HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU–AND ME

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU–AND ME

“Today you are you!  That is truer than true!  There is no one alive who is you-er than you!    Dr. Seuss

Some people say it’s just another day. I say it’s not, and Gail and Suzanne agree:  it’s your birthday, and it is a special day.  It is the anniversary of your arrival here on earth.  It is an observance of the day you came into the world.  It is the mark of another trip around the sun.  Without your birthday, you wouldn’t be here.

It’s that simple—and that important.

Since I observed Gail’s birthday in February with a post, and Suzanne’s birthday in August with a post, I decided it was appropriate to observe my April birthday in a post.  Gail and Suzanne agreed.

I will turn 52 this week.  I am not hiding my age; rather, I know age is a gift to be opened, celebrated and treasured.  And I will do just that.  I’m not sure what I will do just yet, but I know I won’t work—if I can swing it.  My schedule is clear so far…I know I will go to my son’s baseball game.  My husband is planning on taking me to lunch.

I also observed Mom’s birthday in January with a post.  She never called attention to her own birthday, but she always made sure to celebrate all of ours.  Most years, she would call me at 4:15 p.m. on my birthday, the exact minute I was born.  Dad always chimed in with a birthday greeting as well.

Mom always made a cake for each of us, and cooked a special dinner of our choice.  There was always at least a small gift.  For our youngest brother Ryan, who was born on Christmas Eve, she never let Christmas outshine his birthday; she always made it a special occasion that wasn’t overshadowed with the holiday celebrations.  Some years, I remember her observing it in the summertime too, creating a special occasion to allow him more attention that may have been garnered by the holidays.

Long before they died, Mom and Dad took the time and care to sort hundreds of pictures from dozens of years of their family life.  They made a pile for each of us, labeled it with our names, and made sure they gave it to us.  I have looked through mine many times, and I found these various pictures from my birthday celebrations through the years.  I think I got them in the right order:

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My first birthday; my great-aunt and uncle are pictured with me.  I don’t think I have turned away from any cake since then.

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Three of my brothers and Gail were with me, Suzanne wasn’t yet dreamed of.

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I thought this was my birthday, but I don’t appear to be eight years old as the candles would indicate.  This must be Gail’s birthday.  I included it because it is a great picture of our great-aunt Madeline, who was a great substitute grandmother.  If either of my boys had been girls, the first girl would have been named Madeline after her and our mother’s stepmother, also named Madeline.   Neither Madeline was a genetic grandmother to us, but they were both incredible grandmothers to us in every other way.

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This one doesn’t appear to be a happy birthday…

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I have always loved books, and I remember these book/record sets fondly.

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That laced-up vest look complements the gap in my teeth…

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This appears to be my initiation into the awkward teenage years.

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And, after a long gap without pictures, this was my 34th birthday.  If you look close, there is a baby bump, and he was born in July.

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I recall a few birthday memories from my younger years:

*I had a track meet on my 18th birthday.  I ran long distance races so my events were later, and I had a crush on a guy who was there from another school.  He didn’t know it was my birthday; I’m not even sure he knew I existed.

*One of my sisters forgot my 21st birthday.  I even stopped at her workplace to see her that day.  Granted, she was very busy, and it was Good Friday. Still…She did make up for it later, so I let her off the hook.  Several other important people forgot too, and I felt like the star of the movie Sixteen Candles.

*The only birthday I recall dreading was my 25th—pictured here with Gail’s two oldest daughters.

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At this monumental quarter-century mark, I was going nowhere in my life, and I was wasting precious time with Mr. Wrong, whom I cut out of this picture.  There is a longer, soul-sucking story explaining why I was with him and not Mr. Right, and if the price is right, I will tell you the rest of the story—in private.  It ranks up there with one of my biggest mistakes I ever made.  Luckily, I was able to rectify the situation, and I married Mr. Right three years later.

Twenty-two years after that party, Mr. Right threw me a 50th birthday party.  His son–my stepson Matt, observed  his 30th birthday a month earlier, and Amy (Swheat Girls, Part Two:  July 9th),  turned 40 the same day Matt turned 30.  We were feted with a 30-40-50 party.  Mark’s brother, who turned 50 four days after me, was also included in the celebration.

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I wore the tiara proudly.

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It was held on the eve of my birthday on a beautiful spring day, and a grand time was had by all.  We are already planning the 40-50-60 party in just eight years.

The last birthday bash I had was 40 years prior.  Each of us in my family was granted a large 10th birthday party with friends and family invited.  It was an occasion to be anticipated and remembered, because we each got one when we turned 10.

Suzanne reminded me that we also got the day off from doing dishes on our birthday.  We never had an automatic dishwasher, Dad always said that when all seven of his dishwashers grew up and moved away, he would buy a dishwasher.  He never did buy one for the farmhouse, but their house in town had one.

Suzanne and I were talking about how Mom and Dad made sure to take pictures on our birthdays, first of the birthday girl/boy, then with the rest of the kids.  Suzanne, however remarked that all the pictures she has of her birthdays are with Mom and Dad only, because they always took her to Disneyland, without any of us.

Whatever, Suzanne.

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Gail rang in her 50th birthday in style with a big party as well.  There was a blizzard that weekend, and Suzanne and I weren’t able to make it.  She did, however extend the celebrating throughout the entire month of February with this campaign:  50 Beers for 50 Years.  I think she managed to reach her goal before the end of the month.

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Nearly every year, the best birthday gift I get is from Mother Nature.  She (almost) always has the leaves hung on the trees for me, and has a lush carpet of green covering the earth just in time for my big day.  I can only remember one other birthday about two years ago when the trees were bare and the earth was still mostly brown.

Apparently, she’s not going to deliver in time again this year.

As I write this on April 14th, we are experiencing a freak early spring blizzard.  Sideways snow and strong gale force winds have been the order of the day.  Our son has prom tonight.  It is a cruel trick from Mother Nature for all of us.

She hasn’t been very nice to us this spring.

Gail, a.k.a. Gale Force Winds, reminded me that there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it, and complaining about it won’t help.  Her daughter’s prom was changed to Sunday night due to the weather, as western Kansas got it worse than we did.  Interstate 70 was closed at the Kansas-Colorado border, right where we took our pictures on our trip there just over a month ago.  It was sunny and pleasant that day.  Not so much today.  Gail loves it.  She always loves it, no matter what the weather.

One should never dread birthdays; I certainly don’t.  I welcome them; relish them.  Neither should we dread any kind of weather, but still, I do.  All of us should welcome the weather as graciously as Gail–and Suzanne–both do.

