THE GAME OF LIFE

 

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THE GAME OF LIFE

“The game of life has two participants: spectators and players. Pick one.”  –Unknown

Yesterday, Gail and I and some of our family members were spectators, warming the benches as Gail’s son played volleyball on the men’s club team at Kansas State University.

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Wyatt is #15, blocking the spike.

Wyatt has played on this team for the last two years, having received expert instruction from his big sister, who was also present.

Lucky for me I actually understand this game, unlike most sports. I get it; it’s relatively simple. Back and forth, above the net and inside the boundaries, three hits or less on each volley. I played for several years in high school, with an ugly crooked finger as a permanent memento of the game and the fun I had. Sometimes, the price we pay for having had fun in our younger years is worth the memories.

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I just got off the phone with a friend. She was frazzled, making treats to take to her high-school aged son’s sports banquet.

I’m having anxiety about this,” she said. I should have known, knowing her as well as I do, that she was not concerned about measuring up against the other mother’s contributions. She is so far beyond caring about that.

No, it’s just stupid,” she responded, when I asked her if she was fearful of the comparison trap. “I’m over this shit.”

The idea is a good one, the intention is to celebrate the achievements of high school athletes. The downside, as she sees it, is that sports are the priority in the high school culture.

And, as Sunday NFL football will illustrate on my television today, it seems to be the priority in our culture in general. But here I go on my soapbox again. I continue to try to make peace with my perception that it has been elevated to an unmerited religious level in our society.

My soapbox is built on a poor understanding of the rules of the game, a lack of comprehension as to how the gladiator-like competition can be enjoyable for the spectator, let alone the athlete. Mooring up this soapbox are the memories of the many patients I have treated with head injuries.

When I step back and examine it, however, I realize that my lack of understanding as to how the aspect of fierce competition can be sanctioned in our society, I remember that when it comes to spelling bees, I’m in it for blood. (Under Our Spell, September 1st 2019). My hunger for victory is no different, so I have no room to talk.

But back to the love of the game.

Wyatt plays with his body, heart and soul, and took the second-place team finish in the tournament yesterday in stride, as did his teammates. Their mission was to play their best, champions or not. For us, it was a day of spectating, cheering, and enjoying time with family.

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 Gail’s daughters Kate and Lydia, Gail, Wyatt, and her husband, Terry.

 

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My husband and I got to spend a few hours with our son who will complete his degree from KSU in a few weeks.

These young men are strong and coordinated. Just like the team-building mantra in business, there is no ‘I’ in team. Neither is there a ‘U/you’ in “team,” but they function as if it is all about the other guy. They bump-set-spike, communicating by their looks, shouts, moves and familiarity with the game and with each other, knowing they can’t do it alone.

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I don’t spectate much when it comes to sports. My boys played baseball in junior high and high school, and I enjoyed spectating. Like volleyball, I actually understand the game.

In life, however, I would prefer to participate rather than spectate. Each of us has the opportunity to play the game in whatever way we choose, and at whatever level of engagement. Like in sports, there are rules. Just like in volleyball and other most other sports, there are boundaries. There is teamwork. We all need each other, and playing together and playing nice always works better in the end than being in it just for ourselves, even if its harder than thinking about only ourselves.

The biggest difference between sports and real life, as I see it, is that real life should never be a competition with anyone but yourself.   It’s up to you to determine when you should stop competing with yourself and call it good enough.

In volleyball, I remembered that if the ball hit the net on a serve, it was dead. Now, it is considered fair play. That rule changed, and sometimes in life, rules change, too.

Rules, however, are sometimes made–and changed–to protect the powerful, and perhaps they should be bent, if not completely broken. This is your call, but for me, I like to remember this:

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Again, its your call. Remembering our mom’s suggestion also helps: If it feels good, and it doesn’t break any of The Ten Commandments, Do It!

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“The game of life is not so much in holding a good hand as playing a poor hand well.”   –H.T. Leslie

PASS THE PIE

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PASS THE PIE

It shouldn’t be so complicated, really. But, like so many other things, we humans—myself included– make it so.

It doesn’t take much extra time or effort, and it certainly doesn’t cost anything. Just a few moments to think about what we have, and maybe what we’re lucky that we don’t have. Several minutes here and there to stop ourselves from the busy-ness and look around.

They are everywhere, if you just look for them. So many things to be grateful for, so much we can say a quick ‘thank you’ for.

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I am guilty. I don’t look around enough, nor do I always take those few extra moments that can make the difference between seeing something as good instead of bad.

In my blog two weeks ago, I strung my sisters up for loving the wind. The blasted Kansas wind that sometimes hollows out my soul. This time it was blasting northwest winds that brought me down, winds we fought for almost 3 ½ hours as we drove northwest to Gail’s house for the annual Thanksgiving celebration that she hosts with the most every year on Thanksgiving Saturday.

Driving into this driving wind, I tried to find some way to enjoy it, some way to see it as positive. I failed at that, so I downshifted one gear, and found a few things I could be thankful about despite the wind:

*The ground was wet from snow and rain, so there was minimal fire danger.

*There was no precipitation falling at that time.

*Our car was warm and sturdy, fighting the whipping wind. The space-age technology in our Subaru even braked the car automatically when a large tumbleweed blew across Interstate 70 right in front of us, causing the car to think it was an obstacle to brake for, which, obviously, it was.

