HOW DOES SHE DO IT? PART ONE: GAIL

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HOW DOES SHE DO IT?  PART ONE:  GAIL

When Gail and I shared a room in our farmhouse, she had full reign as decorator of that room—and that was okay with me.  I had no wish to enhance/embellish it any more, or any differently than she already had.  I loved what she did with the place.  I took notes.  I tucked them away for my own decorating decisions someday.

When someday happened in my current home, I found myself recalling Gail’s unique, eclectic, personalized style of decorating our shared bedroom.  With or without knowing it at the time, I slowly embellished my home with pieces that reminded me of Gail’s flair in our room.  Using that guide as a yardstick, every piece I placed in my home fell into that familiar pattern.

And I love my home, and all its decorations in it.

So does Gail.  More than once, I recall her taking in my interior flair, commenting on how much she liked it.

“You have the coolest stuff,” she said not too long ago.

As I already had more than once, I reminded her that I got my style from her.

She doesn’t think so, doesn’t think she possessed any kind of style back then for me to emulate.  Of course she doesn’t.  Taking credit is not her style.

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I referred to my decorating style in a previous post as “garage-sale eclectic.”  I am adding to that, now calling it “Gail-inspired garage-sale eclectic.”

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Mom loved to tell the story of Gail, when perhaps three or four, awoke from her nap as Mom was changing a (cloth) diaper—probably one of the two brothers born just after her.  Gail, while still half-asleep, walked by the dirty diaper and, as if on cue, picked it up and carried it to the diaper pail as Mom finished the changing.  Without being told.   While still waking up from her nap.  While she was probably under the age of five.

This, I am theorizing, is how she does it.  Gail never knew any different.  She never knew there was another way of life besides being a caring, responsible person.

In all her roles—sister, mother, wife, daughter, friend, employee, boss—she has fashioned her life around these two qualities.

For myself in my younger years, her mothering instinct served me well.  As the second-oldest child—and the oldest girl—in a family of seven children, this instilled behavior brought out her greatest quality for my benefit:  she cared for me.  There was not really a choice of whether or not she could complete the tasks expected of her, but she did them with loving care, and without complaining.

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In case you needed proof, these picture collages illustrate her greatest quality in action with me, Suzanne and three of our four brothers.  I don’t think our oldest brother needed her mothering, as he was two years older than her.

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It would follow naturally that Gail would have her own brood, and manage motherhood in her usual seamless style.  While working full time-plus.  While single mothering her first two children.  While maintaining other family relationships.  While baking and cooking like that was all she had to do–she even cans in her spare time!

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Gail’s locally famous salsa and zucchini relish

While also spending quality time with her friends.  While getting very little sleep.  While continuing to keep a smile on her face without complaining.

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Not much has changed in the last twenty-some years.  Except that she remarried and had her next two children who are now both in college.

She works still works full time plus, having just accepted an evening mission in her small town that keeps her working overtime.  Except to her, it’s not overtime.  It is simply work, and she wants to do it.   She even has a few other side gigs.  She knows no other way.

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Apropos of nothing—no birthday, no Nobel Peace Prize award, no lottery win—I have decided to “roast” Gail in this post.  She deserves it.  She has worked hard and deserves recognition, but doesn’t expect it; doesn’t ask for it.

It’s simply her way to continue to live a life of caring responsibility.

My previous posts have made it abundantly clear that Gail and Suzanne are my two dearest friends.  Suzanne will be “roasted” next week.    I wish I could pay homage to them here with another currency besides words, but neither of them expect it, neither of them ask for it.  I do my best to show them in everything we do together.

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My wish for you is that if you have a sister or sisters, please show them how much you care.  If it is hard, start small.  Make a phone call.  Send her a card.  Tell her you are sorry.  Accept her apology.   Make time to spend time with her.  Listen to her problems, and see them through her eyes.  Decide to move forward if you need to move past your shared past.

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I went to a wedding yesterday.  A bright, shiny young couple took the plunge, and it was a beautiful day all around.  Instead of a cake, they had a donut bar.  Yes, a donut bar.   They decided against a long-held “rule,” and opted out of a wedding cake; even deciding against cupcakes.  I wish them the best as they begin their married life together; may they forge their own path and make their own rules as they see fit.

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For seven years, Gail was the owner, manager and sole proprietor of a Daylight Donut shop in her small western Kansas town.  She worked long days and nights, sacrificing regular and adequate sleep for this venture.  She did it with hard work and always with a smile on her face, despite the strain I know she felt.

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She closed her doors seven months after Mom and Dad died, fully realizing that life is too short.  I think we all tried to go back to “normal” after that, but she realized it wasn’t worth it.   We all did.

In the few weeks after, Gail, Suzanne and I were talking about how much life had suddenly changed.  Before I continue, let me warn you that the asterisks represent a strong expletive, likely the strongest one out there.  If you are offended, skip over it.  But please understand that the message needs to be reinforced with the strongest word possible.

