SIMPLE CELEBRATIONS

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SIMPLE CELEBRATIONS

It’s party time. If a party can be defined by a group of people celebrating an event or occasion, then yes, it is indeed time once again to party.

And by party, I recommend staying within the recommended guidelines that we are all aware of.

I had a little party at my home this weekend. A dear friend since childhood was celebrating her birthday, and I had the privilege of helping her do just that. Shari was traveling through on her way to see her parents in our hometown, so she spent Friday afternoon and evening with us. We even continued the celebration yesterday morning. I will expand on that later.

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Birthdays are obvious times to celebrate. Marking another successful trip around the sun should always be a festive occasion. It was for her, and the rest of us as well. Our neighbor was celebrating his birthday as well, so our group of eight serenaded him in his yard with a birthday carol at his front door.

Gail and her 20-year old daughter Lydia were here, too. Lydia had her every-four-month checkup with her endocrinologist in Salina, and she got continued good news regarding the battle she continues to wage–and win–against Type One diabetes. That’s cause for celebration.

Suzanne came out to spend the evening with us as well. If you recall, Suzanne’s encouragement to Lydia when she began her diabetes treatment was this: “Only the coolest girls get to see an endocrinologist.” Another occasion to celebrate is that Suzanne’s recent visit to her endocrinologist in Wichita brought good news as well: almost eight years after her thyroid cancer diagnosis, she remains healthy.

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Living in our strange new COVID world, finding reasons to celebrate any cause large or small is a way to keep looking at the sunny side. Despite all the bad news we are continually hammered with, there is still good news out there. Here’s an example: an elderly, extended family member of ours was dismissed from the hospital back to his home after his battle with COVID. That’s good news, even though the diagnosis was bad news we all naively thought would never strike our family. And, as more bonus good news, other family members who helped take care of him before they knew the diagnosis have tested negative.

And here’s further reason to celebrate with good news about my health: the tick that hitched a ride on my ankle yesterday morning was easily and completely removed. My husband, armed with the tweezers, plucked him out while Gail talked me down from the ledge the tick put me on.

It’s our choice. All day, every day. We can choose to celebrate the positive or magnify the negative. It’s always our choice.

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Mother Nature continues to offer us unlimited reasons to celebrate the beauty in every day. She has carpeted the earth in a lush green with the recent rains, and vibrant green leaves adorn the trees and bushes. Flowers are blooming, and summer is almost here.

Given this generous gift from her, my friend Shari and I decided to accept Mother Nature’s gift, and hike the trails at nearby Wilson Lake. Hiking is something we both enjoy, something we plan to do more of.

Suzanne went home Friday night, and Gail and Lydia stayed overnight with us. As a bonus, a friend of Gail’s since childhood came out for coffee Saturday morning. We all visited for a bit, then Shari and I took off for our hike.

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It was a beautiful day, and the state park area around the lake was re-opened, with many other people enjoying the outdoor space as well.

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The trails were lush in places,

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Rocky and barren in others,

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But always beautiful.

We were hungry hikers at the end of the trail, so we savored the made-from-scratch German lunch at a local restaurant aptly named Made From Scratch. I hadn’t sat down for a meal in a restaurant since March 15th, so this was a celebration of sorts for me as well.

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Celebrate. Whatever occasion, reason, victory or birthday, and within sanctioned limits in these COVID times, find a way to find the good, and share it in a small group now, and hopefully a larger one later.  We all need each other, and we all need to celebrate.  I think most of us have realized that in these last few isolated months.

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10,000 STEPS

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10,000 STEPS

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

“Sometimes we make the process more complicated than we need to. We will never make a journey of a thousand miles by fretting about how long it will take or how hard it will be. We make the journey by taking each day step by step and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination.”                   —Joseph B. Wirthlin

“Step with care and great tact, and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act.” —Dr. Seuss

“Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity.”             —Thich Nhat Hanh

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I remember watching Gail with great fascination when she got a Fitbit® several years ago. She was so excited about measuring her steps. She is always on the go, so it made sense that she would want to know just how many steps she took in a day. I also recall a dear woman, a wife of a dear home health patient, explaining her Fitbit®, too. She is a mover and shaker as well, so she, too, wanted to know how many steps she was taking every day.