Despite all this, I still cussed my sisters. So did many other family members.

But we’re not here to cuss and complain. Since the maiden post in this blog, we have tried to keep it positive, with gratitude and positivity as core element of our posts.   If ever we go down, we always try to come back up in the end, offering optimism and a happy ending.

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. The family, food, faith, friends and fun are celebrated today—especially today—with a reminder and challenge to offer up this gratitude every day. There are no commercial expectations, no gifts to buy—just good food, and lots of it.

Gail, in case you couldn’t guess from previous posts, is the hostess/cook extraordinaire.  We honor our mother’s dressing recipe by repeating it to our best abilities, which is usually pretty darn good.  We try to make it with all three of us together, but this year, it was only Gail and Suzanne. It is so good, in fact, that there are a select few people in Gail’s small town who request a sample, and Gail delivers.  It’s all in the spirit of giving.

Along with the dressing, the menu consists of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, cream cheese corn–all from Gail’s kitchen. Every family member brings their specialties, including: sweet potato casserole (mine), green bean casserole (Suzanne’s), rolls, vegetable trays, cookies, appetizers, sausage/cheese/cracker tray and multiple desserts. There is no shortage of food.

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Gail and I delight in preparing homemade pies. We must brag that never once, with the hundreds of pies we have made collectively throughout our lives, have we purchased ready-made pie crusts. Mom taught us well. I made nine pies Wednesday evening to share between my two family celebrations. Gail, always the over-achiever (in a good way), went the extra mile to carve the flesh out of a fresh pumpkin for her pie.

 

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Family is always the first important ‘F’ of all them listed above. Being together with most of our family is the greatest gift of the holiday. Everyone helps,

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and everyone partakes and enjoys.

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Full stomachs match our full hearts,

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and family is celebrated in many ways.

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The hostesses and hosts with the mostesses and mosts.

Full stomachs and hearts also translate into a full house, so for the second year in a row, my husband and I enjoyed the solitude of a small cabin on the small lake in Gail’s small town for the night.

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Mercifully, the wind died down overnight, and we awoke to some wind with the cold, but it was manageable.

Giving thanks for the basics of fabulous Thanksgiving food and shelter from the wind was the order of the day. This morning, I gave thanks for the third basic element of physical survival: clothing. With four thin layers on top and one heavy layer on the bottom, I gave thanks for the opportunity to stay warm while moving my legs and body with my daily run/walk, this time around the lake.

Taking a lesson from the birds of nature, I offered up thanks for the water and the sunshine as well. No matter the weather, nature offers a daily bounty to be thankful for, and despite the wind and cold, it was no different this morning.

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The geese have it figured out; they know how to enjoy the cold, the wet and the wind. With their cue, I did, too.

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We got back to Gail’s house this morning, and we were greeted with fresh coffee and brunch. Gail, of course, was back at it in the kitchen again. After the eggs and ham, the pies once again beckoned, so we answered the call. We passed the pie.

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Our signature picture at the beginning of every blog was taken three years ago in Camp Gail, her small but mighty room-of-her-own in her home. It is decorated with anything and everything that brings her joy. I have Fort Kathleen in my home, which is my space that fills me up, filled up with all the things that bring me joy. We are immensely grateful for these spaces and for the joy they bring us.  Suzanne, ever the minimalist, does not want such a crowded space, and that’s okay too.

Every year during the Thanksgiving celebration, we take another picture in Camp Gail, and they are posted at the beginning of each blog. They signify our continued sisterhood, which keeps going and keeps growing in its depth and meaning.

Despite our losses, we continue to be grateful for each other, for the rest of our families, our friends, for our health, happiness, hopes and dreams fulfilled and those still in progress.

Gratitude, in its simplest form, is just two words: thank you. No matter which force you pray to, this is the building block of living a simply wonderful life. It’s not hard. Just remember to give thanks every day of the year for all things great and small.  It can turn negativity into positivity.  It’s your choice–and mine, too, free for the taking.

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May every day be Thanksgiving Day for you.

 

 

SISTERS OF THE SOUTH WIND

 

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SISTERS OF THE SOUTH WIND

I have made it abundantly clear that I love my sisters. We are harmonious toward each other, even in the face of potential differences of opinion about politics, religion, genetic cloning perhaps, even public nudity, if it were to become an issue. I consider them my best friends, and they are my first line of defense when I need a go-to friend to help me get through a crisis, solve a problem, or someone to cry to. However, there is one issue, one topic that I stand diametrically opposed to Gail and Suzanne on, and I cannot go to them with this problem, because it is not a problem for them.  They simply don’t understand. In fact, they feel just the opposite.  If there is a scar on the face of our otherwise beautiful sisterly triad, it is this: Gail and Suzanne love the wind, and I loathe it.

Further, I know I am the sensible one here, and they are the insane ones. I mean, really. What kind of person loves the wind?

In my post Weather Girls (January 28th, 2018), I wrote about just how much they really do love the wind. And, if you know either of them very well, you will likely know this fact about them. And, hopefully, you side with me and realize they are indeed crazy.

Gail loves it so much, that she has thought about changing her name to Gail Force Winds.

