FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

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FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

The words Thank you for your service are powerful words, and when they are used to thank a service man or woman or veteran for their service and sacrifice for our country, they never fall on deaf ears.  I just wish there were stronger words to offer them.

Today is Memorial Day 2019.  It is a day to honor our fallen soldiers, but every day is a good day to honor our veterans as well.  It is also known as Decoration Day, in honor also of our loved ones who have passed.  I don’t normally post on Monday evenings, but I have been away for a week of vacation at one of our shining seas, and I feel compelled to write.  Having seen parts of our country that I never have, my mind has been expanded.  And, once the human mind has been expanded, one should do all they can to keep it that way.

Our trip took us to the southeastern United States, a part of the country rich with history; ripe with insight to offer anyone who opens their mind to it.  We toured an antebellum mansion, taking in its grandeur and learning of its history from the knowledgeable tour guide.  We took the driving tour of several others around this relatively small historic town.

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The beauty of these mansions could not be denied.  What was apparently denied, or at least not overtly acknowledged in the tour, was the travesty of the extreme racial injustice perpetrated in the name of slavery that allowed these wealthy landowners to amass incredible wealth, affording them this lifestyle.

As I age, I am increasingly grateful for the liberty in all its forms I am privileged to enjoy.  I have never known anything but complete freedom to do as I please.

It’s a free country,” was a phrase I recall hearing from other children, and using it as a child, not really having a clue what it really meant at its deepest level.  It was used as defense when we needed to justify an action that another child may not have liked.

It is indeed a free country, and for that, we have our military—past and present—to thank.

“Thank you for your service,” I am offering to anyone who did, or currently does defend our country, no matter what position they held/hold in the military.  I am so grateful.  I wish I had stronger words.

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I spent much of my highway time on the trip in the back seat of the car while my husband drove and our youngest son rode shotgun.  I set up camp back there with books, magazines, my Kindle, a pillow and blanket, as well as colored pencils and markers to go with the color book, and a giant bag of road trip snacks.  With these essentials in my little nest, my life on the road was good.  My sisters were the only thing I wanted to bring, but couldn’t.  Somewhere along the way,  I sent them this picture:

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At the last moment before I left home, I grabbed a book I had only just started, but put aside for whatever reason, probably to read the other dozen or so I had already started before that one.  Something told me to grab it, so I did.

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My firstborn shares my love of sociology, and he had this book as required reading for one of his classes.   I had heard of it, so when I saw it in his stack, I borrowed it.

Like traveling to a new place, some books have the power to expand the mind.  This one did for me.  I once heard that we should not say we are going to read a book; rather, we are going to visit a book.

This was a wonderful visit, with some of the material making me focus more strongly on the power of kinship that our United States—or any country’s—military has on its members.  The feelings of belonging, responsibility and contribution to the country usually overpower the feelings of fear, self-centeredness or apathy, thus forging the bonds of concern, care and allegiance most soldiers have toward each other, as well as toward their country.

One point in the book—as I understand it—is that many soldiers actually miss combat when they return home.  These strong bonds are not felt in the civilian life, and they feel alone and misunderstood among their families and society as a whole.

The power of the group cannot be denied.  This is the essence of the study of sociology, which is probably why this book appealed to me.  I didn’t fully realize the power of the military group.  I will likely never realize the sacrifices they made for me, and for all of us in this free country.

Another awareness I took away from the book is that while the thank you for your service is the right thing to say, we should also strive to find more ways for veterans to contribute in the work force, because most of them continue to feel the strong need to make a difference for the group.

Humans are like that, especially in times of crisis.  We bond together as a whole to get through hardships and crises, then go back to our own relatively solitary existence.  Unfortunately, there is a dire need, but as an affirmation of the good that exists in the human soul, many people in the Midwest are joining forces and helping each other through the flooding that is currently devasting much of my state of Kansas, and much of Missouri and Oklahoma as well.  This was taken out the car window on the way home Sunday south of Tulsa:

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The mighty Mississippi was flooding as well.

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Getting through hard times with the help of friends and even strangers keeps my faith in humanity going, even in my darkest days.  Speaking for myself, I leaned on my immediate family when we lost our parents, but the outpouring of love and support I felt from friends, and even people I didn’t know got me through.  May anyone who has been devastated by the flooding feel this love and support as well.

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I saw this sight on my porch first thing this morning:

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It was as if the live bird was telling the ceramic bird he had the power to simply fly away, so why not just take off?  “Why are you just sitting there like that when you can fly wherever you want to?” it seemed to say.