The forecast for my birthday is 82 degrees and sunshine.    I will give Mother Nature a break if she can deliver that for me.

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Gail, Suzanne and I are expert birthday gift-givers to each other.  Seeking out and finding the perfect gifts for each other is a sport, one we all immensely enjoy–almost as much as getting the gifts on our own birthdays.

Gail found another perfect gift for me in Michigan when they were there at Christmas, and, like I frequently can’t, she couldn’t wait until my birthday to give it to me.    So I got it early, and I am so glad I did.

She knows how I love to watch the moon in all its phases.  In a quaint shop in northern Michigan, they sold necklaces with the  various phases of the moon.  But it’s more than just another moon necklace.  If you enter any day in history you wish to commemorate–like, for example, the day I was born, it gives you the exact phase of the moon for that day.   So now, I am the proud owner of this necklace, which features the moon as it appeared on the day I was born 52 years ago.  Of course, it glows in the dark.

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If you need a gift for a moon-lover like me–or for yourself, check out http://www.moonglow.com.

Gail’s gift for your birthday is this sage advice:  Birthdays are a gift.  Unwrap them and enjoy the presence.

In honor of my birthday, I ask one gift from you:  Please celebrate your own next birthday.  It is a gift to be opened, another year to celebrate,  a day to relish your presence here.

Take the day off, buy yourself a gift; have a party.  Or do it all.  Just please celebrate.

Happy Birthday to you.

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Happy Birthday to my birthday buddy Charlie, a college friend born on the same day in the same year as me.  Pictured here–second from left–with her own sister lode.

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Happy Birthday too, to my friend and former co-worker Lois.  We share the same birthday in different years, and we always wish each other happy birthday by phone every year.  Once in a while, we manage to get together.  

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ODE TO THE RED BARN

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ODE TO THE RED BARN

It once was the symbol of the Great American Farm.

It once held a  hay loft, as well as memories of our years as farm kids.

It once stood as a beacon on our family farm, just like so many other farms.

The red barn on our family farm lived a long and full life, and in the name of moving forward, it came down.

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Gail, Suzanne and I spent Easter Saturday on our family farm with three of our four brothers, and all our respective families.   Our oldest brother lives in another state, and wasn’t able to join us.   It was a day of visiting, eating, and reminiscing.  Like every time we get together, it was a memorable day.

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We grew up on this now-fourth generation family farm, and while the original house we all grew up in and the barn have since come down, the memories remain.  Our brother John and his family are caretakers of our family’s heritage, parceled into a farm on the Great Plains.  For their stewardship to the land and our legacy, I will be forever thankful to them.  I treasure the opportunity to have grown up as a farm girl, even though I chose not to stay there.

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The iconic red barns appear to be a thing of the recent past, and metal buildings are appearing on many Great American Farms as their replacement.

Wooden barns, John tells me, are no longer the most efficient and effective structure to have on one’s farm.  He, along with my husband, who has erected many of the metal ones–including helping with the one that now stands in place of the barn, tells me the metal ones are the wave of the present and future farm.  Perhaps a few fully-functioning barns remain, but they are likely on smaller, hobby farms.  They are costly to repair and/or maintain; the metal buildings are less so.  Some classic red wooden barns have been repaired, refurbished or renewed, but most working barns have been replaced by metal buildings.

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I have many fond memories of time spent in that barn in my childhood.  John, who has always been industrious, had a wood shop just inside the front doors.  He built many wooden projects there, and I recall lingering behind or beside him as he toiled with his craft.  I was fascinated, made a few feeble attempts, but never engaged as a carpenter myself.

Perhaps that is one reason why I was drawn to my husband, the builder extraordinaire.  But that’s another story for another day.

As long as I could remember, we always raised cattle on the farm.  John, somewhere in his teenage years, decided to start a small swine operation in the barn as well.  Suzanne and I were reminiscing about the lessons taught by Mother Nature when, no matter the hour, we would hurry up to the barn to see the baby pigs being born.  Once in a while, we even saw a baby calf come into the world.

John continues to raise cattle on the farm.  They once came in and out of the barn, but their new home is this metal building.  He no longer raises hogs.

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The barn had an upstairs hay loft, where many of our memories were created.  I didn’t realize the new cattle “barn” had a hay loft as well.  The small, rectangular hay bales are not as common as they once were; but John stores some in the loft now, just as we did in the barn.  The much-larger, round bales are the most common type now.

For those of you with no farm history, the hay bales are tightly bound wrapped bales of the wheat straw that remains after harvest.  The grain is harvested and sold, and the straw is baled for livestock feed and bedding.  These bales were stacked in our barn, both upstairs and downstairs.  There was a large, sliding door on the ground floor of the barn, the one traditionally painted with red and white stripes as shown in the pictures.  The smaller door upstairs slid open sideways, and a long bale elevator was used as a conveyor to move the bales from the ground to the upstairs through this door.

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Our younger brother Ryan with Kate, Gail’s first-born enjoying the view from the upstairs door.  The striped door below was the front door to the ground floor.  Circa about 1987.

We built many forts out of these bales, and it seemed our brothers always possessed superior architectural and building skills that made their forts “cooler” than any we could construct.

There was a square, hinged “trap door” in the back of the barn from the upstairs to the downstairs.  We spent many hours jumping from the upstairs to land in the loose hay downstairs, not caring one bit about the hay that ended up in every crevice of our clothes and bodies.  It was good clean—but dirty—fun.  Suzanne and I commented that now, we would likely land with a few twists and sprains.  Gail, however, probably would free-fall in such a way to avoid that.  She always seems to land on her feet, literally and figuratively.  As a little sister, I am still watching her, still looking up to her to learn how to do so many things.  Recall from her birthday post that she has zip-lined…as Suzanne has as well, but not me–yet.  And did I mention, she also bungee-jumped just a few years ago?  She holds that singular honor among us three.

The steps to the upstairs of the barn began to show their age in their last years.  I recall holes in the steps—some large, some small—that needed to be avoided in order to make a safe ascent.  Several steps probably weren’t safe to step on, but I don’t recall any fall-through injuries.

Those steps were well worn not just from our family, but from an old tradition of “Barn Dances.”  Our parents spoke of earlier years when our grandfather would host other couples for a dance in the upstairs of our barn.  The music was provided by local musicians, and I am quite sure fun was had by all.

The upstairs in the barn was also an indoor playground for us.  There was a basketball goal and modified half-court.  Gail recalls the days when our oldest brother hosted frequent Sunday afternoon basketball games with his friends.  The group was large, as our barn was apparently the hot spot on Sundays.   She recalled, and I do too, that caution had to be taken to not get too close to the edges of the floor near the walls, as they weren’t always reliable.