But enough about this fundamental difference between them and me. Let’s get down to the business of making peace with this stumbling block. That’s what we are all about, after all. I’m trying to create optimism and positivity here.

Clearly, I know wind is a fact of nature that cannot be eliminated or altered. It cannot be escaped in Kansas. As a matter of true fact, our state’s name is from the Native Americans, and it means People of the South Wind.

I know in my heart, mind and soul that no amount of lamenting or complaining about the wind will change it. As a general policy in my life, I try very hard not to complain about things I cannot change, and if I can change something, I try not to complain about it. Yet, I continue to complain.  Gail and Suzanne remind me that nothing I say or do will change it, so why not embrace it? I have tried, but to no avail—yet.

This morning—November 17th, I awoke to a beautiful, calm, 40-degree sunny morning. The flag was beautifully still,

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The pampas grass wasn’t moving,

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and neither were the remaining leaves on the trees.

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I enjoyed a morning run, but by the time I returned, all this had changed. The northwest wind was blowing, the trees and the flag were moving and the pampas grass was swaying. It was tolerable, but it was there. It is generally a fact of life in Kansas.

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Today, we are The People of the Northwest Wind.

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Wind is generally a fact of life, no matter where you go, even to Colorful Colorado, where we just visited two weeks ago.

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It seems, however, that Kansas has more than its share. I don’t mind the wind in the summer. I rather enjoy the feeling of a blast furnace when the strong winds blow in the 100-degree plus summer heat. Call me crazy. Go ahead, I know you want to. I’ll take that weather any day over the cold.

do like the wind for several reasons, at the right time, at the right speeds.  First, it keeps the bugs away in the summer.  Second, I rely upon it to dry my laundry on my back-porch redneck clothesline, all year round.  Here it is, doing its job today, as well on the front porch.  If you look under the flag in the picture above, you will see the wind at work.

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I like the cold when the wind isn’t blowing. Give me a sunny, calm, sub-freezing day, and I’m happy. My favorite running weather is just that: 20°, sunshine and zero wind. Throw in some snow on the ground, and it’s perfect.

Again, call me crazy.

As soon as the wind kicks in, however, all bets are off. It’s a complete deal-breaker. If the skies are gray too, I find myself wanting to hole up in my basement where I am oblivious to the weather conditions outside.

Because, I realize, the weather conditions outside play a big role in determining my weather conditions inside. I am solar-powered, and without the sun for an extended stretch, I feel gray, too.

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We grew up in a 100-year old+ farmhouse. Gail and I shared an upstairs bedroom on the north, and Suzanne moved in with me when Gail moved out. I remember the cold north wind freezing us out; the house wasn’t exactly insulated well. I remember the wind whistling and howling in the winter as we shivered in bed.   The house came down a few years ago, but I will never forget it. Most of the memories were good ones, and I will be forever grateful for the shelter it provided.

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Our north bedroom window was the large one upstairs.

My bedroom now is upstairs on the north side of the house. When the north wind howls in the winter now, I send up a silent thank you for the warm and well-insulated home I now live in. At least once every winter, I try to tell my Mark-of-all-trades husband thank you for building it so well to keep us warm.

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Last Monday was Veteran’s Day. As I age, I continue to deepen my gratitude for the freedoms that were won for me, and protected still by active military.   I know that none of us can ever repay the veterans for their sacrifices, so a deep sense of gratitude is the least they deserve from us.

The temperature was about 20° Monday morning, and the feels like index, according to the weatherman, was 2°.  The north wind was brutal and blowing a light snow, and it simply wasn’t safe or smart to be out in it if it wasn’t necessary.

I depend on my morning run to start my day, and to keep me running all day. Quite simply, if I don’t run, I don’t run. If I wanted to get any exercise in that day, it would have to be on the dreaded elliptical trainer in my basement. So, that’s what I did. I realized as I ticked off the minutes, however, that it was fitting that I had to sacrifice just a little freedom on this sacred day. Still, I didn’t like it one bit.

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As fall continues to fall, and so do the temperatures, I feel the annual sense of dread and doom, the specter of internal darkness that begins to hover over and around me when I know that winter will soon be here. The days continue to get shorter—only 34 days until they get longer again, but who’s counting—and this darkness tries to pervade my sense of happiness.

I know the cold winter is almost here, and from all professional prognostications I have heard, it’s going to be a bad one. And by bad, for Kansas that usually means lots of snow, icy conditions, colder temperatures and strong north winds.  I could make it through with a smile if not for the blasting north winds.

This autumn, however, I have made a conscious effort to savor the beautiful weather and splendid show of color Mother Nature provides every year at this time. It’s working a little better that usual. But it’s not enough to fend off the winter-is-coming blues.

I have committed myself to Kansas, and it is my home. It is in my heart and soul; it is the land that shaped my past and will continue to positively influence my future. If I had to name my least favorite aspect of Kansas, it would be the wind. It is the fly in the ointment, the pock mark on an otherwise beautiful face.

So, dear reader, here is my request: Surely many (most?) of you feel the way I do about the wind. If you do, and you have some positive insight/affirmation/encouragement, I want to hear it. I want to know how you get through the cold, windy days and nights. I want to remain smitten with Kansas, and if I can make peace with the wind, I would be a much happier camper when the cold winter winds blow.