It reminded me of the picture I took outside our fourth-floor hotel window on the second leg of our trip in Natchez, Mississippi.  The mighty Mississippi River is in the background, with the bridge from Louisiana pictured.

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The metaphor of the bird on the wire under the United States flag silhouetted against the beautiful sunset struck me so profoundly, and still does.

In this historic town where slavery once was the order of the day, freedom should carry a more direct meaning for all of us.  Thanks to the sacrifices of our military, we all can fly away almost as easily as the bird on the wire, or the bird on my porch.

Too many of us—myself included at times—remain enslaved only by our own thoughts and fears, thus paralyzing us from taking off and finding the freedom we yearn for.  We are like the ceramic bird, sitting there frozen.

May the sacrifices of our soldiers and veterans be the voice that reminds you that it is indeed a free country, and you do have more power to fly than you may think.

To all veterans and to current members of our military,  THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.   I wish I had stronger words.

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 The shining sea at Gulf Shores, Alabama

* Sebastian Junger, Tribe:  On Homecoming and Belonging.  Copyright 2016.  Hachette Book Group, New York, New York.

Available online and in bookstores as well–I highly recommend visiting this book.

 

 

 

COLLEGE TOWNS AND CONCERT QUESTS

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COLLEGE TOWNS AND CONCERT QUESTS

I wasn’t scared of anything when I was preparing to leave home for college.  Not the leaving, not the moving, not the adjusting.  Nothing, except for one thing:  driving in that big city.

My hometown boasted 321 people at its zenith in the 1980 census.  Therefore, the traffic was minimal, if existent at all.   My earliest driving experiences were on the farm, in the wide open.  I recall this thought clearly: “How am I ever going to learn to drive in that Hays traffic?”

Mercifully, I did learn to drive in that Hays, Kansas (population 16,301 in 1980 census), traffic when I moved there in 1984, spending the next four years at Fort Hays State University.  I spent the next four years out, and then I went back for two more.  Suzanne spent 1988-90 there.  One of our older brothers spent four years there as well, with his last year overlapping my first year.  Our youngest brother attended there as well.

I always feel a pull; a magnetism drawing me back there when I visit.  The memories are good, and there are many. So, when I visited there this weekend to attend an event with family and friends, I felt compelled to write about it.  I write about the things I love, and I am still smitten with Hays.  I know I said I was going to take some time off, but when something is begging to be written about, I write about it.

Coincidentally, Gail visited her college town this week, too.  She lives only thirty miles from it, and her daughter now attends Colby Community College, where Gail attended from 1978-80.

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Gail’s husband celebrated his birthday last week, and they went to Colby to celebrate with Lydia.  Gail and Lydia took advantage of this generational photo op.

Hays boasts a hometown, home-made brewery/restaurant in it’s downtown.

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It is our favorite place to dine when we visit.  This treasure wasn’t there when I was, but it is across the street from a favorite hang-out from way back:

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So, when the guys were getting lost in the stories and reverie from the years they spent together there,

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I took a little walk down to campus.

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My old dorm still stands, changed only a little on the outside.  The inside is now coed, and stepping back inside was a step back in time.

It still smells the same.

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I crossed this bridge perhaps several thousand times on my way from my dorm to the quad, and the cement and wire, I’m sure, are still the same as they were 35 years ago.

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I attended most of my undergraduate classes in this building.

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I got a bit more serious when I went back for a master’s degree; I had no choice.  This building kept me from the light of day for most of my graduate student career.

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A chunk of my readership hails from my hometown, with many of them and/or other family members having attended FHSU.  Not only is it a solid school, it is close to my hometown—90 miles.  The college is named after the army fort that was active there from 1865-1869.  It was an important frontier post during the American Indian Wars of the late 19th century.  It is now operated by the Kansas Historical Society as Fort Hays Historic Site.

One of its claims to fame is that it provided the college education for the world’s second-oldest college graduate.  Nola Ochs, a western Kansas native, graduated from FHSU in 2007 at the tender age of 95.  She passed away in December 2016 at age 105.

While researching this online, I found out that her record was eclipsed just this year, but no further information was available.  I will certainly keep you abreast of any new news releases regarding this, because, as you know, I am enamored with useless trivia.