“I used to get so mad at myself if I made too many glazed donuts, or not enough,” Gail said.  “They are the best sellers, and I never knew how many I should make.”

She paused for a moment.

“Now, I don’t care anymore about the f****** glazed donuts!”

We all laughed a much-needed laugh, and continued our conversation.  It became apparent to all three of us that this message held for so much more than donuts, and we realized at that moment that this loss puts all other concerns in perspective.  We all had other glazed donuts in our lives; letting ourselves become consumed with trivial, unimportant issues that we gave far too much attention and energy to, just like the glazed donuts Gail used to make too many—or not enough of.

Now, neither Gail, Suzanne or I care about glazed donuts in any form.  May you figure out what your glazed donuts are, and let them go.

IN HONOR OF GAIL, PLEASE ENJOY THIS MONTAGE OF GAIL’S FINER MOMENTS

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Gail-thank you for taking care of me then–

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–and now.  You’re the best.

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XOXO–middlesisterkathleen

 

 

 

WHITE PANTS AFTER LABOR DAY

WHITE PANTS AFTER LABOR DAY

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One of the greatest compliments anyone ever paid me was this:  “You show me what rules need to be broken, and how to break them.”

Mission accomplished.

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As I got dressed during the last week of August, the last week before Labor Day, I put on a pair of white pants for the second day in a row (I have several pair, no surprise).  I thought “I’d better wear these one more time before Monday, because the rule says ‘No white pants after Labor Day.’”

Then, in the time it took to get them off the hanger, I thought “Screw that.  I will wear white pants whenever I want to.”

Today, two days after Labor Day, I wore white pants.

My friend and colleague Kristy beat me to the punch.  I showed up at her office door Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, to find her dressed in white pants.

“I love it!” I said to her.

“What?”  She seemed a bit confused.

“Your white pants.  It’s the day after Labor Day, and you are wearing white pants.”

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“Oh, I don’t pay any attention to those rules.   I wear white pants whenever I want to.”

Amen, sister, Amen.  Some rules have “break me” written all over them.

I wore yet another pair of my white pants today, and when a dear patient of mine showed up in her white pants, it was the first thing I noticed.

“I love it!  We are both wearing white pants after Labor Day!” I said.

“Oh, I don’t pay any attention to those rules.  I wear white pants whenever I want to.”  I wish I could have taken a picture of this amazing woman with me with our white pants on, but privacy laws prevent that.  Trust me when I say she continues to be an amazingly strong woman who follows in her own path, even in the face of the life-altering health crisis she found herself in.

I work hard to surround myself with people who see the world the way I do.  I have been flanked by them the last few days, and I am grateful.

My patient also added that she likewise doesn’t follow the rule that one should wait until after Memorial Day to wear white pants.  I wasn’t aware of the other bookend of this rule, so we looked up the history.

Apparently, according to fashion researchers, this “rule” began in the 1930’s, when only the ultra-rich people wore white in the summer, with light-colored clothing giving a look of leisure.  Working-class people wore mostly dark clothing.

Armed with this information, I now want to wear all four pair of my white pants all winter, and stop wearing them after Memorial Day.

In this free country, I am free to do so.  No one is the boss of me, fashion or otherwise.

I will continue to choose to wear white pants any day of the year, which, I am sure, will still allow my culture to thrive.  It’s simply a suggestion, not a hard-and-fast rule that our civilization hinges upon.

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There is a story about a young wife who was baking a ham for the first time with her new husband.  She unwrapped the ham, prepared the baking dish and proceeded to cut the ends off the ham before placing it in the dish.  Her new husband questioned:  “Why do you cut the ends off?”

“Because that’s how you do it.  My mother always did it that way,” she responded.

I’ve never seen it done that way.  There has to be a reason,” the husband said.

Not wanting to lose this battle so early on in their marriage, she called her own mother to get the official explanation.

Because that’s how my mother always did it,” his mother-in-law said.

Wanting to get to the bottom of it to chalk one up for herself, the wife called her grandmother with the same question.

“Because it wouldn’t fit in the pan if I didn’t cut the ends off.”

And there you have it.  The reason why it was the “rule” that the ends had to be cut off the ham.

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I had the pleasure of seeing an old friend yesterday.  This friend didn’t start out as my friend.  She started out as my fourth-grade teacher.

At ten years of age, I perceived this “old” 35-year old woman as hip and cool, with a quiet spirit about her that I wanted to possess.

Now, at 52, I perceive this 77-year old woman as hip and cool.  She has a quiet spirit that I want to possess.

So, when she comes back to this area to see her son, we plan an annual visit.  I looked her up for my 20-year class reunion, because I knew my classmates liked her, too.  I found her in California, but she would be visiting her son then—her only child—who lives about an hour from me.  It worked out perfectly for her to attend, and she was as much of a hit in 2004 as she was in 1975 with my class of 18.

