A TIME TO REAP

 

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A TIME TO REAP

It’s harvest time in The Wheat State again–finally.  The interminable cycles of  rain have relented enough to allow the combines to get in the field.  At least, for awhile until the next rain comes.  Harvest is typically finished by July 4th, but not this year.

My husband and I took a drive to the farm last Sunday.  I am incomplete without my annual visit to the harvest field.  He hadn’t been for a few years, so it was time. Neither of my sisters were able to go, so he was a willing substitute.

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We arrived shortly after they commenced cutting; the rains the night before kept them out of the field until early afternoon.  I eagerly climbed in to the combine when we arrived,

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then took a trip to the elevator.

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One field was finished shortly after we arrived, and for the first time in a long time–if not forever–I got to see the first swath into the fresh field.

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Independence Day is not taken lightly on the farm; my nephew added this symbol of American freedom to the combine before harvest.

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I cut some wheat to display at home before the combine got to it,

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and, as usual, my brother graciously gave me all I needed to grind into flour with our dad’s grinder.  We left the field dirty, dusty, greasy, sweaty and hot, but fulfilled.  The seeds that were sown last fall were reaped on this hot July day.  They did the work then; and they are doing the work now.  It is a labor of love for the American farmer; this I know from watching my dad and my brothers.  It is not easy work, but they would have it no other way.  It is more than a job, more than a career.  It’s in their blood.

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As I said I would several weeks ago, I went to Wichita earlier this week to celebrate a long-overdue reunion with my college roommates.

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It has been in the making for months; we finally pulled it together, and pulled it off. We threw most–but not all-caution to the wind, feeling the air and sky on our faces as we let the top down, let our hair down, and let it all hang out.

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It was  a fitting ride for four women who have stuck together for 34 years, four women who have suffered profound losses in each of their families, but remain tight with each other, with three of them catching the fourth when she fell.  They pick each other up, dust her off and help her move on to find joy again.

And move on, we do.  There is so much more life out there to live, and clearly, we are living it.  We have vowed to make July our annual reunion month.  We know, beyond the triteness of the phrase, that life is indeed too short.

We planted the seeds many years ago, and we continue to reap what we have sown.

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Two of the other three live in Wichita.  Tracy (bottom left) lives in Kansas City.  She and I left Saturday morning to return home.  We talked on the way, she told me she may call another college friend who lived on the way to KC, perhaps stop to see her.  “Maybe,” she said, “It’s too short of a notice, and I should do it another time.”

“Just do it now,” I told her. “This is the weekend for college reunions.”  It didn’t take much to persuade her, so she gave her a call.

She wasn’t available for a visit, but welcomed the call, and realized it had been too long since they had seen each other, which expedited the plans for a visit in the near future.

Coincidentally, this friend had planned to get together with two of her college friends the night before.  One of them had to cancel, but they vowed to make it happen soon.

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I should have made it happen sooner, but I am reaping another harvest next week.  I am traveling north with a childhood friend, I friend I see often throughout the year.  We are going to visit two of my friends who happen to live in the same city.  We planted the seeds of our friendship 12 and 29 years ago, and the harvest is more abundant with each visit.    By another coincidence–although I don’t think either one was really that, another friend of 33 years will be visiting that same city from her home three hours away while I am there, and we plan to connect.

I won’t be posting a blog next week; I will be busy with my friends, reaping what we have sown.  The harvest will be the best ever, but probably not as good as the ones in the years to come.

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Tracy arrived at our get-together bearing gifts, bracelets chosen for each of us with love, with a single word printed on each of them.  She knows us well:

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LAUGH, FAITH, ENCOURAGE, INSPIRE

May the seeds you’ve sown bring you an abundant and joyful harvest.

 

SWHEAT GIRLS PART THREE: LETTING FREEDOM RING

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SWHEAT GIRLS PART THREE:  LETTING FREEDOM RING

I have featured this pair of amazing sisters in two previous posts after their annual visits to my home.  (Swheat Girls Part One and Two, July 2017 & July 2018).  They bring their families every Independence Day week from their homes in the Phoenix area.  I treasure their visits; we have maintained contact since 1984.  Tana and Amy began as the girls I babysat in the summers; now they are the women I am lucky to call my lifelong friends.  

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This year, they told me they used to spend the weekends sitting in their rooms on the farm, bored until I returned Monday morning.  They couldn’t understand why I felt I needed the weekend off.  That’s many miles bridged from the rough beginning I chronicled last year when I insulted their cat in our first ten minutes together.  After that introduction, they were set on running me off, just like they had with all the others.

Except they didn’t.  And I didn’t leave, either.  We made it through the bumpy beginning, and the sailing just gets smoother every year.

 

 

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My stomach muscles hurt—in a good way—from laughing so much last week.  If laughter is indeed good medicine, then I should be in perfect health.  And, if I should ever need to get more of this good medicine in the future, all I need is a big dose of this picture:

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The bugs were formidable, but we found a way to avoid them.  And, in their usual form, these two find a way around obstacles—simply sip your drink through the straw through the net.  They’ve always figured out a solution to whatever comes their way.