Speaking of such trivia, you may want to know the difference between the terms college and university. I sure did, so I’m certain you will want to know too:  Colleges typically provide undergraduate (bachelor’s), four-year degrees, while universities provide undergraduate as well as graduate (master’s) degrees.

You’re welcome.

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As I write Sunday afternoon, I am anxiously awaiting Gail’s arrival.  She fulfilled one thing on her bucket list wish to see Bob Seger in concert Saturday night.  She and her friend Karen traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to catch him before he hangs it up at the end of this tour.  This legendary music man will celebrate his 74th birthday tomorrow, May 6th.

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They are stopping here on their way home west, just over the halfway mark of this seven-hour trip.  I don’t even have to ask her if it was worth it.

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We hate to brag, but the sisters of the Sister Lode are experts in the Life is short so do it now way of life.  We’ve told you this before, and we will likely tell you again.  Several posts ago, I mentioned  that Bob’s concert was one of the things on Gail’s list,  Because a seven-hour jaunt didn’t deter Gail, and because this is his farewell tour, she made it happen.

We learned the hard way that at some unknown point, tomorrow won’t come for our loved ones and eventually for each and every one of us as well.  Because of this lesson, we have made good things happen in our lives.  For that awareness, we are grateful.

So, go to college—or not.  It’s not for everyone.  If you did, and you have warm memories from your college town, go back and visit when you have the chance.   Go to your favorite concert—if you want to.  Go on that cruise or take that art class.  Re-connect with that old friend you have been meaning to call.  Grab the mic on the karaoke stage.  Whatever it is, do it now.  Make some new memories.

There is something to be said for bucket lists and for old time rock and roll, because it never forgets.   Neither do college towns.

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GAIL AS GUEST BLOGGER

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I wrote last week that my posts may be sparse in the next month or so, due to the many weekend activities, plus, I need a little breather.  I hosted Gail as she took her artwork down the road to a show in Abilene.  Along with a friend, I helped her there on Saturday.  The rest of the weekend was filled with Gail-time, which never fails to entertain.  This weekend was no different.  

Wanting to add her own contribution to the blog posts–however short and sweet, she wrote this for me in my hiatus.   Gail takes fun wherever she goes, as this post shows.

Kathleen didn’t write this time, but I decided to.  Yes, it was a busy weekend; but no matter how much work I have to do, I always make time for fun.  There really wasn’t much time for writing, what with the show all day, then coming back to her house with our friend for an evening of cooking and eating lasagna, which turned into a night of story-telling and laughter with her husband and son, perhaps a few drags on a cigar, dancing, and practicing on each other with a taser–it’s best to know how to use that thing before you actually have to.  (Kathleen didn’t partake of the last three.)

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She turned in early–like she always does–so she missed the 11:00 p.m. ACDC concert on DVD in the basement two floors below her.  She said she heard it loud and clear.

Fun was had by all, which, after all, is what it’s really all about.

Take care and make sure to have some fun of your own.  –Gail

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Thank you, Gail.  You’re an amazingly talented artist with your tin and wood, as well as your words.  Your ability to share fun and laugher is perhaps your highest art form.–Kathleen

 

PEELING POTATOES

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PEELING POTATOES

Today is Easter Sunday, and I want to offer you the warmest Easter well-wishes.  The day is almost over as I write, but my hope and prayer for you–and for myself–is that the spirit of Easter may live on every day of the year.

It is fitting that we celebrate Easter in early spring when new life abounds.  The grass and trees are green again, and renewal is all around.  The great circle of nature begins once again; the promise of warmer days is being fulfilled. Like Easter, you could even consider it a miracle.

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I spent the weekend with family.  Yesterday, both Suzanne and I traveled north to the home of one of our brothers who lives near our family farm, where another brother lives.  Three of our four brothers were there; Gail was in Denver where her college-age son was playing volleyball for his school’s men’s club.  Our gatherings are always a bit more subdued without Gail, but, alas, she will be in our small city next weekend.

Today–Sunday–I traveled south to celebrate with my husband’s family.  More food and festivities followed, and family ties were celebrated.

I prepared and proffered deviled eggs today; yesterday I brought Mom’s famous potato dish to our family gathering.  As I stood by the kitchen sink peeling potatoes, I thought about Mom, and the thousands of potatoes she peeled for our daily meat-and-potatoes meals on the farm.  Thousands of potatoes, peeled as an offering of love for her family.  The more I peeled, the more I thought about her.  The more I thought about her, the more I felt her there, and it was sweet-bitter.  She wouldn’t be joining us physically for Easter, but she would indeed be there.

