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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THE JOY OF KLEENEX

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THE JOY OF KLEENEX

‘Tis the season. Cold and flu season, that is.

This week, between both of us, Suzanne and I succumbed to nearly every symptom on the list. Gail, however, remained healthy. I think illness is scared of Gail—as it should be.

I was out of commission for two days, and mercifully, was then able to be back among the living. Suzanne, however, had more of a struggle. She drug herself through work for too long, then finally took three days off. She went back, but still struggled. I told her to stay at home longer, but she didn’t listen. Apparently, she thinks I’m not the boss of her.

I have made it abundantly clear that Gail is industrious, hard-working, task-oriented and quite simply, loves to work. She works when she is tired, achy, not at her best or when she has already put in a full day. I would say she works when she is sick, but apparently, she doesn’t get sick.

As I lay in my sickbed this week, commiserating with Suzanne by phone, I let Gail know that apparently, both of her sisters had come down with winter health woes. I sent her a text to let her know, and to inquire as to how she was feeling.

She was fine, of course. No illness on her end. I asked her when she was last sick.

“Hmm, let me think. It’s been awhile. I think I missed a few days of work in 1995. I don’t remember being sick since then,” she said.

Twenty-five years. Gail hasn’t been sick in 25 years. Again, I think illness is scared of her. Or, perhaps it knows she will not be an easy conquest. If illness were to take up residence in her body, she would not be a gracious hostess. She would simply not put up with it. She has work to do, and she doesn’t have time. For the illness, it would be like trick-or-treating at a house that doesn’t have any candy to offer. Like opening an empty gift box. Like an empty jug of milk someone left in the refrigerator. Nothing to see here. Move on. You get the idea.

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Suzanne was concerned that perhaps, just as she did when she was five years old, she had pneumonia. She did get herself to the doctor, was tested for that and every other conceivable illness going around, and all tests were negative. She simply had a severe case of the crud.

She reminded me of her hospital stay when she was five—complete with breathing treatments; I had forgotten. I do remember her having violent coughing fits when she was about that age, so severe that she would end up in the bathroom, vomiting. Our little brother, bless his little heart, would follow quickly behind her and hold her hair out of the way.

So, when I found this while Christmas shopping, I knew she must have it.

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I had my share of childhood illnesses, but my sole hospitalization was to repair a hernia at age eight.  I didn’t recall Gail being hospitalized as a child, and no memory of her being sick.  She did remind me that she was hospitalized during college for strep throat and dehydration. Her room had a balcony, and three of her college friends—including her now-husband—scaled the outside wall to visit her on this balcony. She recalled going to the balcony door to greet her visitors with her I.V. pole in tow. Her only other overnights in the hospital were to deliver her four children—the last two were born at the same hospital as her college stay. It took her but a few highly efficient hours to birth each of them, and while the doctor was sure to keep her overnight, she was most likely jonesing to get out of there later that day and get her new work started because, as many of you know, a new baby brings a plentitude of new work.

Let it be noted that I labored extensively all night times two to bring my babies into the world, and Suzanne took even longer than that to birth her daughter. Even in childbirth, Gail’s work is time-efficient. Suzanne and me, not so much.

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The weekend brought blessed relief for Suzanne, and she was able to get back in the groove. There was weekend fun to be had, and she got out there and had it. We are both grateful for a return to wellness; feeling better always feels better after an illness.

Because we do have a collective online image to uphold, there will be no pictures of Suzanne and me in our diminished states. I didn’t see her and she didn’t see me, but I’m guessing we both looked something like this:

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And my head felt like this:

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The bedside of my sickbed was littered with Kleenex, magazines and books, which I tossed aside when I was finished with them. I finished a few good books, perused a few others, and blew (literally) through more than an entire box of Kleenex.

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I won’t go into detail, but Suzanne required Kleenex for more than one purpose.

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My previous blog post that received the most light-hearted feedback was Waste Not, Want Not (January 14th, 2018). I made it abundantly clear that while there was indeed a roll of paper towels next to my kitchen sink, they were to be used ONLY in case of emergency, contamination or contagion. This is how we grew up; paper towels were a precious resource not to be squandered, because they costed good money. There were old towels used as washable rags to be used for clean-ups and wipe-ups, as well as a kitchen towel at hand to dry one’s hands. This aspect of waste not has never left me.

I have entirely different standards for Kleenex. They are meant to be used without hesitation, and promptly thrown away. Their primary purpose invites contagion, and I don’t bat an eye at their liberal use.

Neither did our mom. She was frugal with paper towels, but not Kleenex. She was so liberal with them, as a matter fact, that she felt free to spend good money on good Kleenex—especially the pretty ones.

Suzanne, who lived just a few blocks away from Mom and Dad, reminisced about this penchant of Mom’s. She was well aware that Mom always had pretty Kleenex boxes on hand, and treated them as the necessary luxury they were for her. She didn’t spend extra money on anything except these pretty Kleenex boxes.

I still have one of her pretty Kleenex boxes. I took it from their home as we cleaned it out, and I have refilled it many times since, opening up the bottom and inserting a new roll out of a new box.

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Now, I make a point to always buy pretty Kleenex boxes, even if they cost a little more.

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I am recalling from Suzanne’s birthday post Happy Birthday Suzanne–Be Careful What You Wish For (August 13th, 2017), that Gail and I organized a community-wide and online appeal for anyone willing to present Suzanne with toilet paper on her birthday. We were simply fulfilling a long-forgotten wish she made earlier that year, when she was refilling her bathroom toilet tissue as hostess for our family at Easter. “I wish for my birthday, that everyone would give me toilet paper.”

The light bulb immediately lit up in my head. We can do that. I tucked that plan away at Easter for resurrection in August. When the 300-plus rolls rolled in at her door, her workplace, in the mail and on the street, she had no memory of this wish. She was thrilled, however. Ever the minimalist, she makes exceptions for such functional and numerous gifts, easily storing them in her basement.

My birthday is coming up in April. If you need gift ideas, I’m always up for pretty Kleenex boxes—or more paper towels.

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Suzanne and I enjoyed dinner together Saturday night.

May you have a healthy and cold/flu-free winter. If you are down with it, may you get back up soon. And, as always, if you are indeed able, join me in a thank-you for good health. And if Gail has any secrets for avoiding sickness, I will let you know.