Those early days on the farm were revisited with reverie and stories, recalling their youthful demeanor,

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Which hasn’t changed much in all these years.

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We enjoyed all our usual activities:  puzzling

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Yard games,

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Cooking, baking and grilling—followed by overeating.

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We took a little trip to Tana’s college town,

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the same college their parents met at, and the same college that honors their grandfather–their mother’s father.

 

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We swam in our backyard redneck pool,

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and in our neighbor’s real-deal pool.

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A fireworks display was offered courtesy of my son and a friend,

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followed by Tana’s karaoke rendition of Kansas’s own Martina McBride singing “Independence Day” the morning after Independence Day.  The flyswatter was handy for obvious reasons, so it became her microphone.  She’s always good at improvising when the circumstances may not be perfect.  Her voice is that of another talented Kansas wheat farm girl.

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Being the swheat girls they are, they took a trip to their family farm to enjoy the harvest.

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As a joke, I offered this garage sale find to Amy; she wasted no time putting it to use.  She says it’s the greatest treasure I have ever given her, and she plans to hand it down to her children as a family heirloom one day.  I planned to use it in an art project, but clearly, it belongs with her. 

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Proof she is truly a swheat girl

This year, we added yoga to the mix.  They, too, enjoy a good yoga workout, and since my teacher lives just down the road, she agreed to come over on the morning of the Fourth for some porch yoga.  She led us from the corner of the porch; the rest of the yoga-goers wrapped around the back porch. 

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If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, then these pictures should be worth many thousands of words, so I won’t write much more.  They tell the stories of the fun and laughter we shared last week.  Hopefully, I have made it quite clear that we felt free to exercise our independence this week, and throughout the other fifty-one as well. 

Tana and Amy have been constants for each other; they have no other siblings.  Through births and deaths, divorces and disappointments, they are sisters through thin and thick.   They know liberty because they earned it, and they honor it as the gift it is every day, not just on Independence Day.

I hope you find that well of liberty within, because it is a gift to be opened for each and every one of us, every day of the year.

Have fun, and laugh while you are doing it.  It truly is the best medicine.

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FRIENDS FOREVER

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FRIENDS FOREVER

I know how fortunate I am to have my two sisters as my best friends.  We have always been close, and with the passage of time and the lessons of loss, we continue to grow closer. 

I can’t imagine it any other way.

We didn’t have a choice; no sisters do.  We were born into the same family, brought up together and expected to get along. 

And we did.

We became even closer when we left home to make our way in the world.  When Gail left for college, I finally got our room to myself—until Suzanne moved in not much later.  It wasn’t always harmonious in that small space, and I have more stories from that time for another day. 

Gail, meanwhile, was making new friends in college—no surprise there.  She attended a junior college 30 miles from where she now lives, the same junior college her daughter now attends. 

I remember her bringing some of these friends home, and I remember thinking they were pretty cool.  They were, of course.  I have the pleasure of seeing another one of them in one of my work settings; she is a nurse in the small hospital I contract with.  She never came to our house, but nonetheless, she is cool.  Her name is Katy–Katy #1.

There was another friend named Katy–Katy #2.  They were roommates, and this Katy did come home with Gail.  They stayed close during college, and as time wore on, families, work and other obligations kept them from staying as close as they once were.  They last saw each other in 1980. 

Three years later, Gail named her firstborn Katy. 

Infrequent contact was the pattern for many years, but with the advent of Facebook, they were able to reconnect online.  This was a gift for both of them.

Last week, Katy #2 called Gail to let her know she would be passing through her small town Friday, traveling from her home in Missouri.  Just like the cliché would have it, it was as if no time had passed, even after 39 years.  They enjoyed the evening together, and Katy was off the next morning.  Gail and her family were off too, on their annual trek to Michigan to see her second-born. 

Except that they had so much fun, she forgot to take a picture of the reunion.  Otherwise, it would be featured here.

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One week ago tonight, Suzanne traveled an hour to see a college roommate of hers.  They have kept in close touch, and when it was time to memorialize her mother, Suzanne was there, just like her friend was when it was our parents’ funeral.

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On Friday of this week, I was scheduled to go to Wichita to gather with three of my college roommates.  It had been way too long, and longer than a year since we vowed to get together to pay tribute to Tracy’s dear mother, who passed away in June 2018.

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I didn’t go.  Hours before the departure time, the plans changed.  I was disappointed at first, but then, as fate would have it, greater things happened to one of the other three, surprise celebratory things that were more urgent than our gathering.  We rescheduled for two weeks later.  Our plans could wait; hers couldn’t.

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It has been several years since the four of us got together, which is way too long.

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There are no substitutes for college friends, friends who were with us in a formative, challenging and memorable time in our lives.  Gail, Suzanne and I are lucky to have them in our lives still, and for all three of us, this was the week to celebrate them—or at least make a plan to. 