And she was.  So was Dad.  Whenever we are together, they are there.

It’s that simple.  It only takes potatoes and a little bit of tuning in.

The renewal miracles of Easter and nature are always there for us if we simply tune in.

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I had a great birthday this past week.  It, too, was simple.  Good food, family and friends; even a little bit of cake on my face–thanks to Suzanne and our friend Tanya.

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Thanks to all who helped me celebrate, and for all the well-wishes.  Please be sure to celebrate your next birthday, no matter how simple your celebration is.

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I’m spending the rest of Easter Sunday simply, which means I am keeping this post short.  I didn’t even post all three pictures at the beginning from our three Thanksgiving celebrations since the blog started; I only posted one.

Sometimes, less is more.  Sometimes, less than 500 words is better than my typical 2,000-plus.  Sometimes, something as mundane as peeling potatoes can bring unexpected joy, if we are open to it.

And sometimes, the most beautiful pictures taken are of the scenery we may overlook at first, like I did with this one until Suzanne pointed it out from our brother’s yard.

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My next six weeks are filled with weekend activities, and my posts may be hit-and-miss.  As always, I appreciate all of you who take the time to read my blog posts.

Happy Easter today, and every day.

IN CELEBRATION OF BIRTHDAYS

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IN CELEBRATION OF BIRTHDAYS

When we were kids, our parents always celebrated our birthdays.  Up until at least age 18 while we lived at home, Mom would be sure to make a cake of our choice, a special meal—again, our choice, and at least one small gift.

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When we turned ten, each of us got to have a full-on party, complete with gift-bearing friends invited.  Just one big party, and it was enough.  We anticipated the big decade mark for the party we would get to have in our honor.

Our younger brother was born on Christmas Eve.  Mom always made sure to observe his birthday that day, but she would sometimes plan a celebration later in the year–I remember one in July–so that his birthday would not be overshadowed by the holiday.

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I’m going to put it right out there:  I am having a birthday this week, and I am so excited.  I always get excited about my birthday.  I know it’s because our parents celebrated the day we arrived on the earth, into our family.  As an adult, Mom would call me at 4:15 p.m. on my birthday, the exact minute I was born.

This year, I am completing my 53rd trip around the sun, and I am not one bit ashamed to admit that.  Then, the day after my birthday, I will embark on my 54th sojourn, as time will not stand still to ask me if, perhaps, I’d like to take a little respite.   I embrace and welcome the opportunity to keep traveling.

Gail and Suzanne are on the same page with me.  We all agree birthdays are to be proclaimed, noticed and celebrated.  They do it for theirs, so I am taking pride in telling the world IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!img_20180414_151600003.jpg

Here I go again.  I’ve been up on this soapbox several times before, and I am getting back up on this perch again to tell you yet one more time:

AGE IS A GIFT.  Which is why I celebrate.  The old joke about how it’s better than the alternative is trite, but true, at least for those we celebrate with on earth.  Last week, however, I wrote about what lies beyond this plane, and all three of us agree it is something way better than this. So, technically, we don’t really believe birthdays are better than the alternative.  Again, as the country song says, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to go right now…”

Age is a gift to be unwrapped and enjoyed, just like any other gift.  Just as it would be an insult to the giver to complain about a material gift, it is an insult to the Giver to complain about being given another year.

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This board was posted on the wall in the employee area of one of the long-term care facilities I travel to, with anyone welcome to comment.  

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I meet some incredible people in my work as a speech therapist in health care.  I have honored some of them in the past by printing their wisdom, and, just in time for my birthday post, I met another one last week.  She will soon be 90 years old.  She lives alone, independently, as she has for years.

“I can’t wait to be 90.  I know some incredible people who are already there, and I can’t wait to join them,” she said.

If I feel it is appropriate, I often ask these elders what their secrets are to aging successfully.  Clearly, it was appropriate to ask her this question.

I’m continuing to be me.  I’m not allowing age to change me.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been discouraged.  I don’t let things get me down.  I can’t change getting old.  What am I gonna do?  Sit in a chair and rock away?”

As final words of wisdom, she offered this: “If you haven’t done what you want to do, do it now.  As soon as you can.”

We’ll call her “Ruby.”  She is a gem indeed.  I could tell you about the unique and interesting hobbies she still engages in, but that may very well be a HIPPA violation, as they may identify her due to her uniqueness.

