THANKS AND GIVING

Today was the busiest highway travel day of the year in America, and we were in the flow of interstate traffic as well.

After missing last year, we resumed our family tradition of Thanksgiving weekend at Gail’s house. The almost-3.5 hour trip from Suzanne’s and my small city, the 2.5 hour trip for our two brothers on the farm and the 5-hour trip for our brother in Wichita is always worth the trek–especially after the hole that 2020 left.

There was plenty of cooking,

and the eating commenced. It was delicious, tasting even better after missing a year.

Gail’s son Wyatt was first in line.

There were visits from extended family and friends as well, and Gail is pretty sure she reached record capacity in “Camp Gail,” her special space within her home.

Gail gained another grandson this year, and he was along to help celebrate. He didn’t even realize he was pretty much the center of attention.

There was a Christmas parade in the downtown of her small town Friday night,

Our dad was a member of the Fourth-Degree Knights of Columbus, just as these men are. As they do for fellow Knights who have passed, the other Knights stood in an honor guard at our parent’s funeral. Gail, Suzanne and I always have a moment of heartbreak, followed by joy whenever we see these Knights dressed in full honor guard attire, just as our dad was.

and we enjoyed the only in-store Black Friday shopping we ever partake of in her downtown as well.

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Thanksgiving is one of my top two favorite holidays. Along with the Fourth of July, I find joy in the celebrations of gratitude these two holidays bring. It’s simple really, saying ‘thank you’ for all blessings great and small on Thanksgiving, and celebrating the joys of freedom that Independence Day brings.

It’s not as simple, really, to keep this spirit of gratitude alive year-round, although that is what I believe would bring us more joy every day of the year, if we simply take the time and make the effort to send up a simple ‘thank you’ prayer. There is so much good fortune surrounding each of us every day, but sometimes, on the hard days, it seems to be invisible and nowhere to be found. These are the days, I have found, that are begging for another try, just a little more effort to dig a bit deeper to find those hidden gems.

They are there, even on days when you are sick, or on Monday mornings, or the rainy, windy and gray days, the days you didn’t sleep the night before, when worries about health or money crowd your mind, or when you had a fight with a loved one…you get the idea. It’s every day, even when it’s not a ‘good’ day.

Thanksgiving Day and Independence Day can, and should be every day. And when you’re not feeling it, consider, just as the plaque on Gail’s wall says, giving. Even when–especially when–you feel you have nothing to give. It’s there to share, somewhere deep within. Just keep looking. I need to try harder, but I have found that when I do practice giving, the thanks come automatically.

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There is a new picture at the beginning of this post, it follows the four previous annual Sister Lode pictures taken in Camp Gail each year at her Thanksgiving celebration–minus last year. Beginning in 2016, we continue to pose for our yearly snapshot. Each year, I feel the gratitude a little more. My sisters remain my best friends, and I am thankful for them every day. They keep me smiling and laughing, and make me realize, despite our shared losses, how fortunate I am to have them in my life.

They remind me that every day is Thanksgiving Day.

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After 29 months, my book was published this week. I am so honored to help tell one veteran’s story–ONE AMERICAN’S STORY. My work with Jim Fawcett has reminded me that, thanks to veterans like him, active duty military, National Guard and Reserves, every day is indeed Independence Day.

The book is now available on Amazon in print and as an e-book as well. Please consider reading it and gifting it as a celebration of your Independence Day, and Thanksgiving Day as well: “One American’s Story” by Jim Fawcett and Kathleen Depperschmidt. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09M4QZ8Q6.

Thanks to all of you for continuing to read our blog, and Happy Thanksgiving–every day of the year.

WHITE PANTS AFTER LABOR DAY

WHITE PANTS AFTER LABOR DAY

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One of the greatest compliments anyone ever paid me was this:  “You show me what rules need to be broken, and how to break them.”

Mission accomplished.

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As I got dressed during the last week of August, the last week before Labor Day, I put on a pair of white pants for the second day in a row (I have several pair, no surprise).  I thought “I’d better wear these one more time before Monday, because the rule says ‘No white pants after Labor Day.’”

Then, in the time it took to get them off the hanger, I thought “Screw that.  I will wear white pants whenever I want to.”

Today, two days after Labor Day, I wore white pants.

My friend and colleague Kristy beat me to the punch.  I showed up at her office door Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, to find her dressed in white pants.

“I love it!” I said to her.

“What?”  She seemed a bit confused.

“Your white pants.  It’s the day after Labor Day, and you are wearing white pants.”

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“Oh, I don’t pay any attention to those rules.   I wear white pants whenever I want to.”

Amen, sister, Amen.  Some rules have “break me” written all over them.

