THE BEAUTY OF JUNE

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THE BEAUTY OF JUNE

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”                L.M. Montgomery

Second only to July in my book, June is one of the most splendid months of the year.

My mind and heart hearken back to my childhood, where June meant the beginning of the three carefree months of no school, hot weather, picking cherries, swimming lessons, Father’s Day and the beginning of wheat harvest. The cherry-picking and swimming lessons weren’t always good memories then, but they are now. I love to swim, and I am so glad our parents took the time and effort to make sure we knew how. I was scared of the water when I first started, but not anymore.

I hated to pick cherries then, but I love it now. I remember Mom waking us up early to beat the heat with our cherry-picking. We climbed our two cherry trees with a small bucket, and didn’t get down until it was full. This was followed by an afternoon of pitting cherries at the kitchen sink. It was torture then; I love it now. My husband planted a cherry tree for me in our backyard several years ago, but the frost got the blooms this spring, so there will be no cherries this year.   I did just find a bag in the freezer from last year, so that will still make a good pie.

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LAST YEAR’S CHERRY HARVEST

Today, June 21st, 2020, is Father’s Day. My family gathered at our in-laws to celebrate the fathers in the family. Good food, drink and company were enjoyed by all, as we always do when we gather there. Father’s Day has become a sweet-bitter observation, instead of the mostly bitter day that I felt for the first handful of years after our dad was gone.

To anyone who has recently lost their father, who feels only the bitter, my heart breaks for you. But, I want to let you know that time heals, and in the coming years, Father’s Day will be sweet-bitter for you, too.

I promise.

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LAST YEAR’S WHEAT HARVEST

I remember celebrating most Father’s Days of my youth in the harvest fields. Dad and my brothers would be hard at work cutting and hauling wheat. This year, harvest has not yet started on our farm, nor is there much harvesting happening where I live, 80 miles south of there. The wheat harvest begins first in the south and moves north as the climate dictates.

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30 miles south of my home, a farmer is moving his combine to the field to cut. Note the red machine, vs. the green. My International-Harvester farm-girl heart will always favor the red ones.   I don’t mind getting stuck behind slow-moving farm machinery, because they feed me, too.

Today, however, the climate here is one of unrest, as we wait for severe thunderstorms to roll in, further delaying the onset of harvest.

Aside from the fly in the ointment that storms cause for harvest-hungry farmers, these storms are another thing I like about June.

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Garage sales and lemonade stands are another sure sign of summer.

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Last night was the summer solstice. The annual “longest day of the year.” The sun shone longer in the sky than any other day, and I always observe this peak day. The days will slowly, almost imperceptibly become shorter day by day until the winter solstice occurs on December 21st. I crave sunlight, and welcome each lengthening day until the summer solstice, and now, knowing that the days will get shorter, I will again welcome the longer days starting in December.

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We were at our brother’s house near our family farm for the last year’s winter solstice. Here, the sun is setting on the shortest day of the year.

July will arrive in nine days. So will our annual guests. I will eagerly welcome both, and we will celebrate the first week of July together.

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July, with it’s honor of being the hottest month of the year in Kansas, as well as a week with some of my favorite friends, Independence Day—my second favorite holiday, and perhaps a family vacation, is my favorite month of the year. My three favorite things about Kansas are July, June and August—in that order.

Because I was born in mid-April, I came into being in July. Perhaps this is why I love July so much. Independence Day, with its fireworks, food, family and freedom, should be savored year-round, keeping its spirit alive in our hearts all year, just as we should with Christmas.

Independence–to me, means letting go of those things that hold us back and limit our happiness. With or without fireworks, it means freedom. None of us who enjoy this liberty should ever take it for granted.

As I anticipate another Fourth of July, I am delighting in decorating my home in a patriotic theme. I started on Flag Day—another great thing about June that occurs on the 14th. Today—Father’s Day, I am holding the memory of our dad close to my heart. I am also celebrating the father who made me a mother, and doing all I can to savor the beauty in every day, no matter how many minutes of sunshine it offers me.

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Our dad enjoying a lunch break in the harvest field.

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Last night’s fiery sunset was a fitting exit for our brightest star, shining longer than any other day of the year.

Happy summer solstice, happy summer, happy Father’s Day, and Happy June to you.

It’s a beauty of a month.

RED LEATHER COWBOY BOOTS

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RED LEATHER COWBOY BOOTS

Some crazy things come over certain women after fifty. Certain women like me. I was fifty when I got my first tattoo. I have adventurous ideas to bring to life and more inhibitions I plan to shed during my next fifty trips around the sun, so stay tuned.

Last fall, I made a pact with my childhood friend Shari that we would both buy ourselves cowboy boots for our next birthdays. She, too, plans to step out of some longstanding self-imposed boundaries, so the cowboy boots idea felt good for both of us.   We decided there’s no better way to step out of those boundaries than in cowboy boots.  Or perhaps we should call them cowgirl boots.

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I met Kate earlier this year. She was warm and friendly, and her quiet but strong spirit cast an aura that graced all of us in her presence. I noticed that even before I noticed her red leather cowboy boots.

Much like the moment when I knew my husband would be the one, I knew when I saw her boots that I would buy red leather cowboy boots to fulfill the dream, as well as the pact with my friend. Still, it seemed brazen and a bit too daring for a woman like me, a woman who may appear conservative and reserved on the surface, but I’ve gathered that what lies beneath surprises new friends—in a good way.

The doubts began to surface. Kate was obviously younger than me; perhaps I was too old for such a statement. She rocked those boots, but could I pull it off without looking like a fool? The doubts continued to nag, and I continued to try to shush them.

The more I tried to quiet the little voice that told me to pursue the boots, the louder it got. I made up my mind, and I wanted to let Kate know how she inspired me. We were now Facebook friends, so on Friday, April 3rd, I sent her a private message, confessing that I had coveted her boots since I saw her in them, and I wanted a pair like them. In short, I wanted to be like her when I grew up. She kindly replied, and wished me well on my quest.

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The next morning, April 4th, I was reading my daily book, the one I gave to my mom—she loved it, the one I got back when she died, and now the one she speaks to me through when I read it (almost) every day. So many times, the words on those pages for that particular day are exactly what I need to hear, and I realize she is still advising me almost every day if I just listen.   On April 4th, however, I realized I hadn’t yet read April 3rd—the day I sent Kate the message on Facebook. The topic of the day on April 3rd was finding out what your secret life would look like if you took the small steps you could take to get there.   I went back to read it, and near the bottom of that day’s page, in the words of the author’s quest, this is what it said: “Maybe it’s as simple as realizing that I’d really love to wear beautiful red leather cowboy boots.”

