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.

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

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ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

It began in 1989.   I am sure it was then, because, while I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, I can remember meaningless dates/time frames.  I found a treasure back then that spoke clearly to me, telling me you need to take me home and build a collection around me, so I did.  This was over 30 years ago, and I am still collecting.  I won’t bore you with the entire collection, but this was the piece that got it all started—the one on the right.  You can see the signs of love–and time.

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And, as one who is fond of word plays, the “once” printed inside this blue moon, made it speak even louder to me.  Just maybe, this is what began my love of word plays.

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By definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month.  Last night—Halloween 2020–featured a blue moon.  It was a grand sight.  I tried to take a picture as it rose, but my amateur skills, coupled with the amateur camera on my cell phone kept it from capturing its true beauty.  Nonetheless, I had to record it from my east porch:

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Several skilled photographers in Kansas posted their pictures of the Blue Moon last night, and this one in particular caught my eye–perhaps it is the farm girl in me:

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Blue Moon over Jamestown, Kansas last night, about an hour northwest of my home. Special thanks to Tim Grennan

The moon has always had a pull on me.  I have reasoned that, if it pulls the tides of the ocean, and I am made mostly of water, then why would it not affect me, too?  Perhaps it affects you, too, as you are (hopefully) made mostly of water as well.

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Not surprisingly, my favorite libation is Blue Moon beer.  Perhaps its flavor is enhanced in my mind because of the name, but it truly satisfies me like no other beer does.  Of course, I had to celebrate the blue moon last night with a Blue Moon.

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The history of the beer is best summarized on their glass:

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The blue moon occurs roughly once every 2.5 years.  Therefore, if something happens only once in a blue moon,” well, you get the idea. 

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Mom knew how much I loved moon-watching.   She never let me miss the grandeur of the full moon rising in the trees east of the farmhouse we grew up in.  And, as I have written in previous blogs, she loved sunflowers.  Given those two facts, I will add that I may, or may not be planning to get a tattoo of a sunflower with a blue moon around it in her honor.  I may or may not already have a wheat tattoo in honor of Dad.  Just sayin’. 

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So, here’s the takeaway:  drink your Blue Moon, or whatever else makes you feel alive.  Watch the full moon, or whatever else in nature pulls you in.  If body art is your thing, and you are sure it is indeed you, embellish it with that tattoo you are thinking about. Collect the thing that speaks to you. 

Whatever, whenever and however you do any or all of these, savor the moments in which you do them.  They are simple acts that we can enjoy with or without the blue moon.    But please remember this:  you are you—no one else.  And, as our mom said, “If it feels good, and it doesn’t break any of the Ten Commandments, do it!”  Because you, my friend, are more rare and unique than the blue moon. 

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Special thanks to my next-door neighbor Angie for this beautiful shot of the blue moon last night

RED SUEDE COWGIRL SHOES

RED SUEDE COWGIRL SHOES…and other necessary extravagances.

Greetings from the splendidly beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains. It is time once again for our semi-annual Go West, Young Women trek.  Sadly, Suzanne is not with us this time; she chose to stay behind rather than fight the altitude sickness.  While we completely understand and support her decision, it is never the same without her. 

But we must forge on without her, so we do.  She sends her blessings with us.

As we all know, the world has changed in the last seven months.  Cripple Creek, Colorado has changed as well since our last trip here in early March.  Social distancing and mask-wearing are the norm, which precludes some of our favorite activities, namely, table games in the casinos—Gail’s favorite.  Some slot machines are spaced with every other one out of commission if they are close to each other, and some are divided by plexiglass.  Still, we managed to have fun. 

Fun,” as a noun, is defined as “enjoyment, amusement or lighthearted pleasure.”

Having fun, as we see it, is a priority in life.   We agree with the wise doctor:

In “Red Leather Cowboy Boots,” (June 7th, 2020), I wrote about the awesome cowboy boots I purchased after my quest to do just that.  This weekend, in Colorado, I broke them in.

It was indeed fun.

My friend Shari helped me find my perfect pair, and several weeks ago on our trip (Plan B:  Let’s Sea, October 4th) I helped her find her perfect pair.  While she was shopping in the vast western store in Oklahoma City, I discovered some western-themed footwear that I didn’t know existed.  These shoes sucked me in, and I was hooked.  Except that I couldn’t find the perfect pair that spoke to me, so my next quest was to find them online. 

