PEER PRESSURE

They finally wore me down. After months–perhaps years–of exerting all the influence they could, I broke down and did it. I joined them. I held out, probably because I am not one to jump on bandwagons. But this really is no bandwagon I am talking about. This practice has stood the test of time–decades for some, perhaps one decade for Gail, and two for Suzanne. They have obviously been collectors for quite some time, and they want to share the love with me.

I am talking about, of course, Fiesta ware.

Now, however I feel as if I have awoken from a long slumber. I’m not sure why I didn’t join them sooner, but as of Friday night, when I placed my first online order, and yesterday morning, when I picked up a few random pieces on clearance at a kitchen and home store, I am officially collecting. Those bright colors, the expected randomness in one’s color collections, the thrill of the find, something new in my routine and the increased kinship this brings to our sisterhood all make me feel warm inside.

Sometimes small changes in one’s habits can be a much-needed refresher. I wonder now how I used that boring stoneware for all those years when these vivid colors of the iconic tableware were waiting to entice me.

Suzanne and I are expert thrift-store shoppers. Gail, not so much. Which explains why, when I was shopping in the local thrift store in our favorite Colorado town on our last trip, and I found the mother lode of gently used Fiesta ware for $50, I had to text them both pictures (Gail was trying to hit the mother lode at the casino) to find out if that was indeed a good deal.

I should have known that I had just unearthed a treasure. Instead, I gave it away. Gail gladly forked over a fifty, and she and Suzanne split the colors–red, blue and yellow. I now regret this stupid move, and I mentioned that in the text thread Suzanne and I shared last week:

I have put the vibe out to attract more good Fiesta fortune, and I am confident I will find it. If you happen to have any lying around that you want to pass on, please contact me–first. As in, before Gail or Suzanne. I have lost time to make up for here. Besides, I have given enough away already. And, to add insult to injury, I have recently given away three coffee cups I found at garage sales to Suzanne and Gail, simply because I didn’t know what I had.

Gail and Suzanne are happy to showcase their collections for your viewing pleasure:

Gail salivated over Fiesta ware for years before she began collecting. She used to store it in her cabinet, but she now loves the visual treat of displaying them on shelves in her kitchen/dining area.

Suzanne collected Betty Crocker points for years and redeemed them for Fiesta ware. She finds random pieces in her thrifting excursions as well.

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The tables have now turned, and I am applying peer pressure to my sisters to conform to my idea. I have something up my sleeve–literally and figuratively, and I want to share the love with them. We have talked about it for a long time; one is on board, and the other is not yet committed. And it is a commitment, because it is permanent. I want to further bond our sisterhood in ink.

Several years ago, in honor of Dad, I got a wheat tattoo. Ten days ago, and just in time for the anniversary, I paid homage to Mom with one of her favorite things, as well as two of mine:

Mom’s printed signature is in the petal; one of my favorite sayings is represented inside the moon.

I will let you know if this idea becomes permanent for all three of us.

And, if you need a good set of stoneware, let me know.

Gail and I will be in Colorado next weekend, Suzanne will join us on another trip. Perhaps I will find another mother lode of Fiesta ware at the thrift store. Here’s a picture from a previous trip to keep Suzanne’s spirit alive there.

SIXTY-ONE AND STILL HAVING FUN

About the time I was likely getting into my deep sleep last night, Gail and her friends were carousing about in the countryside, not yet even considering hitting the sack. They were celebrating, after all, and when Gail is celebrating, time doesn’t matter.

Time, with its seemingly fickle nature, can play tricks on all of us. If we are in the dentist’s chair, it drags on interminably. If we are vacationing, say, lying on the beach, or carousing in our favorite mountain town, it seems to fly. It passes all the same, however, no matter what we are doing to pass it.

One year ago tonight–2/21/20, we were celebrating Gail’s 60th birthday. Here’s a refresher:

Today, 2/21/21, Gail is celebrating her 61st birthday. While this number may seem an unimportant age to some who have already reached it, it’s another significant milestone to Gail. No birthday is meaningless to Gail; as she has said before, and I quote: “It keeps getting better,” and “Birthdays are a gift you unwrap.”

Gail is 61 today, born on the 21st and celebrating in 2021. Such perfectly aligned numbers; perhaps we should use them when we throw our money down once again in the casinos in our favorite mountain town in a few weeks. Surely this time we will be lucky. More on that later.

One year ago tonight, we gathered in her small town to help her celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. It was a grand Gail gala, and we were so fortunate that she was indeed born on 2/21, because shortly thereafter, the entire world shut down; celebrations of this magnitude were forbidden.

It has been almost a year since COVID began to dictate our social interactions. I need not explain any further. In many ways, it has felt like a year in the dentist’s chair, but Gail continues to make every day of her life–pre-Covid included–a celebration. Her festive nature and ever-present sense of optimism are always palpable.

