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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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THE SISTER, FRIEND, FATHER AND MOTHER LODE

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THE SISTER, FRIEND, FATHER AND MOTHER LODE

I’ve hit them all.

By definition, the mother lode in gold mining terms is the principal vein or zone of gold. It is also used to refer to the real or imaginary origin of something valuable or in great abundance.

As parents go, our father and mother were the most valuable treasures we had in our family. My sisters and brothers continue to be treasures as well.

And, because one can never have too many friends, I can also say that with each new friend I make, I continue to hit the friend lode.

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The Sister Lode was conceived three years ago on one of our sister trips to Cripple Creek, Colorado, which is a gold-mining town with ongoing mining, and where the mother lode was struck in 1890. Its history is that of a bust-boom-bust-and boom again town. Casinos replaced the empty storefronts when gambling was legalized there in 1991, and it has continued to grow since.

We have done our part to help it grow.

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Since 2010, we have traveled to this peaceful mountain town typically twice each year; first in March to observe our parents’ passing, but especially to celebrate their lives, and then back again in the fall. The celebrating keeps getting easier, and more fun.

If you know Gail, it won’t surprise you to know that many people in this small town remember her from previous visits, especially the Blackjack dealers and the pit bosses at her favorite casino, The Brass Ass. And this is a good thing.

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Gail even made new friends along the way at her favorite stop along the way, the Pop-A-Top saloon in Peyton, Colorado.

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Usually, Suzanne joins Gail and me. However, the altitude has taken its toll on her during the last few visits, so she decided to stay home this time. It’s never the same without her, so we anticipate the day when we can take an epic trip—likely of her design and plan—with all three of us. Until then, the show must go on.

No one could ever take her place, and we don’t want anyone to try. To prove this, we enlarged and copied an iconic photo of ourselves on the grand stairway of our favorite inn, the one we have chosen to make our home away from home since 2014. The existing picture in our favorite corner room featured three cute little bunnies, so we saw it fitting to replace it with three other cute little bunnies.

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We took a shot of the Ferris Wheel along the way for Suzanne, she’s got a thing for them, and we did ride this one several years ago.  It was shortly after her birthday, and it was a slow day at the park.  We asked the Ferris wheel operator if she could have a special ride in honor of her recent birthday, one that perhaps was a bit faster than he would normally let it go.  We got off, she had the wheel to herself and after that one-of-a-kind ride, he probably lost his job.

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Despite the fact that Suzanne cannot be replaced, we found someone who deserved a long-overdue getaway, and she became our traveling companion.

Gail’s friend Margaret had been there perhaps thirty years ago, so it was time for her to go again.  I had met her prior to this trip, but this was my opportunity to get to know her. She is now a member of my friend lode.

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I would say we showed Margaret a good time, but I think it is more fitting to say that Gail showed her a good time. If the first night out was any indication, she knew she was in for a ride. Speaking of rides, Gail and Margaret dragged in six hours after I tucked myself in, forced to bum a ride from the blackjack dealer as he finished his shift. They didn’t know the shuttle buses stopped running at 2 a.m.

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Three strikes, and they were out. (Be sure to zoom in on the sign.)

There was no monetary currency won that night—or any time throughout the trip, but our winnings were much more valuable than any jackpot.

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We ate at our favorite restaurants,

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I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this picture, and this classic birthday photo of Gail I posted on her party post several weeks ago…

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Took in the scenery,

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And took advantage of several photo ops.

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We shopped at our favorite shops, bringing home another jewelry jackpot—we always win at 9494–the town’s altitude, as well as our all-time favorite place to find more Colorado treasures. If you ever make it to Cripple Creek, you must stop there, too.

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The mother lode was there for us again, just not in monetary terms. Anywhere we go together, we can feel the father lode, too. This time, the friend lode was a bonus. And, as always, The Sister Lode is the greatest treasure we continue to share.

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THE PARTY’S (NEVER) OVER

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THE PARTY’S (NEVER) OVER

It’s easy to be excited for an upcoming event like we all were for Gail’s party. The anticipation built up for weeks ahead of time, but we couldn’t share the details with Gail. She had been talking about her Big Birthday for some time, and even though she didn’t know what the plans entailed, she knew it would be good. And she was excited. She was ready to plan her own party, but she didn’t have to.