I had to re-read that. And read it again. Then one more time. That sealed the deal. I would indeed buy red leather cowboy boots. Mom told me to through the book, and Kate had inspired me.

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Later that week, I looked ahead on Facebook to see who else was having a birthday soon. I already knew a few friends who were my birthday buddies, and a few celebrating shortly before or after. There, however, on my birthday, was a new friend, someone I had met earlier this year.

I had to read it again: It was Kate.

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Shopping for these boots would have to wait. I didn’t want to go out shopping for non-essential items in the early days of the pandemic, and, I wanted to wait for my friend Shari so we could shop together.  I certainly couldn’t buy them online. My feet—the delicate creatures they are– needed to try them on in person to ensure a good fit for such an investment.

That day was last Friday when Shari came to town for her birthday. I wrote about our celebration and hiking trip in last week’s post, but I didn’t write about our boot-shopping trip.

I was working down the Interstate in Abilene that day, which was on her way to my home. My work schedule was set almost perfectly to meet her as she arrived. We lingered in Abilene for a while, and hit the western store on the way out. There was a multitude of boots on the shelf in my size, but I didn’t see any red ones.

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Shari browsed, and I continued to peruse the selection, thinking perhaps if I looked hard enough, a red pair would appear on the shelf.

They didn’t. However, as Shari was seated trying a pair on, she spotted a red pair on display on an endcap close by.

“How about these?” she asked. I hadn’t noticed them. I am usually the one with the shopping eye, so she was quite proud of herself for seeing them before I did.

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There was a pair on top of the box, and a pair inside the box. They were the only two pair there. They were beautiful. And perfect. And red. And one pair was my size.

It was as if sunbeams from the heavens shone down upon my feet in those boots, and, just like when I finally got my haircut a few weeks ago, the angels sang from on high.

They fit. They felt good. They were red and beautiful. They were expensive.

Shari didn’t find the perfect pair, so I hesitated to purchase mine without her, even though she encouraged me to if I wanted to. We went on to my house and enjoyed Shari’s birthday dinner with my family, as well as Gail, Lydia and Suzanne. The company was great, the food was good and the laughter was good medicine.

Still, the thought of the boots lurked in the back of my mind.

I found them online, and, of course, they were cheaper. But, I resolved, if I was going to buy them, it was going to be in my beloved Abilene.   Abilene, Kansas, rich with Cowtown history as an important stop on the historic Chisholm trail. Abilene, Kansas, the small town I have loved ever since I went there to see the Eisenhower Museum when I was ten years old. Abilene, Kansas, where I now work nearly every day, and my heart still skips a beat when I drive into town. Abilene, Kansas, where the school mascots are the Cowboys and Cowgirls. Abilene Kansas, home of Rittel’s Western Wear, a family-owned business that deserved my business, especially in this time of widespread economic turmoil.

I have a long way to go in turning around my shopping patterns to more strongly support the Mom-n-Pop businesses, but if I bought them there, this was a step in the right direction—in a pair of kick-ass boots, of course.

It was Friday. I had some time to consider this investment before I went back to Abilene on Monday. Both Suzanne and Shari knew, I think, that I would indeed return to the store to buy them. Gail, not fully being in tune to the cowboy boot thing, thought they were cool, but I don’t think she had the prescience Suzanne and Shari did.

They were right. I couldn’t stop thinking about them, and I couldn’t wait to get back there on Monday.

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The owner, Jacque, was there, and so was Courtney, her able assistant. Both of these women were in the store on Friday when Shari and I were there, and they both remembered us. They couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly, which, of course, sealed the deal.

I am now the proud owner of Red Leather Cowboy (Cowgirl) Boots.  I will do whatever I can to help Shari find her perfect pair, because she helped me find mine.

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Without any influence from me—or Shari, Suzanne bought her own pair of cowgirl boots several weeks ago. I didn’t know she, too, had been thinking about making the investment for some time. For her, the style was perfect, the price was right, and she had a gift card to this store. For her, this was the jackpot trifecta that convinced her to buy the boots. Perhaps most importantly for her feet, they were comfortable.

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Now, we need to work on Gail to buy herself a pair of cowgirl boots as well. She can’t be one of us when we wear ours if she doesn’t have her own pair.

I neglected to recall a major part of Gail’s personal history  that is relevant to this blog.  I completely forgot about the cowgirl chapter in her life, but she reminded me after I left it out of the first draft of this blog I sent her.

Thirty years ago as I was wrapping up my year in Philadelphia, Suzanne called me and expressed her concern about Gail.

Something has really come over Gail.  She’s getting into this new country music that’s coming out; she’s really going crazy over it.  There’s this one singer that she thinks is so cool.  HIs name is Garth Brooks.”

Gail did confirm that she had indeed gone country for a spell.  In effect, she was country when country was just becoming cool.  She had the cowgirl boots then, as well as the western shirts, and probably the belt buckle and the hat.  She no longer has any of them.  She does still listen to country music.

It shouldn’t  take much for Suzanne and me to get her outfitted in a pair of boots again.

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When we were kids, we bought all our shoes in nearby Downs at Stigge’s. They were the local purveyors of clothes and shoes, and if you are a native of our hometown or the area, please give us an Amen in the comments if you shopped there, too. At some point while I was in high school, Stigge’s moved across the street into a new building, and aptly renamed themselves Stigge Villa. They sold shoes on one side, and housed a locally famous bridal store on the other side. Another family-owned business—True’s, moved into their old building and continued to support the fashion trends for the area. As far as we all knew in those pre-internet days, we were all stylin’ in north-central Kansas with our clothes and shoes purchased in Downs, Kansas.

There was always something magical about new shoes.  I remember the thrill as a child, and it is still there every time I get a new pair as an adult.

I also recall that in our childhood, both Gail and I had to wear “corrective shoes” that were sold at Stigge’s. I remember Leo, the proprietor and corrective-shoe expert fitting us for these beauties. If I’m not mistaken, the politically correct term now is “orthopedic shoes.”   Our dad escaped the draft due to his flat feet, and without them, we may not be here, so if we did indeed inherit our imperfect feet from Dad, then we shouldn’t complain. I do remember the shoes were rigid and less than fashionable. Apparently, I’ve blocked out any further memories of them, because that’s all I can recall.

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Gail was able to save one of her corrective shoes from years ago.  It is proudly on display in her private room in her home, “Camp Gail.”

Unlike my current shoe collection, I do recall that I likely only had one pair of these corrective shoes, because they were expensive, we weren’t rich, and my feet were still growing.