We’re all in this together, and I am hoping you can help me. The struggle is real, folks. I need help, and I am reaching out to anyone who may have some to offer. Gail and Suzanne, as dear as they are to me, are useless in this fight, because they don’t see it as a fight. Again, I think they are a little crazy, but I try to respect their likes and dislikes.

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My husband spent many years constructing buildings in every kind of weather. While he did his time in hard labor, and now manages projects instead of building them, he feels the same way I do about the wind.   He knows his sisters-in-law love the wind, and more than once after a day in the wind, he would cuss them to me. I always understood. It would go something like this:

I’d like to see them take a sheet of metal and try to get it up on a roof in this wind without sailing away, or getting their hands sliced open when the wind tears it out of their hands.”

My neighbor stopped by this morning, and, without me complaining first, she said, “I can’t stand the wind. It’s depressing.”  Obviously, I concur.

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I often go to senior living facilities to see my home health patients. I noticed a pattern several years ago, one that serves to offer me wisdom, should I choose to accept it.

In many facilities, there are outdoor patios. Many of these patios are adorned with wind chimes. It struck me, one windy winter day, while looking up at three stories of apartments with their patios/balconies, that so many of the residents had wind chimes hanging outside. Could it be, that in their wisdom from their years of (likely) living in Kansas, that they are choosing to celebrate the wind, rather than bemoaning it, like I do? Could it be that simply accepting this fact, and maybe even celebrating it with things like wind chimes would offer me much-needed inner peace on cold, windy days? Perhaps. And that is why I am asking for your help, because clearly, I am not achieving it on my own.

I will continue to find peace in so many other naturally beautiful aspects of Kansas, especially the sunrises and sunsets.

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Next weekend, I am gallivanting off for more fun, this time with friends, so there will be no post. I am celebrating a birthday for a dear friend, along with another dear friend. Like me, the birthday girl is in and out of her car all day as part of her work. Like me, she loathes the wind. Any advice you have for me will also be a birthday gift for her.

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She gave me this beautiful piece of outdoor art with the sun face on it several years ago for my birthday, and last spring, I caught it capturing the brilliant light of the sun as it rose.

Hanging just above it are my own wind chimes. This morning and this afternoon,, they are silent, hanging on the east side of the porch.  Next time they  offer me beautiful music. I will choose to listen.

The lines are open for your comments. I appreciate any an all advice and inspiration you have to offer on how you cope with the wind, no matter what state you live in.

Thank you.

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I believe when we lose a loved one, they remain with us in so many other ways, but we have to be open to them. This morning, I sat down to write this post, knowing I was writing about the weather. I decided to first read the day book that belonged to my mother, a book I gave her that she loved, highlighting her favorite parts. Some days, she highlighted the title, which I interpret to mean that she liked the whole thing.   Many days, she speaks to me, telling me exactly what I need to hear through the highlighted parts. This morning, she did just that. *

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*Sarah Ban Breathnach, 1995, Simple Abundance:  A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.  Warner Books, New York, New York.  

ALL OR NUN–OR SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

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ALL OR NUN—OR SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

Even a nun’s habit isn’t completely black and white–at least, ours weren’t. If you look close, you will see a bit of gray. Gray—not black and white– seems to be the rule in life.

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Halloween blessings to you from The Sisters of the Stained Cloth

Gail, Suzanne and I departed from Gail’s home Thursday morning—Halloween—after Suzanne and I traveled to her home from our small city Wednesday night. It was time once again for us to head west, and this time, all three of us were in tow. We missed Suzanne last time, and she was up for a rally against the altitude sickness. It appears she lost a few of the battles, but this time, she won the war.

It’s just not the same if we’re not all three together.

It was her idea, after all, to dress as sisters—nuns. We are sisters to each other, so the costume idea was brilliant. We were born and raised Catholic, so we know the territory.

It was Halloween, but still, it appeared some people weren’t sure if we were the real deal, or if we were in costume. Several people said it was the socks and shoes that gave us away.

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We made a few trick-or-treat stops in Gail’s small town to see several of her friends at work before we headed west. Because everyone—and I mean pretty much everyone—in her small town of 1,194, according to Wikipedia– knows Gail, those who saw us knew we were in costume.

Nuns have to eat, too, but down the road a bit when we ate lunch, most people weren’t sure.

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And, because most people don’t realize that nuns can indeed drink beer, I think the socks/shoes were indeed a giveaway.

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A kind man named David who stopped to take a picture of the iconic sign was nice enough to take our picture at the state line.

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I’m pretty sure real nuns wouldn’t attempt to climb on the nunasaurus, but we did.

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Our usual stop at the Pop-a-Top saloon just outside Colorado Springs wasn’t to be missed, so we didn’t.

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And, because the world is indeed small, we met some fine folks there who live just down the road from Gail.

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Old traditions prevail, like John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High to us as we complete the final twists and turns just before our arrival. That’s a black and white matter.

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Lunch at one of our favorite restaurants can’t be missed either.

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Even though she doesn’t like to drink beer, Suzanne is just as much a real woman as Gail and I are.

We were a bit chagrined because we expected more Halloween revelers like us at the casinos. However, we realized that everyone who was supposed to be there, was indeed there.

