LUCKY GIRLS

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LUCKY GIRLS

We hit it big this time.  We hit the jackpot not once, but several times.  And then again.  And again.  We doubled down on the fun, increasing our winnings.

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The satellite radio gods were tuned in to our frequency on this trip…except they didn’t play “Rocky Mountain High” for us, and we both forgot our John Denver CDs, so, we found it online when we had reception, and sang along.

In Gail’s favor, but not mine, the wind was on her side.  The western Kansas wind was a gentle beast on the way,

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but the Colorado wind was a force to be reckoned with.

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Gail took a stroll down Memory Lane with the newly available Daylight Donuts in the new shop downtown, and offered at several places around town.  We even saw a Daylight Donuts semi on the way there.

Another jackpot.

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Rules are maybe just suggestions.  I believe I posted that earlier.  I believe this to be true.

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Suggestions like, perhaps, maybe you should cross the street in the crosswalk, not in the middle of traffic.

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We kind of own the place when we are there…at least, we think we do.

Or, perhaps, that silly rule about ‘no pictures in the casino.’  Again, it’s just a suggestion, and we didn’t take it.

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As Mom said, “If it feels good, and doesn’t break The Ten Commandments, do it!”

So, we did.

We did a lot of things that felt good, and broke no laws or Commandments whatsoever.  Things that made us laugh, and made other people laugh, too.  Uninhibited things, things that we normally wouldn’t do before noon on a Friday—or anytime–but we did them there.   But we’re not telling what they were.  You had to be present to win.

We would do them again given the opportunity.  It’s who we are.  We simply like to have fun, and this is our breed of fun.  It may not be yours, or many other people’s kind of fun, but it is ours, and we own it.

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Gail and I arrived in Cripple Creek after dark on Wednesday evening, Ash Wednesday, which, for Gail, then became Cash Wednesday.  Not so much for me.  At no point in our casino dalliances was I rolling in any dough.

But I remained lucky.  It’s all in how you look at it.   In the end, our jackpots were not measurable in monetary terms; rather, they could be measured in the currency of memories, fun that was had by both Gail and me, accompanied by lots of laughter.  And we shared it with others, making them laugh, thereby increasing the value.  But that always happens when we are together.

We bought experiences and memories.  And, unlike the paltry interest one can earn when money is banked, memories and experiences banked can earn an interest rate that we determine.  We get to set it as high as we chose.

We chose to set it at infinity.

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The only fly in the ointment was that Suzanne wasn’t with us.  We weren’t complete without her, but we had her blessing to go without her.  We will travel together soon enough, tripling down on the fun and memories we make.

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In a post a few months ago, I shared our interior renovations in our living room.  They are now complete:

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Special thanks to my Mark-of-all-trades for his expertise and hard work in our home.

I also posted that Gail and I were doing our own interior remodeling, and our progress is almost as refreshing, just not visible.  We’re still not sharing the exact nature of these renovations, but rest assured that they are allowing us an even greater sense of renewal both at home, and in Colorado–or anywhere.  Suzanne is quite proud of us; she has mastered the challenge we are meeting, and knows the rewards are better on her side of the equation.

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Our Colorado destination will remain a favorite for Gail and me.  Other places, too, are beckoning us.  Not sure where just yet, but somewhere the three sisters of The Sister Lode will arrive, ready to make more memories.

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I don’t think we’ll ever tire of this view.

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If you have a sister or sisters, and you are waiting for a better time to plan and execute a sister trip, perhaps the perfect time is now.  Perhaps a better time will never come.  Maybe you should start planning.  Maybe you should give them a call today.  If the greatest distance you need to travel is bridging the gap,  today is the perfect day to start that journey.  You may not realize it, but you, too, are Lucky Girls.

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Last year’s trip to Colorado

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  May the luck of the Irish be with you today, and every day.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELEVEN YEARS

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ELEVEN YEARS

Beautiful.  Perfect.  Awe-inspiring.  A gift from Above.

I struggle to type these words about another snowfall blanketing our area.  Yet, this morning, as I take in the brilliant white splendor of the snow in the bright sun, I must say they are the most apt words I can use to describe the outdoors this morning.

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What I wanted to type, and what I said to myself as I braced yesterday for yet another winter storm—in early March, for Pete’s sake–were these words describing our winter so far:  Interminable.  Ugly. Painful.  Never-ending.  Soul-draining.

While I thought those words, and I fight not to continue to think them, I am choosing to stay positive.

Because, after all, it is always a choice.

Choosing to relish these weather conditions has always come easier to Gail and Suzanne.  Especially the wind.  The cursed Kansas wind, in my book.  Not in theirs.  As Gail says, “Embrace it.  There is nothing you can do to change it.”  Wise words.

“People of the South Wind” is the translation of our state’s name from the Kanza tribe of Native Americans.  This wind, however, sculpted a beautiful scene in our backyard this morning.