I wore yet another pair of my white pants today, and when a dear patient of mine showed up in her white pants, it was the first thing I noticed.

“I love it!  We are both wearing white pants after Labor Day!” I said.

“Oh, I don’t pay any attention to those rules.  I wear white pants whenever I want to.”  I wish I could have taken a picture of this amazing woman with me with our white pants on, but privacy laws prevent that.  Trust me when I say she continues to be an amazingly strong woman who follows in her own path, even in the face of the life-altering health crisis she found herself in.

I work hard to surround myself with people who see the world the way I do.  I have been flanked by them the last few days, and I am grateful.

My patient also added that she likewise doesn’t follow the rule that one should wait until after Memorial Day to wear white pants.  I wasn’t aware of the other bookend of this rule, so we looked up the history.

Apparently, according to fashion researchers, this “rule” began in the 1930’s, when only the ultra-rich people wore white in the summer, with light-colored clothing giving a look of leisure.  Working-class people wore mostly dark clothing.

Armed with this information, I now want to wear all four pair of my white pants all winter, and stop wearing them after Memorial Day.

In this free country, I am free to do so.  No one is the boss of me, fashion or otherwise.

I will continue to choose to wear white pants any day of the year, which, I am sure, will still allow my culture to thrive.  It’s simply a suggestion, not a hard-and-fast rule that our civilization hinges upon.

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There is a story about a young wife who was baking a ham for the first time with her new husband.  She unwrapped the ham, prepared the baking dish and proceeded to cut the ends off the ham before placing it in the dish.  Her new husband questioned:  “Why do you cut the ends off?”

“Because that’s how you do it.  My mother always did it that way,” she responded.

I’ve never seen it done that way.  There has to be a reason,” the husband said.

Not wanting to lose this battle so early on in their marriage, she called her own mother to get the official explanation.

Because that’s how my mother always did it,” his mother-in-law said.

Wanting to get to the bottom of it to chalk one up for herself, the wife called her grandmother with the same question.

“Because it wouldn’t fit in the pan if I didn’t cut the ends off.”

And there you have it.  The reason why it was the “rule” that the ends had to be cut off the ham.

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I had the pleasure of seeing an old friend yesterday.  This friend didn’t start out as my friend.  She started out as my fourth-grade teacher.

At ten years of age, I perceived this “old” 35-year old woman as hip and cool, with a quiet spirit about her that I wanted to possess.

Now, at 52, I perceive this 77-year old woman as hip and cool.  She has a quiet spirit that I want to possess.

So, when she comes back to this area to see her son, we plan an annual visit.  I looked her up for my 20-year class reunion, because I knew my classmates liked her, too.  I found her in California, but she would be visiting her son then—her only child—who lives about an hour from me.  It worked out perfectly for her to attend, and she was as much of a hit in 2004 as she was in 1975 with my class of 18.

Since then, we have been able to see each other almost every year when she and her husband visit their son and his family.  They have no permanent address now to speak of, they live in an RV most of the year in Arizona.  They will, however, be purchasing a home near their son.  Not that they will give up their mobile lifestyle; they simply know that someday, they will likely need a house to call home.

I visited her in this small town close to her son’s home.  They have found a house here, and will hopefully call it theirs someday soon.   Until then, and even after that point, they will continue to practice the two habits I wrote about in an earlier post that describe those patients and their family members who seem to defy age and remain (relatively) healthy:  1:  they stay active, and 2:  they do what makes them happy.

For them, it is remaining on the go.  This takes care of #1 and #2 above, and it shows.

We walked through the downtown street fair/car show, took a walk in the park, and enjoyed a libation at a local hangout.  We talked about life, specifically about living the lives we want to live.  We talked about the lessons life teaches us through loss.  We talked about doing what makes us happy, and how important that is.  We talked about following our hearts, even if it means not following certain “rules.”

We shopped at a few small stores, and at her behest, I came home with this:

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She remains my teacher.  Perhaps even more now than she was in the fourth grade.

Having started this post several days prior to our visit, I laughed out loud when I first saw her:  she and I were both wearing white pants.

On so many levels, she remains my teacher.

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I was wearing a favorite shirt by one of my favorite brands:  Life is good®.  If you look closely, you can see the sun, with these words beneath:  The sun doesn’t know it’s a star.”

Gail bought this shirt for her daughter Lydia last year on one of our Colorado trips. Knowing I had several dozen of these awesome shirts already, I fought the urge to buy one for myself.  I won that battle, but lost the war later when I succumbed and ordered one for myself online.

Lydia was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes shortly after that Colorado trip.  She doesn’t know she is a star to me.  Her courageous daily fight against this lifelong enemy inspires me.

Gail and Suzanne don’t know they are stars to me, either.  They simply do their thing, shed their light, and warm the world with their presence.  Their rays may be clouded over some days, but they are always there, soon to break out and shine again after the clouds clear.

My teacher gave me permission to call her by her first name years ago, but that didn’t feel right.  We met in the middle, and I call her “Mrs. P.”

Mrs. P. doesn’t know she has always been a star to me.  Since 1975, her rays continue to shine bright.  At her youthful age of 77, I pray they continue to shine for many more years.  As long as she stays active and does what makes her happy, I have a feeling she will shine on.

Without either of us knowing, my neighbor also purchased the same shirt.  She, too, is a star who lights up my neighborhood.

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This Tuesday, “Patriot’s Day,” marks the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  Our country fell collectively to its knees that day, and all of us felt the heartbreak.  We still do.  But if we don’t celebrate our freedom every day, then we haven’t paid homage to those who lost their lives that day, those who fought then, and those who continue to fight now for our freedom.

We have freedoms that are foreign to much of the rest of the world.  Our country is far from perfect, but if it is your home, please celebrate by exercising your freedoms.

Wear white pants after Labor Day.  Don’t cut the ends off the ham.  Or, do cut the ends off.  Whatever pleases you.  You have the right to do all these things, and so many more.

If it doesn’t hurt anyone, and, to reflect back on Mom’s advice, “If it feels good and doesn’t break the 10 Commandments, then do it.”  Go ahead and break those rules if breaking them meets the above criteria.

Like the white pants rule that served the rich and privileged, many rules serve only those who created them, serving to keep them in positions of power. Or, in the case of the ham, sometimes a “rule” is created in responses to an isolated instance, and it should have never become a rule in the first place.

Do your own thing.  Exercise your freedoms this Tuesday, September 11th, and every day.  But please never forget why we have these freedoms, and who gave them to us.

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My boys shortly after 9/11/01. 

Gail, Suzanne and I have rescheduled our Colorado trip for early October.  We will likely wear white pants, and will most likely break other rules that should be broken, too.  Here’s a throwback photo from our trip several years ago from Suzanne’s Facebook page.

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LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME

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LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR SOME

“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

As a child, I recall hearing and saying this many times:  “I can do what I want.  It’s a free country.”  It was typically in response to some perceived offense, and when confronted, the offending party would often respond with that phrase.

I don’t hear kids—or adults—saying that much anymore.  But we should never forget the meaning behind it.

“And I won’t forget the men (and women) who died, who gave that right to me.”

On Saturday of this week, my husband’s family celebrated his father’s 80th birthday with a large gathering of 50-plus family members.  The host led grace just before the meal, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, then “Happy Birthday” sung to the birthday boy from the crowd.  This trifecta was the perfect display of gratitude first for the food, then for the freedom, followed by a family honoring a strong and deserving patriarch.

“And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.”

After the singing, my father-in-law and the uncles who served our country were asked to stand to be recognized and honored.  There were seven .  We applauded with our hands and with our hearts.

This will never be enough to let them know how much we appreciate their service, but they don’t expect any more than that.  They simply served; they were honored to give.

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Our dad didn’t serve in the military.  He was deemed not fit enough due to flat feet.  Now, most of his seven children have flat feet, but we might not be here otherwise.

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Memorial Day is a wonderful bonus Monday off for many people, myself included.  But, as this Facebook post so painfully illustrates, it goes so much deeper than that.  Deeper than the vast majority of us will ever know.  Deeper than our worst nightmares can conjure, to a depth that that should always be seared upon our minds, hearts and souls how supremely fortunate we are to live in a free country.

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OUR FREEDOM ISN’T FREE.

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Gail, Suzanne and I got to spend the weekend together.  Gail traveled the 230 miles to our small city, and we savored this gift of time together in the sisterhood.  We are supremely fortunate to have each other, and we know it.

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We are celebrating our parents this weekend too, as we do every time we are together.   None of us felt the need to visit their graves; we know they are not there.  Mom made it clear before they died that we were welcome to visit her plot when she was gone, but we wouldn’t find her there.

And we don’t.

We find both of them in our togetherness, wherever we go.

Our brothers and their families who live on their farms close to our hometown take tender, loving care of their graves there, and for that, we are so grateful.  We visit when we are there at other times throughout the year.

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I was a kid during Vietnam.  I watched news coverage of the Gulf War and the other foreign conflicts that took place as I grew up, and unfortunately, continue to take place around the world.  Often, I simply turn off the news when more coverage is aired.  I simply cannot take more bad news of war.  I didn’t fully realize the depth of our freedom NOT being free until I watched the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, unfold on live television.