I hope that if you have old friends from college or from long ago, you have kept in touch with them.  If you have been wanting to connect again, now would be a great time do to just that.  I hope that if something were to happen to them, you would be at peace with the way you left your relationship.   In reflecting on this myself, I don’t know if any of us can ever feel we did enough.  We all lead splintered lives; we all have other priorities.   We simply need to make the time to spend time. 

Easier said than done, but continuing to try is the key.

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I remember that many of Gail’s friends used the same word to describe her:  “crazy.”  It was always used fondly.  She was crazy in the sense that she always loved a good time.

I remember that my Jewish neighbor-turned-friend in Philadelphia used to call me “meshugana.”   In her colorful Yiddish language, it means “crazy girl.  I took it as a compliment.  She meant it as one.

This week, I am hosting my Arizona friends from long ago.  Not college friends, but the friends who come every Independence Day week to visit.  They were the young girls I babysat on their father’s farm near mine in the summers starting the summer before college in 1984—35 years ago.  We have remained close, and now they bring their children and husbands—whoever can make it.  This year it is three girls and one husband.  While I used to be in charge of them, we are now peers in every way.   They have known me longer than my husband has; longer than my college friends have.  They know me too well.  They see through me; I can’t hide much.  They also bring out things I didn’t know I could do—good things like finding the stamina to stay up later to get the most out of every evening,  as well as things I didn’t think I could ever do, like get the tattoo they talked me into getting with them several years ago.    Then we all got another one the next year. 

They, too, are crazy girls.  Crazy in a very good way.

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We will spend the week together, and I will bring you the third installment in a blog post of the annual visit from the swheat girls.  Crazy, and sweet.  I am so glad they chose to keep me as a friend.

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It has been said that friends are the family we choose.  I couldn’t have chosen better family if I could have hand-picked my sisters, and I am so thankful I chose the college roommates I did.  I know Gail and Suzanne are grateful for theirs, too. 

Give your college/old friend a call.  Better yet, make a visit.

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Enjoy your sweet freedom this Independence Day, and every day.

 

 

 

SUZANNE AND KATHLEEN-ISMS

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SUZANNE AND KATHLEEN-ISMS

Several months ago, I wrote a blog to share Gail’s wisdom—Gail-isms.  I wrote too, that I would feature Suzanne’s wisdom in a later post.  It is now time for her wisdom, so let I her know that I would need her to summarize her wisest offerings for the next blog. 

It didn’t take her long.  Very simply, she gave me one word:

Whatever.”

And she meant it.  Suzanne, ever the minimalist.  Even with words.  

In the sense that whatever will be, will be; that simply accepting things as they are and moving forward, doing your best to make the best of good and bad things encountered along the way, her single word of wisdom is perfect.  It does sum up her approach to life.

And it’s working for her.  

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:  I need to look up to Suzanne more.

So that leaves the rest of this post for more wisdom not from Suzanne, but my best offerings of what I see as wise words.   I will try to fill in the blank pages as well as Gail and Suzanne did.

I read a lot.  I read books, magazines, newspapers, song lyrics, plaques, magnets, labels, T-shirts and signs.  And, every day, I read my daily calendars—five of them.  You know, the kind where you tear off a page every day.  I am an annual repeat buyer of my favorite ones, and I save the pages—just like our mom did.  I even save some of them in the same box she used, the box I pictured in Gail-isms.

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I rely on wisdom from any source I can find; my brain is hungry for it.  Unlike Suzanne, who needs very little in possessions and words, I am very needy.  Unlike Gail, who has her own brand, her original quotes, I need to rely on other people’s words of wisdom.

So, I do.

I have gathered some of my favorites to share with you, in hopes that they may affect you as positively as they have for me.  I continue to look for new ones, because I am a collector of the written word.

Last night, I read an interview with one of my favorite authors.  She said she never feels inspired to write.  Ever.  So, she simply sits down and starts writing, and then the inspiration comes.  This made me feel very relieved and very normal, as I struggle in the same way.  Once I sit down to write, however, the words come.  Which brings me to one of my all-time favorites:

“Inspiration comes from doing, not from waiting.”  The corollary, then, would be another one of my favorites:  “Action begets action.”  I don’t know who is credited for these; I could find no source. 

In keeping with the idea that I simply need to get busy, this magnet speaks to me every day when I look at it in my room:

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Some of the quotes I share are credited to the source, some are not because there was none.  I will attempt to give credit where it is due.

On worrying:

I have lived a long life and had many troubles, most of which never happened.”—Mark Twain

“If you are going to worry, then why pray?  If you are going to pray, then why worry?”

“Worry and prayer cancel each other out.”

“Worrying is praying for what you don’t want.”

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This simple, yet profound statement is the essence of Bob Marley’s hit, “Three Little Birds.”

On gratitude:

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”  –Marcus Aurelius

Gratitude can turn common days into Thanksgivings.”  Wm. Arthur Ward

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero

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On courage:

 

She didn’t know it couldn’t be done, so she went ahead and did it.” –Bridget O’Donnell

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”  —Seth Godin

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On being good to yourself:

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” 

“Forgiving isn’t about being nice to them, it’s about being nice to yourself.”