She was not disappointed.

I have written before that anticipation is sometimes the greater joy; sometimes its actually more fun to look forward to something than it is to experience it. In this case, I must say that, at least for me, the joy of the party exceeded the joys of my anticipation.

Now, one week later, I am reflecting back on how much fun it was. Sometimes, like the anticipation, those reflections can be more exciting than the actual event. Again, I have to say the party was the greatest joy.

The post-party blues are trying to creep in all around me, but I’m not letting them in. Coming down after an event of that magnitude can happen with a crash, but not to me.

It helps that I am anticipating another trip in just four days. Something else to look forward to keeps me pumped up, keeps those blues at bay.

Gail and I are departing for Colorado Thursday morning. Sadly again, Suzanne will not be joining us. She gave it her all last fall when we went, but the altitude sickness left a bad aftertaste. We have her blessing to go on without her, but it won’t be the same. (We won’t be in our nun habits, either.)

We continue to celebrate our parents’ lives however we can, no matter how many of their children are gathered together. We will continue to March Forth, as we have done since March Fourth twelve years ago. Which is precisely what Gail and I will we will be doing next weekend.

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I cranked up some old 80’s CDs today, and just now The Cars told me to Let The Good Times Roll. I’ve heard that song hundreds of times, but I never before realized that the key word is let.  I think that for most of us—excluding Gail, of course, our default setting is not one that naturally lets those good times roll. I think for most of us—and these are strictly my observations and impressions—we tend to keep those good times subdued, feeling that perhaps it’s more important to stay busy, get our work done, and worry about inconsequential things. Again, Gail defies this. She manages to keep busy with important things, get her work done, NOT worry, and still, she regularly and routinely lets the good times roll.

I look up to Gail for so many reasons, but the older I get, the more I realize the importance of having fun however, whenever and with whomever we can. It does come easier for some of us than for others (think Gail), but I think we all owe it to ourselves to strive to find those good times, even if we have to use every tool in the shed to find them.

I highly doubt that anyone on their deathbed would reflect back on their life, and think I wish I hadn’t had so much fun. Unless, of course, their particular breed of fun is what brought them to their deathbed. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about enjoying any of the intended pleasures that the buffet of life has to offer, the joys that do no harm, and are meant to be enjoyed.

Fun and boredom don’t coexist very well. And when boredom calls, it can easily bring along its cousins, the blues. They seem to invite themselves in, put their stinky feet up on your best furniture without asking, and refuse to leave when you politely ask them to do so.

Like a good exterminator, I have found the best treatment for the blues: get up, get moving, and find something you enjoy doing. They hate it when you do that, and typically leave because there’s nothing left there for them.

Having fun on a tired Monday morning at work is much harder than having fun at a birthday party. Life can’t be a 24/7 fun-fest, but fun, of course, is best enjoyed when its counterpart is given its due, because without those tougher times, we don’t appreciate the lighter ones.

The day-to-day drudgery of work at our jobs and work at home can take a toll, but there are always ways to inject a little fun, if you just try.

I was thinking of small joys I take away from routine tasks, and I had one so seemingly strange, that was, until I told Gail about it. She does the same thing: when doing laundry—a task I really quite enjoy, we find a small thrill from matching the colored hanger to the shirt we’re hanging on it. Suzanne agrees that this is weird. We know, but whatever thrill one can find in the mundane is always a good thing.

I do enjoy vacuuming as well, and perhaps Gail enjoys this one a bit more than me: she likes to let the dust bunnies accumulate before she sucks them up with the vacuum for a greater thrill. I’ll have to let mine sit for awhile longer and report back to you—and Gail—on that one.

As farm girls , we learned the fine arts of playing in the rain and the mud after the rain.  These small joys are largely a part of our pasts, but we all continue to enjoy the thrill of cracking the thin ice on a small frozen puddle, crunching dried mud that has flaked and curled up, just waiting to be stepped on.  Walking barefoot through fine, silty dirt is a joy that has been with us since the farm, and will likely never leave.