Ryan turned what would have been the back half of the court into his work site with his Tonka tractors, graders, and other equipment as well, farming the loose hay.   There were some cabinets and other older, perhaps antique furnishings and small equipment stored in the back as well.

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Gail, Suzanne and I visited the new “barn” last weekend.  Instead of cattle and hay, it now houses the machinery that plants and harvests the crops, as well as the other necessary implements and machines that keep the farm running.

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Gail was the only one of us three girls who learned how to operate the farm machinery.  Recall that she has always been a Swiss Army Knife.

I recall the good-natured argument between farm kids regarding the best color of farm machinery:  red or green?  My family has always been red, and probably always will be.  Those color allegiances tend to be passed down to the next generation, although I did spot a few small pieces that looked green to me…

When I meet retired farmers who are now my patients, I always ask:  red or green?  Typically, it sparks a good-natured discussion, and sometimes well-intentioned banter and boasting.

The barn, with its resident hogs, was a smelly place.  To add to that, Suzanne recalled the family of skunks that took up residence there as well.  I don’t remember as clearly as she does, but when she was perhaps ten, there was a mother and about four babies that kept her away from there for months.  I probably didn’t go near it for a while, either.

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The barn came down in 2008.  The house came down last fall.  Some things, while they served a purpose and were well-loved at one time, are not meant to last forever.  That’s how things in life are.

Sticks and stones.

Moving past the sentimentality and emotional attachment can be hard, but sometimes a small gesture and/or token can ease the pain enough to move forward with the good memories, and leave the pain of loss behind.

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John’s wife, Lara, rescued several small pieces of the barn wood after it was torn down, as it was headed out to be burned.  She took a picture, put it on a barn-shaped piece of this wood, and created a Christmas ornament for each of us–and other relatives as well.  It is a treasure, one I display year-round.  This small token, this actual piece of our farm’s history is all I need to keep the good memories alive and leave the loss behind.

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Thank you, Lara.

Thank you, John.  You and your family are keeping Our Great American Farm alive and well.

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Dad, posing for his high school graduation.  The barn lives on in so many pictures, and in so many memories.

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Dad’s legacy–and progeny, too, lives on–in the same place he was raised.

Long live the farm, and the farm girls of The Sister Lode.

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When I chose the format and  title picture for the front page of my blog last summer, I was drawn to the barn picture featured on the opening page of THE SISTER LODE.  Hmmm…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD

“You’d better get that timing belt changed.  If that goes, nothing will work.”

And so goes the memory of one of the most important things my dad ever taught me as a young, independent woman.  I don’t think I ever got that timing belt changed on my car, but I traded it off soon thereafter, so it didn’t matter.

Turns out that in life, just like with cars, it is indeed all about timing.  It is what makes things work out the way they do.  The lesson went much deeper than a simple rubber automotive belt.

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Dad was born in 1934 via Cesarean-section.  In that era, it was an inexact science, and his mother wasn’t able to have more children.  She died when he was eight.  He told us that the doctors told his dad it was cancer, but she was never well again after his difficult birth.  After she died, he was raised by his dad and his dad’s two sisters–Madeline and Marie, who, because they played the parts, were like our grandmothers.  They were never married, and Dad was like their only collective child.  They were a gift to him, and I’m sure he was to them, too.  His dad never remarried.

Life as an only child was very lonely, Dad said.  He knew he wanted a big family, and got one:  we were their Magnificent Seven, they said.

 

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One of the earliest pictures we have of Dad; it’s condition tells a story, too.

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Dad and Grandpa in the wheat field.  Swheat boy.

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Dad–left, with childhood friends.

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And, with his best friend.

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Grandpa and Madeline playing Monopoly with Dad.

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Grandpa, Dad, Madeline and Marie.

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Dad had a brilliant mechanical mind, but more than that, he was wise beyond what he could feasibly put to work.  He knew about all things automotive and mechanical, and used this brilliance on his farm machinery and vehicles.

As an only child, however, the family farm was his destiny, no questions asked.  He was a steward of that family legacy until he turned 65, at which he time he promptly handed the reins over to two of my brothers.  One of them still farms it, living on the original homestead.  The house that built me, the farmhouse that was in our family for four generations, was torn down last fall.  Mold overcame it, and it was time for a new creation.

Dad and Mom moved into Osborne in 2000, the small town of about 1,300 people, the town where all three of us girls, and two of our brothers were born.  They lived there until they died, both of them immensely enjoying the “city” life, as well as the social connections they made.

Dad was a local conversational legend.  He was known far and wide as a gifted talker, and could strike up a conversation with just about anyone.  It was reported that when he would frequent the small hospital there to visit someone he knew, as well as the nursing home, he  made rounds as the self-appointed visitor extraordinaire, making new friends with patients/residents he didn’t yet know .  I made my own rounds to that nursing home in the year before they died, visiting them every time I came to town.  I treasure that opportunity to have seen them perhaps 15-or-20 times in their last year.  I left a “really good” hospital job to travel the uncertain nursing home circuit as a speech therapist, deciding—against all reason—to do so exactly a year before they died.

I know now, in crystal-clear hindsight, why I was supposed to listen to that little voice that, for no apparent reason, nagged me to go.  I would have gravely regretted it if I hadn’t.

Not long after they died, I was called there to see a new patient, an older gentleman who was having problems swallowing.  He was cantankerous; I was warned.  He wanted nothing to do with me when I arrived and introduced myself.  I knew that my dad had recently befriended him, so I pulled that strategy out of my arsenal.  I told him who my dad was, and he softened immediately.

“He was your dad?  Why sure!  You just come back to see me anytime!”

Dad’s reputation preceded and succeeded him, always in a good way.

Suzanne, when asked to recall something he had said that stuck with her, came up with this generalization, an exchange that was safe to make between a father and his adult daughter:

Suzanne:  “Every time you tell me something that I might question or doubt or might not like, it turns out you are right every time, and it’s really starting to piss me off!”

Dad laughed, knowing his opinion was not always the most popular.  He was a man of integrity and honesty, always calling a spade a spade, whether you liked it or not—even if you were his daughter.

Mom loved to write; I’ll claim that trait in myself from her.  Dad was an ardent reader, and I will credit him for my love of reading.  He loved to learn, and much like me, he read mostly factual and informational reading, rarely—if ever—works of fiction.  He read biographies, and so do I.  I really didn’t want to know that much about Lee Iacocca, but after listening to Dad talk about his autobiography, I decided to read it, and I’m so glad I did.  Likewise, I learned–from the book he had just finished reading—the multiple theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  I will never look at just one side of that historical event ever again.