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Sometimes in life, things “coincidentally” line up so perfectly that humans couldn’t have planned them any better without screwing them up. Quite by surprise, Cruella found one of her Dalmatians at the casino. The Dalmatian waitress Janelle didn’t know that Julie—Cruella—would be there, and neither did Cruella know that she would find a Dalmatian there.  With a bit of red added, that was a black and white matter, too.

Because we saw them both alive and well the next day, Cruella lived a bit more happily ever after than she fared in the movie.

We had goodies to pass out in our jack-o-lantern bucket—the usual candy, and special treats for certain people that fit into the we don’t tell all category. Let’s just say that nuns are hip to the world, and understand more than one might think.

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The population of Cripple Creek, Colorado—according to Wikipedia—is five people less than Gail’s small town: 1,189. However, it is the county seat of Teller County, and is home to this beautiful courthouse, built in 1904.

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When we ask some people if they have been to Cripple Creek, sometimes they respond “I think I’ve been through it.” We think, however, that this response means they are confusing it with another Colorado town, because, except for seven miles further to Victor, it is essentially the end of the road. It is typically the destination that one has when traveling the twisty-turny hairpins on the last 18 miles of road there, 18 miles on Colorado 67 when you turn off US Highway 24 at Divide, Colorado.

These twisty-turny roads were snow packed and icy early in the week, just before we arrived. This proved to be challenge for the extra hundreds of people—potential jurors, national media and spectating citizens– traveling to this courthouse for the beginning of the trial of the man standing accused of killing his fiancé last year on Thanksgiving Day in nearby Woodland Park.

No media cameras were allowed inside, so they set up camp outside, across the street.

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This tragic real-life saga stood in stark contrast to the comedy in the local theater half a block away.

This contrast, as I see it, is indeed black and white, as black and white as the Dalmatian’s spots. No gray there. Sometimes the blackness of real life can be devastating. The time for sadness, the time to mourn can be overwhelming. We’ve been there, too. But in time, and with a little faith and a little help, perhaps, the black fades to gray, and eventually some white shines through.

Whenever possible, we make time for laughter because we know it heals. It permeates the black, and helps the gray become white. So, we took in the afternoon show, which provided several hours of entertainment and raucous laughter. We can be cultured when we want to, although it may not be apparent from our earlier antics.

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Gail and Suzanne are gifted with the ability to bring the gift of laughter to others. Quick and sharp, they both pounce on any occasion to create humor, sometimes apropos of nothing otherwise funny, like a daily shower.

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Or fruits and vegetables–this one is a classic from a long-ago trip.

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Or challenging a road sign

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Or, while driving,  the opportunity to fling me off my seat when I unbuckled to crawl into the way-back to get something that Suzanne didn’t want to get for me from her nest in the back seat, probably to cause a laugh.

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But there is a time to be serious, too. We need that time just as much as we need to laugh, and we took that time while we were away. Time to sit and talk about our heartbreaks and joys. Time to reflect on our lives—past decisions that forever closed one door and flung open another. Time to talk about dreams derailed and deferred, and dreams we keep working on. Time to tell secrets we only tell each other. Time to reflect on the profound loss we all experienced when our parents died together, but even more so on the legacy of love and joy they left all of us.  The legacy that continues to grow and strengthen as we continue to celebrate our sisterhood—and I’m not talking about our nun get-ups.

Our black and white—and gray—nun costumes. Gray like life. And gray is beautiful.

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Happy Halloween from Sister Gail Jean, Sister Kathleen Ann and Sister Suzanne Patrice.

 

SHE WHO LAUGHS

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SHE WHO LAUGHS

My stomach hurts.  It’s been hurting for three days now, but that’s not a bad thing.  It hurts because I laughed so hard with Gail on our road trip this week.

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I’ve shared this picture several times before, and it bears repeating once again.  Mom saved calendar pages, quotes, clippings and other small ditties that spoke to her in this box, with the drawing from one of her favorite artists, Mary Engelbreit.

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If this is true—which we wholeheartedly believe it to be so, then Gail, Suzanne and I should last a long, long time.

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Gail and I took a road trip last week.  Suzanne, while she enjoys—and often creates– raucous laughter just as much as we do, doesn’t enjoy live music as much as Gail and I do.  This time, it was a repeat for Gail, but a new experience for me. 

We took a look down this eastbound road,

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and right away we made our choice.  East to Columbia, Missouri to hear one of Gail’s favorite rock-n-rollers:  Bob Seger.

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He played in the Mizzou Arena to us, and approximately 14,998 other fans like us.  And by that, I mean I saw no one in the arena who appeared to be under 40 years of age.   

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29535.jpegGail saw him last May in Tulsa (Concert Quests and College Towns, May 5th), and when he added more dates to his farewell tour, she talked me into the 4 ½ hour trip  (almost 8 for her).  How do you say no to that?  Quite simply, you don’t.  While he was not technically on my Bucket List, how could I resist such an excursion with Gail?  Gail, who has enjoyed Bob’s music for years, Gail who makes any event—sometimes even funerals—an occasion to have a good time, Gail, my dear, one-of-a-kind big sister.

Of course, without hesitation, I said “yes.”

She took a look down her east-bound road early Thursday morning, and arrived in Abilene to pick me up when I finished up my day early. 

Because if you are Gail’s friend, then you are her friend for life, she had the occasion to renew an old friendship when she arrived at the Abilene Hospital.

