LUCKY GIRLS

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n[1]

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

IMG_20181124_123913910.jpg

LUCKY GIRLS

We hit it big this time.  We hit the jackpot not once, but several times.  And then again.  And again.  We doubled down on the fun, increasing our winnings.

IMG_20190309_110122133.jpg

The satellite radio gods were tuned in to our frequency on this trip…except they didn’t play “Rocky Mountain High” for us, and we both forgot our John Denver CDs, so, we found it online when we had reception, and sang along.

In Gail’s favor, but not mine, the wind was on her side.  The western Kansas wind was a gentle beast on the way,

IMG_20190306_160934744_HDR.jpg

but the Colorado wind was a force to be reckoned with.

IMG_20190309_110505915.jpg

Gail took a stroll down Memory Lane with the newly available Daylight Donuts in the new shop downtown, and offered at several places around town.  We even saw a Daylight Donuts semi on the way there.

Another jackpot.

IMG_20190309_110229554.jpg

Rules are maybe just suggestions.  I believe I posted that earlier.  I believe this to be true.

IMG_20180830_115944913.jpg

Suggestions like, perhaps, maybe you should cross the street in the crosswalk, not in the middle of traffic.

img_20190310_123333277.jpg

We kind of own the place when we are there…at least, we think we do.

Or, perhaps, that silly rule about ‘no pictures in the casino.’  Again, it’s just a suggestion, and we didn’t take it.

img_20190310_123036165.jpg

As Mom said, “If it feels good, and doesn’t break The Ten Commandments, do it!”

So, we did.

We did a lot of things that felt good, and broke no laws or Commandments whatsoever.  Things that made us laugh, and made other people laugh, too.  Uninhibited things, things that we normally wouldn’t do before noon on a Friday—or anytime–but we did them there.   But we’re not telling what they were.  You had to be present to win.

We would do them again given the opportunity.  It’s who we are.  We simply like to have fun, and this is our breed of fun.  It may not be yours, or many other people’s kind of fun, but it is ours, and we own it.

***********

screenshot_20190314-204410.png

Gail and I arrived in Cripple Creek after dark on Wednesday evening, Ash Wednesday, which, for Gail, then became Cash Wednesday.  Not so much for me.  At no point in our casino dalliances was I rolling in any dough.

But I remained lucky.  It’s all in how you look at it.   In the end, our jackpots were not measurable in monetary terms; rather, they could be measured in the currency of memories, fun that was had by both Gail and me, accompanied by lots of laughter.  And we shared it with others, making them laugh, thereby increasing the value.  But that always happens when we are together.

We bought experiences and memories.  And, unlike the paltry interest one can earn when money is banked, memories and experiences banked can earn an interest rate that we determine.  We get to set it as high as we chose.

We chose to set it at infinity.

***********

The only fly in the ointment was that Suzanne wasn’t with us.  We weren’t complete without her, but we had her blessing to go without her.  We will travel together soon enough, tripling down on the fun and memories we make.

***********

In a post a few months ago, I shared our interior renovations in our living room.  They are now complete:

IMG_20190317_141356365.jpg

img_20190317_141156226.jpg

Special thanks to my Mark-of-all-trades for his expertise and hard work in our home.

I also posted that Gail and I were doing our own interior remodeling, and our progress is almost as refreshing, just not visible.  We’re still not sharing the exact nature of these renovations, but rest assured that they are allowing us an even greater sense of renewal both at home, and in Colorado–or anywhere.  Suzanne is quite proud of us; she has mastered the challenge we are meeting, and knows the rewards are better on her side of the equation.

***********

Our Colorado destination will remain a favorite for Gail and me.  Other places, too, are beckoning us.  Not sure where just yet, but somewhere the three sisters of The Sister Lode will arrive, ready to make more memories.

IMG_20190309_114006924-1.jpg

I don’t think we’ll ever tire of this view.

***********

If you have a sister or sisters, and you are waiting for a better time to plan and execute a sister trip, perhaps the perfect time is now.  Perhaps a better time will never come.  Maybe you should start planning.  Maybe you should give them a call today.  If the greatest distance you need to travel is bridging the gap,  today is the perfect day to start that journey.  You may not realize it, but you, too, are Lucky Girls.

28577953_2039418432739737_552814352609412652_n[1]

Last year’s trip to Colorado

IMG_20190310_113454110.jpg

img_20190310_114106043.jpg

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  May the luck of the Irish be with you today, and every day.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEA LEVEL TO 9494

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

SEA LEVEL TO 9494

Suzanne and I live at 1,227 feet above sea level in our small city.  Since I live north of the city, and I am eye-level with the tops of the water towers in town from my front porch, I am probably a few hundred feet higher than that.  Gail lives at 2,858 feet, perhaps a bit higher because she lives on a hill in her small town.

My first post detailed our adventures at sea level on the beach.  The subsequent posts detailing our travels took place at 9,494 feet in Cripple Creek, Colorado.

IMG_20181006_105037196.jpg

While on this trip several years ago, we traveled up nearby Pike’s Peak by cog train to an elevation of 14, 114 feet.  Technically, we were higher than that at cruising altitude around 35,000 feet on our flights to and from the beach.  But that doesn’t really count.

These travels are anticipated before, enjoyed during, and savored in their memories.  But, like all events in life we enjoy, they are typically here and gone.

I work hard to enjoy life at my daily altitude as much as I enjoy it at each end of the altitude spectrum we travel to.  But that is hard.

I find myself eagerly anticipating the arrival of each trip, and savoring those memories after each trip.  During the trip, I want time to stand still.  I want to languish in the minutes and hours without them passing by so quickly.  Without them being over so quickly when we find ourselves back at home again.

Back at home, where the meat and potatoes of life are served up daily, where Real Life dwells in our day-to-day rounds.  Where we live with our families.  Where the minutes and the days may tick by slowly, but the months and years whizz by quickly.

Back at home, on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons and everything else in between that constitutes life.  Because, as we all know too well, time away is a respite, a sabbatical from the work of life.