Very simply, Dad was a brilliant man who educated himself further by reading.  He knew at least a little bit-if not a lot–about everything.

And, like Dad, I am an expert sleeper.  At least, I try harder than anyone else in my family, and for better or worse, it is something I am recognized for among my siblings, as well as my own family.

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Gail frequently speaks of Dad’s greeting upon your arrival to his home:  “Sit down, stay awhile.”  And when you did, you were in for an informative and informational conversation, for as long as you were able to stay.  He always had time to talk.

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Dad, while his guest sat down and stayed awhile.

On our way to my future husband’s first meeting with my father, I warned him that he would likely talk his leg off.  He indeed did, but Mark loved it; loved him.  We all did.  I don’t know if Dad had even a single enemy, but if he did, it was likely because the other guy didn’t like his words of truth.

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Dad would have been 84 years old this Friday, March 30th.  I found the following piece I wrote four years ago on his birthday.  I hadn’t read it for a few years, and I was struck by how much stronger I have become, how time continues to heal.

I will close with that, but not before I say this:  If you still have your own father, pay him a visit if you can.  Sit down and stay awhile, even if what he has to say pisses you off.  There will come a day when you will not regret it. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD

My dad was a Kansas wheat farmer.  As I type, I am facing a bookshelf with a framed picture of him on his International Harvester “H” tractor, an antique, working tractor that was one of his favorites.

Today, March 30th, 2014, would have been his 80th birthday.  I wonder, especially today, what he would be like if he were still with us.  He had struggled with heart problems in the past, but always—sometimes miraculously—pulled through.  I want to believe he would have still been going strong.  In light of that thought, I am celebrating his life today.  In honor of his wheat farmer heritage, I am grinding wheat.  Wheat that was planted, grown and harvested by my brother John on the farm my dad was the steward of before my brother took over.  My dad was the third generation of family farmers;  John is the fourth.  John’s two sons show promise to be the fifth.

Sometime around 1995, Dad purchased a small wheat grinder in hopes of grinding all the flour we would ever need so as not to ever have to purchase it again.  For a while, he kept us all supplied.  I have fond memories of him at the kitchen table with this new grinder, showing off its features and ability to turn his personally harvested fruit of the earth into a fine powder that was the foundation of so many things we ate.  For a while.  Then, the new wore off, and he didn’t grind as much, as often.  Then, the grinder got put away.

I became interested in grinding my own flour somewhere down the road, and I borrowed it from him.  He and Mom retired as active farmers in 2000, and moved into a small town nearby, so John was now providing the wheat.  I took the grinder to my home on a long-term loan.   It has been here since.

Every year when I make my trip to the farm to partake of harvest, I bring back several gallon buckets of wheat to be ground.  Today, after looking yet again at the three remaining buckets on the shelf in my garage, I decided it was time to grind.  It was a warm and windy spring Sunday afternoon, so the dust and mess would blow away.  I set it up and plugged it in on the patio, and ground away. Before the grinding began, I took the large sifter that came with the grinder and I separated the wheat from the chaff. I realized the metaphor fits my life now, as I pride myself on getting better at sorting the unimportant from the important things in my life.   I even drank a wheat beer as I ground it, just for good measure.  I sent up a happy birthday to my dad as I did.  It felt right.

On my daily run this morning, I had a great idea, like I do so many mornings when I run.  My husband, our teenage boys and I would celebrate Dad’s birthday by having brunch at IHOP.  So we did.

After my run and before we left, I succumbed to the guilt from not dusting my furniture and shelves for far too long, and I broke out the dust rag.  I dusted the bookshelves where Dad’s picture on the tractor sat.  As I moved past it—I don’t know how I did it—I knocked it off.  I didn’t think I was very close, but it fell to the floor.  I sat down next to it and picked it up gently and sorrowfully as if it were a living thing that had I had unintentionally inflicted injury upon.  I cradled it, making sure the glass or frame wasn’t broken.  It wasn’t.  I felt myself become awash with tears.  I felt myself entering the minefield.

In the past six years (and twenty-six days), I have frequently found myself in this minefield, not realizing it as I entered.  Once in the minefield, I was typically stuck there all day, and any false move could bring another detonation.  I never knew which way to step, never knew where the mines might be hiding.

Today, however, I fought back.  I wasn’t willing to spend Dad’s birthday in the minefield.  I made a conscious decision to back-step, to find a way out before entering any further.  So I did.  And, as of 5:11 pm, I haven’t found myself back in.  I am winning.

My sister-in-law Lara—John’s wife—stopped by to see me on her way through town today.  I needed her visit, as she always picks me up and encourages me as a writer.  I needed her today more than ever.  I showed her how I grind their wheat with Dad’s grinder.  She seemed impressed, and she’s not able to fake being impressed, so I know she was.  She, as the vintage picture on her kitchen wall says, is a “Nice, Swheat Girl.”   I  like the play on words/letters, being the word nerd that I am.  For so many small graces like this one, I thank her.  For many other graces from my siblings and their families, I thank them as well.  I am blessed.

I choose to focus on these gifts that I have been given all throughout my life, not what I have lost.  I chose to back out of the minefield today, I’d had enough.  I celebrated my father today with gestures and positive actions, instead of wallowing in any residual sadness.  It is there, but, again, not today.  I can feel him smiling down upon me, and I will focus on this.

Happy Birthday Dad.

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Special thanks to Lara for bequeathing me the “Swheat Girl” picture when they moved into their new house.  And to Gail, who is crafting a frame for it. 

Thanks, too, to another sister-in-law Joni, who enlarged and reproduced the picture of Dad on the tractor, and then shared it.  It is a treasure. 

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Thank you for your support and readership.  I wish you a blessed Easter next Sunday; there will be no post then as I will be enjoying the holiday next weekend.

 

THE SISTER’S GUIDE TO MIDDLE-AGING

 

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THE SISTER’S GUIDE TO MIDDLE-AGING

“Do not regret growing older.  It is a privilege denied to many.”    Anonymous

The irony is that apparently, I had a really good memory in college.  At least, that’s what my former roommate Denise says.  I don’t remember having a good memory.

So, when I called her Friday to wish her a happy birthday, I didn’t realize it until she answered:  “Dang!  I did it again!” I realized as she said hello.  “It’s NOT today!  It’s, its…tomorrow?”   I asked her.

“It’s Sunday, you silly girl!” she replied.  I always think it’s the 16th, but it’s the 18th.   Every year.  Has been since I met her in 1984.  That’s 34 years ago, 34 years to practice remembering that her birthday is March 18th, not March 16th.  But I keep forgetting.