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Gail and Katie were roommates in college in 1978, and hadn’t seen each other since 1983.  Katie has been a nurse here for 25 years, and I have had the pleasure of working with her for almost six years.  When we realized this was the perfect opportunity, Gail and Katie had a brief, but meaningful reunion.

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We arrived in Columbia with a little time to spare, so we made ourselves at home.

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We planned to walk the short distance to the arena from the hotel, but when a mini-van taxi had only two people in it as we stepped out, we asked if we could split the tab.  They hesitated a bit, but then agreed.  In the four minutes it took to get us to the show, the passengers and driver were laughing too, courtesy of Gail.  Walking the rest of the way through a parking lot, we saw this:

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I thought Gail was a diehard fan, but I think this fan has the edge over her.

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I’m pretty sure that the best wordsmith around couldn’t come up with words to describe the show, because there are none.  It was, perhaps, a life-changing experience—at least for the night.  Bob still rocks with all of his “Old Time Rock and Roll,” doesn’t miss a note on the piano or the guitar and played so many memories for us, and everyone else too, I’m sure. 

He introduced The Silver Bullet Band toward the end of the show, with each one taking a bow—most of them were well over forty as well, and had been with him for most of his career.  When his drummer stood up, his T-shirt caught my eye.  In July, I wrote about the classic car show that came to our small city (Travel Therapy, July 28th 2019).  His shirt was a souvenir tee from that show, the “Leadsled Spectacular,” with “Salina, Kansas” printed below that. 

It made me smile, and so did this, when I found it on the step as I approached my seat at the show:

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As the really good ones always are, the show was over too soon, and we made our way back to the inn.  It was later than my bedtime (which doesn’t take much), but we stayed up later than that, because it is impossible to sleep while one is laughing so hard.  We traded banter using Bob’s lyrics, twisting them into jokes, most of which could be understood only by us. 

We thought about going out and making it an even later night, but we decided that Betty Lou’s not  getting’ out tonight.  We weren’t up for a Shakedown, even though we could still feel The Fire Inside.  Call us losers, but deep inside, we were fulfilled from the show, and felt like Beautiful Losers. 

It was time for sleep, so we got some.

The morning came too soon, and we were forced to take a look down this westbound road.  We had no choice; duty was calling at home.

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About an hour into the trip, we couldn’t help but notice this license plate, jumping out at us on I-70 as we passed it:

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As you can imagine, we got a little excited, feeling sure there was a kindred spirit inside that Jeep.  Gail promptly rolled down the window and waved with three fingers, and she waved back. 

We kept pace with her for about half an hour, but the ebb and flow of traffic eventually separated us.  We had hoped for the slim chance at an opportunity to meet this woman who obviously was one of three sisters, but we let that hope go.  Apparently, it was not meant to be.

At our next pit stop, however, I came out and there she was, filling up with gas.

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Meet our new BFF Irma from Alton, Illinois, sister to Velda and Robin.  Not surprisingly, we had no qualms about introducing ourselves and sharing our story.  She already feels like an old friend. 

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Music can be a healing balm.  It certainly is for us.  We felt fulfilled, and I know we are both still a little high from the show.  The pounding rain on the last half of the trip home didn’t dampen our spirits, even though we had to drive Against the Wind, then say goodbye too soon.  I had to pay all my attention to the road as we passed through downtown Kansas City as it rained, so Gail fed me my Burger King lunch.   We thought we had laughed ourselves dry, but not so. 

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In three weeks, she will accompany me on a westbound road, making our fall trek to our Rocky Mountain High.  Suzanne is planning on joining us this time, and we are counting down the days. 

Just as with this trip, we will tell some, but not all. 

“Laughter is the best medicine.”  This idiom is so true, literally and figuratively.  I’m pretty sure one could never overdose on it. 

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Unless something begs to be written, I am taking a fall break from writing.  I will be back with another travel story if, and when, we return from Colorado.  Until then, keep laughing. 

We parted ways back in Abilene.  We got out and went to the back of the Outback to get Gail’s stuff out of the back of the Outback.  We backed up to the Outback, and snapped this parting shot after she emptied out the back of the Outback.

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There.  We made you laugh, didn’t we?  Keep it up. 

 

 

 

735 DAYS

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735 DAYS

“Everyone needs the help of another in some form.  We are all in this together.” –our nephew Nick

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When our brother David and his wife were expecting their first child, my husband had an idea for the baby’s name:  “If it’s a boy, you should name it Harley.  Then, it would be ‘Harley, David’s son.’”

It was a boy, but they didn’t name him Harley.  They named him Nicholas, after our paternal grandfather.  In time, just as our grandpa was, he became known as Nick. 

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To help them feel less isolated, I often remind my patients that everyone struggles with something.  Some people’s struggles are visible and obvious, as many of theirs are.  Some people struggle and suffer quietly, invisibly.  Some people’s struggles seem cruel and insurmountable, but with God’s grace and our hard work, we can come away with wisdom from those struggles we stared down and survived.

There is a unique kind of struggle that, while it is endured by many people worldwide, we never thought our nephew Nick would have to face it.  It was invisible for a long time to most people.  It was not obvious.  Now, however, he is one of the lucky ones who stared it down.  He is surviving, and thriving. 