And I did.  And they are fun. 

I broke them in this weekend, the day after I broke in the boots.  When I found these Ariat Cruisers, in the “Vintage Cowgirl” print online, they screamed fun, and then they whispered my name.  Needless to say, I couldn’t resist. 

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Among the various fun activities Gail and I engaged in while nestled behind Pikes Peak in this quaint little mining/gambling town, was simply relaxing in our room.  We stayed in our favorite inn, and, as always, we were welcomed back with open arms. 

Massages are not Gail’s jam, but once again, I received a fabulous treatment from Joanne, the in-house masseuse extraordinaire.  While I wouldn’t call it fun, exactly, it does help to free me up and relax me to enjoy the other lighthearted pleasures we partake in.

Gail rarely sits down to watch TV, but when she is away from home, she allows herself this lighthearted pleasure. We watched the good old favorite Saturday morning cartoons,

 The movie “Matilda” was showing later, and it caught our interest.

Matilda, the main character, is a little girl who possess extraordinary telekinetic powers, and generally tries to make life fun.  She struggles with the mean and nasty teacher/headmistress at her school, who had this quote on the classroom wall behind her:

“If you are having fun, you are not learning.”

We beg to differ.  Some learning, by nature, is not fun.  I recall not having a lot of fun in my high school math classes, but I did learn a lot, mostly how to persevere. 

We would argue that you can learn more by having fun.  These are the memories that stick; the memories that we carry with us because the memories of the fun we have is often a close second to the actual fun while we are having it. 

Above all, we have learned that having fun is a choice.  Fun, whether it is a simple picnic in the park, or a long weekend away—or perhaps a week away on vacation, is sometimes something we fight against.  Fun doesn’t have to cost anything, or take a lot of time.  Watching a good movie, having dinner with friends or playing cards is great fun. 

If your plans for fun, however, involve an expenditure of a considerable amount of money or time, then there are other factors that must be considered.  I hate to admit it, but I still wrestle with the guilt that tries to spoil my fun when I think about how I should be at work, and shouldn’t be spending money.  When I am with my sisters, I quickly beat down the little voice that reminds me “you are abandoning your family again,” because it always tries to be heard.  My children are grown and my husband is quite independent without me there—he was an ace bachelor for years.  They all encourage me to go, but still, that voice keeps trying.  Each time I shush it, it becomes a little more timid, a little more quiet the next time.  In time, I know, it will stop trying, because it knows that as long as it continues to lose each battle, it doesn’t stand a chance at the war.

Gail, on the other hand, is a seasoned pro, and reports only a twinge of this guilt for not being at work.  Her work ethic is strong, but her fun ethic is stronger.  Her family is independent as well, because she has trained them well.

We plan for our trips, we save year-round for them, and we have taught our workplaces that this is our priority, and that they will carry on fine without us.  

And they do. 

When our children were younger, it was more difficult to get away, but we made it work.

There has never been a time when our families and our workplaces approached us and said: “You deserve a vacation. Take some time off and go, and don’t feel a bit guilty about it.  And, here’s plenty of cash to make it all happen.  Go, and have tons of fun.”  Perhaps this has happened to someone, somewhere, but generally speaking, it doesn’t happen.  So, if you are waiting for this kind of special permission, accompanied by a bunch of money, keep waiting.  I would bet the entire cost of this trip that it will never happen to me, or you.

This translates into a simple truth:  you need to give yourself permission, and make it happen.  If your plans for fun involve considerable time and money, only you know what you can afford in terms of time away from your family responsibilities, time off work and money to spend on fun.  Sometimes, however, looking at these resources—time and money—from the fun is a necessity perspective may reveal that just maybe, you have enough of both to create some fun.

It’s your decision. 

The sisters of The Sister Lode, whether it is one, two or all three of us having fun, are here to tell you that it is worth the effort it takes.  The time you take for yourself is never wasted time.  And the memories of the fun you have will stay with you long after the time is gone. 

Or maybe it’s buying your own version of red suede cowgirl shoes…or both.

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As always, we never tell all from our travels, but we do tell some.  Here is a montage of the fun we had.

Neither of us won any money, but it was fun to try.

Where’s Gail?