She claims I used to have a stellar memory.  You could remember everything!”   I like to think she remembers accurately.  Her own memory, she tells me after the birthday greeting on the phone, suffers too.

“I have to write everything down,” she says.   People are so impressed with what appears to be my good memory now. ‘You have such a good memory,’ they say.  But I tell them it’s all here on these sticky notes.  That’s the only way I can remember.”

We lamented that, initially, the actual process of having children seems to drain a woman’s brain, then the day-to-day process through the years of having children continues the slow, but sure drain.  We both gave birth twice, both were the busy mothers, and now, as we both turn 52 just a month apart, we like to think we’ve got the upper hand again:  we simply realize the secret to a good memory–we have to write it down.

If only all other aspects of aging could be hacked so easily.

Denise was kind enough to dig up some old pictures of us from our college days, the days of youth and invincibility.  The days when our hair was still one color.  For me, the days of the gap teeth.  Age has many benefits.  It worked my teeth together.  This one was taken at a formal we both attended in 1986.

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Because I have not yet figured out a shorter way, I take pictures from a text, copy them privately to Facebook, copy them to my desktop, then copy them over to my blog.

Interestingly, when I posted this to Facebook, even though it tried with the boxes around our faces, Facebook couldn’t identify us.  Apparently we have changed.

About 12 years ago, we ran into each other at a water park. We lived about 100 miles apart, and both of us decided to take our kids here to this park that was right between our homes.

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It is fitting that I can’t remember where this next picture came from, but it was taken with Suzanne, and it was within the last several years.  It popped up in the series of pictures we had texted to each other on my phone.

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When I was preparing to turn 40, I was whiny and full of dread.  Ugh.  40.  It was a dark, empty place that loomed straight ahead; no detour.

Then, I got the kick in the pants I needed:  I was called to see a 39 year-old woman  for speech therapy.  She had just had her 6th child, had a massive stroke and lost function on her dominant side.   She did regain some function, and was able to return home with her family.

Since I met her, I have never complained about my age again.  Every time I even consider it, I remember her, and I remember my good health.

Apparently, I needed yet another reminder that, as a healthy human being, I have absolutely zero room to complain about age.  Shortly after I turned 50 almost two years ago—and I don’t remember complaining about it, I was called to see a man just a few months younger than me with a diagnosis of ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He passed away shortly after his 50th birthday.   My heart still breaks for his family.

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I never shy away from giving my age.  I am proud to be whatever age I am, which is currently 51.

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One of my favorite coffee cups; a birthday gift from a dear friend. Life is good.

I have a friend who wasn’t entirely honest with me about her age when she first told me.  She claims she didn’t lie about it, I say she did.  She says she simply didn’t state the truth completely.  She didn’t give me a number, she said something vague like “I’m your age.”  She is almost exactly one year older.  I recently asked her why she did that; I can ask her honest questions and expect honest answers.  “Because I didn’t look my age,” she replied.  I have done what I can to convince her that age is truly a gift, and we should never hide it.

Another friend, whom I’ve known for over ten years, refuses to tell me—and likely many other people—exactly how old she is.  Even though her birthday is just two days after mine, and some years we actually have a birthday lunch together, I am not privy to this information.  I recently asked her why she refuses to state her age.

“Because everyone pays too much attention to a number.  We assign certain things to people based only upon their age, and that’s just not right,” she replied.

I cannot fully disagree.  I recall in my Introduction to Sociology class at age 18, the instructor—who has since become my favorite professor, teaching my favorite subject, pointed out this fact:  “Most of us, when we scan the obits, look for the age.  It tells us if it’s okay if they died.” For many years, I have scanned the obits in my daily paper first to see if any of my former patients are there—many times they are, and then I look at ages.  I must acknowledge that I consider that a factor in the level of attention I pay to their particular obit.

But what is that magic age when it becomes okay to pass away?  I know for me, it used to be a whole lot younger than what it is now.  As I age, that number keeps getting bigger.

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Since this is the Sister’s Guide to Middle-aging, I went to Gail and Suzanne for their advice.

Suzanne, who is 47, may not have quite as many years of wisdom Gail and I have, but she has life experience beyond Gail’s and mine:  she is a cancer survivor.  When I asked her for her advice, she gave me two pieces, and they are golden:

“Never dread or regret another birthday.  Be glad you are still having them.”

“Don’t worry.  Worry steals your time.”

Words of wisdom from an expert.

She adds:  “Worrying is actually praying for what you don’t want.  So don’t do it!”

Thank you, Suzanne.

Now, to Gail, at age 58.  Given that she never has been a worrier, she gave advice that is more practical, and its importance became crystal-clear to her just this week:

“Slow down. Your body is slowing down, so slow down with it.”

Gail, the multi-tasking workhorse, took a spill on her back step last week.  She was carrying in eight bags of groceries, moving along at a fast clip.  She likely had somewhere she needed to be in order to get some work done, so she decided to do it all in one trip, and what a trip it was:  the eight bags spilled all over the floor as she was halfway in the house, but that’s not the worst of it:  she twisted her ankle like never before, hurt her leg and hip, and ended up in considerable pain, bruised, battered and in need of her boss’s care (the chiropractor).

She is bouncing back; she always does.  I asked her (in jest) if she thought ahead to take a picture of the mess on the kitchen floor for this week’s post, but she said she didn’t.  She was willing to stage one, but you get the idea…

Gail, in my estimation, may try to slow down, but will have greater difficulty doing so than, say, me. I move fast because I have overscheduled myself, and I hate it.  She, however, loves it.  Having a lot to do is her normal mode.

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I do, however, use the slow down advice with my patients.  About half of the work I do as a speech therapist with the adult population is to address swallowing problems.   Many people are sent to me because they are coughing and choking more when they swallow for no apparent reason.  Often this problem is caused by a stroke, head injury, Parkinson’s disease or some other attributable cause, but often, it’s not.

I have “cured” many swallow problems first observing a patient eating and drinking, and diagnosing them with “you’re eating too fast.”  Most people, myself included, eat quicker than what we should.  We don’t take small bites, chew them thoroughly, savoring the taste and the texture before we swallow them.  We gulp, we wolf; scarf our food.  And most of us can get away with it.   Until we can’t.

As the body slows down with age, the swallow process slows down, too.  Simply increasing one’s awareness of this quick intake, then taking conscious steps to slow it down can be the difference between coughing and choking, and a quiet swallow.  Everyone knows what it means to clog the drain, and I use this analogy.  Our drains don’t drain as fast, and we must respect that slowdown.