***********

Another Colorado trip has been here, and is gone already.  We eagerly awaited it—as we always do, languished in the moments there, and we are now relishing the memories—once again.  If my calculations are right, this marks the twentieth time we have gone west, young women. 

There was a point in my life a few years ago when the pull of the mountains—and the beach too—were a mystery to me.  Like the full moon, I am drawn to the mountains instinctively; the deepest part of me is pulled by some invisible but undeniable force to travel there.

I decided upon a single word that describes this force that draws me to all three:  energy.  The mountains, the beach and the full moon have a living spirit about them, one that draws not just me and my sisters, but humans in general toward them.  Which would explain the high real estate prices in such places.  People with good money pay their good money to live in or near the mountains, and/or near the water.  And most of us cannot deny the beauty of the full moon, even though we can’t purchase real estate there—yet.

So, we go.  And we go again.  And again.  And we come home again.

***********

If I could characterize our latest trip in one word, relative to our other mountain getaway weekends, it would be this:  subdued. 

Perhaps it was the delayed departure—one month after our usual Labor Day jaunt.  However, we frequently talked about taking a later trip to enjoy the change of color in the mountains, so we relished this new schedule.   Perhaps it was the touch of altitude sickness one of us experienced—or both, that made this trip a bit more laid-back than normal.

You wouldn’t know it from our usual stop in Limon,

IMG_20181004_114733089.jpg

Bear claws were always Gail’s favorite…

Or the great lengths that our newly-acquired friends go to in order to be in our group,

img_20181005_131743118_top.jpg

Or the cult followers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show waiting in line with us to see the show at the local theater.  We hadn’t yet seen it, and we had no idea what we were in for…

IMG_20181005_184209149.jpg

Perhaps the most surprising, unplanned event was the fortuitous, purely-by-chance meeting of our former hometown farm neighbors on Bennett Avenue.

IMG_20181005_150751891.jpg

Gail and I used to babysit the young man on the right.  He now protects and serves our country.  Thank you for your service, Paul.

***********

You may know the subdued nature of our trip by the beautiful aspens as they turn their glorious golden color, as they do every fall.  We welcomed this beautiful sight, having never traveled here in October before.

img_20181007_091432864.jpg

 

Their seasonal slow-down perhaps helped set the tone for our relaxed weekend.  Perhaps we, too, shed some temporary coverings—internally, of course.  The daytime temperatures were relatively balmy, but the evening and night-time temperatures were flirting with the freezing mark, so we put on extra layers on the outside.

You may know it by the mountains in their fall grandeur lined in the brilliant golden of the aspens, their fresh air and their majesty against the bright blue sky have a way of opening up one’s mind and soul, which is not a bad thing.  Instead of reaching out as much as we normally do, perhaps we reached inward.

img_20181007_090822137_top.jpg

John Denver sings Rocky Mountain High to us every trip, so you wouldn’t know it by that..

IMG_20181007_090409156.jpg

I signed up for the 1,000 feet below adventure at this local attraction with my family many years ago.  Gail and Suzanne have yet to sign up for it.  I went to the gift shop by myself; I needed a souvenir with this awesome name on it.

img_20181007_090044942.jpg

 

***********

In my profession as a speech therapist, we distinguish between receptive and expressive language.   Expressive language is that which we put forth, typically in our speech.  Essentially, it is what we express.

Receptive language is that which we take in from others, typically by listening.  It is what we receive.

Typically, my posts about our travels detail and expand upon our expressions, that which we put forth.  Typically, we have plenty of interactions with others; an abundance of connections and expressions made.  This trip was no different.

Besides the family from our home and our history pictured above, Gail and Suzanne connected with four people who pulled up in a car with Kansas plates outside our hotel.  It was a Veteran’s tag, so the home county was not on the plate.

The family pictured above lived about two miles—as the crow flies—south of our farm.  One gentleman in the car grew up about three miles north of our farm.

Small world.

************

 

Sometimes, like on this trip, doing nothing special is really something special.  Sometimes, like on this trip, traveling without a plan is the most liberating form of vacationing.  Sometimes, our structured lives at home and at work spill over into our vacations, making us feel as if we must have a plan.

On vacation and in life in general, I often seem to do better without a plan.  Gail and Suzanne travel that way, too.  There is a long-standing joke between us about going to Colorado without a plan.  Perhaps that is why we get along so well.

Perhaps that is why I can safely say this trip was one more of reception vs. expression.  We let it all in.

The beauty of the aspens along with the change of seasons in the cool mountain temperatures was a refreshing new sight for us.

img_20181004_185134606.jpg

I received a little bit of jack from this machine, but I’m pretty sure I put forth more than that all told. 

img_20181005_202044145.jpg

This is a common sight along “The Strip” of Cripple Creek.  Gamblers and tourists come and go at all hours.  Like us, they keep coming back for more. 

IMG_20181005_184422413.jpg

“The Strip” is relatively subdued; I was obviously able to stand at the top of the hill without interruption from traffic to take this picture.

IMG_20181005_183652385.jpg

***********

Two weeks ago this evening we returned home.  This morning, I took these beautiful roses outside.  They were waiting for us upon our arrival to our usual bed-and-breakfast/hotel; the proprietors do back flips to ensure we know how much they enjoy our stay.  Gail and Suzanne took their share, and the rest came home with me.  As with all their gestures of appreciation, we received them well.

IMG_20181021_091340288.jpg

Like the trip, however, they are temporary.  The memory of this gesture, as well as all the new memories we made will remain.  Until next time, we will languish in those memories, and anticipate future ones.

Every day in between, however, we will attempt to enjoy the moments here at our own altitudes, our own longitudes.  Because here at home is where Real Life is lived.

img_20181021_183409482.jpg

My front porch view of the tops of the water towers and small buildings of our small city.  The front porch of my home, where I live a pretty good real life.