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I decided several years ago that the best gift I get each year is from Mother Nature.   Just in time for my birthday, she typically gets the verdant green on the ground, and the leaves hung on the trees.  All for me.

Several years ago, she didn’t quite make it in time. My gift arrived a little late.  This year, however, it appears she is going to deliver in time.

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The Bradford Pear trees are in full bloom in our neighbor’s yard.

Mother Nature and Father Time have become my allies; I no longer try to fight them.  It’s pointless.  I have struggled more with Mother Nature lately; perhaps I need—yet again—to try to take Gail’s advice from last week about savoring whatever weather she brings.  Western Kansas got a spring blizzard last week; Gail’s small town shut down school and some other community operations.  The next day, the snow was gone.

Father Time, on the other hand, is now my friend.  I used to despise him for bringing another hash mark on my birthday tally, but I am old and wise enough to now know that every year, every month and week, every moment of every day is a gift.

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I always have, and still do—for the most part—think that women need to embrace the lines and wrinkles that age brings.  They are typically hard-earned and well deserved.  Surgery and expensive cosmetic treatments and procedures are a form of denial, and simply embracing the change is the healthiest and most natural thing to do.

That is, of course, until it is my face showing the age.

Last week, I looked in the mirror, and just like that, seemingly overnight, I had jowls.  I wasn’t even sure that was the right word; I hadn’t paid much attention because I really hadn’t cared until now.  I looked it up—being the word nerd I am—and sure enough, indeed they were jowls, arriving just in time for my 53rd birthday.

This rude awakening coincided with my haircut appointment.  I had a few minutes to read her magazines before it was my turn, and I picked up a popular magazine from a few months ago that highlighted the fads of 2018.

I’m not one to jump on any bandwagon, so I had never even heard of a jade roller.  There it was, being debated as useful vs. useless to tighten and shape skin on one’s face.

This interested me more than a little bit.  Some of the work I do—including some I did just yesterday—involves exercising and tightening facial muscles after a stroke.  The gentleman I saw had a recent stroke, and his left side was weak, including his lips and facial muscles.  He was losing liquid out of the corner of his mouth, and this becomes a functional problem that I treat.

So I did.

Knowing the value of stimulating facial muscles, I continued to research the jade roller.  Apparently, jade has been used for centuries for its seemingly magical healing qualities.  The jury appears to be out, but from my professional experience, this type of stimulation may be worth considering.

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I don’t need a party or widespread attention on my birthday.  I’m still getting a lot of mileage from the 50th birthday party three years ago.  It’s not too early to begin planning for Gail’s 60th, which will be in just ten short months.  Suzanne will have a big one in 16 months, and we will certainly blow the roof off for both of those.

I do have one request for a gift from you:  Please celebrate your own birthday.  If you don’t think it’s important, then you have some work to do.  Start by figuring out where that crazy idea came from, and work to change that.  Observing the day you arrived on earth is not ever to be dismissed as unimportant.

If “Ruby” is going to celebrate her 90th birthday, you’d better celebrate yours, too, no matter how old you are.

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I don’t have grand plans for my birthday, but I do plan to do what I please—for the most part.  Perhaps a dinner with my family, perhaps soaking up some rays that Mother Nature is predicted to deliver that day, reading, napping and even a little work—if I have to.

These freedoms to do my thing are the best gifts of all—along with Mother’s Nature’s touch outdoors.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I haven’t treated myself to a few goodies as well.  I don’t really need anything, but I indulged a few small wants.

The wants include the jade roller.  I don’t need it, but I am curious.  Plus, it was only 12.97 on Amazon…I will give you my product review in time.  Until then, I will do my best to embrace the jowls, and all the other gifts that age brings.

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Happy Birthday to my birthday buddies:  Charlie— a college friend born on the same day in the same year; Lois—a former co-worker, my new friend Glenda, and Libby—one day before me, a former co-worker as well.  My cousin Theresa celebrates one day before as well.  Happy Birthday today–Sunday– to Tammy.  Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law Melissa; she celebrates on tax day.  Happy Birthday too to Nesha; she lives in my small city now, having been born one day after me in the same hospital.  We were buddies in the hospital nursery.  My niece celebrates two days later, and so does my friend Nicole.

Whenever your birthday happens to be, Happy Birthday to you, too.