Mom left us so many important life lessons, but this one comes to mind, and I have written about it before: Always have something to look forward to. For me, when I don’t have anything bigger in the queue, I look for the simple things: waking up to a delectable cup of coffee, which almost makes me want to go to bed earlier so that I can enjoy it sooner. Or perhaps, having a good book to open when I do go to bed.

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In three days, I will depart from my home to arrive at Gail’s home on March Forth, where we will celebrate the lives of our incredible parents together. Suzanne and our brothers will be with us in thought and spirit.  Thursday morning, Gail and I will go west yet again. We will enjoy a leisurely drive that day, because we know that at least half of the fun of a trip is in the journey. We will make our usual stops, but we’re always open to new experiences. We will arrive Thursday afternoon/evening, and we will create our own kind of fun. We know how; we’ve had plenty of previous experience.

As a reminder of our previous fun, here is a photo montage.  

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For us, the party is really never over. We make it a priority, spending whatever time, money and energy we can to make it happen.

May you find your joys, both great and small.  May you find the fun in life.  May the party go on for you, too.

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Depending upon just how much fun we have next weekend, the blog about our trip may or may not be posted next Sunday night.  If not, stay tuned, and thank you for following.  

 

DANCE LIKE GAIL’S WATCHING

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DANCE LIKE GAIL’S WATCHING

It came…It happened…and it was historic.

Gail’s birthday celebration was an epic weekend fest for all of us, beginning on Friday, and lingering on through Sunday. For Gail, however, the party will never end. And it shouldn’t.

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It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, then a video is surely worth thousands more, so I will let the pictures and videos do most of the talking for this post.

Gail is no dummy; she knew something was in the works. She just didn’t know exactly what it would be, or who would be there, or where it would be…

When her friends Margaret, Courtney and Bailey brought her in after about an hour of country cruising, she was greeted by a dance hall full of well-wishers, family and friends alike.

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We took her by surprise—at least by a little bit.

The food was divine, the music was the perfect mix for Gail—and everyone else—and the mood was beyond festive.

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Our mom’s sisters made the five-hour trip from Wichita with their families.

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Suzanne and I were there, as well as one of our brothers. Duty called for the others.

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Friends from near and far made it their priority to spend the evening celebrating with their friend Gail.

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Her two older daughters traveled from Wichita and from Michigan, the two younger children were closer.

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Her in-laws wouldn’t miss it for the world–they were transfixed by The Dancing Queen.

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It was a grand reunion for all of them.

Inspired by his aunt Gail, my son broke out in dance as The Dancing King.

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The morning after–Gail is still smiling.

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The gift of age is one to be opened daily as well as yearly, and I know of no better example to follow than Gail’s.

Sixty is a state of mind—as is every age, and no matter what your age, it is your choice to make it a celebration—or not.

So, if you are tempted to dread your next birthday, just remember Gail’s attitude, and celebrate. And pretend Gail is watching you dance–and cheering you on.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAIL– YOU ARE A GIFT EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

NOW SHOW US YOURS

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NOW SHOW US YOURS

It’s coming! It’s coming! Gail’s birthday is almost here, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Neither could she.

I’m sure Gail will celebrate, and I’m sure it will be epic.  This is what happened when she turned 50, so Heaven only knows what 60 will bring.

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Gail has started celebrating already.  Last week, I introduced you to “Lola,” the new ride she bought herself for her birthday. And, just as we all did as high school seniors, she got her “senior” pictures taken. For real. As in, with a real photographer. The album has yet to be revealed, but here is a teaser of what is to come:

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I am carefully selecting a goodie bag of gifts for her, which is always fun for both of us. We won’t deny that we both love to get gifts. Suzanne feels the same way.

But this is not about material gifts. It is about celebrating the gift of life, love, family, age and time.

This is where you come in: Gail has requested a gift from every reader who is up to this task: Please post your age, and why it is a great age. According to all three sisters of The Sister Lode, age is a gift to be celebrated.

Suzanne will be 50 years old in August, and there will be another party, of course.

