TWICE IN A BLUE MOON

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TWICE IN A BLUE MOON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

THE GIFT OF GAIL

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THE GIFT OF GAIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gail and her progeny

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

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

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

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

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Aloha!!

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Wedding cake and beer are always an unbeatable combination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAIL!

 

 

 

TRUE LOVE

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TRUE LOVE

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

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

I was hollowed out for the rest of the day.

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

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

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

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

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

Our dad was that way, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I consider that a good thing.

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

They got to go together.

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

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

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

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

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

 

HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY

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HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY

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

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

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

But, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

AGE IS A GIFT

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AGE IS A GIFT

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

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Discover a newfound sense of youth!

Feel younger than you did yesterday!

Gain a greater appreciation for your amazing human body!

Embrace your age, no matter what it is!

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

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

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

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

I never complained again after that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy Birthday Kansas!

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

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

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

 

 

WEEKEND RETREAT

 

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WEEKEND RETREAT

Solitude. Sleeping in.  Sunshine. Strong, black coffee. Sisters.

Simple pleasures like working on a jigsaw puzzle.  Watching a movie.  Binge-watching a Netflix series. Snacking at all hours.  Navigating and discussing social media.

Discussing the upcoming playoff games—but only in terms of the stellar musicians who will perform The National Anthem—Jimmy Buffet and Melissa Etheridge.

Attempting to solve the world’s problems—at least, those in our own worlds.

All these things and more took place at my house this weekend.

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We made the most of the ongoing construction project in my home.

Gail and her daughter Lydia arrived at my home late Thursday evening, bearing IHOP pancakes to go.  Pancakes at 10:00 p.m. is but one of many surprises Gail is known to bring.  She is unpredictable in that respect, and that is a beautiful thing.  Lydia had a craving, and while she doesn’t normally crave pancakes, she deserved them.  She had to take insulin before eating them, but it’s just how she rolls now.

Lydia had her quarterly endocrinologist visit Friday morning in my small city, so they came early.  As I type Sunday morning, they are still here, and I love it.

My boys are not here, however, they had an over-nighter down the road at another family member’s home.  The men in their family and close circle of friends gather annually for a Christmas party, and this year it was belated.  This translates into a weekend to myself.  I have earned it, however, as my husband was the host for many years, and I would wake on Sunday morning to find a houseful of sleeping men—some family, some friends.

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Old Man Winter didn’t deliver the punch he was predicted to; the weather prognosticators were off the mark for their warnings—at least in our area.  We had two separate family events that requested the honor of our presence, and the weather forecast was prohibitive, so we hunkered down and went to neither.

We simply hung out. Suzanne came to visit for awhile, too.  She had other social engagements to tend to, but there is always time for sisterhood.  We even had a few adopted sisters for the weekend.

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While these sisters are not related to us, we realize we can share our sisterhood with our soul sisters who may need more sisterhood than what they have.  We always seem to have an abundance of sisterly love, and we find that when we give it away, it doesn’t subtract from what we have, it actually multiplies it.

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I have made it abundantly clear in previous posts that Gail is typically in perpetual motion, working toward completing tasks large and small.  She has work to do, and she gets it done sooner, rather than later.  However, when she is away from her home, these tasks must sit and wait for her return.  She sought out a few in my home—she cooked twice for us—and I do welcome her presence in my kitchen if it means I don’t have to be working in it.  I let her complete these tasks, as they benefit me greatly.

Otherwise, I would have discouraged her from working on this getaway weekend that was meant for relaxation.  Sometimes for people like Gail—especially for people like Gail—it is important to stop working and just enjoy.  Take a break, and relax.  Just do whatever.  Just do nothing. 

While she says she doesn’t enjoy it, I caught her working on the puzzle.  Suzanne and I love to work jigsaw puzzles, and it is my impression that Gail thinks she simply doesn’t have the time.  However, after I woke from a long winter’s nap Sunday, I found her working on the puzzle.

“I thought you didn’t like to do puzzles,” I told her.

I don’t,” she said. “I’m just bored.”

I don’t believe her.  I think perhaps she just needed a little push to engage in something so relaxing.

According to our Sunday paper, January is National Puzzle Month.  Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, whatever puzzle puzzles you in a good way is a recommended leisure activity for the month.

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My firstborn just left a few minutes ago to go back to campus for the spring semester.  He had five weeks off, and we all enjoyed our time together.

I am remembering their younger days when I felt I couldn’t afford the luxury of taking time for myself.  There was simply too much work to do.  I didn’t have that kind of time, what with working full-time and taking care of a family and a house.  My husband has always been a doer like Gail, always helping with whatever he could.  I can’t imagine single motherhood as the reality that Gail, Suzanne and millions of other women experienced, and continue to experience.

I realize now I perceived that busy-ness as my only choice, I didn’t acknowledge that I had the right to sit back and enjoy something for myself.  I didn’t even take much of a break on Sundays.

Shame on me.