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So what is it about shoes? Why does a woman like me—and many others too, apparently, delight in owning a ridiculous number of shoes? Because I am a trivia nerd, and I like to know how the mind works, I dug into some online research. I am reporting what sounds like a good answer:

Unlike other pieces of clothing, shoes are sculpted. When we are not wearing them, they remain in the same shape, as if they are a sculpted work of art. Our other body coverings lose their shape if we are not inside of them. Therefore, shoes seem to have their own personality apart from other clothes, and if their personality aligns with out tastes, then we like to wear them.

Shoes, again unlike other pieces of clothing, affect our stance, our posture; the curve of our bodies. They can make us stand up straighter and command more attention.   They often make their own unique sounds in action, which can give us a feeling of power when we walk in them.

In short, they have the power to make us feel powerful.

Shoes, of course, are necessities. We need them to protect and cradle our precious feet. We couldn’t remain ambulatory without them for long, unless it’s summer on the farm and one’s feet are tough as shoe leather, as all of us eventually trained ours to be every summer by going barefoot outside as much as we could.

Deeper than all of this, though, is the fact that shoes connect us to the earth. We are grounded through our shoes. We make contact with the ground, the floor, the sidewalk or the street, and we are one with the earth.

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It’s 96 degrees here right now, and I don’t know how soon I will wear my new cowgirl boots for their inaugural trip out. I won’t wear them often; I’m not a cowgirl at heart, but that doesn’t matter. They are now a part of me, and when I wear them, I will feel a special connection to the earth, and to that adventurous woman inside of me I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Plus, they are red shoes, and I am a Kansas girl. I have several other pair of red shoes—shocker, I know—and I always tell people when they comment that every Kansas girl needs red shoes. Perhaps I will expand that notion and reply to any comments regarding my new boots that (almost) every Kansas girl needs red cowgirl boots.

Thanks to Kate for her inspiration and to the author Sarah, for Mom’s message through her book.

I hope you can find a way to take the steps toward the secret life you desire for yourself, with or without red leather cowboy boots.

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Giddy-up.

 

Ban Breathnach, S. (1995).  Simple Abundance, New York:  Warner Books.

SIMPLE CELEBRATIONS

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SIMPLE CELEBRATIONS

It’s party time. If a party can be defined by a group of people celebrating an event or occasion, then yes, it is indeed time once again to party.

And by party, I recommend staying within the recommended guidelines that we are all aware of.

I had a little party at my home this weekend. A dear friend since childhood was celebrating her birthday, and I had the privilege of helping her do just that. Shari was traveling through on her way to see her parents in our hometown, so she spent Friday afternoon and evening with us. We even continued the celebration yesterday morning. I will expand on that later.

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Birthdays are obvious times to celebrate. Marking another successful trip around the sun should always be a festive occasion. It was for her, and the rest of us as well. Our neighbor was celebrating his birthday as well, so our group of eight serenaded him in his yard with a birthday carol at his front door.

Gail and her 20-year old daughter Lydia were here, too. Lydia had her every-four-month checkup with her endocrinologist in Salina, and she got continued good news regarding the battle she continues to wage–and win–against Type One diabetes. That’s cause for celebration.

Suzanne came out to spend the evening with us as well. If you recall, Suzanne’s encouragement to Lydia when she began her diabetes treatment was this: “Only the coolest girls get to see an endocrinologist.” Another occasion to celebrate is that Suzanne’s recent visit to her endocrinologist in Wichita brought good news as well: almost eight years after her thyroid cancer diagnosis, she remains healthy.

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Living in our strange new COVID world, finding reasons to celebrate any cause large or small is a way to keep looking at the sunny side. Despite all the bad news we are continually hammered with, there is still good news out there. Here’s an example: an elderly, extended family member of ours was dismissed from the hospital back to his home after his battle with COVID. That’s good news, even though the diagnosis was bad news we all naively thought would never strike our family. And, as more bonus good news, other family members who helped take care of him before they knew the diagnosis have tested negative.

And here’s further reason to celebrate with good news about my health: the tick that hitched a ride on my ankle yesterday morning was easily and completely removed. My husband, armed with the tweezers, plucked him out while Gail talked me down from the ledge the tick put me on.

It’s our choice. All day, every day. We can choose to celebrate the positive or magnify the negative. It’s always our choice.

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Mother Nature continues to offer us unlimited reasons to celebrate the beauty in every day. She has carpeted the earth in a lush green with the recent rains, and vibrant green leaves adorn the trees and bushes. Flowers are blooming, and summer is almost here.

Given this generous gift from her, my friend Shari and I decided to accept Mother Nature’s gift, and hike the trails at nearby Wilson Lake. Hiking is something we both enjoy, something we plan to do more of.

Suzanne went home Friday night, and Gail and Lydia stayed overnight with us. As a bonus, a friend of Gail’s since childhood came out for coffee Saturday morning. We all visited for a bit, then Shari and I took off for our hike.

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It was a beautiful day, and the state park area around the lake was re-opened, with many other people enjoying the outdoor space as well.

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The trails were lush in places,

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Rocky and barren in others,

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But always beautiful.

We were hungry hikers at the end of the trail, so we savored the made-from-scratch German lunch at a local restaurant aptly named Made From Scratch. I hadn’t sat down for a meal in a restaurant since March 15th, so this was a celebration of sorts for me as well.

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Celebrate. Whatever occasion, reason, victory or birthday, and within sanctioned limits in these COVID times, find a way to find the good, and share it in a small group now, and hopefully a larger one later.  We all need each other, and we all need to celebrate.  I think most of us have realized that in these last few isolated months.

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MAKING PEACE WITH OUR HAIR

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MAKING PEACE WITH OUR HAIR

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020 is going to be a red-letter day for me.

The stars and planets will align, the seas will part, and the angels will sing—just for me.

At 4:00 p.m. that day, I will get a haircut.

Glory hallelujah.

I get my hair cut every 3-3 ½ weeks. A day or two past that, and all bets are off. Quite simply, it just doesn’t work any other way, and I’m better off not leaving the house.

My last haircut was March 25th. On Thursday, when I get back in the chair, it will be almost two months since my last cut. And, if this is the worst thing that has happened to me in that time, then I consider myself extremely fortunate, because I am.

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Gail and Suzanne are in the same boat, just like everyone else. Suzanne, in her usual style, is planning to experiment with her hair length and style, and she is not disclosing any further details at this time. She does, however, color her own hair; she has for years. She claims she has gray to cover, but I’ve never seen it.

Gail is going with the flow, and is in no hurry to get back to her stylist. And Gail, in contrast to her two younger sisters, has no gray hair. Not even one. I looked recently. And, she doesn’t color her hair. It is the same brown it has been for years.

Now, if you know Gail, you know she lets things slide off her back, choosing not to perceive much of anything as stress, things that would be stressors for lesser people—like me. Which explains why she has no gray, and I do. But not much, so I am not going to complain. I have dabbled in self-coloring, but right now, it is the real deal, with the last vestiges of color having grown out long ago.

