THE LIBERTY LIST

According to my watch, the time is now.” –Jimmy Buffet

My generation remembers where we were and what we were doing 21 years ago today: I sat in the recliner all day, holding my sick baby as he slept, watching the horror unfold before my eyes on TV. These memories are seared into the brain of anyone old enough to remember that dark day, the day that forever changed our country.

Gail was preparing her soon-to-be opened donut shop for business. I called and told her about it, she hadn’t heard yet. She went home to watch it on TV, something she rarely does. She knew this needed her attention at that time. The donut shop could wait.

Suzanne arrived at work, not knowing what was happening. She and her co-workers remained glued to the TV for the rest of the day. Her five-year-old daughter had a friend over that evening, and they wanted to watch TV. She heard her ask him what they should watch. He replied innocently, “I guess we could watch the explosion channel.” We all remember there wasn’t much else on, and he realized this, too.

That dark day won’t ever be forgotten, nor should it ever be forgotten. The people who lost their lives that day should be remembered as heroes, even though they likely had no idea what was happening in those horrific moments leading up to their deaths.

The rest of us get to continue to live our lives, even though that scar will always be on the face of our country. The family members and loved ones of the victims, as well as the first responders and others who sacrificed their safety that day should always hold a special place in our memories and hearts as well.

Our veterans, active duty military, Reserves and National Guard are the heroes every day of every year; they are the ones who protected and continue to protect the freedoms most of us take for granted–including me.

Our small hometown held its 150th birthday celebration last Saturday; Suzanne and I were able to go to this special gathering, but Gail couldn’t join us. The veterans of our hometown who were present were honored with recognition: a profoundly moving speech and a special flag salute by some of our town’s youth, followed by a standing ovation:

They are the reason we live in this nation of freedom. We have so many liberties that we fail to realize, all thanks to them.

One of them is the opportunity to travel freely about this country, and take in all it has to offer. Gail, Suzanne and I do our best to enjoy this privilege. Another is to partake in whatever activities interest us, because this country is indeed the land of liberty.

Which is why the term “bucket list” is widely known. Popularized by a movie of the same name, many of us have a list of things we’d like to do, or places we’d like to travel to before we euphemistically “kick the bucket.” Instead of using that term, however, I decided to call it “The Liberty List.” It reminds me that I am so fortunate to have these liberties.

My 25-year-old son lives on the other side of the world. He is checking something big off his “Liberty List” at a relatively young age, exercising the freedom he has as an American to put this big world right in the palm of his hand. He has had the opportunity to travel to other countries as well, and has given himself permanent reminders of this liberty.

Last year, when America was celebrating it’s Independence Day, he traveled to Egypt with 5 other American friends. To remind themselves of this freedom, they gave themselves a permanent reminder in the local language–Arabic. This year he spent July 4th in Thailand, and added to this reminder in Thai:

The translation is “freedom” or “liberty,” both translate into the one foreign word. You pick the one you like best. I like the ring of “liberty.” And what kind of a mother would I be if I didn’t follow my son’s example? An unfit one, that’s for sure. So, my next tattoo will be inside my upper arm, just like his, with “Liberty” as my English word of choice.

I am already sure I will never regret this permanent reminder of all that America has given me.

*********

I asked Gail and Suzanne what they had on their “Liberty Lists.”

Gail: “I don’t really have one. I just live life to the fullest every day.” I can attest to this. She makes every moment of every day the most it can be, whether it is working one of her multiple jobs, or cruising around with her friends in “Lola,” her 1974 Chevy Nova, into the wee hours of the morning. It’s usually a party whenever Gail is there. Always has been, always will be.

Suzanne: “Going to any beach, anywhere, anytime.” Simple and true. If you recall, my maiden post on this blog just over five years ago detailed our epic beach trip to Florida (The Sister Lode, June 16th, 2017). We haven’t been back to a beach together since, but it is on all three of our “Liberty Lists.”

If you know me, you may want to be sure to be sitting down when you read what I am soon to check off my list. When I tell people, it is generally met first with disbelieving laughter, then something along the lines of, “That’s so cool!”

This endeavor has been on my Liberty List for some time now, and the time is right to check it off. I see it as a natural extension of my 28-year career as a speech therapist. I have been a speech scientist, and now it is time to be a speech artist.

I will spend eight days at the end of October/beginning of November in Des Moines, Iowa, training to become–wait for it–an auctioneer! I have long been fascinated with this skill, knowing that one day I would learn it. That day has come. I don’t know yet how much, or in what capacity I will use it, but I am doing it–now! All we have is now, and as the wise Willie Nelson says, “It’s always now.”

*********

Now only comes once, which is why I am struggling so much with some heartbreaking news I received this week. A friend, a bright light with an electric smile and unforgettable laugh, was cruelly taken by COVID and its complications. We bonded after she lost her parents separately, but both in devastating ways. We understood each other. We spoke this dreadful language. We connected, but I had let too much time pass, knowing I needed to reach out to her again. But I didn’t do it then, and I can’t do it now. My heart breaks for her family, because I know how it feels to lose your mother way too young.

I’m not feeling the strength yet, but I will regain it after this heartbreaking news, and I will check a few more things off my Liberty List. They are things I have needed to do for some time in order to reach out to other important people.

We never know when it may be too late. I smugly thought I had learned the Life is short lesson after our parents died in that one moment, but if I think I have fully learned it, that only means I need to go back to school. Clearly, I didn’t. It is a lifetime of learning in order to make sure every now is the most it can be.

We would all be well-advised to think back 21 years ago to September 12th, or perhaps a few more days or weeks later, when so many people used that tragedy to galvanize their efforts to create more peace toward each other. Let’s all do our best to do that again, every day. Connect with those you need to reach out to before it’s too late. The time is now.

So, turn off the explosion channel in your head; we’ve all seen enough, and it will always be there. Use that memory to honor those who lost their lives, their families and loved ones, the first responders and our military–past and present.

And get out there and work on your Liberty List.

Raise your hand high and place your bid on that.

COLLEGE TOWNS AND CONCERT QUESTS

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n[1]

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

IMG_20181124_123915948.jpg

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.

19632.jpeg

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.

img_20190504_143336457_hdr.jpg

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:

img_20190504_143358864_hdr.jpg

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

img_20190504_130038991.jpg

I took a little walk down to campus.

img_20190504_141549010_hdr.jpg

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.

img_20190504_135813393_hdr.jpg

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.

img_20190504_135030525_hdr.jpg

I attended most of my undergraduate classes in this building.

img_20190504_141317647_hdr.jpg

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.

img_20190504_140453857.jpg

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.

***********

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.

19754.jpeg

19758.jpeg

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.

img_20190505_173635749_hdr.jpg

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.

img_20190504_141159477_hdr.jpg

img_20190504_141223227_hdr-e1557106957703.jpg