I got a fitness tracker for Christmas. I never thought I would want one, but I did. I figured with my daily run, I was getting enough steps in. But something kept telling me to give it a shot. So, I did.  I didn’t need the fanciest one, just one to measure my steps. I was curious to see how many I took in an average day.

The set-up process required someone who knew more about gizmos like this than I did (my 19-year old son), and a goal. A number of daily steps to aspire to that would be entered into the device.   I thought 10,000 sounded like a good number, so I started there.

The first day I wore it, I exceeded the goal by a long shot. I completed 20,000-plus steps. However, that was not an ordinary day.

That day, like yesterday, I took a hike. Literally. That day, I hiked the nearby beautiful Konza Prairie Trail with my best hiking buddy.

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It is listed as one of the 8 Geographic Wonders of Kansas (www.kansassampler.org), and if you haven’t been there, put it on your list.

Yesterday, I hiked it with my husband and two sons. We’d been talking about doing it forever, and yesterday was the day. My firstborn just completed his degree at nearby Kansas State University in December, and we always said we would do it while he was there.

But we didn’t, and it was time.

It was abundantly sunny but windy, with a high of 49 degrees.  By Kansas standards in February, it was a nice day. So, we took advantage.

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It is a Kansas masterpiece; truly a wonder of nature. It is breathtaking in all seasons, and I have featured it in other posts as well.

So, please, go take a hike.

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After the trail, we checked out Pillsbury Crossing, another wonder of Kansas nature that was close to Manhattan.  Our son had been there several times, it is a beautiful water fall with a reputation among the college students as a fun nature hangout.

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It was a great day on our feet.

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Ten thousand steps sounds daunting, and if I didn’t take my daily run, I wouldn’t normally reach my goal. I am usually around 6,000 steps when I get back, so I’ve got a great head start early in the morning. Most days I reach my goal, some days I come close. I think there have been a few days when I didn’t even reach 9,000 steps. And there were two days when I was in bed sick, so those don’t count.

Two nights ago, I needed just 127 more steps to reach 10,000, and I was ready to go to bed. Not one to let a goal that close slip from my grasp, I went to the basement a few times; there was always something in the laundry room I could tend to. A few laps around the house, and I felt that gratifying double vibration on my wrist: I made it. Then, I went to bed.

The night before that, in the cold-but-calm February evening under an almost-full moon, I pushed myself out the door to walk the driveway a few times. The moon made it light enough to see, and made it worth the effort.

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I am a mature, educated, reasonable and logical woman who doesn’t normally fall for cheesy rewards or flaky reinforcement. That little pulsation on my wrist, however, makes me go the extra few steps, makes me push myself a little harder.

Yet, I continue to circle the parking lot, looking for a closer space.  Circling, even as I composed this blog in my mind as I often do throughout the week, I kept looking for a closer space.  I fully realize this incongruity.

I’m the only one who knows or cares about these 10,000 steps. Clearly, I am like most other humans in this respect: we all like to be rewarded for our efforts, even if it is just a little buzz on my wrist. Yesterday, just as we embarked on the trail, I got that little buzz. And I hadn’t even started hiking yet. I knew my tally for yesterday would be stellar, and it was. It was second only to the other time I hiked the same trail.

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This morning, I woke after a good night’s sleep, ready to get back out there and get more steps. I commenced my run before the wind picked up, and, at 31 degrees, it was beautiful. It felt so good, in fact, that I went the extra mile—literally. My legs felt strong and lithe after the hike yesterday, so I kept going. I felt like Forrest Gump. When I got home, I had over 7,500 steps, and it was just after 9:00 a.m.

I sent up a little thank you for this wondrous ability to move my legs, to take thousands of steps every day.

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I have been seeing an amazing woman for home health speech therapy for several months. She had a massive stroke last summer, and survived against all odds. She is wheelchair-bound, but keeps pushing forward, keeps giving it 127%, and keeps smiling.  Her faith and fortitude match that of her family, and she is not just strong, she is herculean.   I don’t think she realizes that she inspires all of us.

She is one year younger than me.