She’s in there, I swear…

Watch for the rocks—and Gail

We took in the purple mountain majesty…

We shopped at our favorite store, and came away with more beautiful jewels…

And staged a little crisis on the way out of town…

I had to talk Gail back from the edge…

We had to stop for a photo op at this historic site with a great name:

And on our way in and out, in the last stretch of beautiful mountain hairpin twists and turns, we always crank up this classic and sing like no one’s listening:

And until next time, we had to leave this beautiful little mountain town behind.

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PLAN B: LET’S SEA

PLAN B:  LET’S SEA

Life, as many of us know, is not about how well we execute Plan A.  Most often, the way we pull off Plan B—or sometimes C or D–determines the quality of our days.  And the quality of our days, as we all know, determines the quality of our lives. 

As you may already know, Gail, Suzanne and I are seasoned travelers—at least to Colorado.  We have grand dreams of returning to the beach, and in time, I know we will execute this Plan A.  Suzanne’s birthday came and went without the beach trip we had hoped for, thanks mostly due to COVID—the biggest Plan A demolisher any of us have ever seen.

I can only speak for myself, but I am pretty sure none of you reading this—as well as anyone who isn’t—had a plan eight months ago to be on high alert for an invisible, biological enemy that could take any one of us down and/or out.  None of us planned to stay home for the second quarter of 2020, none of us planned to wear a mask in our daily rounds, and none of us planned on a loved one getting sick or succumbing to the virus.  Perhaps you yourself had it already, and your life is still working back to “normal.” If you have, I am sure that was not your plan, and here you are, making Plan B work.  Keep fighting the fight, my friend. 

Welcome to Worldwide Plan B, a.k.a., “The New Normal.”

I cannot complain (much). Some of my work involves inconveniences such as this,

But it is for my own protection, and ultimately the protection of my patients, and everyone else in this medical setting I come in contact with, and everyone else they come in contact with.  It is my part, and I am willing to do it.  That doesn’t mean I like it, but this Plan B is not about me.

My life of relative luxury involves adventures.  No grand mountain-scaling or diving from airplanes, but simply getting away with my favorite people.  Some of these have been scaled down from Plan A, including a trip to the sea with my sisters for Suzanne’s 50th birthday in August.  If you recall from Life is Good After Fifty (August 16th, 2020), this seashore trip took place in our backyard—and in our imaginations.  It remains alive in our hopes for the next year.  Plan B was executed in my backyard redneck above-ground pool

And we made the best of it, cool weather and all.

Speaking of Suzanne making the best of it, she is living out her Plan B in a big way, and I’m pretty sure it’s better than her Plan A would have been.  She is letting me print her Plan A, which was this:  she was two weeks away from loading up all her possessions in her car (she’s minimal, remember, and they would have fit) and heading for the Florida shore.  She was going to make this her new home.  Now, just over two years later, she is living in her dream home, and her dream guy is soon to become her dream husband.  In that two-week period while she was making her Plan A, he waltzed into her life and, well, you know what happened next.

As her big sister, I must say this:  she is happier than I have ever seen her in this Plan B.

Gail had a Plan A, too.  She married him, had her first two children, and when that union ceased to be The Plan, they both moved on.  Her current husband became Plan B, and she has two more children with him.  Plan B turned out pretty good for her, too.

Both my husband and I had a plan A, which involved alternately dismissing the other for greener pastures.  Before we got married, we took turns walking away and back again, and here we are, 26 years into Plan B.

Our nest recently emptied.  For 23 years, we have had a child living under our roof, and now it is just us.  My dear friend Shari’s nest just emptied after 18 years, and we knew we needed to get away to remember our lives outside of motherhood, because in our day-to-day rounds, we were no longer actively mothering. 

We decided to fill this hole up a bit with a trip to the sea.  Shari planned it, I was all in and we took off on Friday, September 18th.  Our destination was Mustang Beach at Port Aransas, Texas.  Except that Tropical Storm Beta had the same destination in mind, and shortly after our departure, we realized the need for Plan B.

If not for the possible hurricane that didn’t materialize, we never would have discovered beautiful Medicine Park, Oklahoma.  At the urging of several sweet ladies we met along the way, we detoured and spent four nights in this small, but grand town.  Its population is not much more than the tiny town we all grew up in—Shari grew up with us, but it swells with tourists enjoying all the activities we did:  taking in the grandeur of mountains (who knew there were mountains in southwest Oklahoma?), hiking and kayaking, as well as enjoying the relative peace and quiet of this small cobblestone-rich town. 