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It is early March in Kansas.  It could be 70 degrees, or it could be 4 degrees, with a sub-zero wind chill.  We take what we get.  We have no choice.

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I WISH spring would hurry up and arrive.

Interminable.  Ugly. Painful. Never-ending.  Soul-draining.  These are the words I would use not only to describe this winter, but the deep grief we endured when we lost our parents.  Eleven years ago today, March 3rd, 2008, we saw our parents for the last time at our grandmother’s funeral.  It was a beautiful celebration of a long and blessed life, and we shared a wonderful afternoon with them, not knowing it would be our last moments together.  The next day, March 4th, they departed on their three-hour journey home, but never arrived.

We needed and accepted any and all expressions of sympathy immediately after they died, and for a long time after.

We have come a long way since then.   We will be forever grateful for the support we received from so many people.  We no longer need it, though it helped sustain us through the darkest days of our lives.

Since then, we have turned that black square on the calendar into March Forth.  With that support, time and continued perseverance, we now see their lives in full splendor:  Beautiful.  Perfect. Awe-inspiring.  A gift from Above. 

For those of you who were at their funeral—there were so many, and we remain so humbled by the obvious love and respect they earned—please recall Mom’s message.  And please continue to take it to heart.

For everyone, please use every moment of every day you possibly can to make the relationships in your life all they can be.  If you have either, or both of your parents, let them know how much you love them.  If you need to make peace with your parents or anyone, do it now.  They may not be here tomorrow.

Make your life all you want it to be.  Start today on something you have always wanted to do.  Put a jigsaw puzzle together.  Learn to play the piano, even if no one ever hears it.  Write the poetry, even if no one ever reads it.  Travel to the place you always wanted to travel to.

Or, maybe, like Gail is learning to do, simply slow down.  Take one or two things off your plate, like she recently did.  Let go of some of the meaningless busy-ness.  If Gail can learn to slow down, anyone—even you—can.

I attended a funeral this week for a beloved patient.  She left a legacy that reached beyond what most of us realized.  She lived and loved, and left a model for living life to its fullest.  Funerals are a time of sadness, but also a catalyst to keep moving forward to honor the memory of the one we loved and lost.  They would want it that way.

We weren’t ready to let her go, but we don’t get to choose when.  And the when for all of us is only a matter of time.

I struggle to fully grasp that it’s been eleven years since our parents died.  Four or five, maybe…six tops.  But eleven?  Why has the time gone so fast, and where did it go?

A wise woman once told me this:  The reason time goes faster with age is because when you are ten, time goes ten miles per hour.  When you are twenty, it moves along faster at twenty miles per hour.  At fifty…at sixty five—you get the idea.  It only moves faster.  No matter what your age, I don’t think you will disagree.

Age is a gift, just as I wrote several weeks ago.  The corollary, then, is that time is a gift as well.  Use it to do the things to make your life as full as it can be, and to celebrate the relationships you have with other people.

Enjoy the Monday mornings, the Thursday evenings, even the hour in the grocery store at the end of the workday on Tuesday.

I need to take this one to heart more than most people—more than Gail and Suzanne, anyway:  enjoy the cold, the snow and the wind.  Enjoy the gray, slushy melting snow two days later.  Enjoy the cloudy days—even long series of gray, cloudy days on end that we seem to have had multiple times this winter.

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It’s much easier to enjoy the fun times, the getaways, the days off; the vacation.  Which is exactly what Gail and I will be doing in several days.  With Suzanne’s blessing, but without her, we are heading west once again to our favorite Rocky Mountain town.  It is our original celebration destination; we started going there nine years ago to celebrate our parents lives, and ours as well.

And we continue to do just that.  Their legacy lives on in so many ways through their seven children, and we have chosen to celebrate and enjoy our lives, thanks to the love they gave us throughout their lives.

Life is too short to not have fun.  So, whatever fun looks like for you, get out there and have it.  Or stay home and have it.   Find what works for you, and give yourself the gift of time to do it.  Let some time-sucking obligations go if you need to; Gail paved the way for you to do the same.

And tomorrow, as my siblings and I March Forth, we have but one favor to ask of you:  If  they are still here, let your parents know how much you love them. Show them if you can.   And next time you get to see them, be sure to take a picture.

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Gail and I will have a partial report of the fun we had on our trip when I write again in several weeks.   We never tell all.

 

TWICE IN A BLUE MOON

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TWICE IN A BLUE MOON

In 1988, I began collecting blue moons.  A gifted ceramics artist designed one with the perfect twist:  the word once printed inside it.  I saw it, and knew I had to have it.

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My 30-year plus attraction to this simple, yet profound shape was born.

Seven years later in 1995, my now-favorite libation was created:

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A beautiful sight in a beautiful Colorado town from our trip last year.

Then, two years later in 1997, my favorite Friday-night hang out opened:

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The owners proudly celebrated their twenty-year anniversary several years ago,  and the hostess extraordinaire and I have become quite chummy:  not only is her magnetic personality difficult to resist, her name is impossible for me to forget:  Kathleen.