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GAIL-ISMS

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GAIL-ISMS

Our mom had a penchant for collecting quotes, sayings, quips, cartoons and words of wisdom on paper, and she saved them in this box:

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I have frequently referred to them throughout my blogs, and, for us, they never fail to inspire.

Dad has his own wisdom as well, and I have shared that with you in many posts.

If you are a regular reader, you are likely aware that Gail, too, has her own wisdom.  So does Suzanne.  I sometimes try to disguise my input as wisdom; I hope I have given you some small bits worth your read.

This post, however, focuses on Gail’s words of wisdom.  She has much to share, and she has agreed to do just that today.   Suzanne has agreed to share hers another time.

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Gail and her daughter Lydia stopped by my house this afternoon on their way home west after spending the weekend east in Kansas City.  Gail’s son Wyatt was there playing volleyball for his state university’s men’s club volleyball team.

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He’s one of the best blockers on the block.

Because Gail had spent the weekend in a gymnasium with multiple volleyball games going on, she was in a competition state of mind.  Her first offering was this:

“Winning or losing, play your best until the end of the game.”

And whatever “best” means, remember this: “Always give 100%, but not everyone’s 100% is the same.  Don’t compare yours to someone else’s.”

I talked to her while driving home, and she offered this:

“Drive defensively, but be courteous.  Two or three car lengths won’t make a difference to your destination.  This, of course, works the same way in life.  Be kind.  And don’t rush all the time.  It doesn’t help.”

After an enjoyable weekend with three of her four children—her oldest daughter joined them—reflections on fun were appropriate:

“Don’t be afraid to have fun.  The more you have, the more you can share.”

Someone close to her recently quit smoking, a task they simply decided to do.  Gail believes in the power of mind over matter.

Make the choice to control bad habits that are controlling you.”

And for those who have had bad habits, or made regretful mistakes in the past (that would likely be most of us), she offers this:

“You can’t change the past, but you have the power to cultivate a present and future that doesn’t reflect your past.”

If only we could edit out the bad parts like I did with this blog just before I posted it, or crop out the unfavorable parts like I did with the pictures, life would be so much easier.

As we sometimes do, Gail and I spent a while discussing the books we are currently absorbed in.

“As Dr. Seuss says, ‘The more you read, the more you’ll know.’”

I am currently re-reading a fabulous memoir written by a Kansas farm girl much like us, but with struggles we never experienced.   She has made a name for herself on the bestseller list, and rightfully so.   She will be speaking just 45 minutes down the road from my small city next week, and I will be there.

Always have something to look forward to,” is timeless wisdom from our mother.  I am anticipating a great evening.

And speaking of our mother, it has always been a priority for us to live a life of peace and harmony in our family, not just to honor Mom’s message at their funeral, but because it is important to us.  We have all lived long enough, however, to know that some families can be sticky creatures, and keeping peace within them may not be an easy task.  To that end, Gail offers this:

“Families can be made or chosen.  Either way, living in peace with them should always be a priority.  It’s worth the work.”

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Suzanne stopped by my home while Gail was here, and we had a great visit, as always.

The words of wisdom that resound most frequently with me from both Suzanne and Gail involve the weather.  It’s a big no-brainer that complaining about the weather does absolutely no good, but Gail and Suzanne seem to have a better handle on this than I do.  They love the wind; I loathe it.  They accept the wind and the cold; I complain about it.

Notwithstanding the return of the winter-like temperatures predicted for mid-week next week, it appears that spring is indeed springing.

Yellow is one of my favorite colors, and it seems to be nature’s first harbinger of the warmer temperatures soon to come:

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The forsythia blooms are always a brilliant yellow

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Some people call them weeds…

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Daffodils never disappoint

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I feel my spirits lifting; the sun and the heat revitalize me, and make me love Kansas once again.  It was a long and difficult winter for our area; the cold, gray, wind and ice relented just enough after each storm to herald yet another round.  My soul began to feel drained and weary.

The late winter weeks dealt me several cruel blows, as I lost a handful of beloved patients that, in my fairy tale mind, really weren’t going to die.  Ever.  But they did.  I am no stranger to death taking people from me, but these losses wrought me and hollowed out my already-weary soul.  I couldn’t have done anything to help them in the end, much like hundreds of other patients I have lost.

Somehow, though, these few have stuck with me.

“Grief is for the living,” a wise friend told me years ago, and that, too, has stuck with me.   I know in my heart of hearts that their suffering is over and they have no desire to come back here, so I must let them go in my heart, just as I did with Mom and Dad.