“Live and be happy, and make others so.”  —Mary Shelly

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  The Dalai Lama

By all means, break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately, and well.”  — Robert Bringhurst

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time.”  —Mary Oliver

On awareness:

Your dreams must be more powerful than your drama.”

“You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”  –Dr. Seuss

If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?”  — lyrics from  Cheryl Crow

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On relationships:

“In any relationship, the one who cares the least has the most power.”

“As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold them down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.”  –Marian Anderson

The opinion which other people have of you is their problem, not yours.”  –Elizabeth Kubler Ross

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(This next one my paraphrasing, because it is a blend of several quotes that mean the same thing.  The idea is so powerful for me, and I wanted to share it with you.)

The things that bother you in other people may very well be the things that bother you about yourself, because they are so familiar to you, yet you don’t realize it.   Look a little closer at yourself when you find yourself irritated by someone else’s behavior.”

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Gail framed this gem for me from a daily calendar.  I love it, but so does Suzanne, because of the mermaid.  I can’t part with it, even for her, because the words are so profound.  We’re working on finding another one like it for her. 

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A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words.  In my profession, sometimes a word, a word spoken by someone who is regaining their speech, is worth a thousand pictures.  Sometimes, as in the case of the pictured quotes above, pictures and words give each other power.

Sometimes, when a woman is so fortunate and lucky to have sisters like mine, there are no truer words than these:

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Thank you Gail and Suzanne, for sharing your wisdom, and for being my best friends.  

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO BE FESTIVE

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HOW TO BE FESTIVE

Festive:  having or producing happy and enjoyable feelings suitable for a festival or other special occasion.

I spent the weekend at our small city’s annual festival of the arts, music, food and fun.  Thursday evening through late Sunday afternoon–just an hour ago as I write, I planted myself, along with my family and friends, for as much time as I possibly could in Kenwood Park at the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, Kansas.

I was too busy having fun to think much about what to write about this week, and I realized that fun is a topic within itself.  Many of us–myself included, at times, don’t allow ourselves to experience the sights, sounds, flavors and feelings that make us feel happy, if not just for awhile.  And just for awhile is much better than not at all. 

This annual festival brings a bevy of sensory experiences to the park, serving as a homecoming of sorts for many former residents, and an annual summer tradition for many families like us.

Because I spent my free time this weekend being festive, I am not spending much time writing.  And, because shorter is sometimes sweeter, I will keep it just that way.

I continue to realize more as I age, that festive fun is an important ingredient for successful aging.  I’m only 53, so I may not be the expert that those older than me are, but here is what I know for certain about the topic:

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1:  Music brings the spirit of fun out in most people.  It is a necessary ingredient in the mix for me.  The band is performing “Hey Jude,” one of my personal favorites.

 

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2:  Eating too much tasty food is good for you once in awhile–and great fun.

 

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3:  Artisans offer some of the most unique items for sale.  If you will regret leaving it behind, and you or your family won’t go hungry, then you probably should buy it.

 

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4:  Not everyone will agree on what constitutes fun, and that’s okay.  Have your own breed of fun.  As our mom used to say, “If it feels good and it doesn’t break The 10 Commandments, do it!”

 

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5:  Some sunshine is good for you.

 

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6:  Get your face painted, or get that tattoo, whatever makes you happy.

 

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7: Always be thankful for the liberty most of us have to exercise the right to have fun.

 

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8:  Fun is more fun with friends.  Suzanne was there with me Thursday night, and Gail wasn’t in town this weekend.  Find your tribe, whether it’s family and/or friends.

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Most importantly, you don’t need anyone else’s permissions except your own have fun.  Life is too short to NOT have fun, so get out there and have it!

MAINTENANCE REQUIRED

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MAINTENANCE REQUIRED

I got brave last week and decided to write about my hometown, something that was daunting, but I am glad I did it.  I sat on the idea for almost a year.  The idea for this post has been with me for over six months, and while it tells private stories, it is a shared concern.  We decided that even if we can help one person get the medical attention they need, then it must be written.  We remain well, and in our usual style, we will try to make you laugh about a heavy topic.  There aren’t many pictures–trust us, this subject matter is best not pictured.  

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When I bought my car almost three years and 70,000 miles ago, the display on the dash told me how fast I was going, miles per gallon, how much gas left and more information than I knew what to do with.  The computer was set to tell me when the next maintenance was due, as it already had 36,000 miles.  It did just that, and it was time to be serviced.  After the first oil change—undertaken by my husband, of course, the Maintenance Required message remained.  According to the owner’s manual, it required a simple, simultaneous pressing of two different buttons to reset it, so that it could remind you again in 10,000 miles. 

Except that it wasn’t simple, and it didn’t work that way. 

I’ll figure it out later,” I thought to myself.  Meanwhile, I got the same message every time I started the car.  Maintenance Required stared at me from the dash display until I hit a different reset button, and it went away.  I kept track of the mileage in my head to know when the next oil change was due, and I simply let it go.  For over two years, I simply let it go on.