It would behoove all of us to start taking this advice now, even if you are not having any problems.  Given that about 95% of us eat too fast, just slow down.  There’s your free advice from me, a licensed, certified and experienced swallow therapist.   I am confident I will cause no harm to any reader with this professional recommendation.

I try to follow Gail’s advice in all physical movements as well.  Seeing many people with physical therapy in my work settings because of falls has made me keenly aware that falls are far too common, and much too heart—and body—breaking.  Because I am a trivia nerd, I looked it up:  32,000 people die each year in the United States alone as a result of a fall.  If they had just paid attention and had been more careful.  If they had just slowed down.

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Perhaps it was around the time of my 40th birthday when I started to notice.  I now look very closely at those people I meet who appear to be aging gracefully, effortlessly; smoothly.  I have met perhaps a thousand people as my patients who are older than me since then, and in our interactions, I am not afraid to ask those who stand out:  “What is your secret to aging well?” 

Most of them are flattered, and are not shy about answering.  There are many variations on two central themes:  1:  keep moving your body, and 2:  do the things you like to do.

As I write this on Saturday afternoon before Sunday evening’s post, I was inspired by the first answer to take a break and get up to walk the 2/10 of a mile to the mailbox and back.  And, since it was such a nice afternoon, I walked the loop around our neighbor’s driveway, and back to the mailbox again.   I try to keep that motivation close at all times.

A 90 year-young woman recently told me precisely those two answers.  She loves music, plays several instruments, and played in bands with her husband.  She still plays for him.  Music moves her.  It keeps her young.

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Gail also gave advice not just on the physical part of aging, but in how we think, feel and react to life and all it hands us:

Life is too short to worry about things you cannot change.  The longer we are alive, the more loved ones we will lose.  Don’t let death rule your life.  Instead, live your life with them to the fullest.  There are so many other things in life we have zero control over.  Some diseases just happen.  I know this with my daughter.  Just do what you can to live with it.”

Good advice about the heavy stuff from Gail.  Now, on a lighter note from Gail:

“Don’t let other people control your thoughts.  That’s letting them live rent-free in your head.  And don’t subscribe to their issues.  Cancel your subscription if you have to.   Again, don’t be bothered by the things you cannot change.  Like the wind.”

Good stuff from Gail.

And from the three of us, we like to illustrate a very important point by our travels, and all our interactions:  Have fun.  Life is simply too short to deny yourself this.  Whatever fun looks like to you, simply have it.

In summary, we are leaving you with eight words:

Slow down.  Have fun.  Don’t worry.  Keep moving.

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As soon as I finish writing this post, I am going straight to my all-purpose notebook and I am going to write down Denise’s birthday:  March 18THJust like she does, and just like I tell my patients who are working on memory, writing it down is the best way to remember.  I sent this to Gail and Suzanne several hours before posting, as I always do.  Suzanne, in her wisdom, came up with another way to remember Denise’s birthday:  I met her when I was 18.  Brilliant.  Thank you, Suzanne.

Happy Birthday Denise.  You make 52 look effortless, and I look forward to getting there.

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Denise, circa 1986.  She and another roommate were in an 80’s air band, and she was getting ready for a gig.

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Denise and her husband, present day.  Happy Birthday today,  March 18th.

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Gail, Suzanne and I through the ages, mostly middle age.

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2010:  Our first Colorado Labor Day trip.  Like age, these trips just keep getting better too.

 

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN ‘HI’

 

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN ‘HI’

**I believe in signs.  This one was from my favorite calendar, the day before we left.**

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Speaking of signs, we finally did it.  After saying we should on every other trip, we finally stopped at the state line by the iconic sign for pictures.

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The rest of the state line story comes with a price.  If yours is right, Gail and Suzanne will tell you the rest, but only if I get a healthy cut.  Remember, we are not telling all.

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Waking up to this sight in Manitou Thursday morning, just as I said we would last week, can only bode well for the rest of the weekend.

And it did.  We lingered a bit in Manitou Springs on Thursday, taking in shopping and a tasty lunch—and a game of shuffleboard—before we began the ascent.

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In our effort to satisfy Suzanne’s love of ferris wheels, we attempted to stop at The North Pole on the way up.

While I have laughed through the movie at least a dozen times, I have never before been able to empathize with the Griswolds in Vacation:  The North Pole was closed.

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Closed Until May 1st.  The ferris wheel, noted to be the tallest in the world given it’s altitude, wasn’t even there; wasn’t visible from the road as it usually is.  We found out it had been taken down for refurbishing, refreshing and renewing.  It will be ready for us next time.

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And so on westward we went.  John Denver did his part on CD, getting us into Cripple Creek.  Cripple Creek, where the gold-mining mother lode was struck years ago, and where The Sister Lode idea was conceived only one year ago.

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 And the real fun began.

Our friends who own the Hospitality House were ready for us:

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They look forward to our return trips, as do we.  We love them, and we love their place.  We savor the spirit of the place, as well as the space.

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We do a lot of enjoying their space; simply sitting and sipping is one of the simple pleasures we enjoy.  Sometimes that’s all we need to fulfill our expectations.  Sometimes, it takes a little more.

This time, there was a full moon to greet us.  While pictures can never do it justice, the moon was in grand splendor along with the mountains it rose up above.

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From a full moon to a Blue Moon–in honor of my favorite libation, there was this good omen in the street in Manitou on our way there.

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Perhaps it is the Midwestern, hospitable farm girls in us.  Perhaps it is the fact that we are away from home and in a higher altitude; a higher place.  Maybe it’s just who we are.  Maybe it’s all the above, but we find ourselves saying “hi” a lot while we are on our trips.  Not that we don’t do it when we are home; it’s just that there are so many more people to meet in a place like this.  Chances are, we already know most of the people already in our circles at home.

We reach out, we strike up conversations with strangers, we somehow have other people do the same to us, and most of the time, we welcome it.  Most of the time.

If we hadn’t reached out, we wouldn’t have made friends with these fabulous hotel proprietors.

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Given that they are now our friends, we asked for Rick’s advice on a predicament we found ourselves in, likely in part due to our outgoing natures, and in equal or greater part to a misinterpretation of our intentions.

Rick (in front) simply said: “stop saying ‘hi.’”  Sounds like a simple, obvious, easy answer, sure, but we can’t do that.  It’s not who we are.