Since then, we have been able to see each other almost every year when she and her husband visit their son and his family.  They have no permanent address now to speak of, they live in an RV most of the year in Arizona.  They will, however, be purchasing a home near their son.  Not that they will give up their mobile lifestyle; they simply know that someday, they will likely need a house to call home.

I visited her in this small town close to her son’s home.  They have found a house here, and will hopefully call it theirs someday soon.   Until then, and even after that point, they will continue to practice the two habits I wrote about in an earlier post that describe those patients and their family members who seem to defy age and remain (relatively) healthy:  1:  they stay active, and 2:  they do what makes them happy.

For them, it is remaining on the go.  This takes care of #1 and #2 above, and it shows.

We walked through the downtown street fair/car show, took a walk in the park, and enjoyed a libation at a local hangout.  We talked about life, specifically about living the lives we want to live.  We talked about the lessons life teaches us through loss.  We talked about doing what makes us happy, and how important that is.  We talked about following our hearts, even if it means not following certain “rules.”

We shopped at a few small stores, and at her behest, I came home with this:

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She remains my teacher.  Perhaps even more now than she was in the fourth grade.

Having started this post several days prior to our visit, I laughed out loud when I first saw her:  she and I were both wearing white pants.

On so many levels, she remains my teacher.

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I was wearing a favorite shirt by one of my favorite brands:  Life is good®.  If you look closely, you can see the sun, with these words beneath:  The sun doesn’t know it’s a star.”

Gail bought this shirt for her daughter Lydia last year on one of our Colorado trips. Knowing I had several dozen of these awesome shirts already, I fought the urge to buy one for myself.  I won that battle, but lost the war later when I succumbed and ordered one for myself online.

Lydia was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes shortly after that Colorado trip.  She doesn’t know she is a star to me.  Her courageous daily fight against this lifelong enemy inspires me.

Gail and Suzanne don’t know they are stars to me, either.  They simply do their thing, shed their light, and warm the world with their presence.  Their rays may be clouded over some days, but they are always there, soon to break out and shine again after the clouds clear.

My teacher gave me permission to call her by her first name years ago, but that didn’t feel right.  We met in the middle, and I call her “Mrs. P.”

Mrs. P. doesn’t know she has always been a star to me.  Since 1975, her rays continue to shine bright.  At her youthful age of 77, I pray they continue to shine for many more years.  As long as she stays active and does what makes her happy, I have a feeling she will shine on.

Without either of us knowing, my neighbor also purchased the same shirt.  She, too, is a star who lights up my neighborhood.

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This Tuesday, “Patriot’s Day,” marks the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  Our country fell collectively to its knees that day, and all of us felt the heartbreak.  We still do.  But if we don’t celebrate our freedom every day, then we haven’t paid homage to those who lost their lives that day, those who fought then, and those who continue to fight now for our freedom.

We have freedoms that are foreign to much of the rest of the world.  Our country is far from perfect, but if it is your home, please celebrate by exercising your freedoms.

Wear white pants after Labor Day.  Don’t cut the ends off the ham.  Or, do cut the ends off.  Whatever pleases you.  You have the right to do all these things, and so many more.

If it doesn’t hurt anyone, and, to reflect back on Mom’s advice, “If it feels good and doesn’t break the 10 Commandments, then do it.”  Go ahead and break those rules if breaking them meets the above criteria.

Like the white pants rule that served the rich and privileged, many rules serve only those who created them, serving to keep them in positions of power. Or, in the case of the ham, sometimes a “rule” is created in responses to an isolated instance, and it should have never become a rule in the first place.

Do your own thing.  Exercise your freedoms this Tuesday, September 11th, and every day.  But please never forget why we have these freedoms, and who gave them to us.

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My boys shortly after 9/11/01. 

Gail, Suzanne and I have rescheduled our Colorado trip for early October.  We will likely wear white pants, and will most likely break other rules that should be broken, too.  Here’s a throwback photo from our trip several years ago from Suzanne’s Facebook page.

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THE SUNFLOWER STATE

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THE SUNFLOWER STATE

Because one should never miss an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons, I decided to celebrate our fine state when life handed me Kansas instead of Colorado.

Every Labor Day weekend since 2010, I have languished in the Rocky Mountain majesty of Cripple Creek, Colorado.  Minus Suzanne last year, she and Gail have done the same.  This year, however, duty called Gail and Suzanne—and family festivities called as well.  It was not meant to be.

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A throwback picture from our Labor Day 2014 trip.

Soon, however, it will be meant to be.  And I will tell you about it in a future post—at least, what we want you to know about it.  We never tell all.

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Every Labor Day when I return to Kansas after savoring the natural beauty of Colorado, I return to savor one of the many natural beauties of Kansas:  sunflowers in full bloom.