33817.jpeg

Our trip was so subdued, in fact, that we forgot to take a group shot.  We had a family event today, so we snapped this one just a few hours before this post.  We make it work wherever we find ourselves together.  

 

THE SUNFLOWER STATE

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

THE SUNFLOWER STATE

Because one should never miss an opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons, I decided to celebrate our fine state when life handed me Kansas instead of Colorado.

Every Labor Day weekend since 2010, I have savored the Rocky Mountain majesty of Cripple Creek, Colorado.  Minus Suzanne last year, she and Gail have done the same.  This year, however, duty called Gail and Suzanne—and family festivities called as well.  It was not meant to be.

10600630_10202855701937509_1790617657426618596_n1.jpg

A throwback picture from our Labor Day 2014 trip.

Soon, however, it will be meant to be.  And I will tell you about it in a future post—at least, what we want you to know about it.  We never tell all.

***********

Every Labor Day when I return to Kansas after savoring the natural beauty of Colorado, I return to savor one of the many natural beauties of Kansas:  sunflowers in full bloom.

As well as living up to its title as The Wheat State, Kansas is also known as The Sunflower State.  It is our state flower, and it is simply and timelessly beautiful.

Mom loved sunflowers.  I have always liked sunflowers, but in an effort to further a small part of her larger-than-life legacy, I grew to love them after she was gone.  I keep them in artificial form in my home throughout the year.

img_20180902_1156169581.jpg

img_20180902_115545230.jpg

And, I gather a bouquet of fresh-picked ones and bring them indoors every Labor Day weekend.

IMG_20180902_172507692.jpg I preach about them, too.  If you grew up in Kansas and were hammered with Kansas history every January 29th in grade school to observe Kansas’s birthday—we celebrate our statehood since its inception as a state in 1861—you’d better be able to tell me why I am wearing a gaudy sunflower pin every year on that date.

No excuses if you are a native.  Know your Kansas history, or get out of my way.

***********

Suzanne will confirm that I am a purveyor of useless, but (sometimes) interesting information, so I won’t disappoint her today.  I wanted to know more about sunflowers and why they are our state flower, and here is what I found:

*The sunflower was made the official state flower in 1903 after a lawmaker observed many people wearing them to identify themselves as Kansans.  George Morehouse is the one to thank for that.

*Less than a decade before that, it was declared a noxious weed, and other lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to eradicate it.

*It was chosen as a state symbol to represent our frontier days, winding trails, pathless prairies, as well as our bright past and future.

*Sunflowers grow in the wild, in planned gardens, and as a crop.

*They can grow up to nine feet tall.

*Sunflower oil is a valuable resource from the plant as a crop, and the seeds are enjoyed as a snack food, as well as in breads and salads.

*True to their name, the cultivated sunflower  typically turns to face the sun, mostly before they are in full bloom.  Because I am a word nerd as well, I want you to know this is known as heliotropism.  Wild sunflowers face in all directions.

Our dad planted sunflowers for a few years, but he apparently deemed it not as successful as he had hoped.

In the wild, sunflowers grow in large bunches,

img_20180831_120528686.jpg

small bunches, or they may grow in single plants.

IMG_20180902_170401906.jpg

Any way they grow, they are simply beautiful.

***********

While we are on a roll here with important Kansas information, let me share more of The Sunflower State’s vital official details:

The Ornate Box Turtle is the state reptile, and just in time for this post, one made a guest appearance in my neighbor’s yard this morning.

IMG_20180902_090725029.jpg

“Ad Astra Per Aspera” is our state motto.  “To The Stars Through Difficulty,” is the translation from Latin.  Along with the sunflower, it is featured on our state flag:

screenshot_20180902-113837.png

We had many cottonwood trees on our farm, leaving me with warm memories of the soft cotton floating through the air in the summer time.  It is no surprise that this tree is our state tree.

screenshot_20180902-114414.png

The Western Meadowlark is the state bird.  It is also the state bird of Nebraska and Wyoming.

screenshot_20180902-114533.png

So there you have it.  You are all prepared to celebrate Kansas’ 158th birthday next January 29th.  You’re welcome.

**********

I have a love/hate/love relationship with Kansas, and love always wins.  I love that this state has been our lifelong home, with my exception of a semester of college on an exchange program in New Mexico, and a year–less one day–of suburban Philadelphia as a nanny.  Gail, Suzanne and I spent our first 18 years in the same farmhouse, and we treasure that heritage.  We grew up on a farm, learning the Midwestern farm work ethic, values and morals.  We weren’t exposed to crime or drugs, just rock-and-roll.

I hate the winters—now.  As kids, we enjoyed frequent afternoon-long sledding expeditions in the hilly pastures behind our farmhouse.  The snow came up to our waists at times, and the drifts could bury us if we weren’t careful.

We loved it, but we rarely get snow like that anymore in these parts.

Now, just when I think the interminable winter—without beautiful snow– is going to bleed my soul into complete and irreversible dehydration with its icy and windy gray-ness, the beautiful green leaves appear on the trees, and I know I have survived one more year.

I love the summer heat.  June, July and August are my three favorite things about Kansas.  I’m not even kidding.  Bring on the 100-degree plus temps.  I savor them.

Call me crazy.  Go ahead.  I know you want to.

Now that it is September, those three glorious attributes are behind me once again.  Even if the temperatures exceed 100 degrees in September—which they sometimes do, it’s not the same.  I know it’s time for fall to arrive, and I won’t be fooled.

And, to confirm that I am indeed crazy, I don’t even like fall.  Just bring on the freezing temperatures already, and get it over with.  Don’t jack around with these “beautiful” 80-degree days in October.  Give me sub-freezing weather.  I like the extremes.

But so does Suzanne, so if you call me crazy, you have to call her crazy, too. She loves the extreme temperatures.  Again, because I love trivial information, I want to enlighten you with this fact from weather.com:  among our 50 states, Kansas ranks 31st in temperature ranges.  A range of 161 degrees has been documented, all the way up to 121 degrees, and down to 40 below.  I would have guessed we would be closer to #1 than #50.   Hawaii is #1, ranging from an unexpected twelve degrees, up to 100 degrees, and Montana is #50, ranging from a balmy 117 degrees, down to minus 70.

screenshot_20180902-142314.png

Log on here to get more (useless, but interesting ) information.