If we’d stopped saying “hi,” we wouldn’t have met this dear, delightful young woman who became our favorite waitress at our favorite restaurant several years ago:

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Kaitlin serves us beyond and above, and she is preparing to do the same for our country.  A few days after our visit, she will become a member of our armed forces, joining the Unites States Navy.  We thanked her for her wonderful service as our favorite waitress over the past few years, and we thanked her in advance for her future service to our country.  We wish her so much love and joy in her new venture.  She will likely be replaced in the restaurant, but she will never be replaced in our hearts.

Godspeed, Kaitlin.

And where would we be without Christine?  Less bejeweled, that’s where.  And that’s no fun.  Our favorite shopkeeper in Cripple Creek keeps us shopping and adorns us with the most beautiful baubles and gems.

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Her shop, 9494, is cleverly named after the town’s altitude.  Given her charm, grace and allure, we feel even higher than that when we are in her store, and especially in her presence.

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The native donkey herd that roams the streets freely in the spring and summer (as shown here on our Labor Day trip)

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is taken to pasture for the fall and winter–with shelter.  Tourists who miss them in their off season—like us—are urged to visit them in their winter home just outside of town.  The shopkeepers supply the donkey treats, and we do the rest.

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Perhaps the three of us—at times–have something in common with the asses…

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Rhonda, however, doesn’t appear to let that affect her.  She became Gail’s neighbor at the Blackjack table on Friday, and came back on Saturday, too.  We hung out there too; Suzanne even tossed a few chips out next to Gail.

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In an unprecedented joint decision between the three of us, Rhonda became our honorary sister for the weekend.  She was one of us, and we welcomed her into our circle.  Gail typically befriends the others risk-takers at the blackjack table, and by the end of the weekend, she has either renewed her friendship with, or created new ones with the dealers and pit bosses.  Only Gail has that skill, the ability to turn tough guys—and girls too–into butter.  We tried to take a picture of one of our favorite tough guys, but he assertively reminded us that pictures inside the casino were not legal.  Sorry JR, we snapped the one above accidentally on Friday before you told us that on Saturday.  Oops!

An honorable mention and a shout-out (pun intended) goes out to Dave and his wife Charlie, our other new friends at the blackjack table until Dave’s excessive decibel level created the false notion that perhaps he was breaking another casino law:  no gambling while intoxicated.  We know better, and JR was just doing his job.  Still, they are keepers in our memories.

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Speaking of memories, March 4th was a memorable date; a bitter-turned-sweet-bitter date.  A date that will never be forgotten in our family.

My work keeps me closely acquainted with death as a fact of life.  Before my parents died, I would see this stark reality, and somehow push it aside, not letting myself actually believe I would likely lose each of my parents to illness.  I didn’t let myself go there in my mind; I somehow managed to avoid it, magically thinking “So far, I’m lucky.  Perhaps I won’t have to deal with that.”  The thought of losing either of them was too much to bear.  Seeing the illnesses that some of my patients succumbed to, I simply assumed that if they were to die, it would be due to illness.  Never in my wildest nightmares did I think I would lose them the way I did.

A part of me died with them—at least for awhile.  At the moment the news was delivered, I felt a death blow myself.  Crawling up out of that dark pit, first on my knees, then eventually pulling myself upright again, took more strength than I ever wanted to possess.

But I did possess it; we all did.  It was there.  And we keep growing stronger.  But that’s not to say I don’t still have my moments.  Like on the morning we left Cripple Creek, the morning of March 4th–the ten-year anniversary of their deaths.  We played John Denver on our way out of Cripple Creek that morning.  The morning of our departure is always blue, but this one was closer to black.  For me, for a brief moment, it was a Rocky Mountain Low—but just for a moment.  I don’t even think Gail and Suzanne knew I shed a few silent tears in the back seat.  Then, as quick as they came, they were gone, and I was okay.  I was tired and still blue, but, just as I have known for many years now, they are still with us.

I wouldn’t have believed anyone who said this if I hadn’t experienced it, but if you believe that love never dies, you get to carry the most precious part of them with you at all times in your heart, and that can never be taken away—not even by death.   I feel them within me; their spirits will live on through all of us, and all we need to do is look within.  They are always there—just as Mom told us she would be in The Letter.  And dare I say this:  sometimes it is even more whole, more powerful than when they were here on earth with us.

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The darkness always turns to light, and the blues always give way to brighter colors and brighter days ahead.  Remembering the importance of something to look forward to, I came home Sunday night with ten minutes to change clothes and turn around to go to the beautiful art-deco theater in the downtown of our small city to take in this incredible performer:

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Mom knew how much I always loved his music, and I know she had a hand in this.  Plus, the theater director has a long history of scheduling the most incredible shows on important dates for me like birthdays and anniversaries—thanks Jane.

The blues faded, and by Sunday night—even though Gail and Suzanne didn’t go to the show, we were all Back in the High Life Again—thanks Steve.

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Soon, the skies will be mostly blue, with perhaps only a cloud or two.

29103692_2048586151822965_5939430490325909504_n[1]The green grass will soon return, and our smiles and laughter will be in full bloom again.  And, in our usual style, we will continue to March Forth.  

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MARCH FORTH

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MARCH FORTH

“Our lives are made by the deaths of others.”   Leonardo Da Vinci

This may very well be the shortest, but hardest post to write.  Yet it may carry the most meaning, at least for the three of us.

I write as I sit alone in our beautiful, spacious, Victorian-style room in Cripple Creek, Colorado on Saturday, March 3rd.  Gail and Suzanne are off doing their things, and I am doing mine.  We love our togetherness, but alone-ness is great, too.   We are relishing this time away in this beautiful mountain town.

I opened my laptop, and turned on the TV, searching for inspiration just to begin this post.  How do I find words on this day, this sacred day ten years ago when we last saw our parents alive at our grandmother’s funeral?  This day before March 4th, the day our  parents died?   What words of adequate weight can I possibly conjure?  Common sense told me to leave the TV off to let the thoughts gel into words, but I turned on a rerun of Criminal Minds, just for some noise.

As it began at 4:00, the first words spoken for this episode were “Our lives are made by the deaths of others.”  Sometimes the perfect words just show up at the perfect time from sources we would never expect.

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Gail, Suzanne and I are having more fun and adventure than mere words can possibly confer, but my attempt to do just that will wait until next week.  Of course, it won’t be a tell-all; it never is.  A tell-some is what you will get, as usual.  There are some things we don’t share with everyone, and this, I feel, is the way it should be among sisters like us.

Sisters like us who loved our parents beyond words, and lost them beyond words too.  But this loss has made us who we are; it is the crucible that forged us into the women of strength we are.  When their deaths brought us to our knees in complete and searing heartbreak, it also planted within us seeds that would grow from barren devastation into amazingly strong, resilient and joyful living beings.