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”    Jimi Hendrix, a famous 1960’s rock musician, is credited with this statement.  Online sources list other similar quotes, which may have inspired him.  It summarizes what I feel is the answer as well.  Ironically, Jimi Hendrix enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained as a paratrooper, and was granted an honorable discharge.

But how to find this peace?  What can each of us do, as Average Jane and Joe Citizen, to bring this about?  What on earth—literally-can we do to stop the fighting across the world?  We all think that, as just one person, our actions–good or bad–cannot possibly make a difference.

These hundreds (thousands?) of years, these scores of generations of violence toward our fellow man in the name of one’s god, one’s country, one’s pain, scorn and oppression cannot easily be turned around.  This is the way of life for so many, so many fellow humans who have never known a day of peace.  So many who don’t even know there is a better way.

So many, just like ourselves, who think there is nothing, as an individual, that can be done.

Oh, but there is.

There is one beacon, one guiding principle that each of us can put to work every day.  The key word is work, because it takes a lot of that.  If you have even one iota of self-induced strife in your heart, it has the potential to create a negative ripple, and it can be worked upon.  If you think there is nothing you can do to bring peace to the world, think again.

I have written about it before, and I will write about it again.  I offer no apologies to anyone who doesn’t want to hear anything remotely related to religion, because this only has to relate to humanity.  It comes to you and me as fellow humans, breathing the same air, co-existing on the same earth, from another human being.  A man who walked this same earth, breathed this same air from 1181-1226.  A man who gave up riches to pursue a life of humility and peace:  Saint Francis of Assisi.  He is venerated worldwide as the original Instrument of Peace, the man who wrote the prayer.

He is the saint my parents modeled their lives after, leaving us a tremendous legacy, as well as a tough act to follow.  Specifically, our mother wrote a letter to be read at her funeral asking us to live our lives by this prayer.

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So, we try.  For myself, I stumble and fall, get up and keep trying to try.  Some days, that’s the most I can do.  Some days I do a little better.  But I never stop trying.  I can’t.  Mom saw to it that we were handed those marching orders, and we saw to it that it was written in stone on the back of their tombstone in their honor.

 

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I did something recently that didn’t make me feel very good about myself.  Something that, in the parlance of my Catholic upbringing was very likely very venial, was still very wrong.  And my hyper-developed conscience wouldn’t let me rest until I did something about it.  It was more than a white lie, perhaps a shade of light gray.  Nothing damning, nothing that would incite violence or crush someone’s soul, but wrong, nonetheless.  At the time, it felt like an eye for an eye, but in hindsight, it really was something more like an eye for a toenail clipping.

So, I came clean.  I went to the person who would be affected by this transgression, even though it was known only to me.   I confessed.  I owned up to the infraction, made reparations as best I could, and they forgave with open arms.  They asked only to allow them the chance in the future to help to prevent it from happening again.  In a turn I wouldn’t have imagined, they were an Instrument of Peace to me.

So, if an offense is committed deep in a forest and no one hears or sees it, did it really happen?  Is it really wrong?

Undeniably, unequivocally, YES and YES.

If your little voice tells you that you can make peace by righting a wrong, or even creating a right where no wrong existed, then you’d better listen.  That voice is not only your conscience and your voice of reason, it is a much wiser, deeper part of your soul speaking.  It is your opportunity be an Instrument of Peace.

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“Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,”

I do love this land.  I love the open fields and rolling hills of my home state, and there are so many other parts of this land I want to explore.  My away-from-home favorites are the mountains of Colorado and the beaches of Florida, but there are so many more places in these great States I want to visit.  I don’t even have a strong desire to travel abroad because there is so much in America I haven’t seen yet.  Places open to me and you and everyone else to visit because this is indeed a free country.  We are at liberty to travel where we want to go.

For that, and for every other liberty small and large, our military is to thank.  The brave men and women who served and those in active duty as well.  Those who may never know the liberty they deserve.  Those who gave up their liberties so that we may have ours.  Words will never be enough to express our gratitude, but it is a start.  God bless them, and…

“God Bless the USA.”

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Please observe Memorial Day with gratitude for all the liberties you possess.   Please thank any active or former military service man or woman.   And, because I know it never goes away, I extend my sympathy to you for anyone you are mourning.

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Thank you for your continued support.   My sisters and I are grateful for the opportunity to reach out to each of you through this blog.  We want to take our mother’s dying wish and make it work not just for us, but for the world.  In the face of conflict, in what appear to be war-torn families and relationships, we are often asked what we do to make it work and to keep it all together.  So many people, we have learned, don’t have even a taste of what we have.  If we can help you in any way to find it, please let us know.  Send an email through the blog, or message any of us privately on Facebook.  Please reach out.