As much as it pains me to write this, I have to reiterate that both Gail and Suzanne love the Kansas wind (Weather Girls, January 28th).   I hate the wind. Detest it. Loathe it.  Am I making myself clear?

The name Kansas comes from the Native American Kansa tribe of the Sioux.  Ironically, it means people of the south wind.  Go figure.

One thing we all agree on without a doubt:  we love Kansas because (most of) our family is here.  We love being close to all of them.

***********

Kansas has a bad rap for being “fly-over” country; best observed from above at 30,000 feet-plus.  We know this is the impression, but we disagree.

IMG_20180902_115014987.jpg

I picked this up last weekend on our getaway.  Along with several other stickers, I put it on my new computer.  Might as well laugh along with them, because the joke is on them.

Our sunsets offer unparalleled beauty.  We’ll put them up against any other state’s sunsets, even this one my family saw on the beach last month.

img_20180729_202549686.jpg

Sorry, Florida.  I love you and your sunsets, but we’ve got you beat. 

IMG_20180618_210111072.jpg

Any Kansas girl who has ever traveled out of state and let on that she was from Kansas has had to endure the worn-out and not-even-funny Dorothy jokes.  I fought that in New Mexico and Pennsylvania.  The joker always thinks they are the one who came up with it, and it is funny only to them.  I know several women named Dorothy who are actually from Kansas, and they have had more than their share, I’m sure.

screenshot_20180902-144609.png

Greater than the summer heat and the splendid sunsets, I love Kansas for one simple reason:  it is home.  Home is in one’s heart, and Kansas is in ours.  And, just like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home.”

 

A gift from Gail to me.  Its home is in a chair in Fort Kathleen, my favorite all-my-own space in my home (A Space of Her Own, October 15th).

 

IMG_20180902_162154695.jpg

Suzanne and I spent the afternoon together today.  We longed to be together with Gail in Colorado, but it wasn’t meant to be.  So we turned the lemons into sunflowers.   Her shirt was a complete coincidence; no hidden messages to be inferred.  You can think what you like about my headwear.  

30685.jpeg

DEDICATED TO MOM AND CARLY.  I KNOW THAT FOR THEM, HEAVEN IS FILLED WITH SUNFLOWERS.

 screenshot_20180902-153054.png

Thanks to my friend Gwenna Reich for this picture, the photographer extraordinaire.  

ROCKY MOUNTAIN ‘HI’

 

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

ROCKY MOUNTAIN ‘HI’

**I believe in signs.  This one was from my favorite calendar, the day before we left.**

29104262_2047285111953069_6729657915344420864_n[1]

***********

Speaking of signs, we finally did it.  After saying we should on every other trip, we finally stopped at the state line by the iconic sign for pictures.

29025457_2047284471953133_432415043913515008_n1.jpg

29062534_2047284945286419_8199954958842331136_n[1]

The rest of the state line story comes with a price.  If yours is right, Gail and Suzanne will tell you the rest, but only if I get a healthy cut.  Remember, we are not telling all.

29026050_2047285041953076_7689655733897396224_n[1]

Waking up to this sight in Manitou Thursday morning, just as I said we would last week, can only bode well for the rest of the weekend.

And it did.  We lingered a bit in Manitou Springs on Thursday, taking in shopping and a tasty lunch—and a game of shuffleboard—before we began the ascent.

29066587_2048583281823252_9052229096326561792_n1.jpg

In our effort to satisfy Suzanne’s love of ferris wheels, we attempted to stop at The North Pole on the way up.

While I have laughed through the movie at least a dozen times, I have never before been able to empathize with the Griswolds in Vacation:  The North Pole was closed.

29027392_2048616995153214_9110297389175930880_n[1]

29063585_2048118351869745_525948204575883264_n[1]

29062699_2048118125203101_6767422987252531200_n[1]

Closed Until May 1st.  The ferris wheel, noted to be the tallest in the world given it’s altitude, wasn’t even there; wasn’t visible from the road as it usually is.  We found out it had been taken down for refurbishing, refreshing and renewing.  It will be ready for us next time.

29101896_2048117911869789_7990574031852011520_n[1]

***********

And so on westward we went.  John Denver did his part on CD, getting us into Cripple Creek.  Cripple Creek, where the gold-mining mother lode was struck years ago, and where The Sister Lode idea was conceived only one year ago.

29103829_2048625455152368_7572007092077199360_n1.jpg

 And the real fun began.

Our friends who own the Hospitality House were ready for us:

29062679_2048616681819912_8167600407560847360_n[1]

They look forward to our return trips, as do we.  We love them, and we love their place.  We savor the spirit of the place, as well as the space.

28951756_2047284655286448_3730391950860222464_n[1]

We do a lot of enjoying their space; simply sitting and sipping is one of the simple pleasures we enjoy.  Sometimes that’s all we need to fulfill our expectations.  Sometimes, it takes a little more.

This time, there was a full moon to greet us.  While pictures can never do it justice, the moon was in grand splendor along with the mountains it rose up above.

28959369_2047285198619727_57934130955943936_n[1]

From a full moon to a Blue Moon–in honor of my favorite libation, there was this good omen in the street in Manitou on our way there.

29027560_2048585131823067_1997504029973807104_n1.jpg

***********

Perhaps it is the Midwestern, hospitable farm girls in us.  Perhaps it is the fact that we are away from home and in a higher altitude; a higher place.  Maybe it’s just who we are.  Maybe it’s all the above, but we find ourselves saying “hi” a lot while we are on our trips.  Not that we don’t do it when we are home; it’s just that there are so many more people to meet in a place like this.  Chances are, we already know most of the people already in our circles at home.