Nick was not “the type.”  Nick was always mild-mannered, polite, gracious, pious, respectful and measured his responses—verbally and to life—carefully.  He was not “the type” to become an alcoholic.

But while he was in college, alcohol became his demon. 

He was not the partying type in college.  He was studious, worked hard to earn money throughout his college years, and was serious about pursuing his degree in meteorology.  He was always interested in the weather, perhaps his pilot father fostered that.  I remember him as a kid informing us of the weather conditions, how storms may be building, and wowing us with weather terminology. 

Somehow along the way, he found alcohol to be an escape from stress.  Then, it began to control his life.  Then, it was his life.  It then became a threat to life as he knew it, and possibly to life itself.   It was time for help, and he finally realized it.

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I wanted to tell his story in a mix of his Facebook posts that he has posted throughout his journey.  He tells his story and spares no details that, no matter how raw, may help someone else on their path to recovery.   I wanted our readers to know of his strength, so I began to cobble a few of them together.  I wanted you to get to know this amazing young man and how he faced his demons, because he simply wants to use his struggles to help others.

Then, he decided to create his own blog, and his words and message are the real deal—so much more cohesive than what I could have put together.   His maiden post was last week, on the second annual anniversary of his sobriety.  The years count, but before that, he counted months, weeks and days.  Perhaps for a while, even the hours. 

Something tells me he may still count the days, and he provided this number for me today:  735 days. 

As of this post date—September 29th, 2019, Nick has been sober for 735 days, and he wants anyone he may be able to help to know how he survived with his strong Catholic faith in God, his family, friends and finding himself again.  He wants to help anyone struggling who may benefit from his victory over his struggles.fb_img_1569794258567.jpg

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Wisdom generally comes with age.  Because as we age, we have more experiences that give us the opportunity to learn about life the hard way.  Nick is not old; he actually celebrates his 27th birthday this week.  If, however, wisdom is gained from those experiences that try one’s soul, then it is safe to say that Nick is a wise old young man.

Please click on the title in red at the end of this post, and the link to his blog will appear.  Providing your email at the end will alert you to future posts—you won’t want to miss his wisdom and inspiration that is yet to come in his words.  If you are reading this through Facebook, please consider reposting this blog.  It may reach even one person who needs to hear his words. 

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If you, or anyone you care about struggles with alcohol, there is help available.   There his hope.  If the struggles involve other demons besides alcohol, there is help available, too. Please reach out for yourself, or for your loved one.  There can be joy again, but the work must be done.

Just as Nick said, we’re all in this together, and everyone needs help in some form.

Please let Nick’s story be an inspiration for your journey, no matter what your struggles are. 

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Nick with Kota, one of the many friends that helped him through.

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September 24th is a special day for me. This year it is my two years straight without drinking any alcohol.  This journey that I have been on has been full of learning, victories, struggles, insight, friendships and growth in my relationship with God.  I am so very thankful that God has brought me to this place of freedom and joy.  The last five years were very challenging years for me.  My addiction to alcohol progressed very much in those first few years… (CLICK TO CONTINUE READING)

 

via My New Life — Step by Step

READING IS COOL

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READING IS COOL

“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.”—Dr. Seuss

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 “The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  –Dr. Seuss

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…The man who never reads lives only one.”  –George R.R. Martin

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Every time I buy an article of clothing, I feel at least a little twinge of guilt, if not more.  I have enough clothes to last me for the rest of my life, and then some.

I have enough books to last me for three more lifetimes.  Still, I keep buying more.  And I have yet to feel guilty when I purchase a book.  Not even a twinge. 

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“I always read.  You know how sharks have to keep swimming or they die?  I’m like that.  If I stop reading, I die.”  –Patrick Rothfuss

I have had a life-long love affair with books.  We didn’t buy a lot of new books as children, but we certainly borrowed them.

I have fond memories of going to the church basement after church on Sundays to check out a book from the church library.  Sometimes we had to wait a few minutes for the volunteer librarian to arrive after mass, but we were allowed to start browsing. 

We had our catechism classes in that same basement, and I remember looking longingly at the shelves of books during class, eagerly anticipating my next trip there. 

Our small school—first it was a Catholic grade school, then it became public when I was in the fourth grade—always had a library as well. 

There was a lending library through the mail as well.  We would get a small catalog from this library a few hours away in Great Bend, Kansas, and we would send our requests to them on a postcard, they would send the book in a package in the mail, and we would return it—postage paid—when we were done, or after two weeks, whichever came first. 

New books were a rare treat, but I remember getting the Scholastic book orders in grade school.  We were always allowed to buy one book, and sometimes the decision was excruciating.  I wanted them all. 

When the book orders arrived in the cardboard box, I remember the teacher would usually wait until the end of the day to hand them out; she knew we would be distracted otherwise.

I was a weird kid; I remember opening the book and burying my nose—I loved the smell.  I am a weird adult, because I still do that, and I still love the smell.  It takes me back. 

I remember reading Nancy Drew.  She was a rock-star super sleuth, and her adventures were enthralling.  The Hardy Boys were her counterparts in grade-school reading, but I let the boys read them.  I did read Encyclopedia Brown; I loved to put the clues together to solve the mysteries—some of them, anyway.