Our mother, at 71, had very little gray hair for a woman her age. I am nearly a physical clone of my mother, so I must have inherited that from her.  I’ll take it.

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I can’t find it at the moment, but I promise you that when I do, I will post my fourth-grade picture with a stylish do that is similar to the one I have been forced to wear lately. In that picture, my bangs are pulled over from left to right with a barrette into a crisp, nearly right-angle, much like the effect the necessary hairpin is causing in my hair in this picture, taken earlier today. I even tried to duplicate the cheesy grin in the picture.

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In my last post, GROW, I wrote about plant growth. Hair growth, as another of nature’s wonders, may not be as beautiful. Thankfully, we have talented professionals who make hair cutting and styling an art form. Sharolyn, my beautician extraordinaire, is one of them. And, once every July when she visits, my dear friend Amy works her magic on my hair. I don’t know what I would do without these two wizards. When the thought of NOT getting a haircut for several months became a likely reality with the shutdown, I will confess, that for one or two fleeting moments, I was sure I would have to take matters—and a pair of scissors—into my own hands. So far, I have resisted that urge.

Suzanne and I were recalling the morning years ago when our little brother woke up with his bangs askew after going to bed with them wet.   We laughed at him, but he didn’t think it was funny. He was probably four years old, and he did take matters—and scissors—into his own hands. He left the room quietly, and came back a few minutes later without bangs. That recollection has kept me from cutting my own hair in these last few weeks.

I think I can hang on until Wednesday.

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I have written about one of Mom’s favorite books several times. Simple Abundance is a daybook, with a page of wisdom for every day of the year. Some days are more meaningful than others. Some are profound, and some haven’t stirred much thought after I read them. My birthday page—April 17th—was one such easily dismissed page. Until this year, that is. Making Peace With Your Hair didn’t speak to me until several weeks ago, when I was supposed to have my hair cut the day before.

Clearly, this entry has heightened meaning for me. I will never again take the services of my beautician for granted. Again, this inconvenience is small potatoes compared to the health and economic crises many people are facing in these crazy times, so I will let it be.

I’ll keep the peace with my hair no matter how it looks, and I will continue to pray, hope and wish for peace in these crazy times.

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Ban Breathnach, S.  (1995). Simple Abundance. New York: Warner Books

 

 

 

 

 

GROW.

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GROW.

Ah, spring. Nature is fresh and new again, with lush green carpet covering the earth, and beautiful green hanging from the trees, bushes, shrubs and plants. Without fail, this promise is renewed every year. Winter backs down, making way for the return of spring. It may seem during the depths of winter that warmer weather will never come back again, bringing its green with it, but it always does. Always.

Gail has been busy with her outdoor gardening. The words Gail and busy naturally flow in the same sentence, so this should not surprise you. She sent me a teaser of what her yard and garden have in store:

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Suzanne, alas, had nothing to offer me. Her sole effort at growing anything is an indoor plant with just one leaf, and she declined to send a picture. And that’s okay.

I will confess that I am not an outdoor gardener. I am fortunate to have a husband who delights in gardening, so I let him do all the work. I simply sit back, and wait to enjoy the fruits of his labor. I know how lucky I am.

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I am, however, an indoor gardener. I have an abundance of green plants indoors, with this “ZZ” plant as my favorite. Its genus name is “Zamioculcas,” and it is also known as the “Zanzibar gem.” I like that name best.

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I found another smaller ZZ plant about a year ago to add to my collection. I repotted it, and set it next to the big one.  When Gail visited, I gave her a starter from the larger plant.  It is growing slowly, but surely–just like mine is.

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We recently remodeled one room; rearranging décor and another plant as well. I wanted to give the small ZZ plant its own stage; it seemed overshadowed by the larger one. This relocation drew my attention to the new growth on the smaller plant. I hadn’t noticed the new bud until now. Something told me to pay close attention to it. Something told me to take a picture.

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The next day, I noticed the slight, but measurable growth. So, I took another picture.

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And another one the next day. And, of course, the next day, and the next day…

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When I took the time to look and really see, the growth became a small miracle, unfolding every day right in front of my eyes.

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Many of my speech therapy patients are several months into their recovery from a stroke, or head injury, or perhaps treatment for brain cancer or other neurological disease. When they become discouraged, expressing that they feel like they haven’t made any progress, I remind them of where they started. When they take a moment to go back to recall those more difficult days at the beginning, they quickly realize they have indeed made progress, and this often buoys their determination to continue to fight to make more gains, to continue to grow.

The promise of spring is this: nature will renew itself every year, no matter what our personal, societal or universal struggles are. The current global pandemic couldn’t stop spring, nor could it stop the bud on my ZZ plant from opening up into glorious, glossy green leaves.

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If we are aware of it, there are so many ways to see growth in nature, both indoors and out.   And, if we pay close attention to the efforts we have made to grow as individuals, we can see our own progress. It may seem as slow and invisible as the bud on my plant, but it’s there. It may seem non-existent like it does for some of my patients, but if you look back to see where you started, you will likely not want to go back to the earlier, more difficult days.

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For myself, I am grateful to remain healthy. I hope all of you are, too. Most of us, however, may feel a sense of uncertainty about the future, and with good reason. I think we all know that the old normal is gone, and we don’t yet know what the new normal will look or feel like.

I have learned from the crises in my life that even though we have no choice but to face them, and also that the old normal is gone, there may be a grand opportunity for personal growth awaiting, but is disguised at the present moment as a crisis.

I was reminded by a Facebook post that, according to a popular psychological theory, that we must first meet our basic physical, mental and emotional needs before we can expect this growth.

This helped me understand that while I do have extra time right now due to decreased work, it has been difficult for me to focus on reaching some lofty writing goals I set forth a long time ago, goals that involve transcending this low-grade, but ever-present uncertainty and anxiety about what the future holds.

So, I cut myself some slack. This doesn’t mean I won’t work toward these goals; it means I realize that before I can grow, I need to feel a sense of personal security that has escaped so many of us right now. It means I realize that, much like the cold winter, this too shall pass, opening up opportunities for new growth in my mind—a mental springtime, so to speak.

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Much like my ZZ plant, I feel a bit trapped in the bud right now. I know, however, there are grand ideas swirling below the surface, and when the new normal asserts itself, and I have had time to acclimate to it, I, too, may just begin to bloom.

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I put the ZZ plant in this beautiful pot when I repotted it. I realize, however, that it may soon outgrow it. And, I may have to break this beautiful pot in order to get it out. It will likely become rootbound, needing more space to grow.