I will be 54 in April, and even though it’s not a decade marker, I will, of course, celebrate.

I like to remind anyone who complains about their age that age is a gift. It is an insult to The Giver to complain about it. It is appropriate to say thank you. The old adage is really true; there really is only one alternative to aging. While I do believe there is something better waiting for us when we stop aging, this gift of time here on earth is worth celebrating—every year, every day.

I watched one of my favorite authors on a video the other night, and she reminded me of this insight into aging that I had heard before: we don’t lose the ages we have already been, we get to keep all of them. We get to keep all the good, leave the not-so-good behind, and keep building on the wisdom.

For myself, I wouldn’t want to go back to any previous age. I wouldn’t want to lose the wisdom I’ve gained, and I look forward to gaining more.

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Now, it’s your turn. I am keeping this post short on purpose, because I want to hear from you. Please post your age and what you like about it either after our Facebook post or on my WordPress website. No cheating, no lying. Only celebrating.

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You won’t want to miss next week’s post. I assure you it will be worth the wait.

 

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10,000 STEPS

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10,000 STEPS

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

“Sometimes we make the process more complicated than we need to. We will never make a journey of a thousand miles by fretting about how long it will take or how hard it will be. We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination.”                   —Joseph B. Wirthlin

“Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.” —Dr. Seuss

“Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity.”             —Thich Nhat Hanh

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I remember watching Gail with great fascination when she got a Fitbit® several years ago. She was so excited about measuring her steps. She is always on the go, so it made sense that she would want to know just how many steps she took in a day. I also recall a dear woman, a wife of a dear home health patient, explaining her Fitbit®, too. She is a mover and shaker as well, so she, too, wanted to know how many steps she was taking every day.

I got a fitness tracker for Christmas. I never thought I would want one, but I did. I figured with my daily run, I was getting enough steps in. But something kept telling me to give it a shot. So, I did.  I didn’t need the fanciest one, just one to measure my steps. I was curious to see how many I took in an average day.

The set-up process required someone who knew more about gizmos like this than I did (my 19-year old son), and a goal. A number of daily steps to aspire to that would be entered into the device.   I thought 10,000 sounded like a good number, so I started there.

The first day I wore it, I exceeded the goal by a long shot. I completed 20,000-plus steps. However, that was not an ordinary day.

That day, like yesterday, I took a hike. Literally. That day, I hiked the nearby beautiful Konza Prairie Trail with my best hiking buddy.

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It is listed as one of the 8 Geographic Wonders of Kansas (www.kansassampler.org), and if you haven’t been there, put it on your list.

Yesterday, I hiked it with my husband and two sons. We’d been talking about doing it forever, and yesterday was the day. My firstborn just completed his degree at nearby Kansas State University in December, and we always said we would do it while he was there.

But we didn’t, and it was time.

It was abundantly sunny but windy, with a high of 49 degrees.  By Kansas standards in February, it was a nice day. So, we took advantage.

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It is a Kansas masterpiece; truly a wonder of nature. It is breathtaking in all seasons, and I have featured it in other posts as well.

So, please, go take a hike.

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After the trail, we checked out Pillsbury Crossing, another wonder of Kansas nature that was close to Manhattan.  Our son had been there several times, it is a beautiful water fall with a reputation among the college students as a fun nature hangout.

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It was a great day on our feet.

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Ten thousand steps sounds daunting, and if I didn’t take my daily run, I wouldn’t normally reach my goal. I am usually around 6,000 steps when I get back, so I’ve got a great head start early in the morning. Most days I reach my goal, some days I come close. I think there have been a few days when I didn’t even reach 9,000 steps. And there were two days when I was in bed sick, so those don’t count.

Two nights ago, I needed just 127 more steps to reach 10,000, and I was ready to go to bed. Not one to let a goal that close slip from my grasp, I went to the basement a few times; there was always something in the laundry room I could tend to. A few laps around the house, and I felt that gratifying double vibration on my wrist: I made it. Then, I went to bed.

The night before that, in the cold-but-calm February evening under an almost-full moon, I pushed myself out the door to walk the driveway a few times. The moon made it light enough to see, and made it worth the effort.