To me, this is simply Gail. It is how I have always known her. To anyone who is a new acquaintance, her deep reserves of positive energy are astounding. To me, she is my larger-than-life big sister. I have never known her to be anything but.

Her home is a chapel to this vibe. I remember when she moved from the small town close to where we grew up to her new home in another small Kansas town. I felt a sense of grief for those sacred walls she left behind; so many wonderful memories were made there, with many more sure to be foregone since she was moving. I was sure it would never be the same, and it wasn’t.

But it was still good, it was still Gail. She took her collection of whales along. She modified the rock-n-roll room–complete with rocking chairs–she had into a music room with her 600-plus CD collection.

She took her 80’s wicker furniture along, keeping it until it was time to let it go. She had walls of Hallmark plaques in her former home. Some made the cut, some didn’t. Most of them have since been retired. There sometimes comes a time to let go, to listen to one’s little voice about changing tastes, and she has always listened.

Gail and her two older daughters had many memorable evenings in their first home. If you look close, you can see the wicker under the 80’s throw blanket behind her. Her daughters rocked and rolled right along with her, and still do.

I remember walking into her new home, and I knew instantly that nothing was lost. This is still Gail’s spirit in her new home. And I felt no more sadness about what she left behind. It was time for new, with the pieces of her past arranged in their new places.

While some of her favorite collections can be explained and understood, as in Rosie the Riveter–Gail Can Do It, others, like her penchant for yellow clocks, cannot. It simply is what she loves, and because of that, it’s beautiful. They are beautiful, all those yellow clocks. She likes what she likes with no apology.

None necessary.

While I am missing my big sister on her birthday, I know that her friends capably helped her celebrate last night–or shall I say this morning. The lantern was a gift from one of those fellow carousers, complementing the light that radiates from within her, no matter where she is, what day/time it is, who she is with, what is happening in the world around her, or what the weather is.

The weather around Gail is always sunny and warm.

In eleven days, Gail and I will arrive back in our favorite mountain town to once again, March Forth. We will have a belated birthday celebration, and we will celebrate our parents lives on the 13th anniversary of their deaths. It will indeed be a celebration. Suzanne still fights the altitude sickness, and because she is a newlywed, she is happy to stay back. We will gather together another time.

Remember, when you are with Gail, life is always a celebration. She even made jokes at our parents double funeral. She cried with all of us, but she made us laugh, too. As the new matriarch of the family, she flexed her We Can Do It Rosie muscles to show us all how to do it. She carried a lantern of her inner light, guiding the way for all of us to continue to smile and laugh, and to make a celebration out of life, no matter what it hands us.

She continues to be larger-than-life, and to this little sister, growing larger with each passing year. I am a lucky middle sister.

Judging from our past performance in the casinos, however, we could use a little more luck with our numbers. Please send us your good vibes for good luck with #61 and #21.

HAPPY 61ST BIRTHDAY GAIL!

SISTER LODE TOGETHERNESS BEFORE GAIL’S 60TH BIRTHDAY PARTY

THIS IS LOVE

Love has the power to to send us flying high, or to bring us to our knees. We have been on our knees in soul-searing pain when our loved ones were taken away, which makes it even sweeter when it takes us flying high.

We share our joy and sadness with each other. The wonderful thing is that sadness is divided when it is shared, and joy is multiplied when it is shared.

Today is Valentine’s Day, the day in my single years that used to make me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I am long past those years, comfortably settled into almost 27 years of marriage. Gail is right behind me with 25 years under her belt. The flying-high part is a necessary, but short-lived part of long-term romance; it is simply not sustainable.

And that’s a good thing, because if Suzanne’s beau doesn’t stop all those sickeningly sweet gestures he does for her, I may be throwing up in my mouth a little bit more. Gail may do the same.

As of yesterday, he is her husband, as well as her beau. And this is a beautiful thing–sweet gestures and all.

Now, her last name rhymes with Gail’s last name, and it is the last half of my long German last name. We love to be alike.

The snow has been flying off and on all day today, but yesterday, the clouds parted and the sun shone through, just in time for the wedding. The travelers traveled safely, and both families were able to attend this small gathering, sharing the joy with the newlyweds.

I am quite sure that all four parents smiled down from above; it would have been the groom’s parents anniversary yesterday. I’m sure they were celebrating as well. I know that our parents were happiest on earth when their children were happy, so that had to be magnified in Heaven.

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Sometimes, in the darkest days of life, there are simply no words to express the sadness. We’ve been there.

Sometimes, too, in the brightest days of life, there are no words powerful enough to express the joy. We were all there yesterday. The best words I can muster are this: I have never seen Suzanne this happy.

There simply are no more words to write, except HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, and CONGRATULATIONS SUZANNE AND STEVE.

