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.

 

 

 

THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR

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THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR

Solstice: noun—either of the two times in the year, the summer solstice and the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon, marked by the longest and shortest days.

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I survived the darkness again. Yesterday, December 21st, 2019, was the shortest day of the year, the longest night of the year.   Of course, the day had 24 hours like they all do, but the amount of daylight was the least there will be for another year.

And I didn’t simply survive it. I celebrated it. Along with my siblings and our families, we gathered at the home of our youngest brother and his family to once again welcome another Christmas–complete with a feast of our favorite foods.

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We have never missed this holiday together, and I am so grateful.

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Gail, Suzanne and I have our annual Christmas gift exchange. This is the pinnacle of gift-giving and receiving for all three of us, we delight especially in finding the perfects gifts for each other throughout the year, and stashing them away for this special celebration.

Second only to that joy is the receiving end of this exchange. This great care and caution we take in procuring the gifts is always worth the laughter and joy we create when we share our perfect finds.

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Gail knew Suzanne would love a gift card from one of her favorite stores–Ross–but she wasn’t able to get there to get her one, so she designed her own. 

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And speaking of joy, if you look closely at Gail’s gift in hand in this picture, you will see a memento of a place in Wichita that brought us so much joy in our youths. It was an amusement park not far from our grandparent’s house, and when we were treated to a trip there, the joy was unparalleled. It no longer stands; its former vibrance is now replaced by dilapidation and desertion, and this breaks our hearts more than a little. Suzanne, in her thoughtfulness, found these stickers and gave us each one.   Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best.

If you, too, have fond memories from this special place from your childhood, give us an Amen when you are done reading.

No joy is more savored and special than once again commemorating the arrival of the best Christmas gift we ever received: our youngest brother Ryan. He arrived on Christmas eve 46 years ago, and we never let it go by unnoticed. Mom and Dad always made sure to observe his birthday despite the holiday celebrations. When Ryan was a kid, sometimes Mom even made a special celebration for him in the summer to draw attention to his birthday away from the holiday.

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I awoke today to bright sunshine and tolerable wind. The temperature hung below the freezing mark for a few hours, but as the day progresses, it is already above 50° on its way to a predicted high of 56°.  I’ll take it. I have two loads of laundry hanging outside.

It will only be a gain of about 90 seconds, but there will be more daylight today than yesterday. It will be noticeable mostly in my mind, but that’s where it counts.

I live by sunlight; I am solar-powered. Even though winter officially began yesterday, my mindset is now turned toward spring. I will, however, try to retrain my mind to savor the day, no matter the weather, no matter how much sunshine I may or may not see.

Because I am a trivia nerd, I had to find out difference between solstice and equinox. Yesterday was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. June 21st will be the summer solstice, the first day of summer and the shortest night of the year. An equinox is the time or date—twice each year—at which the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of equal length. In simple terms, this translates into the first day of spring, and the first day of fall.

In my post Something to Look Forward To (January 7th 2018), I wrote that Mom helped us to see the importance of having just that. I am now looking forward to the vernal equinox, just three months away. But I will do my best to savor the winter.

Every day, no matter the weather outside or the conditions deep inside each of us, every moment is a gift. In the winter, I have to dig a little deeper sometimes to find that joy.

I read recently that in ancient times, people grew anxious and depressed when the days grew shorter, thinking perhaps the sun was dying.   They worshipped the sun as a god, and without it, they would surely perish. In order to sustain themselves and life in general, they created midwinter rituals to coax back the light, warmth and abundance, which ultimately culminated on the night of the winter solstice. They burned great bonfires complete with music and dancing as their message to the god of the sun that they were doing their part, and needed the sun to keep coming back to do its part. Apparently, it worked.

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We no longer have to doubt the return of the sun. For longer than any of us can imagine, it has come up every morning and goes down every night. It’s presence each day becomes shorter, until, once again, it becomes longer.

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The wheat lying dormant in our Kansas fields reminds me that winter is a time for slower growth and perhaps more rest. It is a time to quietly prepare for the harvest, a time of renewal and reaping that, as long as I can remember, has always come.

It is a time of reflection, a time to think about the year to come. When the sun comes back in full force, we will be ready to reflect its light and warmth to everyone in our own sphere.

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It is a time of restoration, a time to replenish our inner energies that were wisely, but energetically spent when the sun shone bright and warm upon us. If we simply ask, we often are granted this restored energy when the time is right and ripe.

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It is a time of rejuvenation, a time to celebrate the gift of youth, even if we are not as young as we’d like to be. If we can still move our bodies and brains, then we are young enough. Looking through the eyes of the young can bring us a fresh, innocent perspective.

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It is a time of release, a time to let go of those things we may be holding on to that are not helping us grow. If it doesn’t make you happy, and it doesn’t make anyone else’s life better either, perhaps it’s time to let it go.

Along with the release, letting go of past hurts makes it a time of reconciliation. Even if the other party doesn’t care, or if they thought they never did anything wrong, forgiveness is a healing balm for you. Equally as important is forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings. Dragging those dead carcasses around doesn’t help anyone. Leaving them behind helps everyone—especially you.  Christmas is the perfect time.

 

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As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, I was able to capture images of the horizon outside Ryan’s front door. Stepping out and facing west, this panoramic view never ceases to renew me, even when I know the sun will be gone for the longest night of the year. His home is just down the road a few miles from where we grew up, offering an unobstructed view of one of our home state’s most exquisite gifts—the Kansas sunset.

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The last picture was taken about 5:40 p.m. I said goodbye and thank you to the sun, knowing the darkness would soon come, but would also be gone in the morning. And, as always, it was.

