenon.

No wonder I consider penguins cool creatures—as well as another creature:

Instead of the female, the male seahorse—as well as several other related species—gives birth.  They carry the young—up to 1500 eggs– in a pouch for 9-45 days, then deliver them into the water.  Again, I felt an affinity for this species long before I knew the male did the hard work.  I spoke of this admiration in Lessons From My Sister—And the Sea Creatures (July 30th).  They are so amazing to me.

Of course, it’s not like I think they are so cool that I would get a tattoo of one or anything like that…no, never.

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Of course, I miss my dad today.  I cannot not feel the pain more today.  But I am celebrating.  I have a lot to celebrate with my children and their father, as well as my in-laws, and we did just that today.  We couldn’t all be together today, but this picture from last Christmas is my husband’s entire brood:

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My memories of Father’s Day as a child usually involve the harvest field, because that is typically where he was.  I made my annual pilgrimage to the family wheat fields yesterday for a truck and combine ride with my brothers, which will be highlighted in a future blog soon.

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I felt my dad there, too.

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My heart breaks for anyone who is struggling through this day because it is their first Father’s Day without their father, and I am thinking of more people than I care to mention here, but they know who they are.

He is still with you, and always will be.

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These flags were flying along the highway on my way home from the farm yesterday.  I don’t know the family who lives there, but I know of them.   My heart was warmed, and it was already 99 degrees outside.

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HAPPY FATHER’S DAY

 

 

 

 

 

THE ALMOST-EMPTY NEST

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THE ALMOST-EMPTY NEST

Suzanne told me before my firstborn son left for college that I would get through it, I would be fine, and in time, I would even come to welcome his independence.

I didn’t believe her at the time, but she was so right.

Her only child—Julia—had left the year before that, and she was living proof.

Gail survived the departure of her first two children many years ago, so that was old news to her. At that time, her younger children were preschoolers. Like any challenge, Gail stares it down, accepts it as a fact of life, and goes on. She simply does what has to be done.

She does, however, feel it more than she lets on. I know this about her. And the older she gets, the harder it gets to not let it show. Oh, she is still tough as nails, don’t get me wrong. She’s just a little softer on the outside now.

She has always been mush on the inside, and that is a good thing.

I wear my heart not on my sleeve; more like on my collar. Or like a tattoo on my forehead. I once cried during a presidential inauguration on television.

Damn hormones.

Perhaps some mothers would have cried at my son’s snafu during graduation, but I managed to laugh—and I truly thought it was funny.

Every graduate, after they walked across the stage, was handed a yellow rose to take to their mother or other significant adult. The graduates before him did just that, offering heartfelt hugs along with the beautiful flower. Joel picked up his rose, and proceeded to sit back down among the rows of graduates. A fellow graduate likely nudged him, reminding him “You’re supposed to take that to your mom.”

So he got back up, searched and found me, and leaned in from the aisle across about 5 chairs, handed me the rose from a distance as I headed toward him for a hug, just as he turned and quickly headed back to his chair in the front of the auditorium.  The blurry quality of this picture shows just how fast it all happened:

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That’s my boy. He apologized later, and gave me one of his best hugs ever.

As my firstborn prepares for his fourth year away at a state university, Joel is preparing for a year at a local vocational training program. He will live at home for one more year. He will be independent, but he won’t be gone—yet.

I am thrilled. I’m not quite ready for emptiness. But I am ready for—as we say in the rehab field—modified independence. It will be the best of both. He will be here, but he will also be on his own.

His sense of humor is a gift to anyone in his presence. If you thought the graduation incident was funny, well, he didn’t even mean to do that. If you can catch him at the right moment, in the right mood, he will break out his impersonations. Any character, any dialect, as well as the voices of many famous people can be heard coming from his mouth.

He is a funny guy, and I look forward to more laughter with him. Then, perhaps after a year of training, I will be ready to let the last one go—at least out of the house.

It’s supposed to happen. They are supposed to grow up and move away from their parents. This is what we work so hard for, for all those years. For their first 18 years, we knock ourselves out to teach them all we can, and show them how to do things on their own. And then we are devastated when they do just that.

Damn hormones. Or soul-wrenching motherly love. Or the bittersweet Grand Design.

They, like all of us at their age, need to move forward to the next phase of their lives. We were ready at their age, and they, too, are readying to leave.