If you have never been, and you need a getaway, Medicine Park, Oklahoma comes with our highest recommendations.  If you have been to Manitou Springs, Colorado (one of our favorite stops along the way in our westward adventures), think of it as a miniature of this beautiful village. 

Plan A on the beach—had it not been closed—would have been a grand adventure, I’m sure.  But Plan B in Oklahoma was grand as well, and I am so glad we got to experience it. 

And, as a bonus, I got to return a favor to Shari. If you recall in Red Leather Cowboy Boots (June 7th, 2020), she helped me pick out my perfect pair of cowboy boots. In a grand western store in Oklahoma City, I got to help her pick out her perfect pair.

Giddy-up Shari!

Plan B, as I think about it, is most of what life is made of.  Aside from the pandemic, I must say that every other Plan B in my life has been a grand detour. 

I hope the same for every Plan B in your life.

SHARI AND I FOUND T-SHIRTS TO COMMEMORATE OUR BEACH TRIP THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN: LET’S SEA

Happy Birthday today to J.F. He is a young-ish man who has lived his life to the fullest, mostly according to Plan B. He is an incredible man who will likely never let the old man in.

THREE TIMES THE FUN

THREE TIMES THE FUN

Fun is double the fun when it is shared with one.  In most cases, it is triple the fun when it is shared with two.  In the case of my sisters and me, it is always multiplied when we are all three partaking.

I have made it clear in previous posts that Suzanne and I love garage sales.  Gail, not so much.  At least, that’s what she thought.  She has always loved estate sales, but shies away from garage sales. 

This weekend, Gail and her daughter, Lydia, were in our small city for prime-time garage sale-ing.  Saturday morning, Suzanne and I talked them into joining us for the fun, and I think perhaps we may have turned the tide for her. 

It was actually a jackpot for all of us, because there was a massive estate sale in town in a home that apparently housed its members—and their cool stuff—for many years.  We all came away winners from that one.  Gail even stuck around long enough to go back at noon when everything became half-price to score several more expensive treasures:  a large stone crock, a vintage blue fan, and a Depression glass bowl that completed her set.

Suzanne found goodies for her new house and a few other treasures; I found my usual stash for my art projects—especially vintage jewelry. 

These people were obviously cool folks, because we found some goodies from one of our favorite brands with a favorite message:  Life is good. Suzanne found a shirt, and I found a beautiful coffee mug. 

We proceeded to another estate sale, hoping to score big like we had at the last one.  Let’s just say I’m glad we made it out without any purchases.  We couldn’t leave fast enough, but I assured them all that this is indeed a numbers game, and you have to kiss a lot of frogs in the process—much like dating.  Gail was quick to whip her hand sanitizer out of her purse, and we proceeded on to a few more sales.  We should have taken a picture of the disaster that they called an estate sale, but we were too concerned about getting away with our lives, so snapping a picture may have been detrimental. (Have you ever seen the movie Deliverance?)

Then, we were redeemed by Alainna. 

She was the life of the party at her own garage sale, so they got along beautifully, and Gail came away with several beautiful pictures.  We all learned something new, because we had never even heard of a giclee before yesterday:

I chauffeured them around in my car, and with all these treasures we scored, space became tight:

Clearly, Lydia wasn’t having as much fun as we were, but she remained a good sport.  She had no choice, really.  Her mother and two aunts wouldn’t let her hang back.  We are like that when we are faced with a straggler.  Have fun or go home could be our mantra, except Lydia had no choice.  She was celebrating in other ways, however.  She and Gail were in town for her four-month check-up with her endocrinologist.  Her Type One diabetes is in control, her numbers are good, and she has won another four-month battle—and she continues to win the war. 

Gail and Lydia had to leave early in the afternoon, but Suzanne and I are priding ourselves on our possible conversion.  We think perhaps Gail may indeed have come around to our way of thinking. 

If so, next year’s garage sale season may bring exponentially more fun when we get her back to our small city for another morning of garage sale-ing.  In the meantime, Suzanne and I are preparing for one of our own in her new garage/driveway. 

May the circle continue; hopefully our fellow garage-sale buffs will find a new home for our cast-offs.

Gail’s thinking of a new do…

THE SEASON TO CELEBRATE

THE SEASON TO CELEBRATE

It’s that time again, and I don’t like it.  I don’t like the cooler temperatures, I don’t like the shorter days, and I don’t like the thought of cold weather returning.  Call me crazy, but I am in my element when the mercury is in the triple digits. 