GROUNDHOG DAYS

“January has only one thing to be said for it: it is followed by February.” Kathleen Tynan

I hate to disappoint Suzanne, but Groundhog Day is only two days away, I don’t have an outfit planned yet, and it doesn’t look like I will be able to come up with one. Perhaps I will simply wear brown and call it good, but I’m open to ideas.

It’s not that the day isn’t worthy of a special get-up, because it is one of my favorite obscure days of the year. Plus, the movie Groundhog Day is in my top five. I will be watching it Tuesday.

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Even in the pre-pandemic years, January was typically a soul-draining month for me. The coldest and windiest part of winter is upon us, the holidays are over, and the days are short and the nights are long. I have to work harder to remind myself that brighter days are soon to follow the darker ones. This year, when I reminded myself to look closer, January offered the following joys:

*Hope for the eventual defeat of COVID began arriving in the vaccine.

*Gail, Suzanne and I got together last weekend to celebrate a late Christmas and our Mom’s birthday as well.

*After it adopted us by not leaving our door, we adopted a sweet cat. My husband has aptly named it “Katleen,” and Suzanne thinks I’m on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady. I haven’t owned a cat since I lived with both of my sisters on the farm, but it kinda feels like I need a cat at this point in my life…

*Our great state of Kansas celebrated its 160th birthday two days ago, and I dressed appropriately. I think Suzanne liked it; I’m pretty sure she meant “you’re crazy” in a good way in the return text after I sent her this picture:

One of Kansas’s locally famous daughters recommended drinking beer or wine made in Kansas to celebrate. I did my part by toasting to Kansas with a beer from Blue Skye, our local brewery.

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The best is always yet to come. One of our Mom’s greatest lessons on surviving tough times was this: Always have something to look forward to.

*Suzanne is getting married in a few weeks, and Gail and I–as well as our whole family–are almost as excited as she is.

*Since COVID prevented our epic 50th birthday party at the shore for her, Suzanne will choose her dream beach destination for a sister trip this summer–we hope.

*Gail will turn 61 years young in February, and I will turn 55 in April. While our celebrations won’t be as big as Suzanne’s–or as big as Gail’s 60th last year, we will celebrate as we always do.

A visual reminder of just how much fun was had at Gail’s 60th birthday party last year…

I don’t need to tell any of you who know the movie that 2020 felt like Groundhog Day almost every day. The same bad news over and over; the same staying-at-home pattern, the same yearning for lost social contact.

If, however, we look at our lives this past year as a chance to re-evaluate, just like the lead character Phil did in the movie, then perhaps it can be seen as a catalyst, or even a crucible whose challenges and crises provided an opportunity for personal growth.

If the same old ways in your life keep producing the same old results, well, then…you get the idea.

I have found the best way to keep the winter blues and blahs alive and well is to stay in the same routine, the same rut over and over again. It always works like a charm. So, today, as the gray skies hung low like a wet blanket, and the dreaded Kansas wind (Do I need to remind you that my crazy sisters LOVE the wind? Ugh!) tried to steal any remaining joy from the outdoor experience today, I decided to get out there anyway, and shake up my routine.

My empty-nested husband and I took a little Sunday drive north. We have the time and only ourselves to take care of, so we took care of a yearning to try something new. Because we like the small-town atmosphere of a down-home dining experience, we decided to try a new restaurant we had heard of in a roundabout way.

The Broken Arrow Cafe in tiny Aurora, Kansas was just what we needed. While we don’t recommend taking the backroads on a wet day, if you live anywhere in central Kansas, it is worth the drive to this restaurant in Cloud County, Kansas.

Happy Groundhog Day to you this Tuesday–and every day.

PER ASPERA

If you meet any one, or all of us when we are traveling outside of our home state of Kansas, and you call any one of us, or all of us Dorothy because clearly, we are not in Kansas anymore, we will not think you are funny. We have heard it a million times already. If, however, you are calling us Dorothy because she demonstrated strength, bravery and fortitude during a most difficult time, then we will be flattered. She embodied the original Ad Astra Per Aspera spirit.

Dorothy Gale, the main character in the iconic movie The Wizard of Oz, found her way home to Kansas when all hope was lost and helped others find their way as well. She demonstrated courage by facing her fears, led others out of darkness and challenged false authority like the good-natured bad-ass she was. And, her last name was Gale. Different spelling, same good-nature, same bad-ass spirit as Gail of The Sister Lode.

There’s no place like home.

Most of us, after spending record time in our homes last year, know this better than we may want to. I don’t have to explain any further, the entire world is in the same boat.

The roughly 2.9 million residents of Kansas are no different. However, we come from a long line of people just like Dorothy Gale. On January 29th, just 5 days from today, we will celebrate our state’s 160th birthday. Our state motto says it all: Ad Astra Per Aspera: To The Stars Through Difficulty. Our state was founded on this motto, and we continue to demonstrate it in good times and bad.