As well as living up to its title as The Wheat State, Kansas is also known as The Sunflower State.  It is our state flower, and it is simply and timelessly beautiful.

Mom loved sunflowers.  I have always liked sunflowers, but in an effort to further a small part of her larger-than-life legacy, I grew to love them after she was gone.  I keep them in artificial form in my home throughout the year.

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And, I gather a bouquet of fresh-picked ones and bring them indoors every Labor Day weekend.

IMG_20180902_172507692.jpg I preach about them, too.  If you grew up in Kansas and were hammered with Kansas history every January 29th in grade school to observe Kansas’ birthday—we celebrate our statehood since its inception as a state in 1861—you’d better be able to tell me why I am wearing a gaudy sunflower pin every year on that date.

No excuses if you are a native.  Know your Kansas history, or get out of my way.

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Suzanne will confirm that I am a purveyor of useless, but (sometimes) interesting information, so I won’t disappoint her today.  I wanted to know more about sunflowers and why they are our state flower, and here is what I found:

*The sunflower was made the official state flower in 1903 after a lawmaker observed many people wearing them to identify themselves as Kansans.  George Morehouse is the one to thank for that.

*Less than a decade before that, it was declared a noxious weed, and other lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to eradicate it.

*It was chosen as a state symbol to represent our frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies, as well as our bright past and future.

*Sunflowers grow in the wild, in planned gardens, and as a crop.

*They can grow up to nine feet tall.

*Sunflower oil is a valuable resource from the plant as a crop, and the seeds are enjoyed as a snack food, as well as in breads and salads.

*True to their name, the cultivated sunflower  typically turns to face the sun, mostly before they are in full bloom.  Because I am a word nerd as well, I want you to know this is known as heliotropism.  Wild sunflowers face in all directions.

Our dad planted sunflowers for a few years, but he apparently deemed it not as successful as he had hoped.

In the wild, sunflowers grow in large bunches,

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small bunches, or they may grow in single plants.

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Any way they grow, they are simply beautiful.

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While we are on a roll here with important Kansas information, let me share more of The Sunflower State’s vital official details:

The Ornate Box Turtle is the state reptile, and just in time for this post, one made a guest appearance in my neighbor’s yard this morning.

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“Ad Astra Per Aspera” is our state motto.  “To The Stars Through Difficulty,” is the translation from Latin.  Along with the sunflower, it is featured on our state flag:

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We had many cottonwood trees on our farm, leaving me with warm memories of the soft cotton floating through the air in the summer time.  It is no surprise that this tree is our state tree.

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The Western Meadowlark is the state bird.  It is also the state bird of Nebraska and Wyoming.

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So there you have it.  You are all prepared to celebrate Kansas’ 158th birthday next January 29th.  You’re welcome.

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I have a love/hate/love relationship with Kansas, and love always wins.  I love that this state has been our lifelong home, with my exception of a semester of college on an exchange program in New Mexico, and a year–less one day–of suburban Philadelphia as a nanny.  Gail, Suzanne and I spent our first 18 years in the same farmhouse, and we treasure that heritage.  We grew up on a farm, learning the Midwestern farm work ethic, values and morals.  We weren’t exposed to crime or drugs, just rock-and-roll.

I hate the winters—now.  As kids, we enjoyed frequent afternoon-long sledding expeditions in the hilly pastures behind our farmhouse.  The snow came up to our waists at times, and the drifts could bury us if we weren’t careful.

We loved it, but we rarely get snow like that anymore in these parts.

Now, just when I think the interminable winter—without beautiful snow– is going to bleed my soul into complete and irreversible dehydration with its icy and windy gray-ness, the beautiful green leaves appear on the trees, and I know I have survived one more year.

I love the summer heat.  June, July and August are my three favorite things about Kansas.  I’m not even kidding.  Bring on the 100-degree plus temps.  I languish in them.

Call me crazy.  Go ahead.  I know you want to.

Now that it is September, those three glorious attributes are behind me once again.  Even if the temperatures exceed 100 degrees in September—which they sometimes do, it’s not the same.  I know it’s time for fall to arrive, and I won’t be fooled.

And, to confirm that I am indeed crazy, I don’t even like fall.  Just bring on the freezing temperatures already, and get it over with.  Don’t jack around with these “beautiful” 80-degree days in October.  Give me sub-freezing weather.  I like the extremes.

But so does Suzanne, so if you call me crazy, you have to call her crazy, too. She loves the extreme temperatures.  Again, because I love trivial information, I want to enlighten you with this fact from weather.com:  among our 50 states, Kansas ranks 31st in temperature ranges.  A range of 161 degrees has been documented, all the way up to 121 degrees, and down to 40 below.  I would have guessed we would be closer to #1 than #50.   Hawaii is #1, ranging from an unexpected twelve degrees, up to 100 degrees, and Montana is #50, ranging from a balmy 117 degrees, down to minus 70.