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This get-away is a Friday-night special for us; it is our preferred destination for a night out when we get a night out.

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This Friday, Gail, her husband and one daughter traveled east, joining us for the weekend.  Her college son joined us for the evening, traveling west for one hour.  And, our shared friend Sharon joined us to help us celebrate Gail’s birthday a day late.  She and Gail have been close since grade school; our parents were friends with hers, and our families grew up together as friends.

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Sharon saved her toast for Gail for this week’s post, weighing in with further evidence that Gail is indeed a gift:

I think of Gail as the Thelma to my Louise.  I think of jumping in a convertible with her and having no destination in mind, but no matter where we go, it would always be fun with Gail.  She knows no strangers, and she is always the life of the party.  No matter how much time has passed, our friendship always picks up right where it left off.  Friends forever.”

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Expecting to be socked in with the prognosticated 6-9” of snow that fell short, we hunkered down with Suzanne at my home and waited for the snowstorm that didn’t pack the punch we were promised.

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The snow began to fall in the early afternoon.  “Big, happy flakes,” Gail called them.

The snow continued to fly, but not with the 45-50 MPH gusts promised.  Gail and Suzanne, the wind-lovers they are, were disappointed.  I wasn’t.

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We were left only with several inches and several less-than-anticipated snowdrifts.  Sunday was bright and beautiful.

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We showered Gail with birthday gifts.  She is the gift-giver extraordinaire, so matching her generosity is hard, but we try.

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Gail welcomed the cold with a favorite shirt from our favorite shirt-maker,

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and I welcomed the time with a favorite shirt, and  with my sisters—just like I always do.

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We played cards.  According to Gail’s daughter Lydia who observed, there appeared to be matches that almost drew blood.  Many of the matches drew colorful language from all three of us, hurling good-natured insults toward each other.   The words we slandered cannot be put in print.

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Because I am a word-nerd—I have admitted that freely before—I will put the following definitions in print.  Suzanne will confirm that I am a purveyor of useless information and meaningless trivia, so if this fits into that category, then so be it.

A “blue moon” is the second full moon within one calendar month.  This happens only once about every 32 months, so it is relatively rare.  There is no change to the color of the moon.  Therefore, “once in a blue moon” is used to describe an event that rarely happens.

When researching this online, I learned something new, and I love to learn more useless trivia about things I am interested in, so I hope you are interested, too:

Citing NASA, Space.com reports there are actually two meanings.  The other, older meaning is the third full moon in a season that has four full moons.  This is called a “seasonal blue moon.”  Occurring every 2.5 years, the last seasonal blue moon was May 21, 2016, and the next one will be a few short months away on May 18th, 2019.

Our last monthly blue moon was on March 31st, 2018, and the next one will be on October 31st, 2020—perfectly coinciding with one of Suzanne’s favorite days of the year.

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Gail, Suzanne and I have a long history of enjoying each other’s company, and we plan to continue to do so as long as we all are able.  We found this gem from just over twenty years ago, demonstrating that within this history, we have always enjoyed partaking of good food.  We did plenty of that this weekend as well.

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Making time to spend together is a priority for us.  Traveling or at each other’s homes, we cherish our “we time.”  We enjoy each other’s company, and we know this is a gift that many sisters do not have.

Gail’s birthday was the occasion for this get-together, and in less than two weeks, Gail and I will have another get-together as we head west.  Suzanne has excused herself from this destination due to altitude sickness, and she gives us her blessing to go back to the mountains without her.  We will travel together to other destinations in the near future.

We know how blessed we are.  We have a sisterhood that is truly once in a blue moon.  As the middle sister between these two, I know I hit the sister lode.  Perhaps that only happens twice in a blue moon.

 

 

THE GIFT OF GAIL

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THE GIFT OF GAIL

She had me at hello.”  –Tanya, my old friend and Gail’s new friend

Gail is one of the funniest people I know!  She has such a good and generous heart and I just love her.”—Maureen, “Mo”, Gail’s friend since college

“Back in the day, she could sleep less and drink more Coors Light than any other woman I knew.” –Gail, a mutual friend with a great name

“She has a presence.  You just want to be around her; you can’t wait for what she has to say next.”  Tana, our mutual friend featured in two previous blog posts (Stars and Stripes and Sisters Forever—July 2018, and Swheat Girls Part Two–July 2017)

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All the ballots have been cast, and they all voted the same:  Gail is awesome.  As if I had to ask other people to confirm that for me.

Gail will celebrate her 59th birthday next week.  She welcomes another trip around the sun, relishes the opportunity to grow older, wiser, and to keep having as much fun as she possibly can in this life.  She isn’t afraid to share her age; to her, it really is just a number.  And she’s not really a numbers girl.

When we were growing up, Gail was bigger-than-life.  She was the older, cooler, fun-loving sister who mesmerized me with her spirit.  She was a goddess, a trail blazer; a force to be reckoned with.  She still is all those things, and more.