Gail, Suzanne and I gathered at my home on Saturday, January 23rd. Gail’s daughter Lydia had her quarterly endocrinologist appointment in Salina on Friday, and then they went on to Wichita to see Gail’s firstborn, Kate. Because Lydia has her mother’s strong We Can Do It sense of fortitude, and she is a Kansas-bred and born girl just like her mother and aunts, she has the Per Aspera spirit as well. She continues to meet the constant challenge of her Type One diabetes, and she continues to win the daily battles, as well as the war. Her checkup was as good as they could have hoped for. Just like any other hardship Gail and her offspring encounter, they plow through, to the stars through difficulty. Typically, they come out smiling on the other end. This time was no different.

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In the absence of our typical large Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, the sisters of The Sister Lode had a gift exchange that still needed to take place. This annual event is highly anticipated between the three of us; we spare only some expense and no effort to choose the most exquisite and perfect gifts for each other.

This year was no different.

Suzanne has no live cats yet; she is searching for the perfect one. Until then, Gail found the perfect substitute:

If you grew up in our era, you probably won’t bat an eye at one of the gifts I got for Gail. She loves pillows, and this seemed perfect. If, however, you are from a generation below us, please know that this game was not considered occult when we were kids, nor do we consider it that now. Perhaps we got some really good information and guidance from the Ouija board back then, back when it was socially acceptable.

Knowing I am a patriotic American and Kansan, Gail knew I would love this addition to my Sunflower State collection of decor. Suzanne, who exaggerates, will tell you that I have a costume to match every holiday and special occasion throughout the year. She is pretty sure I will fashion an outfit out of this flag just in time for Kansas Day on Friday. Silly Suzanne, I would never desecrate our state flag like that. Besides, I already have my outfit for Kansas Day ready to go. I planned it out just after I put my Inauguration Day outfit together last week.

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Our mother would have been 84 years old last Friday, January 22nd. Because, in order to to reach those stars through difficult times, we continue to find reasons to celebrate. She would have wanted us to celebrate, with or without her. So, we did. A day late. I’m pretty sure there are no clocks or calendars in Heaven, so to her, it was no big deal. Nothing was ever a big deal to Mom; she was pretty much go-with-the-flow; along for the ride, always doing whatever worked for everyone else. If she had even one fault, it would be that she never put her needs first. Of course, that can also be a virtue, and it worked well for her.

She loved navy blue and white stripes, and while there was no memo to be missed by Gail, somehow Suzanne and I decided separately to wear those when we got together.

All three of us, however, got the other memo circulating on social media, and we invited Bernie to our celebration. We know Mom was laughing from Above, and we hope you are, too. It’s much easier to get through difficulty with laughter.

KUMBAYA

KUMBAYA

Someone’s crying, Lord, Kumbaya

There are songs I grew up with in church that will forever bring me peace. Several years ago, I wrote about another one: Let There Be Peace On Earth, (October 8th, 2017) because its message is timeless.

While the lyrics in Kumbaya are very simple and repetitive, its meaning is believed to be simple, as well as profound: Come By Here, Lord. It’s pidgin English roots would suggest the song title from the meaning.

Kumbaya, it has come to my attention, has a different meaning socially and politically. It seems this word has been adopted for use in a lighter, perhaps even in a sarcastic or disparaging fashion.

I am deep in the middle of a mammoth writing project. When it is finished, the book will tell the story of an amazing man whose resilience will inspire you, just as I have been inspired by him. He has immeasurable life experience, and lately, our discussions relate to the current state of our country, and our world.

We can’t just sit around the campfire singing ‘Kumbaya,’ and hope for all this to go away,” he said to me a few months ago. I knew what he meant, and I had heard ‘kumbaya’ used that way before, but being the word nerd I am, I wanted to know the exact meaning when it is used in this manner.

“Naively optimistic,” said one online source.

“False moralizing, hypocrisy, cockeyed optimism,” read another.

“It once represented strength and power in togetherness and harmony, but it has come to reflect weakness,” yet another source reported.

“Kumbaya” is believed to have originated as an African-American spiritual song in the 1920’s as a cry to God for help from oppressed people suffering under the Jim Crow regime of lynch mobs and sharecropping. It’s origins, then, certainly justify its original meaning.

I don’t profess to know much about politics–national, or international. I know enough to know that what we are doing now isn’t working. The divisiveness and discord in our country are unprecedented in our lifetimes, and, as the comic Lily Tomlin states, it appears that “things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get worse.”

An Average Jane citizen like myself cannot change things, neither can you. Unless, as my writing subject did point out to me, one person can indeed change the world. Maybe not directly, but because we reap what we sow, then we must believe our actions–both good and bad–are capable of beginning the ripple effect.