Gail has no fear, not even of death.  She embraces it as a certain eventuality, having no control over its ultimate arrival.  I like to say I don’t either, but I can’t put myself on par with her.

“Like the weather, death is a fact of life and it’s going to come. It does no good to get upset about either one,” Gail said.

If Heaven is indeed a place of happiness and joy beyond our wildest imaginations, then hopefully, I’m in.  Paraphrased from the wise words of a country singer, “Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to go right now.”

If Heaven is like a theater, I’m pretty sure my parents have front-row seats.  I’ll take a seat in the nosebleed section, if that means I made it.  Gail and Suzanne will likely have floor seats, probably somewhere in the middle.   It will be a gigantic theater, but I’m sure it will be easy to find the people you want to see.

Like my patients.  And, of course, Mom and Dad.

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Happy Spring from The Sister Lode

WHEN COUNTRY WASN’T COOL

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WHEN COUNTRY WASN’T COOL

I couldn’t play a musical instrument to save my life.  Yet, every day, music saves my life.  Every day, at almost every moment when I can, I have music playing.  It fills me up, calms me down and transports me to magical places.  Very simply, it makes me happy.

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When my stepson was in college, he came for a weekend visit.  As he drove up the driveway, his music arrived before he did.   I was standing outside with my firstborn; he was about 12 years old.

“Wow, his music is loud,” I said.

“Mom, that’s what it sounds like when you pull up, too,” he said, in his usual poker-faced style.

I was busted.  I didn’t deny it either.

I’m pretty sure I still sound like that when I pull up, and it’s worth it to me.

**********

I am writing at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, March 30th.  Happy Birthday to our dad today; he would have been 85 years old.  Last week, I posted that I wanted to celebrate his birthday in a big way:  by going to the Willie Nelson concert in Newkirk, Oklahoma, a mere 2 ½ hour drive from my home.  However, since it is now 8:11 p.m., and the concert started at 8:00, clearly, I will not be going to the show.

I went to the website to check into purchasing tickets, and the show venue reported the bad news:  SOLD OUT.  The secondary sellers had some left, but for their inflated cost worth a month of groceries, I decided having had seen him three times already would have to suffice—for now.    The iconic Willie is one of my all-time favorites—obviously.

So, in his honor, I loaded up my five-disc CD changer with Willie CDs—I own eleven—all day.  I had my own concert in my home.

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Gail is the CD queen.  In her CD-purchasing heyday, she built her collection up to about 700 CDs.  I may own perhaps 200.  Suzanne—ever the minimalist– said she owns only enough to fit into a shoebox.

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Gail stores most of the CDs in old suitcases…

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Gail has vinyl too–this was her first purchase, followed by this sampling:

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Our oldest brother got his first turntable in the early 70’s, and Gail reports she was hooked.  It was a top-of-the-line Pioneer system.  T-Rex and Badfinger were the two bands she remembers most clearly from those early days of her newfound love of music.

Gail kept most of her vinyl, even replacing some of her favorites with the same one on CD.   She began her CD collection sometime in the late 1980’s, I think.  Several years later,  needing an adventure, I spent 1990 in suburban Philadelphia as a nanny.  Gail, Suzanne and I were not as close then as we are now, but we were still tight.  We kept in touch by phone—the land-line kind—and I recall very clearly a phone conversation Suzanne and I had, I think in the fall:

“I’m kind of worried about Gail,” Suzanne said.  “ I think she’s gone off the deep end with this new country music thing.  There’s this guy, Garth Brooks, and she listens to him all the time.  He has this song ‘Friends in Low Places,’ and she just loves it.”

This was the beginning of “New Country,” and Gail’s tastes were obviously on the cutting edge.  Suzanne and I just didn’t know it yet.

We have our favorite country artists, both new and old.  You know who my “old country” favorite is already.  Suzanne doesn’t have a clear favorite, old or new.  Gail also had a spell of Kenny Chesney fever, having gone to several of his concerts.

Being Gail, she found a way to express herself, even among thousands of other fans.  She and a friend saw him in Kansas City, and made a sign that read “KC in KC.”  They followed him to Oklahoma City, and made a sign that read “KC in OKC.”

Coming from Gail, this shouldn’t surprise you.  She finds a way to express herself, and it usually draws positive attention.

I am a concert goer, too.  Having been bitten by the bug with the Beach Boys live as a teenager, right here in my small city, I have always loved to hear my favorite musicians live, sometimes more than once.