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She has been mothering Suzanne and me since we were born.

Above all this, she is always faithful to those she loves.  She would give you the shirt off her back—and probably her pants, too.  She would—and still will—do triple back flips to help you in whatever way she can.  She extends everything she has to make your time with her a joyride.

Before my husband and I were engaged, he had a building project in the small town she lived in, the town where she raised her first two children while she managed the Pizza Hut there.  He was staying in a Podunk motel with four boring walls, so she knew she needed to brighten things up for him.  She recruited him into her bowling league, which was his saving grace.

“You can imagine how much fun it was to bowl with Gail.  It was a trip.  And whenever I ate at her Pizza Hut—which was often—she made sure my meal was awesome.  She didn’t normally stock anchovies as a pizza topping, but she knew I liked them, so she kept them on hand for me.  She had me and all the guys on my crew over for barbecues, too.   I don’t know how I would have survived my time there without her to keep me from going crazy.”  –Mark, my husband on his time in Osborne with Gail in the early 1990’s.

And we weren’t even engaged at the time.   I don’t think she would have rolled out any more red carpet than she already had for him if we were, she simply gives her all no matter what the situation.

Gail rarely complains, especially about the weather.  She embraces it, no matter what the temperature or conditions.  This early picture may be the closest she ever came to complaining:

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It rarely happens now, but sometimes I still find myself thinking “I should call Mom and ask her…”  and then I remember I can’t, so I go on.  Since I couldn’t ask Mom or Dad for their input, I went to the next best sources, the only two siblings of our parents remaining:  Mom’s sisters.  They have known us since we were born.  They were much younger than Mom, so when we were younger, they were sometimes partners in crime with us.

“Gail and I and two of your brothers got on top of the wash house and jumped off the roof into an old stuffed chair below.  They taught me how to do it.  She was always adventuresome.” –our aunt Sharon

I am recalling the time when our visits to their home in Wichita were the most exotic vacations we could have imagined.  423 South Crestway in Wichita, Kansas was the southern limit of our universe, the edge of the world for us.  We never traveled further than that; we didn’t have to.  All the excitement in the world we needed was right there, starting with meals at their kitchen table.  The one and only puff I ever took from a cigarette was right there at this table, way past midnight one magical night.  Gail was a willing participant too, but neither of us ever picked up the habit.

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Gail and Suzanne at their table.  Not sure where I was. No cigarettes that day.

“Gail is truly amazing, raising four kids, being a single mom of two part of that time, working, never complaining.  She has a positive attitude, a fighting spirit, and the will to accomplish whatever needs to be done and I have always admired her for that.  And I hope she has an amazing birthday!”  —our aunt Reitha.

Sharon echoed her sister’s sentiments as well.  Above the mischief they engaged in with her, they knew this about her for sure.

I gathered just a few tidbits from her college roommate quoted above, as well as these pictures from a road trip to see Mo’s boyfriend-now-husband:

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Last week, I wrote about the love between parent and child.  Gail’s children know this very well from her.  Her second child, Abigail, shared this:

“To my Mama ‘Mean Gail Jean’ (as I used to call her growing up.)  This is YOUR day, and I want to thank you for being my forever best friend.  You have loved me and supported me even in my darkest of moments, and have taught me so many of life’s lessons that I am still learning to this day.  Raising two strong-willed children on your own was never an easy part of motherhood, and I can attest to this now firsthand!   You are the most selfless person I know, and the hard work that you put in for everyone else day in and day out doesn’t even seem like ‘work’ to you.  You are such an admirable person, and I am so blessed to call you my mom and teacher.  I admire  your drive for the ones you love, and I hope that some day I can be half the woman you are.  Happy Birthday Mom and GG.  Love, Abby, Hudson and Hank.”  —Abby and her sons.

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Gail with her two grandsons.  I am pretty sure she wasn’t driving and texting with him in her lap.

Lydia, her youngest, offered this:  ” I am so blessed to have you as my mom.  I really do miss your donuts and living under your roof because I miss your cooking and just having you around.  You are my inspiration and my role model,  I look up to you every day because you are you.  Without you I’d be lost because you help me with so much, especially counting my carbs!  You are my best friend, and I love you so much Mom!  Happy 59th birthday–don’t party too hard!” —Lydia

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Kate, her firstborn, echoes all this and then some:  “I could never do Mama Gail justice in only a few sentences.  She is the hardest working, most genuine person I know.  Every single one of my accomplishments belong to her…I would not be here without her.”–Kate

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Gail and her progeny

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Gail knew I was toasting her in this blog for her birthday, but knew few other details.  I asked her for pictures, and she was willing to share these:

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Even on her first birthday, she knew the importance of having fun.

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Don’t let the serious look fool you.  Ideas were surely brewing…

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Preparing the Thanksgiving dressing has always started with LOTS of toasted bread, something Mom always did.  We NEVER take shortcuts on something so important.

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Aloha!!

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Wedding cake and beer are always an unbeatable combination.