Perhaps, with careful observation, many of us may realize we too, are rootbound. Perhaps the old normal, the old soil and pot we were planted in is too small for us, cramping our growth potential. With a little luck and probably a lot of work, we can find the springtime within, and grow into a new and wondrous living thing.

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HAPPY SOCIAL DISTANCE BIRTHDAY

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HAPPY SOCIAL DISTANCE BIRTHDAY

I had a great birthday last week, despite the social isolation imposed upon all of us at this time. I worked a few hours, picked up take-out food, and came home to a quiet evening with my family. Binge-watching our favorite Netflix series was followed by a great movie. It was a nice, peaceful evening.  I even had a Zoom happy birthday hour with two dear friends.

Fifty-four is going to be a great year.

***********

Easter typically falls near my birthday, and Gail, Suzanne and I, along with the rest of our family, typically observe my birthday when we all get together for Easter.

This year was not typical. There was no family get-together, so there was no celebration of my birthday with them this year.

For Gail and Suzanne, however, missing the observation of my birthday was not an option. So, as the rest of the world has turned to online business and social interactions out of necessity, they created a virtual celebration on Facebook. They dug deep in their stacks of family pictures and pictures on their phones from our sister trips, and came up with some treasures.  They carefully selected them, cropped them, enhanced some of them, and then they captioned them. It was the next best thing to all of us being together.

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If all this is not evidence of true sisterly love, then I don’t know what is.

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The best gift I usually get for my birthday is from Mother Nature.  Nearly every year, she makes everything green again, just in time for my birthday.  This year, she didn’t disappoint.  However, she wrapped it up in white for me this year, and I didn’t like that so much.  The white was gone by late morning, and the beautiful green was back.

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I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: age is a gift. If you are healthy and able, there is no reason to complain about age. Age allows us to build insight and wisdom from all our previous experiences. I said this in Gail’s birthday post, and it bears repeating: we get to keep all our previous ages, sifting out what is good about each of them, and letting the rest go. It is our choice. We get to pick and choose what we want to keep, and move forward with it to make the next years even better.

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Whenever your next birthday is, happy birthday to you. I hope your celebration is everything you want it to be–up close, or from a distance.

 

 

 

 

GHOSTS OF EASTERS PAST

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GHOSTS OF EASTERS PAST

Let’s start with the one Suzanne is dying to tell you about me: when I was sixteen, I sat down after Easter Sunday mass with my Easter basket and proceeded to eat all of my Easter candy. Yes, all of it. It was probably 10:30 or so, and right there, in front of her and probably several of our brothers, before lunch, I ate it all.

She tried to stop me. She stared, incredulous, as likely did anyone else who was watching, and tried to talk me out of it.

“You’ll get an awful stomach ache,” she said.

“I know I will. I’m going to eat it all anyway,” I said. “And don’t try to stop me.”

“Don’t do it,” she said. “You’ll regret it.”

I did do it, and I did regret it. My only excuse/explanation was that I was a teenage hormonal and premenstrual mess, so chocolate—a hollow bunny, chocolate eggs, malted milk eggs and likely Peeps—was the only elixir I thought might make me feel better at that moment.

For just a moment, it did make me feel better. But not for long.

The memory of that morning lasted much longer than the gut ache, obviously the memory is alive and well in Suzanne’s memory.   She loves to remind me of that story, so I won’t likely ever forget it, either.

***********

Speaking of Easter gut aches, I’ve got another story, and this one was out of my control.

When my firstborn was almost two– 21 Easters ago—we went to the farm for Easter–Mom and Dad still lived there. Suzanne and I decided to travel to nearby Hays on Saturday before Easter. I felt a twinge of something in my gut early in the afternoon, but I dismissed it. As the afternoon wore on, I couldn’t ignore it: I was getting the stomach flu.

I remember sitting in the car outside Wal-Mart as Suzanne went in; I knew I’d better not try to make it work. I think we came home after that, cutting the trip short. As the stomach flu does, it progressed slowly throughout the day, until the inevitable was unavoidable. You know how it ended.

The only thing I remember eating that entire weekend was one bite of something mild like mashed potatoes. Certainly, no candy.

I missed Easter Sunday dinner, made it through the afternoon and made the 80-mile trip home. My stepson was with us that weekend; he was fifteen. He had Monday off, so we were to meet his mother Monday evening, two hours away in our usual spot.

Come Monday, I felt a bit better as the day progressed, and my husband began to feel like he was getting the flu. Around five in the afternoon, when it was time to take my stepson back, I decided I felt good enough to make the four-hour round- trip drive, because my husband continued to feel worse. To give him a break, I took our son along, who was almost two.

About fifteen minutes into the drive, I wished I hadn’t volunteered. I’m going to be okay, I thought.  I have to be, I have these two boys to take care of.

I wasn’t alright. The flu came back with a vengeance, again building slowly. My stepson was too young to drive, but I seriously considered putting him behind the wheel anyway. (I didn’t.)

I made it two hours down the highway, dropped him off, and knew I couldn’t stay on the road. I rented a room at The Pheasant Inn, went in with my son, and curled up on the lone bed. He thought it was cool to be in a new place, he jumped on the bed and entertained himself for a while. I couldn’t do anything but lay there. After a while, he seemed confused, and didn’t think it was so cool anymore. I tried to entertain him with cartoons on TV with limited success.

It took about two hours, but finally the waves in my stomach rolled into a productive end. Again, you know what I’m saying.

I packed us both up and made the two-hour drive home, pulling in the garage about 11:00. I was sick off and on all week.

***********

I observed my 21st birthday on Good Friday. I would say I celebrated, but there wasn’t much celebrating on Good Friday. Adding to that, I seemed to be the main character in the movie Sixteen Candles, as many people forgot it was my birthday. I drove home after college classes in nearby Hays that afternoon, stopping in Osborne to see Gail. She was at work capably managing the Pizza Hut as she always did. I chatted with her for a bit, then she let me know she was pretty busy, and needed to get back to work. So, she did, and I left—without any birthday greetings. Suzanne was sixteen, and likely didn’t care that it was my birthday.

I had talked to a friend earlier in the week who would be home from college, and we decided we would meet for a legal beer on my birthday. I called her when I got home, but she decided she was too tired, and didn’t feel like going out. Again, no birthday greetings.

I ended up going out to the small watering hole in our hometown, meeting another friend, and being serenaded by her, and a group of  guys we knew, with with their heartfelt rendition of Happy Birthday.

I remember the beer tasting really good.

***********

I spent Easter 1990 in Philadelphia as part of my one-year nanny commitment. The family I worked for was Jewish, so there were no Easter celebrations. I did learn about Judaism, and I got to participate in their Passover Seder supper. I remember Easter Sunday was a beautiful day, and I met my nanny friend Amy for lunch and a long walk. Her host family was Jewish too, so we were on our own.