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For over two years—over three, to be exact, I didn’t go to the doctor.  My beloved doctor, Dr. S., the woman who delivered my children and had been our family doctor for over 20 years, left our small city for greener pastures.  I can’t say I blamed her, but it broke my heart.  Perhaps I denied that she was actually gone, something I could easily do because none of us needed her—thank you, God.  I knew in the back of my head I needed to find a new doctor, but it was easier to, well, just not go to the doctor.  We had urgent care clinic calls for minor things, and that suited us well enough.  Plus, it’s always handy to have a nurse practitioner in the family–my stepson’s wife was one.

Until that little voice told me to figure it out.  A woman my age needs to have regular doctor visits, and Dr. S. is gone and she’s not coming back. 

I began to get real about that, and asked around.  I had heard good things about Dr. J., and I decided she would be a good fit.  She is likely young enough to be my daughter, which is probably a good thing—she will hopefully be practicing for a while.

Since it had been over three years, I got the whole shebang checkup, soup-to-nuts.    I had always skated through all my previous visits, so I thought this one would be no different.  I had no major concerns.  To overcome my little white-coat fear, however, I pictured myself walking with a spring in my step to the car after the visit, smiling, enjoying the sunny day.

Something you never want to hear from your new doctor on your first visit is this:  “I’m not sure what’s going on, I am going to send you to a specialist.”

I got in my car without a springy step, without smiling, and even though the sun was shining, I had a dark cloud hanging over my head.

I started the car, and the metaphor did not escape me.  There, glaring at me from the dash was the ominous message:  Maintenance Required.

I should have done the required maintenance on my body sooner.


 

This was a Thursday.  Mercifully, the specialist in her practice had a cancellation Monday morning, and I was first in line.  Dr. J. admonished me with this wise and timely advice I’m sure many doctors give:  “Don’t get online and try to figure this out on your own over the weekend.”  Wise words they were, and I listened to her.  I am so glad I did, because after it was all over, I did check it out.

I didn’t have time to search the internet anyway, because I spent the weekend picking out my funeral outfit.  (This got an eye-roll from the invincible Gail when she previewed it for me.)   Thanks to Suzanne; she did her best to talk me down from the ledge–I backed up a little, but stayed there for most of the next three days.  She kept me sane.  She has a way of doing that; she has been there, but gave up that particular breed of madness after she was diagnosed with cancer.  More on that later.

 

As if Monday mornings aren’t hard enough, this one was among the most dreaded.  At the same time, I couldn’t wait to get it over with, just to know what I was dealing with.  The not knowing is the hardest part.

The specialist, Dr. A., came with high recommendations from trusted friends and family members, and I wasn’t let down.  On that dark Monday morning, it took her only a moment to lift my self-imposed death-sentence:  “Oh, it’s just a _______  ________.  And just like that, it was over.  I was going to live. 

As I walked to the car, the sun shone brighter than ever.

**

Just three weeks later, I was awoken at 6:30 a.m. by a sharp pain in my upper back.  It crawled up my neck, and started down my left arm.  It was unlike anything I had ever felt.  I got up, thinking “this is weird,” but since it was Christmas Eve morning, I didn’t give in to the idea that maybe something was really wrong.  I had too much celebrating to do.  Besides, that kind of high drama and poor timing only happens in the movies.

The pain subsided, and I went running as I always do.  I decided that if I felt short of breath during my run, or if it got worse, I would probably reconsider. 

It was a little tight, but I felt pretty good. I could breathe, so I let it go.  And besides, I’m a runner.  I’m in good shape, so this kind of thing really can’t happen to me…

Until 11:40 that night, when it woke me up again.  This time it was sharper, more intense, and crawling further up my neck, down my left arm and across my back. 

But it was Christmas Eve, and I didn’t want my holiday celebration to be marred by a little heart attack.  I knew, though, that this pain was nothing to fool around with.  The pain fit the bill for a woman’s heart attack, except there was no shortness of breath, no crushing weight on my chest and no upset stomach.  Still, I knew I must not ignore it. 

This night was reminiscent of the night I first gave birth.  My husband was asleep, tired out after building our house after work hours while I built the baby.  It was this same time of night, and he was particularly tired tonight like he was that hot day in May.  I knew it was time to go to the hospital then, and I had to wake him from this deep sleep.  We made it with plenty of time to spare before the baby arrived.

This night, Christmas Eve—only 15 minutes now until it was officially Christmas Day, I contemplated leaving him a note.  The pain was lessening, and I could probably make it there by myself.

“Merry Christmas, honey.  I think I may perhaps be having a little heart attack, but I didn’t want to wake you.  I went to the E.R., and I’m sure I’ll be back soon.”

But I did wake him.  Our boys were playing cards in the basement, and I let them know, as casually as possible, that I was simply having a little chest pain, and I think maybe I’d better go have it checked out.  They knew it might not be that simple.  

It was no Silent Night in the ER.  The man around the corner and down the hall required the attention of not only the two security guards on staff, but three policemen as well.  The nurses said it wasn’t anything special just for Christmas, just a typical night in the ER. 