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I am a mature, educated, reasonable and logical woman who doesn’t normally fall for cheesy rewards or flaky reinforcement. That little pulsation on my wrist, however, makes me go the extra few steps, makes me push myself a little harder.

Yet, I continue to circle the parking lot, looking for a closer space.  Circling, even as I composed this blog in my mind as I often do throughout the week, I kept looking for a closer space.  I fully realize this incongruity.

I’m the only one who knows or cares about these 10,000 steps. Clearly, I am like most other humans in this respect: we all like to be rewarded for our efforts, even if it is just a little buzz on my wrist. Yesterday, just as we embarked on the trail, I got that little buzz. And I hadn’t even started hiking yet. I knew my tally for yesterday would be stellar, and it was. It was second only to the other time I hiked the same trail.

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This morning, I woke after a good night’s sleep, ready to get back out there and get more steps. I commenced my run before the wind picked up, and, at 31 degrees, it was beautiful. It felt so good, in fact, that I went the extra mile—literally. My legs felt strong and lithe after the hike yesterday, so I kept going. I felt like Forrest Gump. When I got home, I had over 7,500 steps, and it was just after 9:00 a.m.

I sent up a little thank you for this wondrous ability to move my legs, to take thousands of steps every day.

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I have been seeing an amazing woman for home health speech therapy for several months. She had a massive stroke last summer, and survived against all odds. She is wheelchair-bound, but keeps pushing forward, keeps giving it 127%, and keeps smiling.  Her faith and fortitude match that of her family, and she is not just strong, she is herculean.   I don’t think she realizes that she inspires all of us.

She is one year younger than me.

She has an amazing physical therapy team, and several weeks ago, I arrived at the tail end of her physical therapy session. She was elated, because with the physical support from her walker and her therapist, she walked across her kitchen. It was, perhaps ten steps. Not ten thousand, but ten. And, for her, this was an amazing victory, likely feeling like ten thousand steps. I felt so honored to be there right after it happened, to be an almost-witness to this victory.  She inspires the inspired.

I thought about my daily goals. Ten thousand steps. Every day, I am physically able to take those ten thousand steps and many more. I don’t think about each step like she does, I simply do it, as I have done all my life. I don’t count them, my tracker does that for me. After seeing her joy with just ten—or perhaps a few more—steps, I felt guilty for not savoring every step, for not being over-the-moon grateful for every single one of them.

I find myself taking this ability for granted. You would think, that after 25 years in this field, after seeing hundreds of people lose this ability, that I wouldn’t take it for granted. Yet, I still do.

Shame on me.

Instead of shame, however, I will offer more gratitude for this wondrous ability, this ability to move my body wherever I want to take it. Roughly half of the geography of the human body is dedicated to movement via our legs and hips, which reflects the importance of simply walking. Running, hiking and anything beyond walking are yet additional gifts.

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I have featured my Arizona friends in a few previous blogs.   Yesterday, Tana, age 47, completed 53,273 steps in her first—and last, she says today—marathon.

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She crossed the finish line with her friends, with incredible pain in her legs, but she finished.  (far left.)

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She began training only last year at age 46, and required cortisone injections in both knees to keep going.   Yet, she kept going. She, too,  inspires the inspired.

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Our mom was a walker, too. I remember her frequently taking off for walks on our country roads, setting a good example for all of us.

I called Suzanne one evening last week, and she and a friend were just returning from a walk.

Gail called me one evening last week while she was out walking, as she gets out and gets her steps in several times a week. She was a bit breathless, but she kept moving her legs as we talked. She made a comment about the moon, knowing I like to watch the moon, too. In her usual humorous style, she posted this after her walk:

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She might not be getting as many steps in lately, because she is having too much fun in her new ride:

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To treat herself for her upcoming 60th birthday, she brought this gem home, purchasing it from a local woman who could no longer drive. “Lola” is a 1974 Chevrolet Nova. Lola wasn’t a showgirl, as the Barry Manilow song may suggest, but Gail said she is now. In her usual humorous style, Gail is having the time of her life with Lola, cruising and carousing about town.