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Anyone who grew up in, or close to our hometown will need no explanation for this picture.  For anyone else, it defies explanation.

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Gail and her husband will come for a visit next weekend, and a grand birthday celebration will ensue.  He was also asked to provide a few words as well:

“Gail is one of the sweetest, most outgoing people you’ll ever meet–if you haven’t already.  The most fantastic woman, wife, mother, sister and friend you could ask for, and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.  Happy birthday, and remember I love you always–always have, and always will.”  —Terry

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I was honored to be her maid of honor when she married him in Las Vegas.

Suzanne knows her in her own unique way as a sister, but also as a boss.  She worked for her at the Pizza Hut:  “She has always been an authority figure–in a good way.  She always knew what she was doing, and still does.  However, I do have a few stories from after-hours that would get her in trouble with the actual authorities…”  

Gail’s motto at the Pizza Hut, according to Suzanne, was this:  If you have time to lean, then you have time to clean.  Her work standards have always been high.  Suzanne recalled her asking a job interview candidate “Do you know how to run a broom?”

I have spoken many times about Gail’s strong work ethic.  It is simply how she was raised; it is who she is.  I am happy to report, however, that she is taking a much-needed step back from one of her many self-imposed obligations, and learning how to spend more time on what is important to her.  She will likely never be the slacker that I am, but she is now one step closer to my take time for yourself ethic.

As press time approached today, there were contributions I was not able to include in this post from more people who adore her.  Next Sunday, I will likely report on our birthday celebration, and they will be included.

I saved my own comments for the end.  Everything everyone else said is true, and sometimes, as a writer, the right words escape me.

I simply want to let the world know this, and by posting it for the world to see, I want Gail to fully realize it:  Nobody gets me like you do.  And for that and everything else, Gail, I love you dearly.

You are still a goddess,  a trailblazer; a legend who is bigger than life.  I always wanted to be like you when I grow up, and I still do.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAIL!

 

 

 

TRUE LOVE

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TRUE LOVE

I used to call it “The Minefield.”  I never knew where the landmines may lie; when they may detonate.  In the weeks and months when my grief was young, there were certain things, events or memories that would send me reeling backwards, straight into a pit of sadness for the rest of the day.  Certain things, simple things like a shirt Mom used to wear.  Or, as I returned to my work as a traveling speech therapist in the nursing home circuit, certain patients would remind me of them.  Shortly after they died, I was working with a patient with swallowing problems.  I visited with her in her room, asking her the typical questions:  “What is hard for you to swallow?  Do your dentures fit?” 

“Yes,” she said.  “My dentures fit fine.”   She said this as her dentures started to fall out of her mouth.  This is truly funny now, but then, it reminded me that sometimes, Dad’s dentures would come loose and start to fall out.  I lost my professional composure.  I told her that was all I needed to know that day, and I got out of her room quickly before the detonation.  I had to hang it up and go home.

I was hollowed out for the rest of the day.

It used to be that I was incapacitated, stuck in the landmine.  Any wrong turn, any misstep, and another would detonate.  They were suddenly everywhere, and I was defenseless.

As the months wore on, I found I could rally and gather my strength; I could easily extricate myself from the minefield and avert any further danger, coming out victorious. As the years wore on, I no longer felt trapped.  I could let the moments of grief wash over me quickly, and move on to complete my task; finish out the day.

In about 4 weeks, it will be eleven years since our parents died.  I rarely have these moments anymore.

I had one last night.  I was innocently unloading the dishwasher, getting ready to go to dinner with my husband and son and a friend.  I had The CBS Evening News on the kitchen TV, and one of my favorite features came on.  One of their special reporters, Steve Hartman, spoke of his most frequent interview subject, a subject who would no longer be featured, as he had just passed away:  his father.  I stopped unloading dishes to watch.  I always enjoy his On The Road With Steve Hartman stories.  This one would become my favorite.

He spoke lovingly of his father, a kind, loving and unassuming man who always put others before himself.  He didn’t know a stranger, and was adept at striking up conversations with strangers, quickly turning them into friends.

Our dad was that way, too.

He featured interview clips with him, sharing some of his favorite memories of his favorite man on earth.

He then reported that his father had recently died.  His mother died several years ago.

His next statement stopped me in my tracks and brought tears.  I felt, for a few moments, that it had detonated another landmine.  But this time, it was sweet-bitter.  I knew it wouldn’t last long.

He said something to this effect: “I was now an orphan.  The two people on earth who knew me the longest and loved me the strongest were both gone.”

For one searing moment, I felt ice cold pain burning through my heart.  I knew too well how this felt.  The grief came roaring back—but just for one moment.  I dried my eyes and resumed the dishes, knowing I would have to appear happy for my dinner guests.  And I did.  They didn’t know I had just hit another landmine.