But I think I fared better than that guy.  I spent almost four hours there, and was pronounced with a healthy heart—a wonderful Christmas gift.  After my follow-up visit to my new doctor, who, at this point, must be wondering what on earth she signed up for when she accepted me not long ago, determined it to be a strained muscle.  I had jacked up that shoulder by napping in a less-than-comfortable spot the day before.  All the awful things were ruled out, and my healthy heart remains just that—healthy. 

**

Usually it’s the little sister who imitates the big sister.  This time, however, it was Gail imitating me.  Nine days after my ER visit, Gail ended up in the ER of her small-town hospital with chest pains—her first ER visit ever. Now, if you know Gail, you know she doesn’t easily give in to pain or suffering, so this must be big stuff.  She, too, knew it was time to high-tail it there, knew not to mess around with this kind of pain. 

She was dismissed after the required testing, with a follow-up to the visiting cardiologist in two weeks.  She was admonished by him to make some lifestyle changes, and come back in two months, which she did. 

Her heart remains healthy, too. 

**

I remember going to my former doctor, Dr. S., for my annual exam shortly after my parents died. 

It’s strange,” she said, listening to my heart, “You can’t hear a broken heart.” She was so kind and sensitive to my heartbreaking situation, and I will be forever grateful to her for her help in those dark days.   I am grateful that she made my visits something I almost looked forward to, because she was so caring and empathetic.  She took care of me and my family for all those years, and we were fortunate to have her. 

Suzanne was diagnosed with thyroid cancer almost seven years ago—on her birthday.  She said she was dismissed by two doctors–an ENT and a radiologist– who told her there was nothing wrong when they checked out her symptoms.  Still she knew, in her heart, that something was not right.  She found a doctor who found the problem.  She persisted.  She listened to her heart.

Suzanne remains healthy, too.

**

Sometimes, women are not easily persuaded to take measures to take care of themselves.  We are typically more concerned about taking care of everyone else.  That’s our job, for many of us.  Yet, if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else likely will.

See your doctor on a regular basis.  If you are not as lucky as me to have great doctors, then find one you like. You are the customer, and you have that right. 

Listen to that little voice.  Listen to your intuition.  Listen to your heart, because these places are where true wisdom lies.  No one is wiser about your body than you.  Suzanne knew, and she exercised that wisdom.  I am so glad she did. 

Wisdom is power.  Knowing what you are dealing with, and how to deal with it is easier than torturing yourself with the unknown. 

I knew when I felt the pain that I thought was a heart attack, that it was unlike any other, and it fit the bill—at least in several ways.  During the follow-up visit to my new doctor, I expressed that I felt a little foolish for causing such a stir over a muscle.  She reinforced that I did the right thing by going to the ER, and that she would have sent her own mother or sister there herself if they had those symptoms. 

Lastly, if Gail herself, invincible, unbreakable Gail, went to the ER with chest pains, then it’s okay if you take yourself to the doctor for your concerns. 

**

After the last oil change, the Maintenance Required message no longer showed up on my dash.  My husband, in his MacGyver-like wisdom, figured out how to clear the message.  It is now set to display again when it’s time for more maintenance.

It was that easy.  Just like it was that easy for Dr. A. (the specialist) to take care of my issue.  If you are putting off your health issues, it may just be that easy for you, too. 

The Sisters of The Sister Lode hope so.  We are living proof that the required maintenance is worth the trouble. 

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 Thanks so much to everyone for the support and comments from last week’s blog.  We all know that Tipton is an incredible little town!

 

 

 

THE LITTLE TOWN THAT COULD

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THE LITTLE TOWN THAT COULD

I had planned to write this blog since last summer.  I wanted to pay tribute to our small hometown, this little town that built us; this little speck on the map that is Tipton, Kansas.  I wanted to paint a picture of this little spot that would honor the place where we grew up, the place that gave us roots and not only a strong foundation, but faith, a sense of community and a place we always knew we could come home to. But how does one pay tribute in words to a place that defies explanation and understanding?  If you know about Tipton, you know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, I will do my best to paint that picture.

For my readers who know Tipton, especially those who live or did live there, let me just say this is daunting.  Just as there are no words to aptly pay tribute to, say, Mother Theresa (a most humble saint), or President Eisenhower (my favorite), I am really not up to this task, but I don’t think I ever will be.  I sat on this idea for almost a year, probably because I didn’t feel worthy.  I didn’t think I could give Tipton the justice and honor it deserves in words.  Early last week, I decided it was time.  I had wasted enough time thinking about it, and it was time to just do the best I could.  It will be next Sunday’s blog, I committed in my mind.

Then, just two days after I made myself that promise, our hometown was on the evening news.

My husband and I were eating dinner, watching the 5:30 news on Tuesday of this week.  It had been interrupted for quite some time due to severe weather coverage around the state, including some in Osborne County, close to Tipton.  Osborne County, where our family farm is.  I have lived in Kansas nearly all my life, and I have only seen one small tornado.  My favorite weatherman was covering this growing storm system with his usual conviction and competence.