Most importantly, Suzanne sent me a stuffed Easter bunny with a note that read “Now you won’t have to spend Easter alone.”

Despite (apparently) forgetting my 16th birthday too, she was thoughtful then, too.

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Before Suzanne moved to my small city, she was our Easter hostess for many years. I told this story in Happy Birthday Suzanne—Be Careful What You Wish For (August 13th, 2017), but it bears repeating, especially in these times of toilet paper madness. She has no recollection of these words coming out of her mouth, but I was right there, I heard them, and I tucked them away to get them out in preparation for her next birthday in August.

Most of our siblings were there with their respective families, so our crowd likely numbered over twenty-five people. She was replacing another empty toilet tissue roll in one of her two bathrooms, and she spoke these exact words: “For my birthday, I wish everyone would get me toilet paper.”

A million-watt light bulb lit up in my head. “We can and we will do that,” I thought. I told Gail what she had just said, and we hatched our plan right there.

Four months later in August, Suzanne’s wish came true. Gail, who had lived in her town for years, and still knew most of the people there, organized a gift drive via e-mail, instructing everyone she knew to shower Suzanne with toilet paper for her upcoming birthday. It was delivered to her workplace at the small-town bank she worked in, it showed up on her step, it was delivered in person to her home and even came through the U.S. mail. Over three hundred rolls later, Suzanne’s birthday was one she would never forget. All because of that comment she made on Easter Sunday that she still doesn’t remember.

She told me last week she wants toilet paper again for her birthday this year. That wish might be a little harder to fulfill this year.

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I just finished Easter Sunday lunch with my family. There were four of us. It was a nice gathering, but not the large, extended family dinner I am used to on Easter Sunday, with most of my siblings and their families. We had plans to spend it on the farm, hosted by our brother and his family. Like the rest of the world, our Easter plans changed. We will gather and celebrate at a later date. I am grateful to have a warm home in the wintry, un-Easter-like weather, and plenty of food to enjoy with my immediate family. I know I am fortunate.

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Easter promises hope every year, and especially this year, the promise cannot be overlooked. There will be better days ahead. Hope sustains us in times like these, even if we have never before experienced times like these.

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Suzanne’s daughter and my firstborn hunting Easter eggs.  Note my mom pants in the background.  That’s ghostly.  

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Suzanne hunting Easter eggs in our grandpa’s yard, likely 1973.

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Suzanne sent me these memories while looking through pictures yesterday. In this last one, I don’t look very hopeful that this drastic change in my life will ever be a good thing. Even if I gave up hope then, this change in my life in the form of a new baby sister turned out to be an incredible gift.

I doubt Gail batted an eye when I arrived. Perhaps she rolled her eyes, thinking “Great. Another baby I have to help take care of.” But like she always did, always does, and probably always will, she rolled up her sleeves, and accepted the challenge. She did her part; did the hard work she was expected to do.

And hope prevailed.

As we all do our parts in this time of crisis, keep the spirit of Easter alive today, and throughout this challenging time. Take care of yourselves, which, in turn, takes care of everyone else.

And despite the fact that this Easter will be stand out in our memories as a ghostly one, hope will prevail.

 

 

 

 

SING IT, SISTER!

 

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SING IT, SISTERS!

Music has always been a healing balm for me. Being the word nerd that I am, as well as a writer, it shouldn’t surprise you to know I listen closely to song lyrics. They seem to jump out at me at the perfect times, forming soundtracks to the events of my life.

Words have undeniable power, but music unites us in a way that mere words cannot. Certain songs can take each of us back in time to a specific place and time, and can bring back memories for better or worse, as if we are still there.

Song titles and lyrics can tell the story of those times, both good and bad.

The coronavirus pandemic seems to have its own soundtrack. So many song titles have heightened meaning at a time like this. Whether it is a country song lamenting lost love, or a classic ballad explaining the pain of life, it seems that the pain of adversity is understood, and thereby lessened with music. In terms of pain and tough times, this time of pandemic is no different than love lost, personal struggles or, perhaps as a country song may suggest, losing one’s girlfriend, truck or freedom while in jail.

As I typically do, I turned to my sisters for their input for my weekly post. Each of us has insight that the others don’t have, and this week was no different.

As I am, Mom was a “Fanilow.” Suzanne recalled that two of Mom’s favorite Barry Manilow songs were “Looks Like We Made It,” and “I Made It Through the Rain.” I didn’t recall this, but Suzanne reports that Mom never forgot “I Made It Through the Rain” playing when the Iran hostages got off the plane in the United States in 1981 after 444 days in captivity.

In time, the entire world will make it through the rain that coronavirus is raining down upon us. Then, Fanilow or not, we can all sing “I made it through the rain.”

***********

There’s nobody on the road, nobody on the beach. Empty lakes, empty streets. It’s a bit strange when you’re out and about these days, and none of us had better be out and about for anything but essential travel. That’s the new normal, and we all need to accept it as reality for a while. I’ve been out for a few days of work lately, and besides the grocery store, that’s it. There are times I feel all revved up and no place to go, but between books, puzzles, writing, more walking and watching season three of Ozark, I’ve found alternate outlets for that energy that normally would have given me someplace to go.

Nobody told me there’d be days like these, strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama. Whoa.

I have been calling upon my small army of friends lately, too. I really thought I was doing okay, but the surreal nature of this strange new world finally caught up with me after one of my friends confided she was struggling with the reality of it all. I let myself go there, too.

Oh, I can’t take no more…so I sit down and I cry too.

And then I felt better. I simply needed to let it out, and go on. If you feel the need, don’t hesitate to let it out. You will probably feel better after, too.   We’re all scared and confused humans, and we all need the human touch. It’s just that we can’t touch this; we shouldn’t be reaching out to touch anyone right now.

Better not do any lovin’ touchin’ squeezin’ with anyone besides your main squeeze right now. Just a little of that human touch is all it takes to endanger someone else’s health.

There is a time you may embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. This would be the time to refrain.

***********

Back to the sisters. They both offered their playlists, and here is Suzanne’s:

*Don’t Stand So Close To Me

*Dancin’ With Myself

*I Will Survive

*Reunited

*Stayin’ Alive

*What A Fool Believes

*How Will I Know?

*Stop! In the Name of Love

*Happy Together

*Alone Again (Naturally)

And Gail’s list:

*Livin’ on a Prayer

*It’s a Heartache

*Hold On

*Under Pressure

*In The Air Tonight

*I’m a Believer

*God Only Knows

*Come Together

*Gimme Shelter

*It’s the End of the World (as we know it, and I feel fine.)