The promise continues.

I will take some time to renew, so my posts will be hit or miss for a while. Just like the sun, I will be back. I simply need to rest, relax and retool in order to renew.

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Reading is one of my all-time favorite pastimes, especially in the winter. I must share my recommendations with you regarding a great new book by a great author. My sister-in-law Lara recently wrote an amazing Christmas novel. I typically don’t read fiction, but she hooked me with a powerful story as well as amazing local history, as it is set in the area we grew up. Please search this title on Amazon to purchase it as an e-book, or in print as well. You won’t regret it.

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Merry Christmas to you from the sisters of The Sister Lode. We wish you a blessed holiday, as well as a season of rest, relaxation, restoration, rejuvenation, reflection and renewal.

 

 

 

 

ON ISLAND TIME

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ON ISLAND TIME

There is a Jimmy Buffett song that reminds me that traveling south often brings about a new perspective. Heading to the beach, or perhaps to the islands brings about a change in one’s attitude.

As the snow flies today in Kansas, I am watching it out the window. At this point, it is beautiful as it falls softly with no wind, and I am so glad to be here. However, the thought of an island always beckons in the back of my mind when Old Man Winter starts blowing that dreadful wind that Gail and Suzanne love, the same wind that I loathe (Sisters of The South Wind, November 17th).

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No wind!  I love it, Gail and Suzanne don’t.  

The snow is still virgin-white, still falling; still beautiful. I even got out and ran in it this morning, and it was a unique high. I do love this about Kansas.

Suzanne and I did change our latitude this weekend. We didn’t go south, however, like the song may suggest. We headed north to an old familiar destination: Grand Island, Nebraska.  And, true to the song, we did experience a change in attitude.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Grand Island, you may wonder why we chose this destination, when a six-hour round trip in another direction may offer greater thrills. For us, it is about nostalgia; it’s a trip back in time.

Our hometown is halfway there from the small city we both live in now, and we traveled north to Grand Island as often as we traveled south to Salina when we lived at home. Both destinations offer attractive shopping and dining options, but Grand Island will always have an edge over Salina: we used to take Mom there on our shopping trips.

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Suzanne moved to Salina three years ago, and we took a Christmas shopping trip to Grand Island then, spending the night in a hotel. We went back two years ago, but missed last year. It was time again, so we made a plan to leave on the auspicious and lucky date of Friday, December 13th. Gail wanted to join us, but she had too many of her multiple plates spinning in the air, and wasn’t able to get away.

Next time. It’s never the same with only two of us. Last weekend it was Gail and me in Manhattan. Perhaps Gail and Suzanne need to get away without me.

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Not surprisingly, the innkeeper remembered us. We can’t tell you why, that would violate our code of silence when it comes to certain matters. What she may wish she didn’t know about us is that we tried out her mattresses in our own unique Goldilocks style, and found them to be just right.

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But she is still speaking to us; still laughing with us.   We slept soundly at her inn Friday night, and were planning on spending Saturday night there as well. However, the weather prognosticators had a dire outlook for Saturday night and Sunday morning, so we departed early.

Now, Sunday, we are glad we did.

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The memories were still there.  Some of our favorite places were no longer there, and new ones have sprung up, but the spirit of our visits with Mom to La Grand Isle—French traders who settled it named it that—remains.

We shopped,

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and dined.

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Eating at an all-you-care-to-eat pizza/fried chicken dinner/ice cream buffet at 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon is always good for the gut.

I enjoyed ice cream, but Suzanne wasn’t able to at the end of her meal. Her gut quickly quashed that craving when she realized after her repeat trips to the buffet that her phone was nowhere to be found. We searched the seat, the floor, her purse, her coat, her car to no avail. Retracing her steps was the only solution.

The first call (on my phone, of course, because mine was safe and sound, and I didn’t let her forget that) resulted in a polite “Sorry, nobody has turned anything in.”

Going back one more store, we found that there are still honest Americans out doing their Christmas shopping. “Yes, we have an iPhone someone turned in.” Our description matched the phone, and she and her phone were reunited (and it felt so good).

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We wrapped up our shopping there, stopped on the way home in a Goodwill in this town with the iconic water tower, and made it home safely in the early evening.

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We woke to snow this morning, and knew we made the right decision.

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We made a dent in our Christmas shopping lists—including a goodie or two for ourselves. (We’ve been good this year.)   For me, I decided to celebrate Mom’s birthday a month early, and bring home the annual purse I buy to celebrate Mom’s birthday. It was at this very TJMaxx that Mom helped me pick out my new purse on her last shopping trip there for her 71st birthday, so it was only right to buy the one that jumped right off the hook at me–that’s how I always know it’s the right one.

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For the handful of you readers who know the whole story, let me just say this: The price was right.

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This shopping trip will always hold special memories, and this is one way we celebrate Mom’s spirit within us. Any time we are all together, however, we feel both her and Dad living on through us. Next weekend, we will celebrate Christmas with our brothers and all of our respective families at the home of our youngest brother. Wherever we are, Mom and Dad are there, too.

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May you enjoy the holidays with your loved ones, no matter where they are.

 

 

THE GAME OF LIFE

 

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THE GAME OF LIFE

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

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

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Wyatt is #15, blocking the spike.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to the love of the game.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PASS THE PIE

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PASS THE PIE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*There was no precipitation falling at that time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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and everyone partakes and enjoys.

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Full stomachs match our full hearts,

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and family is celebrated in many ways.

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The hostesses and hosts with the mostesses and mosts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May every day be Thanksgiving Day for you.