Perhaps naively, perhaps with cockeyed optimism, I am choosing to believe we can indeed hope for a better future. That is, if I use my powers for good and not evil, and you do the same. We all have the same free will. We all have the power to choose.

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The sun came up again this morning. It will very likely come up again tomorrow morning. We can count on this renewal, this daily reset to remind us that time goes on, and that bad times never last forever. Where I live, on top of this daily promise, God has been showing off again. I took a picture of the sunrise a few mornings ago from my porch, and I tried my best to capture the beauty:

And, as a bonus, the sunsets here in Kansas, too, are proof of hope, proof of something bigger than all of us; proof of the beauty all around us if we choose to see it:

I swear I was watching the road…I simply held up my phone, didn’t look and hoped for the best. And it was absolutely glorious. This was the sunset the day after the sunrise pictured above.

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In nearly all situations, it is best to listen to one’s mother. I still listen to mine, especially her last wish: that her children would live their lives by the Prayer of Saint Francis. Make me an instrument of peace, it begins. Me, not everyone else. Me, in every action great and small. Me, as one who can start a ripple. You, too. We all have that power to create peace. (Peace, Sister July 16th, 2017).

So listen to our mother, and your mother would likely agree from here on earth, or from Above.

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When I begin treatment with my speech therapy patients, I make sure they understand their most important qualification for therapy: they must have a sense of optimism about their potential for improvement. We may not be able to return them to their prior level, but we will both work hard to improve their abilities, and we will both remain positive about their potential. Without it, both of us are wasting our time.

The indomitable Helen Keller summed this up perfectly: “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.

I know that naive optimism, “kumbaya,” will not make our world’s problems go away. But educated, dedicated, hardworking optimism is the only mindset that will bring about positive change. I believe in the God-given ability to create a better country and a better world, but each of us must do our part.

The gentleman who is the subject of my book subject summed it up best: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

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Someone’s singing, Lord, Kumbaya.”

LET THERE BE LIGHT–AND DARKNESS

LET THERE BE LIGHT–AND DARK

Today, December 20th, 2020, marks the second-shortest day of the year. Tomorrow, the winter solstice, will be the turning point and once again, sunshine will begin to prevail–even for just a minute more each day.

I long for longer days. I long for sunlight, and for sunshine whenever it decides to shine. I have lots of windows in my home, and I rarely close any blinds to keep the sun out. I lived in too many basements in college, and I am still making up for lost time.

But without these dark days–the short ones in December, the cloudy ones, and the time I spent living in basements, my appreciation for light wouldn’t be as great. In order to fully bask in the light, one must have spent some time in the dark. Without enduring the dark days devoid of joy that occur in everyone’s lives, we would take the light for granted.

It’s not.

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I didn’t decorate much for Christmas this year. Our nest is empty, there will be no gatherings here–or perhaps not anywhere in my family, and we gave our big Christmas tree to our son when he moved out.

Today, however, I decided to string a small string of battery-powered lights on a miniature tree. I love the light as I stated above, and Christmas lights bring me a special kind of joy.

Perhaps even more so than the standard Christmas lights, these had a mind of their own. I spent half an hour trying to unravel the tangled clot they showed up in, and it seemed just as I got one step ahead of the knots, I took two steps back. This fine wire had a mind of its own, and it nearly drove me out of mine.

After they got tangled up in my shoelace, I lost it. I uttered a few choice obscenities, and proceeded to haphazardly strangle the little tree with them. Having just watched Clark Griswold with his outdoor lights, I realized I must have looked just as funny as he did.

Except that I wasn’t trying to be funny. I’d had enough, and I let my frustration get the best of me. In that process, that surrendering self-control, I let the poor little tree have it, and then I paid the price.

One of my Jim Shore collectible Santas that was right next to the tree on the coffee table took the stray bullet, fell down and broke.

And then I broke.

Gail, Suzanne and I collect these treasures, as well as his other pieces. Dad used to buy them for Mom as gifts, and we have kept up the collecting. This wasn’t one of Mom’s, but it may as well have been, because I felt her there immediately. Both Mom and Dad were there, as a matter of fact.

The cardinal that Santa was holding broke off. And we all know what cardinals signify.

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I don’t need to remind you that this year has been one we all hope to simply survive, and move on to happier times. With a little grace, however, we can use these dark days to remind us what a gift light can be.

My prayer for you is that you have been, and continue to stay well, but we all know that any illness reminds us of the gift that good health is.

My hope for you is that the loved ones you may have lost are still with you for Christmas and every day, alive and well deep within your heart. The cardinal reminds us of that.

Longer days are always coming after the solstice; this is a promise that has never failed. Always.

My Santa can be repaired. I will glue the cardinal back on, and remember every time I look at him that acting out my frustration always gets me nowhere.

And I may even turn on the lights just as they are on my little tree, and remember how important laughter is, especially at myself.