Coincidentally, both of them offered another title—the same title—that was simply too inappropriate to print. Imagine that.

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Don’t worry mother, it’ll be alright. Don’t worry sister, say your prayers and sleep tight. This phenomenally talented singer and songwriter goes on to offer profound lyrics that touched me even before this international crisis: “Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom. No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from. Fill your lives with love and bravery.

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It is a strange, but brave new world we are forging our way through. I’m not even rationing paper towels anymore. I had a good supply laid in before all this started, and now I am using them liberally, and throwing them away. You probably wouldn’t even recognize me anymore.  If you recall from Waste Not, Want Not (January 14, 2018), paper towels are like gold in my house. Not anymore.

Many other things will change. Most of us long to get back to our “normal” lives, but perhaps we would all be well-advised to consider that some elements of our “normal” lives are not worth going back to. If it wasn’t working before, and now you’re going through the shake-up that everyone else is going through too, maybe it would be a good time for all of us to consider leaving some dead weight behind.

This one’s for you, Suzanne: When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange, who you are and what you’re gonna be. Sha na na na na na na na na, Sha na na na na.

I’m pretty sure it’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of the world as we once knew it. I’m even more sure that we will all make it through the rain.

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HEARTS AND HANDS THAT HEAL

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HEARTS AND HANDS THAT HEAL

When my firstborn was perhaps five or six years old, he asked me the inevitable question: “Mom, how did I get in your stomach?”

Not wanting to tell the whole truth just yet, but not wanting to lie to him either, I took the easy—but true—way out: I responded: “God put you there.”

Without hesitation, he responded emphatically, “No she didn’t!”

Initially, I was confused at his response. With a little probing, it became apparent that he was confusing our female family doctor—the one who delivered him as well—with God. If she took care of me while he was in my stomach, delivered him, and then took care of both of us after that, then surely she must be the God I was speaking of.

In a way, she was. And, even though she is no longer our doctor—she moved away several years ago–she still is a god(dess). Like the doctor I now have, both women are goddesses on this earth—now, more than ever before.

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Tomorrow, March 30th, is National Doctor’s Day. It is a day designated to celebrate the contributions physicians make to our society, and their dedication to our personal and community well-being. It is a day we should all have heightened awareness of how fortunate we are to have these earthly gods and goddesses among us.

The first Doctor’s Day was celebrated on March 30th, 1933. Eudora Brown Almond, the wife of a physician in Georgia, wanted to honor her husband and all other doctors, so she began the tradition. She urged people to send thank-you cards to their doctors, and to place flowers on the graves of deceased doctors.

On February 21st, 1991 (Gail’s 31st birthday, by the way), President George H.W. Bush proclaimed National Doctor’s Day to honor the nation’s physicians for their dedication and leadership.

Now, 29 years later in 2020, this annual observation couldn’t be more important.

I don’t have to expand on the important role doctors—and nurses—are currently playing in our country, and across the globe. You already know all this. They are the heroes and heroines of this seemingly unreal saga that continues to intensify as it plays out more intensely every hour of every day.

We all know what to do in order to stay healthy, and to keep everyone around us healthy. I don’t need to repeat any of that.

I do, however, want to use this platform to encourage you to celebrate Doctor’s Day tomorrow. If you already have sent a card to your doctor, or any doctor you know, kudos to you. Aside from saying thank you, I don’t know of anything more the general public should do for our doctors and nurses, besides following all the precautions, safety rules and restrictions upon us. We all must do our part to keep the spread of the virus as minimal as possible.

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On September 11th, 2001, we watched in horror—on television, safe in our homes–as the terrorist attack victims ran out of, and away from the sites of the devastation. We also watched as the firemen and other first responders ran into, and toward the devastation. It was their job, and they didn’t hesitate to do it.

Soldiers run toward the battle, while we are safe at a distance.

Policemen don’t think twice before putting themselves in the line of fire in order to protect and serve all of us.

Now, in this war against COVID-19, doctors and nurses are on the front lines. They sacrifice their own safety, health and comfort to treat the sick. Many of them have tested positive for the virus; some have died. It is likely that many more will become sick, and more will likely die.

Doctors and nurses know they are placing themselves at potential risk when they first sign up for the job. I doubt many of them envisioned the kind of risk they are facing today; none of us expected a pandemic like this one. Yet, they don’t hesitate to rush toward the devastation, run toward the battle, and put themselves in the line of fire. They are the front-line soldiers in this war; they are in the trenches of the battle.

And yet, they don’t hesitate to go to war. It is their job; their calling. And they do it not for themselves, but for you. For me. For all of us.

The least we can do is to say thank you.

*************

My small city has yet to identify a case among its residents, but it will likely be a short matter of time. I live in a rural area in the neighboring county, and there has been one resident identified.   The numbers will inevitably grow. My family and I are staying home, getting out for essential matters only.   My husband and I have jobs that are considered essential, and we are still working, but the decline in business for both of us has already begun.   We will continue to respond accordingly. We are thankful for our health.

*************

I rarely have dreams about my parents. After they first died, I longed to dream about them because, even though I knew it wasn’t real, it made me feel they were still with us. In these rare dreams, it is as if they never died, and it is not out of the ordinary that they are here when I dream about them.

I dreamed about Dad last night. It was in the midst of a series of other dreams, and he made a very brief appearance, then he was gone. He simply laughed his memorable belly laugh. He looked like this in my dream:

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I have been thinking about Dad a lot lately, because  his birthday is tomorrow, March 30th; the same day as Doctor’s Day. He would have been 86 years old.

If you knew our dad, you know that he didn’t know a stranger. He loved to talk to people, whether he knew them or not.

If you knew our mom, you knew she was the quiet one. Dad expressed himself verbally, and while she wasn’t a writer per se, she did love to write letters and notes. She knew the power of the written word, and she left us an incredible gift in a written letter to be found after she died, and read at her funeral.  While the letter itself remains a personal treasure among her seven children, I detail the message in Peace, Sister (July 16th, 2017).

Mom’s birthday would have been January 22nd. She would have been 84 years old. On that day this year, the meaning of this calendar didn’t escape me. A co-worker who displays this calendar graciously agreed to grant me this page after I told him the story about Mom’s letter.  I now display it on a frame, placing it in front of me as I sit at my table to catch up on my thank-you notes.

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Listen to the wisdom of our mother. If you haven’t already, send your doctor a thank-you card in honor of Doctor’s Day. It won’t matter that it may not arrive on time. Don’t underestimate its power.

Listen to our dad’s wisdom, too. Be sure to laugh like he did in the above picture, and in my dream last night. Don’t underestimate the power of laughter, especially at a time like this.