“There is a large tornado on the ground five miles southwest of Tipton.”  Our family farm is about five miles southwest of Tipton.  One of our brothers lives there now with his family, having recently built a new home there.

He was no longer my favorite weatherman.  I was no longer hungry.

I wanted to call or text my brother, but I knew they had more important lifesaving measures to take at that moment, and a call from me was not a priority.  We watched the radar, and heard “Tipton” about a dozen times as he continued to track the storm.

“If you live in or around Tipton, you should be taking cover immediately.  This is a powerful storm.  Go immediately to your shelters.”  I now hated this weatherman.

The seconds and minutes ticked by like hours, while I hoped and prayed for what would have to be a near-miracle.  The track of the storm was likely to reach our farm, followed by our hometown.

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Selfishly, I prayed a little harder for our farm to be spared than I did for the community.  I cannot deny that.  But, as our community taught us from early on, “We’re all in this together.”

Mercifully, it missed our farm, but then it headed toward Tipton.  I diverted my prayers, 100% full-on for Tipton.

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When it was all over, there was property damage, but nobody was hurt.  Thank you, God.

**********

According to Wikipedia and the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 210 residents in my hometown.  It reached its peak population in 1980, when there were 321 residents counted.  We were three of them.

Wikipedia typically profiles any famous people from any town they list.  There were none noted from Tipton.  There were no claims to fame listed for our hometown, just a simple description of this small Kansas burg.

It began as a burg, Pittsburg, to be exact.  Apparently, there was already a Pittsburg, Kansas, so the name was changed to Tipton, after Tipton, Iowa, the former home of a local resident.

This is all news to me.  I am embarrassed that, at age 53, I didn’t already know this.  I should have known this from my youth.  If anyone has any corrections or additions to this information, please let me know.

So, on the surface, Tipton’s just an Average Joe kind of small town.

Except that it’s not.  No way, no how.

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If, just like the many potluck dinners one attends in a small town, life can be considered a giant potluck dinner, whereby everyone has to bring their best dish to the table in order to partake, then we learned this from early on, not just on the farm, but in our community as well.

Helping out for the greater good of the family and the community were values that were instilled in us more by deed than by word; quite simply we knew we had to do our part in order to be a part first of the family, then the community.

This lesson has served us quite well, as we know that no matter where we go or what we do in our lives, we must give our best with the gifts we were given.

***********

Both our grade and high schools began as private Catholic schools, as the community was predominantly German Catholic.  When I was in grade school, elementary grades ceased to be part of the diocesan Catholic school system, and the local school district absorbed our school into its public school system.  The high school remains a private, Catholic high school, funded by fundraisers and an endowment program that is well managed in order to provide this invaluable education.

I may be bragging when I say invaluable, but I think I have reason to do so.  Our school continues to be consistently recognized statewide for its math program and our speech and drama department, among other programs that are noted to be top-notch for any school, especially for a small, privately-funded parochial school.

Even when the graduating class has only three members, it still goes strong.

About 15 years ago, due to declining numbers, the public school district that served our grade school voted to consolidate with another school, effectively shipping the elementary graders to the next town.

No way, no how.  The community appealed to the Catholic diocese to re-develop a Catholic grade school, but—as I understand it—the numbers won.  Not enough kids, not enough money.  Therefore, there would be no returning affiliation with the diocesan Catholic school system.

Taking matters into their own hands, the community rallied, and began their own private Christian school.  Keeping the elementary children in the community was paramount, and where there was a will this strong, they found the way.

With some state funding, grants and an endowment of its own, it continues to go strong.  The elementary kids complete their coursework in this new building,

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then go on to high school next door in this old building.

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All seven children in our family graduated from this high school.  Now, some of our nieces and nephews have already, or will graduate from there too, as well as completing grade school next door.

The Main Street of Tipton boasts thriving businesses, including a grocery store with locally famous sausage produced there, a restaurant, a bank, hardware, library, dance studio, manufacturing company and a service station.

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The dance studio was once the grocery store.

Old School Seals, a specialty service providing wax seals, stamps and letter sealing is nationally recognized.  If you head south on Main Street about four miles, you will find Ringneck Ranch, a pheasant hunting ranch that is also nationally famous among pheasant hunting enthusiasts.

***********

I have no words to express my gratitude for the education and upbringing I received in Tipton.  It is an indelible mark of honor, and, as well as the academic knowledge from our stellar school system, the sure knowledge that whatever our gifts are, we have the power and responsibility to bring them to the potluck table of life to make the world a better place.

*********

I can barely stand to put it in the printed word, but our nation suffered another unspeakable loss this week at the hands of a mass shooter.  This time it took 12 innocent lives in Virginia.  The first news reports detailed the horror, but since then, the focus I have noticed is that the community has rallied, insistent that this will not define us. They are reaching out to each other—whether or not they knew them previously—to help each other heal the wounds and move forward.  This is only possible when the human group comes together with a unified goal to move forward, picking up the pieces to start again.