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Gail, Suzanne and I may not be able to get together with our siblings and their families for Christmas like we always do, but no matter what, we are always together in spirit. Mom and Dad are there too, always, with or without a cardinal to remind us. These tough times will pass, and we will never take the gift of family gatherings for granted again, because they’re not.

May your Christmas be a reminder of love and light, no matter how you celebrate it.

Merry Christmas from Gail, Suzanne and Kathleen–the sisters of The Sister Lode. Last year’s Christmas picture will have to do. And–don’t forget to laugh!

ROLLING WITH THE CHANGES

ROLLING WITH THE CHANGES

When Gail, Suzanne and I took our epic trip to Florida in July 2016, we had the time of our traveling lives. It was a vacation beyond compare, and, as usual, we didn’t tell all–we never do. However, as time passes, more details seem to seep out in our stories now and then…

Like the one about the evening we went out for ice cream. The Twistee Treat, a local chain in Florida, offers scores of self-serve flavors worthy of writing home about. Deciding upon the flavor of the evening was a tough thing for us, and apparently for other customers, too.

Gail got an exotic chocolate mixture in her cone, and it was delectable. She was trying to help a gentleman there decide upon his flavor. She told him he could sample hers, and proceeded to get up to get a spoon to share a bit with him from the not-yet-licked part. Before she could even get up, he had leaned in and took a lick right off her cone. Tongue and all.

She shrugged, as if to say no big deal, and continued to lick the cone herself.

In the end, nobody was worse for the wear. At least, Gail was fine. We assume the other guy was, too.

I am 100% certain this would not happen in these crazy COVID times. But it happened just over four years ago, and it may never happen again.

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The only thing in life that never changes is the fact that things are always changing. Continuing to roll along with these changes is essential in order to field these fly balls that keep coming at us. And, if you have lived long enough, you know the fly balls will keep on coming, just as they always have. Sometimes, we sign up for these changes; sometimes they come at us from left field.

The COVID fly ball ranks high up there with things that have brought changes to our lives and everyone else’s, too. We have done our best to keep rolling with these punches, and so far, we are hanging in there.

One year ago, if you had told any of us that our country would be facing the likes of a pandemic not seen for 102 years–the last major one was the Spanish Flu of 1918, we likely wouldn’t have been believers. This unfathomable truth has become reality, and we are all simply dealing with it the best we can. We have had family members and loved ones become sick and recover from the disease, but –knock on wood–the three of us are so far uninfected–as far as we know.

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The Sister Lode took its maiden flight in June 2017, some three and a half years ago; 140 posts ago. To anyone who has read any or all of our posts, we thank you. We also hope you feel you have gotten to know each of us at least a little bit–and we hope that is a good thing for you. We have enjoyed having you come along.

Much has happened in our respective worlds since then, and in light of the changes brought about by COVID-19, we are celebrating changes, both those that felt good when they happened, as well as those that made us stronger in the end.

GAIL: You may recall that one of Gail’s iconic idols is Rosie The Riveter, whose “We Can Do It” message resonates throughout her life. When Gail’s daughter Lydia–now 20–was diagnosed with Type One diabetes in the fall of 2017, she helped–and continues to help–soldier through this daily challenge with her.

In order to fill the 28 hours in Gail’s every day (her daily accomplishments must surely take that long), she accepted another job in addition to her position as a chiropractic office manager. She took over management of a local bar/grill, keeping both places rolling in the usual Gail style–getting things done without excuses, delay or drama.

She welcomed her 60th birthday earlier this year in grand style with a big party. If you didn’t read that post, it’s worth going back: Dance Like Gail’s Watching, February 23rd. She treated herself to a most unique birthday gift: a 1974 Chevrolet Nova, which was owned by Lola, a local woman who passed away. She also left behind a small, empty house a few blocks from Gail’s house, and since she already owned Lola’s car, it seemed wrong not to own her house, too. #allthingsLola is her new mantra.

I look up to Gail for so many reasons, but her ability to take curve balls in stride with her strength is something I have always admired. In so many ways, I want to be like her when I grow up.

SUZANNE: Perhaps Suzanne has had the most changes in her life; changes she signed up for, and they are all good. She is playing house in a big way: she got a new house, and she will soon have a new husband to put in it. She also returned to her previous job in the last six months. She missed them, and I’m sure they missed her wit and brilliance–who wouldn’t?

We narrowly missed inhabiting the same decade of life–the fifties–all at the same time. Six months after Gail turned 60, Suzanne turned 50. Her party at the shore is on hold. We improvised in our above-ground background pool on her August birthday.

She continues to rock life without a thyroid gland, with her semi-annual checkups bringing good news. She is a survivor in so many ways, which is one of the many reasons I want to be like her too when I grow up.