None of us knew at the time, but the woman about my age singing with her family band at a wedding dance I went to with my college roommate when I went to her southern Kansas farm home with her in 1985 would become famous.  She was Kansas’s own Martina McBride.  Obviously, some wonderful women came from that neck of the woods; I credit Marilyn as my inspiration to become a speech therapist.

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I have seen Martina McBride two other times, and she has the biggest, most beautiful voice I have ever heard coming from such a tiny woman.  I am biased, but I think her version of “How Great Thou Art” is the best recorded version of all time.  If you haven’t heard it, check it out.  You won’t be disappointed, especially when she hits the high notes at the end.

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I have seen Phil Collins twice, and I would love to see him again.  Mary Chapin Carpenter is another one I have seen twice, and will drop everything when she comes around again.  I have about a dozen CDs from each of them.

Having crossed Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen off my ‘Buffet’ list, that leaves Van Morrison and Jimmy Buffet as must-sees.

Our small city boasts a beautiful art-deco theater in its downtown, offering unparalleled acts like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from just ten days ago.  Among the other stars I have taken in there include:  Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, Jackson Browne, Lindsay Buckingham, Jewel, The Mavericks, Cheap Trick, Rob Thomas, Weird Al Yankovic, George Jones, Don Williams, Phil Vassar, Rick Springfield, Willie Nelson once, as well as his son Lucas Nelson in a separate show, and Martina McBride one of the two times, then again down the road a few months later in Manhattan, Kansas.

Music is a healing balm, providing the brain with stimulation that cannot be achieved in any other way.  In my work with stroke patients, I have encountered several talented, certified music therapists who provide musical stimulation to the injured brain.  The results are always positive.

Music—specifically special songs—have the power to transport us back in time to a place filled with memories, as if we are returning there physically.  Every time I hear Boston singing “More Than A Feeling,” I am immediately transported back to May, 1982.  And that’s all I am going to tell you about why I remember that song.

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Our living room remodel that I recently wrote about cramped my style in several ways, chiefly the loss of my in-home CD player.

Our five-disc changer, along with the rest of the components sit in this Hoosier cabinet that my husband refinished.  It sat in our grandmother’s garage for years, having been carted from one home to another after a previous resident left it in their newly-acquired home years ago.  Wanting to pass it on, and knowing my husband was the man for the job, she gave it to us.  It began as a dilapidated treasure, but he restored it to its present state of beauty:

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The components are in the bottom,

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And the CDs are in the top.

I had to suffer through several months without my CD music, but mercifully, I was able to play Amazon music through my Kindle.  It is now back where it belongs.

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We even have speakers wired through to the back porch so we can enjoy the music when I am tending to my redneck clothesline,

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Or when we are enjoying our redneck backyard pool.

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I remember Mom and Dad’s vinyl.  I wish we had kept some of their records, but it simply wasn’t practical then.  With Gail’s help, we recalled a few of their favorites:  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Eydie Gorme, Eddie Arnold, Mama Cass and Helen Reddy.

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I didn’t question this cover as a child, but perhaps I should have.  I do now.

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Suzanne, ever the one who is happy with simple, doesn’t have a Buffet list for concerts.  She is simply happy listening to her 70’s and 80’s music on Spotify.  Having Sirius satellite radio in my car, I find my favorite stations are the 70’s and 80’s songs as well.  Those songs are the soundtracks of our youth.

Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss,” is one of Gail’s concert quests.  Having seen him once, he is the one show I would choose to see again if I could.  He delivered three hours of non-stop rock with every ounce of energy he possessed in his early sixties, pausing only for ten seconds of silence to honor his recently deceased saxophonist, Clarence Clemons.  Perhaps we should make that a priority for us to see him.

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I have the Bruce station on preset in my car.

As well as Bruce, Gail has always wanted to see Bob Seger.  Sadly, for us, he recently announced his upcoming retirement from touring after 56 years.   Perhaps it’s not too late to work on that dream as well, as he still has a few dates left.

Music.  Live or recorded, let it fill you.  Let it move you.  Let it be a part of your day, every day.  It is a gift to be opened and enjoyed.  Whether it’s Bruce or Willie, Bob or Martina, or whoever you enjoy, their gift to all of us is their musical talent.

If you possess a singing talent, or perhaps you can play a musical instrument, then please share your gift with the world.

I’m always available for a private concert.

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Happy Spring from the April Fools!