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Log on here to get more (useless, but interesting ) information.

As much as it pains me to write this, I have to reiterate that both Gail and Suzanne love the Kansas wind (Weather Girls, January 28th).   I hate the wind. Detest it. Loathe it.  Am I making myself clear?

The name Kansas comes from the Native American Kansa tribe of the Sioux.  Ironically, it means people of the south wind.  Go figure.

One thing we all agree on without a doubt:  we love Kansas because (most of) our family is here.  We love being close to all of them.

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Kansas has a bad rap for being “fly-over” country; best observed from above at 30,000 feet-plus.  We know this is the impression, but we disagree.

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I picked this up last weekend on our getaway.  Along with several other stickers, I put it on my new computer.  Might as well laugh along with them, because the joke is on them.

Our sunsets offer unparalleled beauty.  We’ll put them up against any other state’s sunsets, even this one my family saw on the beach last month.

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Sorry, Florida.  I love you and your sunsets, but we’ve got you beat. 

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Any Kansas girl who has ever traveled out of state and let on that she was from Kansas has had to endure the worn-out and not-even-funny Dorothy jokes.  I fought that in New Mexico and Pennsylvania.  The joker always thinks they are the one who came up with it, and it is funny only to them.  I know several women named Dorothy who are actually from Kansas, and they have had more than their share, I’m sure.

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Greater than the summer heat and the splendid sunsets, I love Kansas for one simple reason:  it is home.  Home is in one’s heart, and Kansas is in ours.  And, just like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”

 

A gift from Gail to me.  Its home is in a chair in Fort Kathleen, my favorite all-my-own space in my home (A Space of Her Own, October 15th).

 

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Suzanne and I spent the afternoon together today.  We longed to be together with Gail in Colorado, but it wasn’t meant to be.  So we turned the lemons into sunflowers.   Her shirt was a complete coincidence; no hidden messages to be inferred.  You can think what you like about my headwear.  

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DEDICATED TO MOM AND CARLY.  I KNOW THAT FOR THEM, HEAVEN IS FILLED WITH SUNFLOWERS.

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Thanks to my friend Gwenna Reich for this picture, the photographer extraordinaire.  

INTREPID

INTREPID

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If you are living in fear, then you are already dead. –Unknown

F.E.A.R.:  False Evidence Appearing Real.  –Mom

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I have a great porch.  It starts on the south side at the front door, wraps around the length of the house on the east side, and continues around the back on the north side.  There are two sliding doors, one on the east, and one on the back.  We spend a lot of time on our porch, mostly the front and back.  My Mark-of-all-trades husband built it along with the house, and it seems to be our favorite shared space.

The side porch is the longest but seems to be the least used.  The side door remains locked at this point, because we have plants in front of it inside.  However, I realize we didn’t use it much when there were no plants there, either.

It’s a shame, really.  It is such a beautiful doorway, and it leads to a set of steps surrounded by full and verdant bushes.

The greater shame is this:  I avoided those outside steps that led off the porch into the grass for many years.  All because I was afraid.

Afraid of steps?  You may be wondering.

No, not the steps.   I was afraid of the snake that slithered under those steps several years ago.

Yes, several years ago.  I know in my rational mind he (she?) is no longer there, but still, I remain scared.  So, I continued to avoid those welcoming, beautiful steps.

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Several months ago, probably while I was enjoying a 100-plus degree day in the blessed Kansas summer heat, I stopped in the east yard and looked at those steps.  I looked long and hard at those steps.  I asked myself this:

Kathleen, do you really want to keep going with this silly fear of a long-gone snake? Or perhaps, would you rather simply and safely enjoy this naturally beautiful space outside your home?”

I decided at that moment that I was done being afraid of the silly snake.  The snake that was probably dead long ago, and probably wouldn’t have hurt me in the first place.

I realized, like so many of my fears—and likely most anyone’s fears—that there was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.  It was all in my mind.

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One of my favorite pages from Mom’s favorite calendar.

My friend Tracy has a gift with people, especially people who are struggling.  She once worked in a facility for people with head injuries, which is something I am familiar with from my work, too.  She told the story of the male client who repeatedly pointed to his forehead, stating:  “I’ve got fears and anxieties right here.”

I have them there, too.  I’m guessing most of us do.  The key is to harness them, and not let them rule our lives in our efforts to conquer them.

Ophidiophobia:  fear of snakes is #2 on an online list I researched.  Apparently, I’m not that unusual.

Among the top ten are these common phobias:

Arachnophobia:  fear of spiders is #1.  I am recalling the 70’s song with the lyrics “I don’t like spiders and snakes, but that ain’t what it takes to love me…”

Acrophobia:  fear of heights.  I don’t suffer from this, but you would think I would, because I suffer from:  aerophobia:  fear of flying.  I do it with the help of prescription drugs.  More on that in a bit.