Listen to your doctor. Never underestimate their power.  They should be considered gods and goddesses on earth right now.  And, if you haven’t already, take the cue from Dr. Almond’s wife and send your doctor a card.

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My dear friend Shari is an engineer extraordinaire at Hallmark Cards.  She has informed me that they are helping to share the love of handwritten notes at this crucial time by offering three free cards to anyone who signs up online.   Simply go to http://www.Hallmark.com to get your free cards, and write on!

 

 

BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT

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BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT

Besides paying your taxes—which, by the way, are not due now until July 15th, the most basic thing you have to do is simply breathe.

You’re already doing it, so why not just breathe in a little deeper each time. If you are stressed, it will help you relax. And with each breath in and out, send up a prayer of thanks that you can breathe. Because as you know, many people in the world are struggling to do just that.

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I am trying to peel myself away from News TV. The story is ever-changing, so it keeps me hooked. The numbers keep going up, and the drama continues to unfold. As most of us are, I am home, following the directives to keep myself and everyone else healthy. This gives me plenty of time to watch TV—but I’m trying to stay away from the news negativity.

As I do in all challenging times, I turn to my sisters for help and support, as well as a sense of humor. They are never short on that. Because I believe that laughter is the best medicine, I am printing their text thread that arrived on my phone when I asked them their advice I could share with you all. Here goes, edited a bit for cleanliness:

Gail: “Don’t worry, drink plenty of water and alcohol. Maybe use essential oils to stay well.”

Suzanne: “When God’s ready for you, there’s nothing you can do.”

Gail: “Don’t take shit from anybody.”

Suzanne: “Literally, it might have the coronavirus in it.”

Gail: “There’s nothing wrong with doing nothing.” (Gail, is that really you?!)

Suzanne: “That’s my plan.   But then again, doing nothing has been my plan for quite some time now.”

Gail: “Good answer Suzanne on both parts!”

Suzanne: “At least I found someone willing to pay me for doing nothing. #stateofkansas”

Gail: “Put one foot in front of the other when you walk.”

Suzanne: “Another tip: stop buying everything!”

Gail: “Gargle, rinse, repeat.” and “Sunshine, sweet sunshine.”

Suzanne: “Live, laugh, love. I fu*#ing hate that saying.”

Gail: “A bird in the hand rather than in the bush.”

Suzanne: “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

Gail: “Don’t stop believing.”

Suzanne: “Hold on to that feeeeeeling!”

Gail: “Use half as much toilet paper as usual.”

And with that perfect prescription, the thread was done.

While they were offering their wisdom, another acquaintance of mine texted to check in on us. “Henry” is a 73-year old man I have the privilege of calling my friend. He and his 70-year old wife are hunkered down, doing all they can to stay healthy. He survived Vietnam, then a debilitating illness that had him on his deathbed, and now he faces every day with a progressive neurological disorder. Still, he finds a way to laugh. He told me he was looking forward to my blog, and so I asked him for his advice. He didn’t hesitate.

“My advice on how to make it thru this pandemic is to avoid crowds, rest, eat right, and have faith. If that doesn’t work, get shit-faced drunk, and say f*** this crap. Daily sex is optional unless you are old and want to go out of this world while in the saddle.”

I’ve got nothing to add to that.

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I have featured this picture before, but it bears re-posting, because, now more than ever, it is so true.

Our mom collected quotes, clippings and calendar pages in this box. Our writer/editor sister-in-law graciously compiled them into a book for each of us, aptly titling it “Liz-isms.” Gail posted one of her quotes last week on Facebook; it now has heightened meaning:

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I found many more meaningful quotes in “Liz-isms, and here’s another good one:

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Didn’t I tell you in the first paragraph to just breathe? It’s timeless advice from Mom, too.

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In case you haven’t noticed, our family uses humor to get through tough situations. I’m pretty sure we were making jokes before and after our parents’ funeral. It’s how we got through. And through is the magic word here.

We didn’t get over it, didn’t get around it. We got through it. Just like we will get through this international crisis. And we will all be better people for it, just like our family is now are after facing our loss.

If our family had been warned what was headed our way before it hit, I know that for myself, I would have folded. No way, I would have thought. No way that could ever happen, and, if it did, no way I will make it through.

But it did happen, and I did make it through. Everyone in our family did. And all of us will make it through this crisis. And we will be stronger. We don’t want to be stronger, we don’t want to learn this hard lesson, but have no choice. We were warned in stages, but I don’t think any of us would have dreamed it would come to this just a few short weeks ago, which now seems like a whole other lifetime ago.

Our lives after Mom and Dad died changed, never to go back to the blessed Before. I recall a bit of advice that came to mind many times as I navigated through the strange new world I found myself in during the days, weeks and months after our loss. It was this: You will be okay. It won’t be the old okay you once knew and so desperately want back, but you will be okay. You don’t yet know what the new okay will look, feel or smell like, but you will be okay.

And I was okay.  And in the new world that we don’t yet know, all of us will be okay, too. With some grace, we may even be able to say that we are better, stronger people for surviving this crisis. Perhaps, with even more grace, we can, in time, say that we learned to appreciate the small things (like toilet paper), and let go of things that used to stress us out, but now are seen in a different perspective.  Those are the gifts I took away when so much was taken away from me.

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I have now turned off News TV, and I am binge-watching funny movies today on TBS. Humor, along with following all the recommended precautions, will continue to be the best medicine for me. Perhaps, if you are showing no symptoms–and I hope you are not, it will be the best advice for you, too.

Enjoy this time of rest and relaxation. Mom gave us all permission, and so did Gail in her quoted text above.

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My work as a medically-based speech/language pathologist has already begun to dwindle, and it likely will continue in that direction, as it should. I am a non-essential medical provider, and I need to get myself and my potential germs out of the way to decrease any chance of causing more harm than good.

I bow down to the essential medical providers who will be the true warriors in this war. They are in the trenches, and if they are not already engaged in combat, they are preparing to do so. God bless them, and all the other essential members of the workforce whose efforts we could not live without. For the rest of us, getting out of their way is our job.

And to the parents who, without signing up for it, are now home-school teachers. I’m not sure if I could have survived that if my children became my students. I don’t know if my children would have survived, either. May the Force be with them, because this likely won’t be over by May the Fourth.

Speaking of the Fourth, we celebrated—it took many years to be able to use the word celebrate—our parents’ lives on March Fourth this year, the day twelve years ago they died. We now call it March Forth. March Fourth. The only day of the year that tells us to do something.   Given the strength we have found since that day, we continue to March Forth.

Because we have no choice, we will continue to march forth as a nation and as a planet.

And when we get through this crisis, and are living in our new world, we will all be okay. Mom said so.

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