As for me, I have emptied my nest, gained a grandson and started the slow process of transitioning out of my career as a speech therapist, and more fully into my Act Two: fulfilling my creative urges through more writing and other creative endeavors. I am thankful for this opportunity to work harder toward that which fills my tank. Life is too short to do otherwise, a lesson the sisters of The Sister Lode have learned the hard way.

I turned 54 in April, no parties here.

COVID has changed the way we all interact socially, and this feels like deprivation to most of us. We have drastically scaled back our traveling, the beach will still be there for us when we can finally go.

The lack of connection we all feel from our various levels of isolation must certainly be how my speech therapy patients feel when they cannot connect because their illness or injury has taken that ability away. Most of us can hope for a return to “normal” in the relatively near future, and as long as we are all doing our parts to get the disease under control, then we should never lose hope.

When this is under control and we are able to connect again, please don’t forget that this feeling of isolation doesn’t go away for some people. It may be due to a communication impairment, or social/familial/physical difficulties. Please try to reach out and open up a little wider to people who may still be suffering.

I forget, too, that not everyone has wonderful people in their lives like my sisters, and that we live together in harmony.

Whatever changes life may throw at you, keep rolling with them. The fly balls will keep coming, field them as best you can, and you’ll keep rolling, too.

Just like Gail, Suzanne and Rosie The Riveter, You Can Do It!

So, I wrote this blog this afternoon, intending to publish it much earlier, around 6:00 like I normally do. I typed it up on a Word document, like I normally do. When I went to copy and paste it to my blog page, it simply wouldn’t transfer. No matter what I tried, it wouldn’t move. Now, my IT skills are Flintstone-era, and my IT guys (my sons) weren’t here, so perhaps there was a simple solution, but I didn’t know what it would be. Apparently, things were changed up without anyone asking me first, so I was left to my own devices. This meant completely rewriting the post on my blog page. I came very close to chucking the whole thing out of frustration, then I realized I needed to take the very advice I had just dished out, and rewrite the whole damn thing. I decided to roll with these changes, and I am so glad I did. I hope you are, too.

I made this for a friend from recycled wood and other repurposed treasures. It appears random indeed, but it does have meaning. I hope to have more time in ACT TWO to complete more projects like this.

NEW CAR SMELL

NEW CAR SMELL

*accordion music

*getting the mail

*the cool underside of the pillow

*loving a book enough to read it again

*a luscious watermelon in November

*watching the almost-full moon come up as the sun goes down in beautiful Kansas style on the opposite horizon

*looking up the origin of a word and understanding how it became part of our language (I’m a word nerd, remember)

*turning off all the lights except those on the Christmas tree

*even though our car is five years old, it still has that special new car smell

*spraying whipped cream out of a can

*making a “pond” in the mashed potatoes for the gravy

*the vibrant orange color of sweet potatoes

*creative Thanksgiving leftovers prepared by my husband

*realizing that parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are the actual spices in poultry seasoning, as well as Simon & Garfunkel song lyrics

*being able to borrow these spices from the neighbor when I realized I didn’t have any poultry seasoning for the Thanksgiving dressing

*being grateful for Gail’s annual Thanksgiving celebration, even though I wasn’t there

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Besides the usual gratitude I offer for health, family, abundance, faith, hope and love, I had to dig deeper this year to find new things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

This is 2020.  I needn’t say more, but I did come up with a few things—see above.

This year has been beyond anyone’s wildest expectations—and for most of us, not in a good way.  However, one thing hasn’t changed, and never will:  abundance and good fortune exists in our minds if we let it, and if we choose to do that, it becomes apparent in our lives.

It’s all in how you look at it.

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There should be another picture of us three at the beginning of this blog—the fifth in our annual Thanksgiving picture series.  Every year for the last four years, Gail, Suzanne and I have taken a picture together in Camp Gail–Gail’s happy place in her house—when we gather together at her house on Thanksgiving weekend. 

Not this year.  Time will tell if we can all get together at Christmas, but I am not holding my breath.  And that’s okay.

We will gather again, and when we do, we will feel gratitude like never before.  Sometimes, something has to be taken away before we fully appreciate it. 

There was but a fraction of the guests at Gail’s annual Turkey Party. Suzanne was there, so they staged this picture in my absence.  The T-shirts are thanks to Gail and her festive spirit, with the original idea credited to her daughter Lydia:

Gail and Suzanne offered their thanks for things great and small:

Gail:

*the wind (ugh)

*cool auction finds

*leftovers

*clotheslines—Amen, sister!

*pillows

*fires in wood-burning stoves—Amen again!

*plush blankets

*cold, cold beer

Suzanne:

*cookie dough

*coconut ice cream, but it’s hard to find

*really good crushed ice—as in Sonic ice

*wind—ugh again

*cool second-hand store finds

*jigsaw puzzles—Amen, sister!

*This is a BIG one, she says:  people who can spell and punctuate correctly—they are a dying breed!  Again, Amen!