Gail and I had a Sunday morning phone conversation a bit ago. She expressed how excited she is about her upcoming birthday, and the celebrations sure to unfold. She understands that age and ability are gifts not to be taken for granted, and she is celebrating them. I checked with her to make sure, but I already knew the answer: she would love to hear from you to add to her birthday joy on or before February 21st:

Gail Britt

810 South 6th St

Atwood, KS 67730

If you’ve read much of my blog, she probably feels like your big sister, too.

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Take a walk, take a hike, or take a run. If you are able to, simply move your legs, and be sure to be grateful for the ability to do so. Our beautiful state of Kansas has so much outdoor glory to offer, so whenever possible, get out there and enjoy it. If you don’t live in Kansas, I’m sure your state—or country—has natural beauty to enjoy as well.

Sometimes, the hardest part of moving your body is just getting started. Start small. Walk around the block or to the mailbox. Once you get started, it’s easier to keep going. Action begets action. Walking begets walking. Hiking and running beget hiking and running, too.

That journey of however many steps begins with a single step.

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“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is. — Ellen Degeneres

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If you live in, or plan to visit Kansas, please get yourself a copy of this guidebook from the Kansas Sampler Foundation  (www.kansassampler.org.)  It features all the wonder and beauty of outdoor Kansas, as well as indoor sights, historic locations, one-of-a-kind stores, restaurants and manmade wonders from every town in the state.  It makes a great gift, I gave Suzanne one for Christmas, and Gail just might get one in her birthday package, too.

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Penner, Marci and Rowe, WenDee.  The Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers.  2017,  Newton, Kansas, Mennonite Press.

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IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME

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IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME

You likely know by now that I am nerdy about celebrating notable days, so you likely won’t be surprised when I tell you that I always observe Groundhog Day, sometimes by watching the movie, but always by wishing friends and family a Happy Groundhog Day.

And, if you have read my blog much, you likely know that I’m not a football fan. However, I will always know how old the Super Bowl is because it was born the same year I was.

Today, however, I am calling myself a fan.

It has been 50 years since our locally beloved Kansas City Chiefs have been to the Super Bowl. Today, Groundhog Day 2020, they are headed back.

The energy in the Wheat State surrounding this big event is palpable, even though their home is technically next door in Missouri, The Show Me State.

But enough for now about football. There was another competition last night that, to Suzanne and me, was immeasurably more exciting: another spelling bee.

With two adult spelling bee competitions under out belts, you could say that we are now officially in the circuit. Six months ago, on September 1st, I wrote about our initiation into the wonderful world of adult spelling bees in Under Our Spell. Gail wanted to be present for both of them, and we wanted her there, of course, but she wasn’t able to make either. Next time.

She was here Friday night, and we enjoyed the evening together.

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I’m wearing my favorite team jersey for the big game today.  It came from Kathleen High School in Kathleen, Florida.   It is a short drive from my beloved St. Pete Beach where I have visited three times, but have yet to go on to Kathleen.  NEXT TIME!  I found their online store, and while I wanted one of everything, I chose this jersey.  

Perhaps, even more palpable than the energy surrounding the Super Bowl—for the three of us, at least, is the anticipation of her big event: she will celebrate her 60th birthday later this month, and we will help her do just that. And, of course, we will fill you in with a post dedicated to her big day, her big new decade. She can’t wait. If only everyone was so excited about aging.

Back to the spelling bee…

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It was held down the road in beautiful Abilene, the same small town I visit nearly every day for work. It benefitted a local charity, so the spirit was one of good fun, as well as good will. There were 17 teams with approximately 100 contestants, most of them having six members. Each team chose a name, so The Sister Lode was the obvious choice for us. We could have had four more team members, but we are just proud enough, just confident enough, and just crazy enough to think we could do it between the two of us.

In the end, it ultimately was how we played the game: we placed fourth. We are proud to say we played the game with our best, and had fun playing it.

Several of the early rounds required that each team be able to spell two, and then three homonyms; words such as weather/whether, pair/pair, way/weigh, and then new/knew/gnu, peek/peak/pique. While we skated through everyone else’s assigned homonyms in each round, ours hung us up: we spelled gorilla just fine, but left out one letter in guerrilla. Luckily, at the last moment, we had purchased mulligans—3 for $25, and used our only one on that word. We were still in the game.