This morning, my husband and I watched morning TV while we sipped coffeeThey featured a chef who spoke of foods that reminded him of home.  Something about how home is where your Mom and Dad are.  I looked away for just a moment just in case I had to shed a few tears.  I didn’t want my husband to see.  I bit my lip and kept it together.  Perhaps I was still lingering on the edge of the minefield from last night.  Perhaps, with all this talk of Valentine’s Day love in the air, I am feeling more sentimental than usual.

This love, the love a parent has for a child, I am convinced, is the strongest love on earth.  Perhaps the love the child has for one’s parents is a close second.  I have children.  I know both forms.  These are true love.

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LOVE may very well be the most beautiful word in any language.  In its purest form, it is what we all live for, how we all keep going.  It is what allowed our parents to care for us as infants and children, and how those of us with children care for them.  It is the most difficult job on earth.  But it doesn’t stop there.  I know as a grown woman who now has grown children that it lives on in a new form, in a way that lets us see the beauty of unconditional love that now no longer needs to be nurtured as tenderly and carefully as it did when our children were young.   Infant humans require more care and parenting than any other species, so it’s a good thing babies are so lovable.

I remember when my boys were babies, and every new stage they reached made me a bit nostalgic for the one they had left, but I welcomed each new one, deciding that this one is the best one yet.  This is where I want them to stay, because it can’t get any better than this.  But it just kept getting better, and I kept thinking this as they grew.  Now that my boys are grown, part of me still thinks that.  I miss some of their earlier days, but seeing the fine young men they have grown into makes me happy they are where they are, and not younger.

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I know now that our parents loved us unconditionally as infants, children and adults, just like I love my children.  They loved us when we lived with them, and they loved us when we moved out.  They loved us as we married and formed our own families.  They loved us until the very end.  And we loved them back just as fiercely.

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Monday of last week was just another day.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  I worked, keeping my appointments and other obligations.  Something kept nagging at me, making me ask myself did I forget something important?  It felt as if I was neglecting some responsibility, some required task.  Something I had committed to.   Late in the day, it hit me.  It was the 4th of the month.  For the last 131 months, the 4th of the month rarely escapes me.

Our parents died on the 4th of the month.  Every month, for the first 18—if I recall correctly—I knew the 4th was coming around again.  I knew it would be another monthly anniversary.  I believe it was 18 months before it hit me late in the day.  Still now, most months it hits me at some point in the day on the 4th: “Oh yeah—it’s the 4th again.”  This month was the first one I had to stop and think about it.

I consider that a good thing.

I will never forget that 4th of the month nearly eleven years ago.  I will never forget that day, but the pain is no longer a beast in control.  I am in control, and my memories are letting more sweet in, and not so much bitter.

They got to go together.

The most pure form of love for another person is that which cares more for them than for oneself.

It was so hard for us, but so easy for them.  So easy for them. 

We loved them deeply; lost them tragically.  But true love never dies, and their love lives on.

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Happy Valentine’s Day.  If you still have your parents, please let them know how much you love them.  While their love for you will live on forever, they won’t be here forever. 

This post is dedicated to my parents, of course, and to my three boys as well.  

 

HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY

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HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY

“What if there is no tomorrow?  There wasn’t one today.”  Bill Murray as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day.

“I find my inner peace, my quiet self at the movies alone.  I stretch out and I smile to myself in the dark.  The first few times, I was scared I would look like a loser, at the movies by myself.  But now, I’m like, ‘Yea, I’m doing this,’ complete with popcorn and snacks.  It’s my therapy.  It works.”  –my friend Rhonda, on the joys of going to the movies alone, which she does several times a week.

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I am crushed.  I sat down to hopefully start a marathon of watching Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day, and I could find it exactly nowhere on cable TV.  So, like a modern, self-respecting American woman, I looked it up online.  Surely a cable station—TBS, Comedy Central, etc.– was playing it nonstop all day today, Saturday, February 2nd, 2019, but, no.  Before I panicked, I checked Netflix and Amazon Prime—I subscribe to both; surely one of them would offer it in their lineup for free streaming.

But, no.

Herein lies the quandary:  I have seen it at least ten times.  Do I invest $3.99 to see it yet again?

This year marks the 26th anniversary of one of my all-time favorite movies, in honor of one of my all-time favorite (obscure) holidays.  In 2006, it was added to the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”  I totally agree.

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Groundhog day is observed by both the United States and Canada, with its origins in Pennsylvania among the Pennsylvania Dutch.   The earliest records of this were a simple mention made in a diary of a local resident dated February 2nd, 1840.   In 1886, a local Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania newspaper reported the observance of this date, whereby “the beast has not yet seen its shadow.”  The following year, it was made an official celebration.

Prior to the movie release, the crowds in Punxsutawney numbered around 2,000 for this celebration.    After the movie release in 1993, however, the crowds rose to about 10,000.  The population of Punxsutawney is around 6,000 people.