Much of the Midwest and Southeastern United States has experienced unprecedented flooding in the last month.  As human groups are known to do, residents of the areas affected have come together to help anyone who is affected, whether or not they know them.   Humans can be so cool like that.

After the tornado in Tipton Tuesday night, the community rallied.  There were no injuries—thank you God, and no homes were destroyed, but there was damage to property.   Enough damage that those affected required help.  Without hesitation, everyone else stepped up to lend a hand, followed by a meal for all.

The potluck effect once again prevailed.   Everyone pitched in, bringing their best to the table.  The humans in Tipton are so cool.

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Young and not-as-young alike pitched in.  This is the potluck effect being taught by deed right here.

I remember when our dad was hospitalized in Wichita after heart surgery. He was not yet retired from farming and it was in the fall at milo harvest time.  Dad obviously wasn’t able to be there, and our brothers couldn’t do the job alone.  Area farmers stepped up with their combines, donating their time, fuel and other operating expenses in order to get the job done.  On the farm, harvest simply must be done when the time is right, or it may not get done at all.  Weather often dictates that, as well as crop maturation.

It’s the farmer’s code; they all know that any or all of them would do it without a second thought when any one of them is in need.  I think Dad got a little teary in the hospital when we told him that harvest had been taken care of.  I’m getting a little teary as I write this—in a good way.

***********

 

Wheat harvest is the pinnacle of the year on the farm.  I never miss at least a day each year in the harvest field—except the year I spent in Philadelphia.

Last year when I was on our farm for harvest, I took the following pictures of our hometown:

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St. Boniface Catholic Church.  We were all baptized and brought up in this church.  Dad walked me down this aisle 25 years ago.  Our parents’ final profession of faith was here at their funeral.

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We chose the grade school as one of their memorial benefactors.  This brick honors them in the memorial garden between the two school buildings.

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The locally famous grocery store on Main Street.

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Looking south on Main Street on a Saturday afternoon during harvest.  All the action is in the wheat fields.

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Formerly known as the Knights of Columbus Hall–and still known to me as that–the Tipton Community Center serves as a meeting place for celebrations, fundraisers, family gatherings, funeral dinners and basketball games.

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The southwest corner of Tipton.  The building on the right was once our grade school, now it is part of the manufacturing plant.  The tiny ribbon of white road on the horizon is the road to our farm.  

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I drove this road west out of Tipton thousands of times on the way to our farm.  Entering Osborne County at this road, there are four more miles to our farm.  It is always a beautiful sight coming and going.

***********

Our family gets together for holidays, sometimes at Gail’s house, sometimes at my house, and sometimes on our brothers’ farms—both on the one we grew up on, as well as our youngest brother’s farm a few miles north.  Our parents moved off the farm and into nearby Osborne in 2000, so our visits to them before they died were in Osborne, not Tipton.  Their funeral was in Tipton, and the outpouring of love and support from the community was beyond words.

I don’t spend a lot of time in Tipton these days, but when I do, the old familiar feeling of home is there.  Claiming Tipton as my hometown always brings a swelling feeling of pride inside of me.

I meet many people in my work, and I often have the opportunity to visit at length with them.  When the “Where are you from?” topic arises, and when they have heard of Tipton as many of them have, a warm smile always shows up on their faces.  And then they proceed to tell me who they know from Tipton, or perhaps that they attend our annual Church Picnic, which is known far and wide as the most remarkable Church event in the area.

My family has been away on vacation for the last several years during that time, so I haven’t been back for a few years.  Nineteen years ago, I was pregnant with our last child.  The due date was announced on my first prenatal visit–August 4th.  There were two things glaringly wrong with this prediction for me.  First, the words pregnant and August should never be used or even inferred in the same sentence.  Second, that meant I would miss the Tipton Church Picnic.  That due date clearly wasn’t going to work for me, so, just like his older brother, my second-born graciously arrived eleven days before his due date.

Thank you, God.  We went to the picnic, baby in tow in my arms—my sweaty arms.  Fun was had by all.  More importantly, the proceeds from this event keep the high school operating.  True to Tipton form, everyone brings their best to the table for this event, whether it is one’s donation of time, money, effort or food—or all four. Without question, everyone pitches in, and another year goes down in the Tipton history books.

***********

As I write, my mind keeps going in multiple directions, continuing to come upon more things that need to be said.  I’m already over my self-imposed limit of 2,000 words, but there is just one more thing I need to say:

Earlier in the post, I used a forbidden word.  A word, I recall from our upbringing both in my family and in our community, that was forbidden.  The “H” word.  I said I hated the weatherman.  We were allowed to hate someone’s actions, but we were not allowed to hate them.  I’m sorry, weatherman.  I don’t hate you.  You were simply doing your job.  You were bringing your best to the table.

Perhaps this simple rule is what makes Tipton so unique.  Perhaps, even though Tipton continues to be a speck on the map, and the population hasn’t yet returned to 300, we know there is no place for hatred.  Perhaps that is why this little town could, still can, and still does.

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Thank you, God.