We went on to spell silhouette, sacroiliac, ptomaine, boutonniere and reveille correctly. My medical background came in handy for several of them, and while laryngitis, epiglottis and pharynx were given to other teams, I could spell them in my sleep, as I write them often for my work.

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As the other thirteen teams before us who met their demise went out one by one, we went on to spell xenophobe and Saskatchewan. World geography knowledge came in handy, but ours wasn’t quite handy enough, as the final rounds involved many places around the globe.

While one or both of us could have easily spelled Djibouti, Galapagos, Czechoslovakian, Versailles, and another foreign-sounding proper name Mephistopheles, those were not our assigned words.

Mercilessly, our lack of Ireland knowledge was our ultimate demise: neither of us had ever heard of Ballymoney.

While I prefer to describe an excessively or ingratiatingly flattering person as “smarmy,” neither of us knew that unctuous meant the same thing. Neither of us knew how to spell it, either, and it led to our downfall when the small town in Ireland was our second chance to capture the bronze medal, as the other team had an error in their last word as well.

The crown wasn’t meant to be ours. We were meant to have a great time, however, and we did just that. It was how we played the game.

And, as a bonus, we both learned a few new words we had never before heard: gallimaufry—a confused jumble or medley of things, and blatherskite—a person who talks at great length without making much sense.

An even better bonus was this: I won a fabulous prize in the raffle, the one given away last, the one I considered to be the grand prize—and there were many spectacular prizes generously donated by local merchants and individuals:

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Go Lucky #15!

Had the woman whose raffle number they drew just before mine not been gracious enough to share her bounty—she had already won another raffle prize—I would not have won this beautiful, handmade quilt. She forfeited her winning number, letting someone else—ME!—win.

It’s how she played the game, and I’m so grateful to her that she chose to play it in such a considerate, unselfish way.

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The Big Game will start in a few hours. My boys and I will be spending it with my in-laws—two of the biggest fans I know. I don’t particularly care to watch the game, but I am excited to share in the hoopla. I am excited to see my loved ones so excited. I’m sure I will come to life when the commercials come on. And then there’s the food…

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I always have, and likely always will, struggle to understand the game of football. Adding to what I perceive as a gallimaufry, is the fact that I have treated multiple head injuries in my career as a medically-based speech therapist, and I know that the game of football brings on a very high risk for head injuries. The statistics are there. I will likely always struggle with that fact as well.

However, as a beloved national institution, I know that football will be part and parcel of life in America. So, on days like today, it behooves me to simply go with the flow.

I must say that I don’t recall ever being so impressed by a professional football player as I have been with the Chief’s quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. I don’t mean his technique, talent or ability, because I don’t understand all of that. I mean that from what I have seen of him as a person, he seems to be a fine young man. And I know a thing or two about fine young men, as I have three of them I call my sons. I am impressed with his ability to communicate himself in interviews, and through this I see his humility that shines through when he gives interviews. His charitable works cannot be denied either.   I trust my gut feeling about people, and I have a good one about him.

I understand he was an underdog pick for the Chiefs, and has risen quickly and noticeably in his career, proving all the naysayers wrong about his unique style. I love it when naysayers are proven wrong.

To further shush critics, I must throw my two cents in regarding those who have mocked his voice: professionally, I know a thing or two about voice, as I treat it within my scope of practice.   His voice is WNL—within normal limits. It is uniquely his, making his personal presentation that much more interesting. If he were my client, I would simply tell him this: you sound like you, and it is beautiful. Keep rockin’ on, and (like I tell all my voice clients), keep drinking plenty of water for good vocal health.

And to his voice critics, I offer this:  Pick on someone your own size.

Keep being you, Patrick, and you already know the secret: it’s how you play the game.

May the best team win Super Bowl 54 (I’m proud to give away my age), and whatever you do in your life, the same applies to you.

It’s not whether/weather you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

Of course, Happy Groundhog Day as well. I will close, lest I become a blatherskite.

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