We were introduced to reading through. Little Golden Books.  There were many, but I remember Suzanne’s favorite:  Goodbye Tonsils.  There was a little girl who had her tonsils out, just as Suzanne did.  The doctor’s name was Dr. Constantinople.  I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can remember that.  Fat lot of good that kind of information does me now.

I think I mostly read fiction as a teenager, but I do remember some informational books as well.  I loved biographies, and I still do. 

I remember a bookcase we had at the top of our stairs in our farmhouse.  It was small, but it held most of the books we owned.  If I recall right, we put our books in it after we were done reading them in order to share with everyone else. 

I remember being possessive about several of my books. 

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It was a gift from a relative, and I read and re-read it, thumbing through to find my favorite jokes.  The jokes were corny, but fit me well as a pre-teen girl.  I wanted to make sure everyone else knew it was mine.  img_20190921_163510410.jpg

 

I only have several of my books from childhood; I think there was a time when book ownership waned in importance for me, so I let them go.   I do have several books that belonged to Mom and Dad, and I treasure those.  Mom loved to read, but I have more memories of Dad reading.  We may be a bit biased here, but Dad knew so much, likely because he read so much.

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“Of course, anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime.  A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.”  –David Quammen

Book ownership is very important to me now, and has been for many years.  Bookstores and book sales continue to be a happy place for me, but I have to be careful, because I can spend the whole day absorbed in the hunt.  Suzanne and I hit a garage sale yesterday that offered free books out of a small shed next to the garage,

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and then a rummage sale that I had to tear myself away from. 

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I prefer a real book to an electronic book.  A book is a multi-sensory experience: seeing it, feeling it and—for me—smelling it combine into a heady high for me.

I do have an e-reader, I acquired it quite accidentally about five years ago.  At the annual river festival in our small city, our local library used to sponsor a “get caught reading” contest.  If their staff member on patrol “caught” you reading during the festivities, your name was entered into a drawing for a Kindle.  I take books with me whenever I think I may have even a few moments to read.   I distinctly remember my husband teasing me in a good-natured manner, calling me a “nerd” and telling me how un-cool it was to read in such a place.  I was “caught” shortly after that comment.  Several days later, they called me to notify me that, out of 248 people who were entered, I was the winner. 

I promptly let my husband know just how cool it is to read—anywhere, anytime.

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Gail and Suzanne are readers, too.  Suzanne, ever the minimalist—and probably the wisest of all three of us—keeps her collection to a minimum, but borrows regularly from the library.

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She was a few minutes late meeting me for an outing several weeks ago.  I easily excused her, because the library had just called as she was leaving, and told her the book they ordered for her was in.  I understood the urgency of stopping at the library first.

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Gail and I like to display our books–can you guess who her favorite fiction author is?

Gail’s books are part of her decorating style in her home.  She wanted it made clear that the book on top of this stack was a bonus inside a box she bought at an auction.

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I keep stacks in my space as well.

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I even build shelves out of books.

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I keep a stack roughly this size next to my bed at all times, because, at any given time, I am reading about this many books.  I read primarily non-fiction, because it is my goal to keep my real life more interesting than fiction.  The exception is Stephen King.  I usually have one of his more mild books going at any given time. I was introduced to his magic by a patient, who recommended one of his books that involved her diagnosis, as well as a very realistic account of life in rehab therapy.    Stephen King himself had to endure many grueling and painful hours in physical therapy after being struck as a pedestrian in 1999, an accident that almost took his life. 

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Libraries have always brought me solace as well.  I should check out more books versus buying them, but owning a book is an unparalleled high for me. 

I recall my first few weeks into the year I spent in Philadelphia.  I was far away from home, alone and lonely.  There was a library close, and I knew I would find peace and temporary respite there.   I arrived and browsed a bit.  I found a few books and went to the desk to sign up for a library card.  Because I didn’t have in-state identification, I wasn’t allowed to borrow their books.

I went back to my car and cried. 

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“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”  —Lena Dunham

I have often thought that if there were a bonus hour added to each day that had to be filled only with something one enjoys, I would fill it with reading.  I like the idea of an entire day even better. If I ever find myself feeling guilty about spending time reading, I remember Stephen King’s admonition to aspiring writers.  In essence, he said that if one expects to be a good writer, then you must read at least as much as you write.  He likely knows what he is talking about.

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“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”  –J.K. Rowling

Those words from a famous author should not be dismissed.  If reading is not your thing, then perhaps you need to keep looking.  Reading is food for your brain, and just as you may not like some foods, some books may not be appealing to you, either.  Keep reading the menu, keep sampling different dishes.

Reading to children is advice that cannot be ignored.  If our parents had not read to us, had not made books important, our lives would not be as rich as they are.  A good book can make a good day better, and can make a bad day good.  They can be an escape when one needs to escape.  I have heard it said that we should not say “I am going to read a book,” rather, “I am going to ‘visit’ a book,” as if it is a real place.  It can be a very real and wonderful place in your mind.

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“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”  –Groucho Marx

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“Books can be dangerous.  The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life.’”  –Helen Exley

There have been a few books that have made a profound difference in my life, and I am so glad they did.    I hope you have found at least one book that has changed your life for the better.  If you haven’t, then keep reading.  And if you have, keep reading.

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 “She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain.”  –Louisa May Alcott