We reach out, we strike up conversations with strangers, we somehow have other people do the same to us, and most of the time, we welcome it.  Most of the time.

If we hadn’t reached out, we wouldn’t have made friends with these fabulous hotel proprietors.

29133433_2048617121819868_1383946154781179904_n[1]

Given that they are now our friends, we asked for Rick’s advice on a predicament we found ourselves in, likely in part due to our outgoing natures, and in equal or greater part to a misinterpretation of our intentions.

Rick (in front) simply said: “stop saying ‘hi.’”  Sounds like a simple, obvious, easy answer, sure, but we can’t do that.  It’s not who we are.

If we’d stopped saying “hi,” we wouldn’t have met this dear, delightful young woman who became our favorite waitress at our favorite restaurant several years ago:

29027780_2048616765153237_441411746268184576_n1.jpg

Kaitlin serves us beyond and above, and she is preparing to do the same for our country.  A few days after our visit, she will become a member of our armed forces, joining the Unites States Navy.  We thanked her for her wonderful service as our favorite waitress over the past few years, and we thanked her in advance for her future service to our country.  We wish her so much love and joy in her new venture.  She will likely be replaced in the restaurant, but she will never be replaced in our hearts.

Godspeed, Kaitlin.

And where would we be without Christine?  Less bejeweled, that’s where.  And that’s no fun.  Our favorite shopkeeper in Cripple Creek keeps us shopping and adorns us with the most beautiful baubles and gems.

29028022_2047284771953103_8877638362211549184_n1.jpg

Her shop, 9494, is cleverly named after the town’s altitude.  Given her charm, grace and allure, we feel even higher than that when we are in her store, and especially in her presence.

***********

The native donkey herd that roams the streets freely in the spring and summer (as shown here on our Labor Day trip)

21271178_10210415860696753_7878150683916680711_n[1]

is taken to pasture for the fall and winter–with shelter.  Tourists who miss them in their off season—like us—are urged to visit them in their winter home just outside of town.  The shopkeepers supply the donkey treats, and we do the rest.

29101724_2048542808493966_1501193487742140416_n[1]

29102028_2048542641827316_3749715803293876224_n[1]

Perhaps the three of us—at times–have something in common with the asses…

28951315_2047284385286475_3845881332232093696_n[1]

Rhonda, however, doesn’t appear to let that affect her.  She became Gail’s neighbor at the Blackjack table on Friday, and came back on Saturday, too.  We hung out there too; Suzanne even tossed a few chips out next to Gail.

29101259_2048118908536356_2720980804149706752_n1.jpg

In an unprecedented joint decision between the three of us, Rhonda became our honorary sister for the weekend.  She was one of us, and we welcomed her into our circle.  Gail typically befriends the others risk-takers at the blackjack table, and by the end of the weekend, she has either renewed her friendship with, or created new ones with the dealers and pit bosses.  Only Gail has that skill, the ability to turn tough guys—and girls too–into butter.  We tried to take a picture of one of our favorite tough guys, but he assertively reminded us that pictures inside the casino were not legal.  Sorry JR, we snapped the one above accidentally on Friday before you told us that on Saturday.  Oops!

An honorable mention and a shout-out (pun intended) goes out to Dave and his wife Charlie, our other new friends at the blackjack table until Dave’s excessive decibel level created the false notion that perhaps he was breaking another casino law:  no gambling while intoxicated.  We know better, and JR was just doing his job.  Still, they are keepers in our memories.

***********

Speaking of memories, March 4th was a memorable date; a bitter-turned-sweet-bitter date.  A date that will never be forgotten in our family.

My work keeps me closely acquainted with death as a fact of life.  Before my parents died, I would see this stark reality, and somehow push it aside, not letting myself actually believe I would likely lose each of my parents to illness.  I didn’t let myself go there in my mind; I somehow managed to avoid it, magically thinking “So far, I’m lucky.  Perhaps I won’t have to deal with that.”  The thought of losing either of them was too much to bear.  Seeing the illnesses that some of my patients succumbed to, I simply assumed that if they were to die, it would be due to illness.  Never in my wildest nightmares did I think I would lose them the way I did.

A part of me died with them—at least for awhile.  At the moment the news was delivered, I felt a death blow myself.  Crawling up out of that dark pit, first on my knees, then eventually pulling myself upright again, took more strength than I ever wanted to possess.

But I did possess it; we all did.  It was there.  And we keep growing stronger.  But that’s not to say I don’t still have my moments.  Like on the morning we left Cripple Creek, the morning of March 4th–the ten-year anniversary of their deaths.  We played John Denver on our way out of Cripple Creek that morning.  The morning of our departure is always blue, but this one was closer to black.  For me, for a brief moment, it was a Rocky Mountain Low—but just for a moment.  I don’t even think Gail and Suzanne knew I shed a few silent tears in the back seat.  Then, as quick as they came, they were gone, and I was okay.  I was tired and still blue, but, just as I have known for many years now, they are still with us.

I wouldn’t have believed anyone who said this if I hadn’t experienced it, but if you believe that love never dies, you get to carry the most precious part of them with you at all times in your heart, and that can never be taken away—not even by death.   I feel them within me; their spirits will live on through all of us, and all we need to do is look within.  They are always there—just as Mom told us she would be in The Letter.  And dare I say this:  sometimes it is even more whole, more powerful than when they were here on earth with us.

***********

The darkness always turns to light, and the blues always give way to brighter colors and brighter days ahead.  Remembering the importance of something to look forward to, I came home Sunday night with ten minutes to change clothes and turn around to go to the beautiful art-deco theater in the downtown of our small city to take in this incredible performer:

29028203_2047254521956128_2199595117562560512_n[1]

Mom knew how much I always loved his music, and I know she had a hand in this.  Plus, the theater director has a long history of scheduling the most incredible shows on important dates for me like birthdays and anniversaries—thanks Jane.

The blues faded, and by Sunday night—even though Gail and Suzanne didn’t go to the show, we were all Back in the High Life Again—thanks Steve.

***********

Soon, the skies will be mostly blue, with perhaps only a cloud or two.

29103692_2048586151822965_5939430490325909504_n[1]The green grass will soon return, and our smiles and laughter will be in full bloom again.  And, in our usual style, we will continue to March Forth.  

22196082_1859001670781415_750213344243490901_n[1]

 

 

 

 

MARCH FORTH

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

MARCH FORTH

“Our lives are made by the deaths of others.”   Leonardo Da Vinci

This may very well be the shortest, but hardest post to write.  Yet it may carry the most meaning, at least for the three of us.

I write as I sit alone in our beautiful, spacious, Victorian-style room in Cripple Creek, Colorado on Saturday, March 3rd.  Gail and Suzanne are off doing their things, and I am doing mine.  We love our togetherness, but alone-ness is great, too.   We are relishing this time away in this beautiful mountain town.

I opened my laptop, and turned on the TV, searching for inspiration just to begin this post.  How do I find words on this day, this sacred day ten years ago when we last saw our parents alive at our grandmother’s funeral?  This day before March 4th, the day our  parents died?   What words of adequate weight can I possibly conjure?  Common sense told me to leave the TV off to let the thoughts gel into words, but I turned on a rerun of Criminal Minds, just for some noise.

As it began at 4:00, the first words spoken for this episode were “Our lives are made by the deaths of others.”  Sometimes the perfect words just show up at the perfect time from sources we would never expect.

*************

Gail, Suzanne and I are having more fun and adventure than mere words can possibly confer, but my attempt to do just that will wait until next week.  Of course, it won’t be a tell-all; it never is.  A tell-some is what you will get, as usual.  There are some things we don’t share with everyone, and this, I feel, is the way it should be among sisters like us.

Sisters like us who loved our parents beyond words, and lost them beyond words too.  But this loss has made us who we are; it is the crucible that forged us into the women of strength we are.  When their deaths brought us to our knees in complete and searing heartbreak, it also planted within us seeds that would grow from barren devastation into amazingly strong, resilient and joyful living beings.

And so here we are.  Here we are every day, for the last 3,653 days. And every day builds on the next.  Every day we move forward, and every day we do what we can to find joy, to make even more joy for ourselves, for those in our lives, and hopefully on a grand scale, it will be shared and spread far and wide.   Every day we try to live our lives in honor of our parents, trying to further their legacies of love and peace.  Every day we March Forth.

Our lives are not perfect or painless, but they are full, rich and beautiful, just like theirs were.  Our lives—as we know them today—were made by the deaths of our parents.

Thank you for joining us on our weekly adventure.  Next week, I promise, I will share enough to give you a really good idea of just how much fun we are having this week—but I won’t tell all.

This week, I ask this of you:  whatever your hardships or heartbreaks are today, please know there are brighter days ahead.  With faith, love and a little elbow grease, things are going to be okay.  They might even be more than okay.  If you forge through the pain, do the work and have faith, you, too, will find yourself marching forth into a place of greater strength, hope and happiness.   We are living proof.

28577953_2039418432739737_552814352609412652_n[1]

If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, so my child can have peace.”   Thomas Payne

The Criminal Minds episode ended as I finished this post, and it closed with this quote.    Sometimes the words really do come at the perfect times.

MARCH FORTH, my friends.  

 

GO WEST, YOUNG WOMEN

 

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

GO WEST, YOUNG WOMEN

We have been looking forward to this trip for a long time.  Six months, to be exact.  Six months have passed since our last trip there.

On Thursday morning of this week, we will wake to a magnificent view of Pikes Peak.

17498944_10209139280263040_7523454421362235151_n1-e1519527261769.jpg

If you recall from Something To Look Forward To (January 7th), we return from our Labor Day trip to Colorado and begin the anticipation again.

Anticipation is at least half the fun.

The other half, as I alluded to in last week’s post, is somewhat of a secret.  We engage in all manner of fun, meet new people, make new friends and new memories, and, of course, we leave a mark—in a good way.  We know this because people remember us with a smile when we return.

All this fun, however, takes a little work.

Planning is the first stage.  Marking ourselves off the calendar at work is our first step.  Suzanne hasn’t been able to join us in Colorado for two years; her new job prevented time off.   We didn’t go to Colorado for Labor Day 2016 because we had just returned from Florida, as detailed in my very first post.

So this trip is long overdue for her, and right on time for Gail and me.   A single day longer, and we would implode with anticipation.

Planning our wardrobes and jewelry is a prolonged labor of love for Gail and me; Suzanne throws hers together at the last minute—in a very small bag.  Perhaps a bit larger than the Zip-lock bag she professes to be able to use, because we are going to a cold climate, and she may need a few extra layers than she would, say, on the beach. Several years ago, when I picked her up for the March trip, we were headed out of her driveway when I realized she got in my car without a heavy coat.  Good thing I asked; her minimalism kept her from remembering to pack a heavy coat.  We were, after all, going to the mountains in March, and she may need an extra layer…

***********

Many people hear about all the fun we have, and see our Facebook posts, and apparently think they, too, could have a lot of fun with us.

They probably could, except, they can’t.  No one else can.  Our sisterhood is the exclusive admission to this highly anticipated, sacred, sisterly excursion.

No exceptions.

We will maintain our tradition of singing Rocky Mountain High on our final stretch.

19430082_1750975758250674_1964485103010753792_n1.jpg

Just in case the satellite radio gods don’t play it at the perfect time for us like they did last time, I have already packed my John Denver CD.

Gail will make her grand entrance into Cripple Creek:

IMG_20170330_190837420_HDR

We do publicize some of our activities; we give a little hint of the fun we have.  We don’t plan much of our weekend, we let the spirit move us.  We have even been known to let the horses move us:

1959249_10201767767019816_1844472808_n[1]

13261_10201763140784163_987911761_n[1]

1970595_10201763228106346_532150001_n[1]

And we move ourselves too.  Perhaps we will do a little nice-not-naughty North Pole dancing, maybe not.  We’re not telling.