Most traditions, no matter how illogical and non-sensical they may seem typically have roots in deeper traditions, and Groundhog Day is no exception.  The observation, according to online sources, appears to be an enhanced version of the weather lore that the badger is the predicting animal.  February 2nd is the Christian observance of Candlemas Day, and legend has it that clear weather on that day forebodes a prolonged winter.  The groundhog—also known as the woodchuck—became the preferred weather prognosticator.

Typically, the groundhog sees his shadow, and there are six more weeks of winter predicted.  Official reports indicate he didn’t see it this year, so we will have an earlier spring.  Statistically, he is right about 40% of the time.

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I love a good movie.  I love to watch good movies repeatedly.  I have a fantasy of being trapped in a hotel room, all by myself, with nothing else to do but watch movies.  It has yet to come true, but I keep hoping.  When I am at home, I don’t spend a lot of time watching movies, I always feel I should be doing something more productive.  However, while I was at home alone this weekend, I got back on Netflix and did a little more binge-watching…

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Groundhog Day is certainly one of my favorite movies.  I love the humor, but deeper than that, I love that Phil Connors, the main character, after failing to escape the time loop he is stuck in that forces him to re-live Groundhog Day multiple times, realizes he can make this work for him, and for those around him.  He first tries to work it to his advantage by over-indulging in food, drink and merriment, but always wakes up to the same day all over again.  He even tries suicide to escape, but even that sends him back to the same day all over again.  So, he makes it work for good, not evil.  He gets multiple chances to fix his mistakes, and turn them into acts of kindness and generosity.

If we could all be so lucky to have that opportunity with our own mistakes.

Another one of my favorites is Pay It Forward. If you haven’t seen it, give it a chance to show you how powerful one person’s actions can be, and the ripple effect they can have.  Just be sure to have your tissues ready.

Two of our mom’s favorite movies were Fletch with Chevy Chase, an 80’s comedy, and Dirty Dancing.  Quite a combination.  She also liked Overboard with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, and Mannequin with Andrew McCarthy.  Another interesting combination.  I don’t recall our dad watching movies, but he did have a few television series he liked, especially Chuck Norris in Walker, Texas Ranger.

I polled Gail and Suzanne regarding their favorite movies.  Suzanne, hands down, and without hesitation, responded: “My all-time favorite is ‘The Birds’ by Alfred Hitchcock.”  Hmm.. I found this interesting, so I asked why.

I guess because I enjoy watching people get their eyes pecked out.” I found this quite disturbing, but consider the source.  I reported this to Gail, and she, too, likes The Birds.  I simply had to laugh.  You don’t know my sisters as well as I do, so please take all this with a grain of salt.  They are harmless, as evidenced by their other favorites:

Suzanne:  “I also really like ‘Terms of Endearment’ and ‘Sixteen Candles.’”

Gail:  “One of my favorites is also ‘Catch and Release,’ with Jennifer Garner and Timothy Olyphant.  You know, him.  HIMmmmmmm…  She also likes Top Gun for the male actor as well.  You know, him.  HIMmmmmmm

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The American movie industry has been a staple of our entertainment economy.  During the Great Depression, the movie industry suffered, just as nearly every other industry did.  However, Americans spent their hard-earned fifteen cents to escape the reality of their excruciating poverty for just an hour or two, with 60-70 million Americans seeing a movie in the theater every week.  Even during these hard times, it was worth it to that many people.

“The content of the motion picture still was designed for escape, the majority reflecting the tastes of tired or jaded adults seeking a never-never land of luxury and melodrama, sex and sentiment.  –Dixton Wector, historian.

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We have a low-key evening planned for the Super Bowl tonight.  While my husband and son will be watching the game, I am planning on delving into the movie minds of my sisters, and watch The Birds.  I have never seen it, and if they like it, perhaps I might, too.  It will be a new experience.

I didn’t get to watch Groundhog Day yesterday.  Time got away, and while I wasn’t opposed to paying $3.99 to see it online for the sake of the occasion, I didn’t get around to it.  I will have to shell out $3.99 for The Birds, but for this glimpse inside my sisters’ movie minds, it will be worth it.

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I rarely go to the theater to see movies.  Suzanne and I have seen a few together since she moved to my small city, but we should see more.

If you feel the desire, take yourself out for a movie date, just like Rhonda does several times a week.  It would likely be time well spent.

Or, whatever you enjoy doing, take the time.  Unlike the main character in Groundhog Day, we don’t get the chance to go back and re-do yesterday.  We don’t get time back after it is gone.  So make it count.1034921601.jpg

 

AGE IS A GIFT

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AGE IS A GIFT

This post is dedicated to those women and men who struggle every day to age with relative ease due to illness, injury, chronic and disabling pain, physical and/or mental struggles, and the myriad other reasons why aging is difficult. Keep on fighting the fight, and may you find peaceful, pain-free independence to live your life as you desire.   For anyone who doesn’t fit that group—and we all know which group we fit in, this post is meant to make you think twice before you complain about your age…

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Discover a newfound sense of youth!

Feel younger than you did yesterday!

Gain a greater appreciation for your amazing human body!

