GAIL-ISMS

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GAIL-ISMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The forsythia blooms are always a brilliant yellow

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Some people call them weeds…

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Daffodils never disappoint

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

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

Somehow, though, these few have stuck with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy Spring from The Sister Lode

ELEVEN YEARS

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ELEVEN YEARS

Beautiful.  Perfect.  Awe-inspiring.  A gift from Above.

I struggle to type these words about another snowfall blanketing our area.  Yet, this morning, as I take in the brilliant white splendor of the snow in the bright sun, I must say they are the most apt words I can use to describe the outdoors this morning.

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What I wanted to type, and what I said to myself as I braced yesterday for yet another winter storm—in early March, for Pete’s sake–were these words describing our winter so far:  Interminable.  Ugly. Painful.  Never-ending.  Soul-draining.

While I thought those words, and I fight not to continue to think them, I am choosing to stay positive.

Because, after all, it is always a choice.

Choosing to relish these weather conditions has always come easier to Gail and Suzanne.  Especially the wind.  The cursed Kansas wind, in my book.  Not in theirs.  As Gail says, “Embrace it.  There is nothing you can do to change it.”  Wise words.

“People of the South Wind” is the translation of our state’s name from the Kanza tribe of Native Americans.  This wind, however, sculpted a beautiful scene in our backyard this morning.

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It is early March in Kansas.  It could be 70 degrees, or it could be 4 degrees, with a sub-zero wind chill.  We take what we get.  We have no choice.

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I WISH spring would hurry up and arrive.

Interminable.  Ugly. Painful. Never-ending.  Soul-draining.  These are the words I would use not only to describe this winter, but the deep grief we endured when we lost our parents.  Eleven years ago today, March 3rd, 2008, we saw our parents for the last time at our grandmother’s funeral.  It was a beautiful celebration of a long and blessed life, and we shared a wonderful afternoon with them, not knowing it would be our last moments together.  The next day, March 4th, they departed on their three-hour journey home, but never arrived.

We needed and accepted any and all expressions of sympathy immediately after they died, and for a long time after.

We have come a long way since then.   We will be forever grateful for the support we received from so many people.  We no longer need it, though it helped sustain us through the darkest days of our lives.

Since then, we have turned that black square on the calendar into March Forth.  With that support, time and continued perseverance, we now see their lives in full splendor:  Beautiful.  Perfect. Awe-inspiring.  A gift from Above. 

For those of you who were at their funeral—there were so many, and we remain so humbled by the obvious love and respect they earned—please recall Mom’s message.  And please continue to take it to heart.

For everyone, please use every moment of every day you possibly can to make the relationships in your life all they can be.  If you have either, or both of your parents, let them know how much you love them.  If you need to make peace with your parents or anyone, do it now.  They may not be here tomorrow.

Make your life all you want it to be.  Start today on something you have always wanted to do.  Put a jigsaw puzzle together.  Learn to play the piano, even if no one ever hears it.  Write the poetry, even if no one ever reads it.  Travel to the place you always wanted to travel to.

Or, maybe, like Gail is learning to do, simply slow down.  Take one or two things off your plate, like she recently did.  Let go of some of the meaningless busy-ness.  If Gail can learn to slow down, anyone—even you—can.

I attended a funeral this week for a beloved patient.  She left a legacy that reached beyond what most of us realized.  She lived and loved, and left a model for living life to its fullest.  Funerals are a time of sadness, but also a catalyst to keep moving forward to honor the memory of the one we loved and lost.  They would want it that way.

We weren’t ready to let her go, but we don’t get to choose when.  And the when for all of us is only a matter of time.

I struggle to fully grasp that it’s been eleven years since our parents died.  Four or five, maybe…six tops.  But eleven?  Why has the time gone so fast, and where did it go?

A wise woman once told me this:  The reason time goes faster with age is because when you are ten, time goes ten miles per hour.  When you are twenty, it moves along faster at twenty miles per hour.  At fifty…at sixty five—you get the idea.  It only moves faster.  No matter what your age, I don’t think you will disagree.

Age is a gift, just as I wrote several weeks ago.  The corollary, then, is that time is a gift as well.  Use it to do the things to make your life as full as it can be, and to celebrate the relationships you have with other people.

Enjoy the Monday mornings, the Thursday evenings, even the hour in the grocery store at the end of the workday on Tuesday.

I need to take this one to heart more than most people—more than Gail and Suzanne, anyway:  enjoy the cold, the snow and the wind.  Enjoy the gray, slushy melting snow two days later.  Enjoy the cloudy days—even long series of gray, cloudy days on end that we seem to have had multiple times this winter.

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It’s much easier to enjoy the fun times, the getaways, the days off; the vacation.  Which is exactly what Gail and I will be doing in several days.  With Suzanne’s blessing, but without her, we are heading west once again to our favorite Rocky Mountain town.  It is our original celebration destination; we started going there nine years ago to celebrate our parents lives, and ours as well.