10304781_10202836300452484_8103658126757700593_n[1]

No matter what it is, it is all good, clean fun.10435009_10202836301292505_5243879323619352101_n[1]

Gail will likely strike her Audra Barkley pose on the majestic staircase at the historic hotel we now call our Colorado home:

10997713_10204041043850316_5902228931717694715_n[1]

(The Big Valley was an integral part of our 70’s television lineup.)

We will renew our friendship with the proprietors of this magnificent and historic hotel:

11046294_10204053246235368_3784222449837426890_n[1]

The local, free-roaming donkeys will be appreciated and honored, as they should be.

21271178_10210415860696753_7878150683916680711_n[1]

Other wildlife is revered as well.

1623592_10201757804450758_1680692829_n1.jpg

We may put ourselves in the local spotlight with our antics, both on-stage, and off:

27973579_2026589064022674_4801802489717614533_n[1]

We are there for each other to avert any possible disasters–after we get a picture:

1898071_10203780216335528_1651826111_n[2]

And if something doesn’t look right with one of us, we will come to each other’s aid:  we found Gail like this one morning, and the mystery of how it happened remains.

10649641_939010432780548_5551285448543148787_n[1]

 

The truth is, we don’t know yet what we will do.  When the occasion calls for a memory to be made, we will make it.  We do know that we will do whatever we can to further the memory and mission of our parent’s lives of peace and love.  It is up to us now to carry it forward, and on this ten-year anniversary, we are cranking it up a notch or two–or more.  Now more than ever, our world needs their message of peace.

We hit the mother lode–and the father lode, too with our parents.  This small Rocky Mountain town is still an active gold-mining town, with the mother lode struck here years ago.  The idea of The Sister Lode was born here; we know that what we have with each other is gold.

*************

Memories made in times of great fun are golden, savored; sacred.

Memories made in times of great sadness can be dark, sometimes avoided, but always sacred.  Our memories of March 4th, 2008 are still very much with us.  It will be ten years since that fateful, faith-full day.

We have chosen to March Forth from that dark day when we lost our parents in a car accident.  We marched forth back into the light, after our private and shared struggles to find joy and hope again.  It is now sweet-bitter to relish the memories of our parents, not bittersweet any longer.  The bitter still stings, sometimes as sharp as a knife through the heart, but only now for a quick moment, then the pain subsides as quickly as it ambushed us.

These moments are more few and far between, and will, with continued faith and grace, continue to space themselves out in the future.  We will continue to gain strength from our faith, our family and the friendship we have forged as sisters.

We have chosen to celebrate our sisterhood with our travels, and these trips have become an integral part of our yearly calendar.  We carve out the time, save the money and prioritize it just as we would regular and possibly life-saving medical checkups and/or treatment, because for us, it is.  It is survival and sustenance in our lives that now have a heightened sense of what is most important—those we love.

And I do love my sisters.  I’m pretty sure they love me, too.

10600630_10202855701937509_1790617657426618596_n[1]

***********

My wish for you is that you take the time to celebrate those in your family and/or circle of friends whom you love the most.

Take them on a trip, or take them to lunch, or anywhere in between.  Find a good starting place, and take off from there.

Tell them you love them, and if you need to, tell them you are sorry.  Forgive, if necessary.

Tell them you are glad they are a part of your life.

Tell them if they were gone tomorrow, your life would be richer for having had them in it.

And every day, treat them like they could be gone tomorrow, because sometimes, they are.

17022154_10212845359074454_1404555299480931041_n[1]

IMG_20170330_190315057_HDR

CRIPPLE CREEK, COLORADO, OUR ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH

 

 

 

 

 

SOMEPLACE SPECIAL

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n

SOMEPLACE SPECIAL

When I was perhaps nine or ten years old, our dad loaded all of his children—I think all seven of us were there, unless our oldest brother was already gone—and took us on a Very Special Trip.  I remember it well, because we went on very few Special Trips.

He packed us into the white, wood-paneled Plymouth Volare station wagon that was the family truckster back then.  We spilled into the back seat and into the way back, no seatbelts were expected or used then.  We were going two hours away, so this was Someplace Very Special, because we rarely went anywhere.

We went to Abilene, Kansas.  Abilene is the boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. president.  His boyhood home, presidential library, museum and final resting place are located there.  It is a Kansas jewel.    Our parents wanted us to experience this piece of history.

21430519_1836360709712178_245292526220328914_n[1]

It is an experience that is imprinted in my long-term memory.  The historical significance was coupled with the sure knowledge that this was indeed Someplace Special because we were making this four-hour round trip.  Abilene, Kansas then became Someplace Special to me.

I now travel to Abilene at least several times every week, sometimes five days a week as part of my work.   It is 30 minutes from my home now. It is still Someplace Special.  When I drive into town, that old, warm familiar feeling of being a ten-year old kid on a special trip fills me.  It hasn’t waned in forty years.

Today, I was called there late in the afternoon.  I hit the road at 4:00 to see a new patient.  I had the time, and even though it is typically the time I start to think about heading home, I headed east, and it felt good.

Typically, around four in the afternoon, I feel a funk settling over me.  I have never liked that time of day.  I think it is because the sunlight is starting to wane, and I love sunlight.  I get a little sad thinking about the sun leaving me, yet again.  Today, however, the thought of heading to Abilene at this typically blue time of day perked me up.  I was going Someplace Special.

 

**

Our mom grew up in Wichita.  Her parents and three sisters lived there when we were growing up.  Our dad was an only child, and his dad lived in town close to our farm.  Visiting Mom’s family in Wichita was the only other traveling we ever did.  We would pile in the back seat or the way back, watching Dad navigate those three hours on the road from our farm right to the door of our grandparent’s home without a map.  He was so brilliant; he had to be to find his way each time.

Driving to Wichita became a profoundly memorable experience for me, just like Abilene was.  It still is.  Every time I drive to Wichita—perhaps ten times every year—I still get that feeling I had as a kid.  And, I can drive there without a map.  I’m not as brilliant as Dad was, but I do have a sense of where I’m going, even if I don’t know the exact direction I am traveling in.

 

Traveling by car now, while it is an everyday occurrence, can seem like a routine and mundane event.  That is, when I am traveling alone for work.  When I am in the car with my sisters, however, every trip becomes Something Special.  Much like a trip to Abilene or Wichita when I was a kid, a road trip with my sisters is always a special event.   As we continue to take more road trips, each holds special memories that are built upon the experiences from all the previous ones.

Traveling with someone can be an art form at best, and hell on earth at worst.  It is a delicate balance; a nearly-perfect blend that must be achieved in order for a trip with others to be a success.   I know this for sure, because I have travelled with people whom I would prefer never to travel with again.

Then, there are my sisters.  I could travel with them every day, and I would be a better and happier woman for it.  We know how to read each other, how to make our needs known, how to respect—and sometimes ridicule, in good faith, of course—each other.  We feel at ease in the car with each other, even if we don’t always agree where to go first, where to eat, when to leave, when to move on, or how to fit in all the fun we came for.

We make it flow, and we make it fun.

**

IMG_20170330_190658589_HDR

Gail and I just returned from Colorado six days ago–another Someplace Special for me.  The morning of our scheduled return home arrived, and while the sun shone bright and warm—it felt warmer than 58 degrees beating down on us as we sat on the porch and drank coffee—the dark cloud of we have to go home today hung low and heavy around us.  We milked it.  We drank another cup of coffee, talked and laughed even more, finally packed up and went to see Christine at 9494 again for one last perusal of her baubles and jewels (maybe we each bought one more) and stopped at the casino one last time—I pulled Gail away when she was $10 up with that hand.

We departed an hour and a half later than I said we had to.  Since I was driving, and I had 200 more miles to go after I dropped Gail off, I tried to make the rules.  Even though she is the big sister, I laid down the law—at least I tried.  She mostly respected it, but given our mutual affinity for the mountains that enveloped us, we lingered, and I didn’t fight back much.

We bade adieu to our favorite mountain town, and began the initial ascent out of the valley, followed by a descent out of the mountains.  We continued to talk, laugh, reminisce and dream.  We spoke of things we don’t normally speak of at home.  Things that the mountains and their rejuvenating air breathe into us, and then gently coax back out of us.  Things that are more grand than those we normally discuss, things that the mountain grandeur inspires us to talk about.  Heavy, but positive and important things that we may not say otherwise.

And all because we traveled.

I know it is a gift to be able to travel with anyone harmoniously. For some, traveling with one’s sister is the greatest challenge.  For us, however, it is joy multiplied.  We recognize this as a gift, and we give thanks accordingly.

We know too that it is a gift to have the resources of time and money to travel.  We know not everyone has these gifts.  Besides these resources, it is also a matter of priority.  It is each of our individual decisions to spend the necessary time and money to travel, because it is a priority.

It is a harsh, but true fact of life that we spend our time, money and energy on that which we value.  For many, and in the past for us too, this trifecta of time/money/energy was nearly 100% focused on supporting our families out of necessity.  In large measure, we have realigned our priorities after the loss we suffered in our family, realizing that this time together is necessary for our own support.  We choose to spend our time, money and energy on this time together.

And we are all richer for it.

21371038_1836373696377546_7000639629665288298_n[1]

**

I was in Abilene two days ago.  When I drove into town, I got that special feeling, the one I have had for forty years when I arrive there.  All because my parents took me Someplace Special.

Take yourself and/or your family to Someplace Special, even if it is only a few hours down the road, and especially if it will leave a lasting memory of why the place is indeed special, just as Abilene is to me.

21433026_1836360886378827_7725796941110284917_n[1]

Abilene is also rich with Cowtown history as an important part of the Chisholm Trail.

21371141_1836362983045284_5447617768241625037_n[1]

Your kids may still be thanking you forty years later, whether or not you are here to hear them say it.

Today, I am in Wichita, another Someplace Special.  We have the privilege of spending the day with this delightful family.

21271356_897422070409108_6838788771829719125_n[1]

My stepson, his wife and almost-two children are only 100 miles from us, and we are so thankful.  It is yet another reason to feel excited when I travel to Wichita.

I still get that warm feeling when I enter the city, and today, it was even warmer when I drove through the neighborhood where my grandparents once lived, the place my dad could always magically find without a map.

21462916_1837384542943128_5302164105335849741_n[1]

Another Someplace Special from my more recent travels with my sisters is mercilessly being ravaged by Mother Nature as I write.

21371304_1836368553044727_8137438716133829786_n[1]

My heart breaks for everyone in the state of Florida and northward as Hurricane Irma relentlessly pounds the entire area.  Our new friends in St. Pete Beach are in my heart today, as are all the residents and visitors in Florida and all the areas affected by this nightmarish hurricane.  Those affected in the Caribbean, as well as those affected in Texas are in my thoughts and prayers too.

No matter what happens in the next few hours and days, St. Pete Beach will always be Someplace Special for me.  My sisters and I made golden memories there last year, and Suzanne and I returned with her daughter not even two months ago, creating more memories.  We hope and pray that we will all be able to go back soon.  More importantly, may the lives,  pets and treasured possessions of all affected be safe, and may everything else be replaced in time by the grace, strength and generosity of the rest of America.

21433101_1836388233042759_956524097721829757_n[1]

If you have a sister or sisters, may you consider a trip to Someplace Special, if you aren’t already traveling there.

May you take your children Someplace Special that they will remember forty years later.

May you consider a day or a weekend in Abilene, Kansas.  I think you will agree it truly is Someplace Special.

May you find a way to balance your desires to travel with your responsibilities to others.

May you find a way to balance your time at work and at home with time spent going Someplace Special.

May you find balance.

21371114_1836362246378691_8057528262725978924_n[1]

This post is dedicated to my Abilene friends–may you realize you live in Someplace Special.