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Gail’s fourth and last child graduated as well. She was born on my husband’s birthday, and, like my last child, will be attending a program close to home. She will drive half an hour to her mother’s alma mater every day.

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Her oldest sister, Gail’s firstborn and honorable attorney-at-law Kate, was the graduation speaker.

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Gail and I, unlike Suzanne, will not quite have an empty nest. But kind of. They will be under our roofs by night, but yet they are out in the big world on their own by day.

I have convinced myself that I am getting the best of both: they are gone, but still here, too. My husband agrees. So does Gail, and her husband.

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Fourteen years ago Matt graduated from high school.

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Three years ago Jude graduated from high school.

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Joel’s graduation completes the trifecta.

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There is a lot of fun out there waiting to be had, and my name is on some of it. Gail’s name shows up too, as does Suzanne’s. Adventure awaits. More of the same kind we’ve always had, and perhaps—who knows—other kinds may find us too. We are open to that.

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I work with many patients whose spouses are present for therapy. They are visiting in the hospital room when I’m there, or they are at home with them when I am in their homes for home health, or perhaps they bring each other in for outpatient therapy.

I am struck every time I hear it spoken, and I always stop to think about this, and why it happens the way it does: so many of these patients and their spouses call each other not by their first names, but by “Mom” or “Dad.”

Clearly, they are married to each other; they are not parents to each other. Yet, they call them by their parental name. I always wonder this: was parenthood their only identity? Do they think of themselves only as parents, and not as individuals married to each other with a unique identity apart from that as a parent? Did they not have the luxury of thinking of themselves as a separate entity apart from their children? Was their devotion to their children greater than mine to my children, because I don’t now, nor do I ever foresee myself calling my husband “Dad,” instead of by his first name. He is not my dad. My dad is the only person I ever called or will call ‘Dad,’ and he is gone. Neither do I foresee him calling me “Mom.” His mother is alive and well, and that is her name to him. My parents called each other either by their first names, or perhaps a term of endearment, but not by their parental names. So too do my in-laws. My husband and I use these endearing terms sometimes too.

When I am talking to my boys and referring to their dad, I do call him “Dad,” or sometimes “your dad” to them. I think perhaps it was simply easier for these couples to simply continue to use the names “Mom” and “Dad” after all those years of doing just that with their children. But I still wonder if they ever think of themselves as anything besides parents.  Perhaps I am over-thinking this, but I do notice it, just like I notice a lot of things in human communication. It is my job, and forgive my psychoanalysis if it appears that is what I have done. I am simply trying to make a point about one’s parental identity.

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So back to our kids: The passive parenting has begun. Gail spent 34 years in active parenthood, I have spent 21, and Suzanne spent 18, for a total of 73 years. That’s a long time. Our parents spent 33 years from the firstborn to the last to leave. Suzanne tells the story of asking Mom if she was going to miss our youngest brother when he was preparing to leave home. If I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure she said without hesitation: “No. I am ready.”

Gail was second to leave, I am guessing that was a little tougher. I was fifth to fly the nest, and I don’t recall giving a flip about how Mom and Dad felt about me leaving. I only recall being so excited to arrive at college, and when they dropped me off, I didn’t look back. I don’t know if they did or not.  One of our older brothers was at the same university for his last year, so I wasn’t quite alone.

Suzanne was next after me, and next-to-last. She went to the same university I did, but I had just finished. Again, it was probably a bit easier. So by the last one, they were experts at this after having been through it seven times.

Several of us—myself included—drifted back in and out again when we were in transition. They welcomed us until we got our footing again, and left once more.

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Joel is sitting next to me as I write, taking care of some form of business on his computer—the one I hijacked for last week’s post. (By the way, my new charger arrived in the mail from Amazon, and obviously, it fired up and charged my computer again.) He and I are plugged in separately, but we are together still. Perhaps this will be the new normal as he transitions into his year of post-secondary education, then into the big world. His next oldest brother will be back at the same university for his senior year. Their oldest brother continues to live just 100 easy miles down the road in Wichita with his delightful family.

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Our nest is almost empty, but our hearts will always be full with them as our children. I know in my heart this is how our parents felt, too. Our nest is blessed. Full nest, almost-empty nest and someday, perhaps, empty nest, we will keep them in our hearts forever. And this is how it supposed to be, this is what we worked so hard for all those years for.

Let the next phase begin.

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