And so here we are.  Here we are every day, for the last 3,653 days. And every day builds on the next.  Every day we move forward, and every day we do what we can to find joy, to make even more joy for ourselves, for those in our lives, and hopefully on a grand scale, it will be shared and spread far and wide.   Every day we try to live our lives in honor of our parents, trying to further their legacies of love and peace.  Every day we March Forth.

Our lives are not perfect or painless, but they are full, rich and beautiful, just like theirs were.  Our lives—as we know them today—were made by the deaths of our parents.

Thank you for joining us on our weekly adventure.  Next week, I promise, I will share enough to give you a really good idea of just how much fun we are having this week—but I won’t tell all.

This week, I ask this of you:  whatever your hardships or heartbreaks are today, please know there are brighter days ahead.  With faith, love and a little elbow grease, things are going to be okay.  They might even be more than okay.  If you forge through the pain, do the work and have faith, you, too, will find yourself marching forth into a place of greater strength, hope and happiness.   We are living proof.

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If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, so my child can have peace.”   Thomas Payne

The Criminal Minds episode ended as I finished this post, and it closed with this quote.    Sometimes the words really do come at the perfect times.

MARCH FORTH, my friends.  

 

GO WEST, YOUNG WOMEN

 

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GO WEST, YOUNG WOMEN

We have been looking forward to this trip for a long time.  Six months, to be exact.  Six months have passed since our last trip there.

On Thursday morning of this week, we will wake to a magnificent view of Pikes Peak.

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If you recall from Something To Look Forward To (January 7th), we return from our Labor Day trip to Colorado and begin the anticipation again.

Anticipation is at least half the fun.

The other half, as I alluded to in last week’s post, is somewhat of a secret.  We engage in all manner of fun, meet new people, make new friends and new memories, and, of course, we leave a mark—in a good way.  We know this because people remember us with a smile when we return.

All this fun, however, takes a little work.

Planning is the first stage.  Marking ourselves off the calendar at work is our first step.  Suzanne hasn’t been able to join us in Colorado for two years; her new job prevented time off.   We didn’t go to Colorado for Labor Day 2016 because we had just returned from Florida, as detailed in my very first post.

So this trip is long overdue for her, and right on time for Gail and me.   A single day longer, and we would implode with anticipation.

Planning our wardrobes and jewelry is a prolonged labor of love for Gail and me; Suzanne throws hers together at the last minute—in a very small bag.  Perhaps a bit larger than the Zip-lock bag she professes to be able to use, because we are going to a cold climate, and she may need a few extra layers than she would, say, on the beach. Several years ago, when I picked her up for the March trip, we were headed out of her driveway when I realized she got in my car without a heavy coat.  Good thing I asked; her minimalism kept her from remembering to pack a heavy coat.  We were, after all, going to the mountains in March, and she may need an extra layer…

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Many people hear about all the fun we have, and see our Facebook posts, and apparently think they, too, could have a lot of fun with us.

They probably could, except, they can’t.  No one else can.  Our sisterhood is the exclusive admission to this highly anticipated, sacred, sisterly excursion.

No exceptions.

We will maintain our tradition of singing Rocky Mountain High on our final stretch.

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Just in case the satellite radio gods don’t play it at the perfect time for us like they did last time, I have already packed my John Denver CD.

Gail will make her grand entrance into Cripple Creek:

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We do publicize some of our activities; we give a little hint of the fun we have.  We don’t plan much of our weekend, we let the spirit move us.  We have even been known to let the horses move us:

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And we move ourselves too.  Perhaps we will do a little nice-not-naughty North Pole dancing, maybe not.  We’re not telling.

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No matter what it is, it is all good, clean fun.10435009_10202836301292505_5243879323619352101_n[1]

Gail will likely strike her Audra Barkley pose on the majestic staircase at the historic hotel we now call our Colorado home:

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(The Big Valley was an integral part of our 70’s television lineup.)

We will renew our friendship with the proprietors of this magnificent and historic hotel:

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The local, free-roaming donkeys will be appreciated and honored, as they should be.

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Other wildlife is revered as well.

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We may put ourselves in the local spotlight with our antics, both on-stage, and off:

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We are there for each other to avert any possible disasters–after we get a picture:

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And if something doesn’t look right with one of us, we will come to each other’s aid:  we found Gail like this one morning, and the mystery of how it happened remains.

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The truth is, we don’t know yet what we will do.  When the occasion calls for a memory to be made, we will make it.  We do know that we will do whatever we can to further the memory and mission of our parent’s lives of peace and love.  It is up to us now to carry it forward, and on this ten-year anniversary, we are cranking it up a notch or two–or more.  Now more than ever, our world needs their message of peace.

We hit the mother lode–and the father lode, too with our parents.  This small Rocky Mountain town is still an active gold-mining town, with the mother lode struck here years ago.  The idea of The Sister Lode was born here; we know that what we have with each other is gold.

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Memories made in times of great fun are golden, savored; sacred.

Memories made in times of great sadness can be dark, sometimes avoided, but always sacred.  Our memories of March 4th, 2008 are still very much with us.  It will be ten years since that fateful, faith-full day.

We have chosen to March Forth from that dark day when we lost our parents in a car accident.  We marched forth back into the light, after our private and shared struggles to find joy and hope again.  It is now sweet-bitter to relish the memories of our parents, not bittersweet any longer.  The bitter still stings, sometimes as sharp as a knife through the heart, but only now for a quick moment, then the pain subsides as quickly as it ambushed us.

These moments are more few and far between, and will, with continued faith and grace, continue to space themselves out in the future.  We will continue to gain strength from our faith, our family and the friendship we have forged as sisters.

We have chosen to celebrate our sisterhood with our travels, and these trips have become an integral part of our yearly calendar.  We carve out the time, save the money and prioritize it just as we would regular and possibly life-saving medical checkups and/or treatment, because for us, it is.  It is survival and sustenance in our lives that now have a heightened sense of what is most important—those we love.

And I do love my sisters.  I’m pretty sure they love me, too.

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My wish for you is that you take the time to celebrate those in your family and/or circle of friends whom you love the most.

Take them on a trip, or take them to lunch, or anywhere in between.  Find a good starting place, and take off from there.

Tell them you love them, and if you need to, tell them you are sorry.  Forgive, if necessary.

Tell them you are glad they are a part of your life.

Tell them if they were gone tomorrow, your life would be richer for having had them in it.

And every day, treat them like they could be gone tomorrow, because sometimes, they are.

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CRIPPLE CREEK, COLORADO, OUR ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH