LUCKY GIRLS

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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.

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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,

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Last year’s trip to Colorado

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROCKY MOUNTAIN ‘HI’

 

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN ‘HI’

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 And the real fun began.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.  

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SOMEPLACE SPECIAL

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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