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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AGE IS A GIFT

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AGE IS A GIFT

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

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Discover a newfound sense of youth!

Feel younger than you did yesterday!

Gain a greater appreciation for your amazing human body!

Embrace your age, no matter what it is!

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

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

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

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

I never complained again after that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy Birthday Kansas!

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

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

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