I recall a friend asking me, when I complained about this lack of time for myself, if I couldn’t perhaps squeeze in an hour or so for myself.  She dedicated every Sunday afternoon to herself, and to me, at this point in my life, sounded like a distant, futuristic luxury.

I take time now.  I usually take Sunday afternoons to myself.  We learned the hard way that life can forever change in just one moment, and all this busy-ness means nothing when life pulls a punch like that.  All those tasks we knock ourselves out to accomplish become meaningless when stacked up against Real Life and Real Loss.

And this hard-learned lesson, over time, has turned into a gift.

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With the help of one of our guests, we finished the puzzle we already had in progress, the puzzle before the one Gail is working on.  I thanked our guest for her help, asking her if she enjoyed puzzles as much as I did.

I don’t know,” she said.  “I have never taken the time to find out.  But I’m pretty sure I do now.”

I wish her all the time she needs to enjoy puzzles, and whatever else it takes to enjoy her life.

I wish the same for you.

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I now know very well what shiplap is.

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Suzanne told us in the “INTREPID” post that she had no fears except for skunks.  Turns out she has a tiny little fear of heights as well.  Gail had a hard time getting down, too.

MIDDLE SISTER SYNDROME

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MIDDLE SISTER SYNDROME

“My mother never had time for me.  When you’re the middle child in a family of five million, you don’t get any attention.”    Woody Allen

According to cultural lore, as well as multiple online reports, studies, comments and articles, middle children frequently suffer from feelings of being overlooked by parents, thus creating feelings inferiority.  It is known as Middle Child Syndrome.

I am the fifth child of seven, so technically, I am not smack in the middle.  I am, however, the middle of the three girls.  Suzanne is younger than me, and there is one brother younger than her. Gail is the second-born, with one brother older than her.

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Older children, it is noted, tend to have stronger personalities and are typically leaders.  These two aspects, in the very best of ways, describe Gail.

Youngest children, in contrast, tend to be charming and popular, which describes Suzanne exactly, but perhaps not for the reasons cited:  youngest children have developed social skills that will get other people to do things for them.

I can say honestly that as a child, I knew only this:  Mom and Dad loved us all fiercely, and all resources—time, the little money we had, and energy—was equally divided among all of us.  I don’t ever recall feeling slighted.  I do remember hanging out with my two brothers just above me, because we were the closest in age, and Mom was likely busy with Suzanne and Ryan.

Apparently, while Gail was busy helping Mom with the babies and the house, David, John and I whiled away the hours outside building forts in the wooded area behind the house, working our own plots of land on our make-believe farm, building haystacks in the hayloft in the barn, going fishing and generally keeping ourselves busy with all the outdoors had to offer, much like all farm kids did back then.  Indoors, I remember reading Motor Trend magazine with them, playing pool, playing board games and the occasional game of football—indoors.  The most memorable one was in the living room, and I was the football.  I learned to be physically tough.

When I am in a social situation that necessitates good-natured talk of a physical fight, and the other party perceives my small stature to ensure a win for them, I remind them that I grew up with four brothers, and while I am relatively small, I am mighty if I need to be.

So don’t mess with me.

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They’re all good…

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We have no control over our birth order, and I cannot imagine being anything besides the middle sister.  I get to be sandwiched between my two best friends; I get to be the middle link.  I get to look up to Gail, and, as I have mentioned many times, I look up to Suzanne, too.  She is infinitely wiser than me in so many ways.  I get to be there for either of them if I can help, and I ask them for help, too.

Gail, being the natural-born leader, quickly assumed the role of matriarch when our parents died.  She was self-appointed, but by birth order and virtue of her exceeding qualifications, she was the best woman for the job.  She had big shoes to fill, and she continues to fill them well.

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The dark side of the online studies and reports I read is this:  there are often resentments between siblings—and sisters—predictable by birth order.  If resources were unevenly distributed among the children, this negativity may result.  If achievements by the sibling that appeared to be more favored—often the younger child–are more celebrated by parents, this resentment grows.  If one child was perceived as the clear “favorite” by the parents, this is an almost sure set-up for further conflict.

I remember telling Dad that we didn’t fight among ourselves, because there was no reason to.  There was no uneven allocation of resources, no wealth that may have been perceived to be unevenly shared and ultimately divided in the end.

Very simply, we didn’t have anything to fight over.  No favorites—although Suzanne, in that charming style I mentioned above, will make frequent jokes about all that was bestowed upon her, while we toiled away to make it on our own in college and making our way in the world after that.

Unlike Woody Allen, I never felt that Mom and Dad didn’t have time for us.  Growing up, my most vivid memories of Dad were as a busy farmer, and Mom was perpetually busy with laundry, while Gail was the chief chef for nine people.

But they always had time if we needed it, and they always seemed to know when to take a moment to play a game, read a book, wipe a tear or band-aid an arm.  They always kept us their priority, their Magnificent Seven.

And number five of that seven is the perfect place for me, between Gail and Suzanne.

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