She has an amazing physical therapy team, and several weeks ago, I arrived at the tail end of her physical therapy session. She was elated, because with the physical support from her walker and her therapist, she walked across her kitchen. It was, perhaps ten steps. Not ten thousand, but ten. And, for her, this was an amazing victory, likely feeling like ten thousand steps. I felt so honored to be there right after it happened, to be an almost-witness to this victory.  She inspires the inspired.

I thought about my daily goals. Ten thousand steps. Every day, I am physically able to take those ten thousand steps and many more. I don’t think about each step like she does, I simply do it, as I have done all my life. I don’t count them, my tracker does that for me. After seeing her joy with just ten—or perhaps a few more—steps, I felt guilty for not savoring every step, for not being over-the-moon grateful for every single one of them.

I find myself taking this ability for granted. You would think, that after 25 years in this field, after seeing hundreds of people lose this ability, that I wouldn’t take it for granted. Yet, I still do.

Shame on me.

Instead of shame, however, I will offer more gratitude for this wondrous ability, this ability to move my body wherever I want to take it. Roughly half of the geography of the human body is dedicated to movement via our legs and hips, which reflects the importance of simply walking. Running, hiking and anything beyond walking are yet additional gifts.

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I have featured my Arizona friends in a few previous blogs.   Yesterday, Tana, age 47, completed 53,273 steps in her first—and last, she says today—marathon.

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She crossed the finish line with her friends, with incredible pain in her legs, but she finished.  (far left.)

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She began training only last year at age 46, and required cortisone injections in both knees to keep going.   Yet, she kept going. She, too,  inspires the inspired.

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Our mom was a walker, too. I remember her frequently taking off for walks on our country roads, setting a good example for all of us.

I called Suzanne one evening last week, and she and a friend were just returning from a walk.

Gail called me one evening last week while she was out walking, as she gets out and gets her steps in several times a week. She was a bit breathless, but she kept moving her legs as we talked. She made a comment about the moon, knowing I like to watch the moon, too. In her usual humorous style, she posted this after her walk:

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She might not be getting as many steps in lately, because she is having too much fun in her new ride:

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To treat herself for her upcoming 60th birthday, she brought this gem home, purchasing it from a local woman who could no longer drive. “Lola” is a 1974 Chevrolet Nova. Lola wasn’t a showgirl, as the Barry Manilow song may suggest, but Gail said she is now. In her usual humorous style, Gail is having the time of her life with Lola, cruising and carousing about town.

Gail and I had a Sunday morning phone conversation a bit ago. She expressed how excited she is about her upcoming birthday, and the celebrations sure to unfold. She understands that age and ability are gifts not to be taken for granted, and she is celebrating them. I checked with her to make sure, but I already knew the answer: she would love to hear from you to add to her birthday joy on or before February 21st:

Gail Britt

810 South 6th St

Atwood, KS 67730

If you’ve read much of my blog, she probably feels like your big sister, too.

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Take a walk, take a hike, or take a run. If you are able to, simply move your legs, and be sure to be grateful for the ability to do so. Our beautiful state of Kansas has so much outdoor glory to offer, so whenever possible, get out there and enjoy it. If you don’t live in Kansas, I’m sure your state—or country—has natural beauty to enjoy as well.

Sometimes, the hardest part of moving your body is just getting started. Start small. Walk around the block or to the mailbox. Once you get started, it’s easier to keep going. Action begets action. Walking begets walking. Hiking and running beget hiking and running, too.

That journey of however many steps begins with a single step.

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“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is. — Ellen Degeneres

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If you live in, or plan to visit Kansas, please get yourself a copy of this guidebook from the Kansas Sampler Foundation  (www.kansassampler.org.)  It features all the wonder and beauty of outdoor Kansas, as well as indoor sights, historic locations, one-of-a-kind stores, restaurants and manmade wonders from every town in the state.  It makes a great gift, I gave Suzanne one for Christmas, and Gail just might get one in her birthday package, too.

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Penner, Marci and Rowe, WenDee.  The Kansas Guidebook 2 for Explorers.  2017,  Newton, Kansas, Mennonite Press.

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BE A SPORT

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BE A SPORT

I like to move my body in some form of exercise every day.  I hope I have made it abundantly clear to you in previous posts that the ability to do so is a gift not granted.  My work has made me see that.

I exercise almost every day because it makes me feel better, and, as I age, as a prayer of gratitude for the ability to make it all work.  I am already learning that age limits that.