I have tried for over fifty years now, but it does no good to be upset about it.  Fall still comes, and behind it, winter.  I try a little harder every year to embrace it, and I think perhaps, I may be just a bit more successful each year.

I am sitting on my porch at 8:40 p.m., feeling the cool breeze.  It is 69 degrees, and I cannot deny that it feels nice.  But with the cool evenings and mornings come the cooler days.  We have had temperatures in the forties this week, and rain for four days straight, no sun.

The backyard pool must come down, and this breaks my heart. 

However, I am seeking out the other joys that arrive only as summer begins to depart.  Like the sunflowers.  For about two glorious weeks at the end of August/beginning of September in Kansas, our state flower is in full bloom in the wild.

This year, my husband planted some in our yard, so we have our own personal blooms to savor. 

I cannot deny that I immensely enjoy this part of late summer.  When it becomes obvious that summer will soon wind down, the state flower steps it up and shows off its unparalleled beauty to remind me that nature’s splendor remains in other ways.  I simply needed to take another look.

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Not that sunflowers aren’t beautiful and grand, but Gail and Suzanne have other, more exciting reasons to celebrate. 

Gail was together with her four children and her two grandchildren two weeks ago.  Her second-born lives in Michigan, and their visits are not frequent enough.  Her grandsons live there with their mother, so these visits are an incredible highlight for all of them.

But Gail, as you already know, can make a celebration out of pretty much nothing.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad day or a wasted day in her life.  She chooses to let the bad roll off her back, and focus on the good.

I want to be like her when I grow up.

Both Gail and I have been married for twenty-plus years, and have lived in our homes that long as well.  Both our husbands and our homes are nothing new, but they are tried-and-true, and we are still very much smitten with both.  There are no big celebrations planned at this time, but there is no need for any.  Every day is a gift to be savored.

Suzanne has quite the opposite news.  She is getting both a new house, and a new husband.  This is super-exciting news not just for her, but for Gail and me as well.  Her husband-to-be got a 127% approval rate from both of her sisters, and while Gail has not yet seen her new house, I gave it five stars.  My husband the builder gave it five stars as well when he checked it out for her.  (This never happens.)  Guys aren’t much into approval rates, but I know he finds his future brother-in-law at least as favorable as the house. 

In the interest of her limited self-disclosure, that is really all I can tell you, and that’s enough for you to know she has a lot to celebrate right now.

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If you recall, one of our mother’s many nuggets of wisdom she shared with us was this:  Always have something to look forward to.

In this year of COVID, our excursions have been greatly limited.  Last weekend, however, my husband and I ventured out to western Kansas to see some of our Sunflower State’s natural beauty that we had not yet taken in.

Topped off by an overnight stay at Gail’s house—along with patio sitting, we had a lot to look forward to last week, and none of it disappointed.

This week, I am anticipating a long-overdue trip with a dear friend.  No details at this point, but suffice it to say that even though our backyard pool came down already, my time splashing in the sun is not done yet for this year. 

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Two years ago this fall, I featured a group of six sisters we know who take annual sister trips—all six of them, which makes us look like amateurs, which we are.  This week, they have been celebrating in Michigan, very close to where Gail’s daughter lives.

May their annual celebrations continue to inspire us, and hopefully you, too.  They set the bar high for making it all work, but when family and fun are priorities, they show us that the sky is the limit. 

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I am sitting on the porch again, this time I am savoring the sunshine and 80-degree temperatures.  The weather is simply splendid, even if it lacks perfection by 20 degrees in my book.  The humidity, however, is a breathable 44%, and I cannot deny I do love that part. 

I am working harder than ever to savor every beautiful day of the fall, even if I know that means the cold will be here soon.  I am working on savoring the cold days, too.  Life is too short and too beautiful not to at least try. 

Kansas has four beautiful seasons, and each one is distinct in its gifts.  The hardest gift for me to accept—no matter which season—is the blessed/cursed Kansas wind.  Gail and Suzanne call it blessed, I call it cursed.

Suzanne’s new house is tucked away on an almost-secret street in our small city, surrounded by trees.  I don’t think she realized until I pointed it out to her that she would not have full benefit of the wind.  This may have been a small downer for her, but the wind, along with all the other simple things to celebrate, are always able to be found somewhere.

Sometimes, we just have to look a little bit, and sometimes, we have to look at them differently in order to call them celebrations. 

But they are always there.