Here’s a few more common fears to round out the top 10:

Claustrophobia:   fear of small spaces like elevators, closets or other small spaces.

Agoraphobia:  fear of open or crowded spaces.

Glossophobia:  fear of public speaking

It is easy to mock someone else’s fears, because they may seem senseless.  None of us, however, know the whole story.   We rarely have all the facts that would allow us to understand why a person fears what they fear.

Even with the facts, there may be no answer.  Take my fear of flying, for example.  For years, I simply got on an airplane and flew.  It never bothered me.  I even had children and took the last baby with me on a flight when he was nine months old.  Not scared.

Somehow, some way, I became scared to fly.  Even though I know it is the safest mode of travel.  Even though I know I stand a greater chance of being in a car accident on the way to the airport.   Given what has happened in my family, you would think I would be afraid of automobile travel, but I’m not.  Our brother Captain David reminds me of the statistics, the safety precautions, the Bernoulli Principle that helps to hold it up.  The same Bernoulli Principle I studied in college as it relates to air rushing through the vocal cords to create the human voice.

I get it.  I understand it.  I know in my brain, in my heart and soul that I am safe.  I put my son on an airplane to India this summer and didn’t fear the flight, just the distance away in a foreign country.  I remind myself of the statistics.  I look around to see that no one else appears to be worried.  I breathe deeply.  I squeeze the hand of the person next to me whether I know them or not.  I take the drugs my doctor so kindly gave me.

And I always arrive safely.  So does Captain David, and he does it multiple times every workday.  So do the millions of people who are in the air every day of every month of every year.

Suzanne used to fear flying.  She no longer does.  She said she simply got over it by doing it enough times, and now she is desensitized.

Like I still do, Suzanne used to worry that she was dying—as in, of a disease, and sooner, rather than later.   She said a little advice and a little cancer cured her of that fear.  She fought it and won, and now she knows her own strength.

Before she lived in my small city, she lived in the same small town with our parents.  She had a small town doctor with an assistant who, when she expressed her recurring fear of deathly illness, asked her this pointed question:  “Do you have faith in God?”  She was a bit offended initially by his boldness, but quickly responded:  “Yes.”  He replied:  “Then why are you so worried?”

She hasn’t worried since.

Suzanne and I must have inherited that fear from Mom, because she, too, expressed the same fears to Suzanne.  Until, Suzanne said, one day she reported that she simply decided that if illness was going to come and get her, then bring it on.  She’d had enough of worrying about it.

And she stopped worrying about dying of a dreadful disease.  And she lived on without illness.  Then she died healthy.  Fat lot of good all that worrying did for her.

I still worry.   I still have those “fears and anxieties right here,” as Tracy’s client did.  If I were to leave health care tomorrow as a profession, I’m already ruined.  I’ve seen enough sickness, disease, injury and illness to stick with me forever.  Enough to know that weird things happen to the human body.  Enough to know that they can happen to anyone.  However, I am getting closer to warding them off by inviting them in, just as Mom did.

I look up to Gail, of course, but I look up to Suzanne, too.  She is one tough girl.  I asked her, after ridding herself of the fears of dying and flying, if perchance she was afraid of anything else.

“Skunks,”  she answered.

I’d forgotten about this one.

Apparently, as many fears do, this one was started years ago as a result of an incident in her childhood.

She was in the backyard in a wooden swing constructed by our brother John, the woodsmith.  He made the swing for our youngest brother Ryan with safety features such as escape-proof wooden sides and leg openings that required assistance in order to get out.

Suzanne was a few years older than Ryan, and she was able to enjoy the swing as well.  Captain David—long before he was a pilot—was swinging her in this swing in the backyard, when a skunk approached.  Everyone panicked and ran inside—except Suzanne.  She was stuck in the swing.

In the end, just like the snake, the skunk did no harm—at least not with spray.  The incident left Suzanne traumatized for life.  Way to go, David.

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This one’s for you, Suzanne–and you too, David.

Mephitophobia:  fear of skunks.

This benign fear of skunks is the only fear Suzanne has to deal with now.  Not even a fear of dying, she says.  She has faith.

Then there’s Gail.  I didn’t even really need to ask.  I knew the answer.  She really has no fears.  Not even dying (thanatophobia), or the dentist (odontophobia).  I asked her that specifically because I posed the question to her as I was driving myself to the dentist.  I was scared of the pain I was sure to feel.  (In the end, I didn’t.)

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Pfft.”  Or something like it, is what I heard on the other end.  “Pain?  What’s that?”   Again, I didn’t need to ask.

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I’ve covered some of the biggies with my own fears, but there are many more out there, some that I found interesting:

Globophobia:  fear of balloons.

Ailurophobia:  fear of cats

Alektorophobia:  fear of chickens

Koumpounophobia:  fear of buttons

Emetophobia:  fear of vomiting. 

Bananaphobia:  fear of, of course, bananas.

Omphalophobia:  fear of belly buttons

 

I have a friend who would confess that she does have a tiny little fear of clowns:  coulrophobia.  I won’t laugh at her, because they are sometimes very scary.  Besides, I have cynophobia, but for good reason.   I’ve been attacked once and bitten once by dogs.  I don’t think she has ever been bitten or attacked by a clown.

Still, no fears I can come up with for Gail.

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I love a good summer storm as an adult. As a child, however, I used to fear the severe storms that Kansas summers brought.  I recall one violent windstorm in the dark without electricity that was apparently a tornado, as evidenced by the damage we found the next day.  I was perhaps eight or ten.  I remember that it was late at night, and if any of us had already gone to bed, it woke us up.  This was in the days before precise weather predictions or radar were the norm, so we didn’t know what to think.   We did have faith.  We got out our rosaries and knelt down in the living room and prayed.  It was all we could do, and all we needed to do.  We all survived.  The rosary has a way of dimming fear.  It is held during prayers and serves as a sign of the power of prayer.  It is a symbol of fearlessness through faith.

In the end, and the beginning and middle as well, faith is really the only thing you need to conquer your fears, whatever they may be.

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Immediately after our parents died, we were faced with many grim tasks.  One of them was claiming their material possessions from the police.   Captain David handled that.  He can take a jet up and bring it down, and he can carry out tasks that take so much more strength and faith than that.  Like claiming his parents’ possessions just after they died.

He told us this comforting report that was told to him:  both Mom and Dad had rosaries in their pockets.

That brings me comfort still.  Knowing too, that they were always prepared to go because of their faith.   In the face of death, I know they were fearless.

They were driving an Intrepid, which, by the way, means fearless.  Dad loved to drive a Dodge.  I like to think they drove fearlessly straight to Heaven in their Intrepid.  If we could all be so lucky to go in just one moment, without warning, without pain; without fear.

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I can safely say Gail and Suzanne are intrepid. (Except for the skunk thing with Suzanne.)  I, however, am not.  I am getting better, though.  I am working on it.  Right now, I am going to wrap this up and go sit on the east side of my porch–with or without the snake.  I am going to live without fear of that long-gone snake.

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I embellished the steps with yard art to make them more welcoming.  It’s working.  My son made me laugh as he took the picture.  It really is laughable, the fact that I avoided this beautiful space for several years because of a snake that slithered under the porch right where my feet are in this picture.  See?   No snake!   Except for those snake-like veins on my legs.  I hope they don’t scare you.  They used to scare me, but I’ve made peace with them.  I inherited them from Mom and they are a part of me.  Unlike many of my patients, my legs work, and I am grateful for that every day.

And please don’t worry that Captain David would bail on you if he were your pilot and he encountered trouble in the air, like, perhaps, a skunk. (Even though he bailed on Suzanne years ago.) He has the strength and faith to get you there safely.   If you go down, he goes down, too.  Plus, like my sisters, he, too, appears to be intrepid.

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Now get out there and conquer your own snakes.  Or clowns.  Or belly-buttons.  Whatever your fears may be, fight them and live life.

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Gail, her daughter Lydia, Suzanne and I spent the weekend together.  Lydia continues to be an intrepid young warrior in her lifelong fight against Type One diabetes.  She has an incredible intrepid role model to follow in her mother.

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Gail, Suzanne and I will not be able to take our Colorado trip on Labor Day weekend this year.  We will attempt to make up for it later.  We enjoyed our weekend, as evidenced by this parting shot at the hotel.  As you can see, I am actively working on overcoming my fear of dogs.  Special thanks to Sue, our photographer/hotel manager.

Thank you for your continued support of my blog.  If you have a Facebook account, and you haven’t already done so, please go to our new page THE SISTER LODE and like it in order to follow the blog, and who knows what else we may post in the future.   Due to Facebook changes, I can no longer post to my personal profile on Facebook, so the blog will only appear on THE SISTER LODE Facebook page, and always at http://www.thesisterlode.com.

Thank you to my computer Swami, who wishes to remain anonymous because he doesn’t need any more work.   He saved all my files from my old computer, which completely bit the dust.  He helped me get my new one up and running as soon as it arrived.   Thanks too to my son Joel, who helped me choose my new computer online.  

THE UPPER HAND

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THE UPPER HAND

Babe Ruth.

Ken Griffey, Jr.

Gail.

While Gail is not a famous baseball player—she did tear up a few softballs in her day—she is clearly in a league of her own.

Paul McCartney.

Martina McBride.

Gail.

In her cleaning endeavors, Gail carries lots of things in buckets.  Carrying tunes, however, is not one of them.

John McCain.

Barack Obama.

Gail.

Gail doesn’t exert much political influence, but her push for peace should be the first priority for EVERY politician.

Julia Roberts.

Nicole Kidman.

Gail.

Gail will likely never be as famous on the screen as these two, but crank her up, and her acting deserves a nomination for something…

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Along with all the famous people listed above, Gail is left-handed.  Suzanne and I are right-handed.  Clearly, this provides further proof of Gail’s uniqueness. (Not to take away from our own uniqueness!)

Monday, August 13th, 2018, is International Left-Handers Day.  It was first observed 42 years ago in 1976, having been created to celebrate the uniqueness and differences of left-handed people.

Between seven and ten percent of the world’s population is left-handed.  This sinistrality (I had to look it up, it pertains to the left hand) is a trait that is largely misunderstood and under-appreciated.  In the not-so distant past, left-handed children were not allowed to develop their left hand dominance.

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This book was self-published in 1936 by the author, clearly indicating that it was viewed as a deficit to be overcome.  I have heard multiple stories of teachers—especially nuns—using force to keep children from using their left hands.  Historically, the left hand was associated with the devil.  The word “left” originates from the Old English lyft, meaning “weak.”

Gail reported some of her left-handed acquaintances who are younger than her were subjects of such force from their teaching nuns to use their right hand during their school-age formative years.

Gail, Suzanne and I attended Catholic school in our small hometown, and Gail reported no such treatment from the nuns at our school.  Our school, as well as our hometown, has always been a unique treasure to be celebrated and appreciated.  I will do just that in a future post.

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It is estimated that perhaps only one percent of the world’s population is truly ambidextrous.  While some people use both hands for certain functions, the ability to seamlessly interchange the use of each hand for every task or function is quite rare.

Our 18 year-old son writes with his right hand, but bats and swings a golf club with his left hand.  I recall a baseball tournament he was in when he was perhaps eight or ten, and the pitcher from the other team wasn’t comfortable pitching to a lefty, so they allowed him to walk to first base whenever he was at bat.

Gail reports that she did not have a mitt for her left hand, so she wore the right-hand mitt during her softball days.  As with any other inconvenience, Gail simply made it work.

Gail recalled that Mom gave her this inspiration:  “Everyone is born right-handed, but only the gifted overcome it.”

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Much of my work as a speech therapist involves communication after a stroke.  A stroke typically happens on one side of the brain or the other, but sometimes there are multiple strokes on both sides to treat.  When it is isolated to one side, I look for a unique set of symptoms.  If it is on the left, there is a strong chance that their verbal ability is greatly affected, because the language center is predominantly on the left side.

The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, and vice-versa.  So if the stroke happens on the left side of the brain, then the right side of the body will be affected.

Both halves of the brain share information across the corpus callosum, the thick band of fibers that connect them.  This band, the original information superhighway, acts as a speedway between the two halves to allow communication from one side to the other, as each side depends on the other.  When split-brain studies are conducted, it is clear that each side needs the other to perform at its maximum capacity.

In a right-handed person, the language center is located on the left side of the brain.  In the vast majority of lefties—likely at least three-fourths—the language side is still on the left.  This is difficult to determine without invasive and unnecessary procedures, so these numbers are estimates.

So, in that ten percent of lefties, there are perhaps two or three people out of one hundred who are cross-wired, with their language center on the right.

So, quite technically, the vast majority of lefties are still in your left brain.  But we will let Gail, and all of you other lefties out there claim to be in your right mind.

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The world is designed for right-handed people.  However, progress with products made specifically for left-handed people has been made in the last few decades.   Scissors, can openers, vegetable peelers, notebooks with the spiral on the right,  measuring cups with the markings on the side, computer mouse, and even a guitar.

Both Gail and her husband are left-handed.  Their two children, however, are both right-handed.

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Gail provided interesting information from her left-hander’s calendar.  

Gail mentioned the frustrations with scissors and notebooks, even certain pens don’t work well for lefties.

My stepson’s wife Lindsay is left handed as well.  She recalled the frustration of having to drag her hand across the page after she wrote, thus always having lead or ink on the side of her hand.

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Suzanne and I decided to spend the afternoon together today.  Before we met, she warned me:  “I’m dressed like a trashy whore today.” (Whatever, Suzanne.) I told her I was pretty slicked up, wearing a nice blue sleeveless shirt and a (somewhat) short grey skirt.  When I arrived at her place, she burst out laughing without even saying hello.  I didn’t notice right away, but she, too, was wearing a sleeveless blue shirt and a (somewhat) short grey skirt.  Clearly, we saw ourselves differently in our descriptions on the phone.  Clearly, we are more alike than different, whether you call us trashy or slicked-up.  As humans, we are all more alike than different, whether you are left-handed or right-handed

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Mercifully, left-handedness is now appreciated as a unique quality to be celebrated, not a deficit to be fixed as it was so long ago.   May all our unique human differences be celebrated someday.

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To Gail, her husband, Lindsay and all you other lefties out there, Happy International Left-Handers Day on Monday August 13th.

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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.