And we continue to do just that.  Their legacy lives on in so many ways through their seven children, and we have chosen to celebrate and enjoy our lives, thanks to the love they gave us throughout their lives.

Life is too short to not have fun.  So, whatever fun looks like for you, get out there and have it.  Or stay home and have it.   Find what works for you, and give yourself the gift of time to do it.  Let some time-sucking obligations go if you need to; Gail paved the way for you to do the same.

And tomorrow, as my siblings and I March Forth, we have but one favor to ask of you:  If  they are still here, let your parents know how much you love them. Show them if you can.   And next time you get to see them, be sure to take a picture.

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Gail and I will have a partial report of the fun we had on our trip when I write again in several weeks.   We never tell all.

 

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

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THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

A tire.  Your eyeball.  The moon.  A donut.  A steering wheel.

The answer is:  they are all circular.  The question I sometimes pose to my stroke patients is what do all these have in common?

Sometimes after a stroke or some other neurological condition, it is difficult for my speech therapy patients to see such relationships, and even more difficult to verbalize the answer.

If we add the word LIFE to the list above,  we may struggle for a moment to fully acknowledge the relationship.  It, too, is a circle.

Unlike the list of objects in the first line, life, however, does have a beginning and an end.

Just like I said it might, the baby came soon after I posted my last blog.  Moments after I hit the publish button, we got the word that they were on their way to the hospital.  At 11:02 p.m., exactly five hours after I posted, Finn Matthew was born, and we are grandparents again.

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He is perfect, of course, and his mother—and father and sister are doing well too.

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The circle begins again.

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The days are getting cooler, the sunlight is waning, and my skin is drying out—again.  Mercifully, the trees are giving us a few weeks of beautiful splendor.  Mother Nature is showing off once again; a grand finale before she puts them to rest for the winter.  They spend the next five months or so in  dormant state, making plans, thinking, rejuvenating, resting and renewing.

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It has taken me a long time, and it becomes a little bit easier every year when my beloved summer has gone, but I, too, try to make the most of those dormant months.  I know the Great Circle will bring summer back; it seems to arrive more quickly each year as I age.  In the meantime, I think a lot, make plans to be carried out when it is warm again. I try to rest and renew.

The darkest nights always give way to another sunrise.  The storms always clear and calm returns.  The cold may last six months, but the heat always returns and bathes us.  When the wind, ice, lightning and rain take away, the human community always bonds together to give back to those who are suffering.

The circle continues.

Where one life begins, another ends.

Finn entered the world a week ago, adding to our family.  My family has grown, and at the same time, Gail’s family is preparing for a loss.  Her beloved mother-in-law is not expected to survive much longer.  Her illness has progressed, and their family is saying a sad goodbye.

Finn arrived into the world from a quiet, dark place, into a bustle of noise and lights, strong hands, and a complete lack of familiarity.  He soon met his mother, father and sister, and the circle inched forward.

They hold him, care for him and feed him, but most of all, they love him.  The entire family gathers.   It is so easy to greet a baby with such acts of love.

When the circle of life nears completion, the same thing happens.  The family holds them, feeds them, cares for them but most of all, they love them.  The entire family gathers.  The roles are reversed, and the family prepares for loss, not gain.  It can be a very hard act of love to prepare to say goodbye.

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I believe in Heaven.  I believe there is a place beyond this earthly realm that is free of all evil, a place that is an unfathomable, fabulous evolution of love and the human spirit.  I believe these two elements of mortal life must carry on in some way.  They are not accidental or secondary by-products of human life.  They are why we are here.

I respect your beliefs if they do not agree with mine, but for just a moment, please suspend them and think about this point my mother made about death many years before her own:  if  babies could choose to stay in the womb where it is comfortable and familiar–not that they could–they likely would.  If they did, however, they would miss this incredible world that awaits them.  The transition from womb to birth may be painful, but it is necessary to move on.  Such is birth.

We don’t know what awaits us after this world, but if we could choose to stay here–not that we could–we would miss out on something so spectacular that is far beyond any life here, even if the crossing over painful.   Such is death.

We are given perhaps the tiniest morsels; small tastes of the beauty that may await us:

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Another perfect circle.

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Opposite the beautiful moonrise is another beautiful sunset at the closing of another day.

And, as promised, it is always followed by a splendid beginning to yet another day.

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Another perfect circle rising.

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My daily Word of the Day arrived in my inbox moments ago.  Atemporal:  without limitations of time.  

We measure time in seconds, hours, days, seasons, years; lifetimes.  Each one begins, ends, then starts again.  We know no other means of measurement.

Except when we say hello to a new life, or say goodbye to a loved one.  Time stops for that one moment; we are not limited by it.

And then we go on.

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