*the ocean

*her two favorite people—no, not Gail and me, but her daughter and her fiancé.

Bonus!  One of her two favorite people AT the ocean!

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Happy Thanksgiving every day of the year.  May your list be at least as long and obscure as ours are!    

THE POWER OF HALF-FULL

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THE POWER OF HALF-FULL

Apparently, I possess some sort of super-power.  Just a few days ago, I was thinking about how I really want a pair of gray/green Converse All-Stars like Suzanne’s.  I know I’m not supposed to covet thy sister’s shoes, and I know I don’t really need another pair (more on this later), but I really wanted them.  Like really bad.

Yesterday, Suzanne and I hit a few of the remaining end-of-season garage sales.  We met at one outside of a storage building, and a table of shoes immediately called my name.  (It should be obvious from previous posts that I am into shoes.)  Right there, with sunbeams shining down from the heavens upon them, were the green Converse shoes.  In a gently-loved condition with plenty of wear left. In my size.  They were even the deluxe leather edition.  The classic canvas would have been just fine, but I have long salivated over the leather ones, which are hard to find. 

One dollar later, they were mine. 

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Suzanne seems to think this happens to me quite often.  I simply wish for something and poof!  There it is. 

Perhaps it does.

Perhaps, instead, I simply focus on positive things that could be, things that would bring me joy in small and large amounts.  Small things like another pair of shoes (which obviously happened yesterday), or large things like a large lottery jackpot (which hasn’t happened yet).

Perhaps I should be focusing on more meaningful things, like, say, world peace.  Or maybe even national peace.

Unless you have been under a rock for the past few years, you know our country’s divisive contentiousness is at an all-time high.  While it does break my heart, I know that I have done my own due diligence by voting, and doing what I can to model the kind of behavior I hope to see in my country’s leader. 

This last part is the hard part. 

Above that, it does me no good to dwell on the division, or to enhance the conflict and strife by inciting arguments about it. My opinion is right for me, and if yours differs from mine, then yours is right for you.  I may not like it if yours doesn’t match mine, but that is the beauty of our democracy.  We all get to choose where to stand. 

So, I will stand tall, and I hope you will, too.

If you belong to the approximate 50% that is expecting the demise of our country in the next four years, then just know that the other approximate 50% survived the last four years thinking the same thing.  Last time I checked, our country hasn’t yet gone to hell in a handbasket.

I believe that the uncompromising spirit of this great country will prevail, and as the foundation for that, I believe in the great spirit of man—and woman—kind. 

I could choose to believe in our demise as a country, but I choose not to. It hasn’t happened yet, so I am choosing half-full.  I am choosing to believe in the power of optimism, because that choice is my privilege; yours too.  I can sign up for optimism or pessimism, and it will likely not affect our country’s operation and outcome one iota. 

Same goes for the pandemic.  Do everything you can to keep yourself safe and/or return to good health, follow the rules to keep everyone else safe, and stay optimistic.   Thinking half-full might even help you stay healthy.

So, I ask, why should any of us choose anything but half-full?

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I watched a great movie on Amazon the other day—The Secret: Dare to Dream.   It was based on the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.  I’ve read the book, and at its core, it states that by focusing on what it is we want, we are more likely to get it.   Like my new green Converse shoes.   Like when you are thinking about someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while, and then you see them, or they call you.  We’ve all been there.

Our thoughts work like magnets, this theory proposes.  Think good thoughts, and good is more likely to find you.  Think bad, and well, you get the gist.  I have seen it ring true many times, so I am a believer.

The movie was a somewhat predictable, mildly-sappy love story, but a good show nonetheless.  Its examples illustrating this power of our thoughts was indeed thought-provoking. 

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As always, I asked my sisters for their input on the topic, and here’s what they came up with:

Suzanne:  “I have the power to think positive, I just don’t always do it.  I can if I want to.  Some days it is harder to see the positive because I am a stubborn person, and I’ll be the first to admit to admit I am stubborn and bull-headed.  I know this about myself.  Awareness is the key.  Some people only like to see the bad.  I don’t like those people, even if I am one of those people sometimes.”

Gail: “It’s always easier to look at negative aspects of life and there is so much of that, why not accentuate the positive? I have said it before: there is good in everyone. Look for it! Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop (be it garage sale shoe or not), try to put both shoes on the floor at the same time and be the good, the positive, the driving force that makes a positive impact on lives, be it yours or anyone in your circle!”

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So, if it was that easy to attract a new pair of Converse sneakers to add to my collection, perhaps I should keep wishing for more.  Another pair or two would be nice…they are my go-to shoes with jeans, and I don’t have very many ..if you  have a size 8 ½ or 9 laying around that you don’t wear, let me know.

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Byrne, R. The Secret. 2006. New York: Hillsboro, Ore. : Atria Books.