Embrace your age, no matter what it is!

**Ask me how—I have the easiest way to achieve all this, and more!**

Here’s how:  Spend the afternoon visiting a nursing home, or perhaps the rehabilitation unit of a large hospital.  You will most likely see residents/patients there younger than you.  If these are not options, simply sit in a neurologist’s waiting room for a few hours.  Or, perhaps, visit a children’s hospital.

Guaranteed to deliver, or your money back.  Give it a try!

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I will give you exactly one reprieve if you have no reason to do so, yet I hear you complaining about your age, because I used to complain about mine, too.  That is, until shortly after my 40th birthday.  I was working in a larger regional hospital, and I was lamenting this new decade I had just entered into.  Then, I received an order to see a new patient.  She had had a stroke.  At age 39.  Shortly after she delivered her fifth child.  She lost most of the function on her right side.  She was right handed.

I never complained again after that.

Shortly after my 50th birthday, while I fully embraced it—complete with a big party–and did not complain even once, I was sent a reminder:  a man just a few months younger that me with ALS—Lou Gehrig’s disease—became my patient.  He died a few months later.  I was not able to help him much, if at all.

My heart still breaks for his family.  He was only 50 years old.

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”The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”  –Frank Lloyd Wright

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I met a woman this week who is struggling with yet another physical setback.  She already had a long medical history.  She became my patient when she went home from the hospital, trying to return to some semblance of her former life.  She has a young child.  She was independent, working; able to take care of herself and her child.  She may no longer be able to live without help and support.  She is not yet 50 years old.  She laughed and made jokes, and she spoke of the power of positive thinking.

She gave me more than I gave her.  This sometimes happens with my work.

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“Don’t try to be young.  Just open your mind.  Stay interested in stuff.  There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them.”  –Betty White, age 96.

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Our mom would have been 82 years old last week.  I had grand intentions of celebrating her birthday with a shopping trip—just like we used to do with her when she was here—but duty called, so I didn’t plan anything.  Duty was superseded by the weather on Tuesday, and I ended up not going anywhere.  In time, I will find a fitting way to observe her day.

Gail will celebrate her birthday next month.  She will be 59 this year, and she is already anticipating an even bigger celebration next year for her 60th.  She had a grand celebration for her 50th, but Suzanne and I weren’t able to join her because of a snowstorm.

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Suzanne will turn 50 next year, so it will be a year of celebrations.

I had a grand celebration almost three years ago for my 50th.  Along with my stepson and  Amy (Stars and Stripes and Sisters Forever, July 6th), my husband feted us with a 30-40-50 party.  In just 7 more years, we will be preparing for a 40-50-60 party.

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Birthdays are important observations of the day you arrived on this earth.  They should always be celebrated–never feared or ignored.

In my work as a speech therapist, I see many strokes.  In the most severe, there are sometimes no words, no ability to speak.  The ability to formulate words or phrases is attempted, but unsuccessful.  In order to get speech flowing in any manner at all, I often engage the patient in a singing exercise, as singing is often relatively preserved.  The song I always start with, because everyone is familiar with it, is “Happy Birthday to You!”

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Aging in an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”  –David Bowie, who died three years ago at age 69.

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In “The Magnificent Seven” (November 11th, 2018), I wrote about six incredible sisters who take incredible annual trips together.  The youngest sister Shari will turn 50 in a few weeks.  She is enjoying a grand birthday celebration on the grand, beautiful island of Grenada.

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Happy Birthday Shari—life begins at 50, or whatever age you decide to live life to the fullest.  Coincidentally, her oldest sister is celebrating her birthday today, Sunday, January 27th.  Happy Birthday Joyce!

Four other people I know are also celebrating a birthday today:  Happy Birthday to our neighbor Dan, and his daughter Ariana, our friend Lonnie, and our brother-in-law Jerry.

A former patient of mine will be celebrating a Big Birthday next month.  She is a world traveler, and in honor of this big day, she and her family are taking a trip to another beautiful island. She struggles to make it all work after her stroke, but she keeps on trying, and she keeps getting better every day.

May all of you enjoy a grand birthday celebration, and if you weren’t already, I hope you are living life to the fullest.

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“Do not regret growing older.  It is a privilege denied to many.”  –Author unknown.

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Every year brings 365 sunrises and sunsets, just like the ones I captured close to my home this weekend.  The more of these you get to see, the luckier you are.

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Kansas is known for our beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  And speaking of our home state, it will celebrate its 158th birthday on Tuesday, January 29th.  So, if you see me wearing my gaudy sunflower pin this Tuesday, you will be expected to recall that it is in honor of Kansas’s birthday.

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Happy Birthday Kansas!

We quietly observed Mom’s birthday last week, and we will observe Gail’s next month with–hopefully–a lot of noise.

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May we all embrace aging as gracefully as Gail does, and may we all age with as much wisdom, love and peace as Mom did.

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“He who dies with the most birthdays wins.”  —My friend Kelly, who turned 57 last week.