But let’s not dwell on that.

I have never been an athlete, per se.  I did attempt volleyball in high school, but it was not meant to be, although I do enjoy it.   My long-distance running experiences in high school track laid the foundation for me to pick it up again six years after I stopped running track.

Twenty-eight years later, I am still running.  I run because it makes me feel good.

I attempted coed softball with my husband early in our marriage.  It became quickly apparent to me and the entire team that this venture was ill-fated; I possessed skills only for solitary endeavors, such as running in a straight line.  I lacked the mental and physical coordination to be a team member of any value on the softball team.

I left that behind.

Five years ago, I experimented with yoga.  I am still experimenting, but on a more regular and organized basis.  Stretching in this fashion is good for any human body.

So, I stretch mine.  Yoga stretches my brain, too, which is good for any human brain.

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I am not a sports fan.  With the exception of our beloved Kansas City Royals Baseball, I have no desire to attend any professional sporting events.  I realize what I am about to say is heresy to a hallowed American institution, but if I were given tickets to the Super Bowl–the pinnacle event of sports in the United States, I would pass them on.

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I am pretty sure that in any sport’s inception, it was intended to provide a sense of fun, fitness and friendly competition.

If I were appointed Goddess of all Sporting Events, I would magically ensure that these three elements were held foremost.  I would eliminate any scandals, doping, mean spirits and underhandedness.  I would ensure that every participant in every sport had equal playing time, and that all parties had fun.

I wouldn’t be very popular.

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About five years ago, Suzanne and I attended the county spelling bee that our niece and nephew were participating in.  We were psyched and eager to watch them compete.  We sat close to the front and had to sit on our hands.  We considered painting our faces and cheering loudly for them, but we kept it subdued to save embarrassment for them.

If we’d had the time that particular Thursday prior to the 1:30 p.m. kickoff, we may have tailgated in the school parking lot.  Why not?

Then there was the Quiz Bowl.  My firstborn was a team member, traveling to several area schools.  I had the good fortune to see him in the same town I was working in.  Again, I held off on the face painting for his sake.  I had to hold my hand over my mouth to keep from blurting out some answers in this battle of factual knowledge.

Pennsylvania is the Keystone State!”  It was tough to hold that one in.   I used to live there.  I kept it together—barely.

These events are the real deal for me.  This is Fun—yes, with a capital F.  Take me to a football game, and I may pass for a corpse.  As I write this on the eve of the big match-up of the KC Chiefs vs. the Denver Broncos, the regional rival NFL teams, I know once again that putting these words in print is heresy.

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I do enjoy volleyball, likely because I understand it.  I had the pleasure of seeing Gail’s college-age son compete on his university’s men’s club volleyball team this weekend.

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I was in nearby Manhattan to meet my dear friend Shari for a fall hike through the famous Konza Prairie Trail.  We moved our bodies in this outdoor activity among the splendor of fall foilage.  I even got to see my son there as well.

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We walked and ran this morning, again moving our bodies.  Again, we found immediate reward in the payoff—we felt better.

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We even picked up the paddles and hit the ping pong ball a few times in good-natured competition inside the locally famous donut shop.

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Having already had a full weekend of athletic activities including hiking, running/walking, yoga, ping pong and volleyball, I had hoped to be able to observe a session of boxing as well.  Let me explain:

I work with many people who have Parkinson’s Disease.  This progressive neurological condition slowly and methodically attempts to rob the human body of its ability to move smoothly in good time.  It also attempts to silence the voice for most people, and affects their swallowing ability.

There is an international boxing program known as Rock Steady Boxing® that is designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s.  It helps them rebuild their strength, balance and coordination.  It also helps them strengthen their voices in the process.  Perhaps most importantly, as a by-product of all these gains, they are reminded they are still fighters in the Game of Life.

There is twice-weekly class held in Manhattan with these warriors and their trainers.  A dear friend is one of these trainers, and a colleague of mine in our small city was recently trained to work within this program as well.  I wanted to see the class in action.

It used to be held on Saturdays, but it has been moved to Friday instead, so I missed it.  I didn’t get to take in this sporting event.  I have seen videos, and it brings tears of amazement and joy to my eyes.  This is the real deal; this is what sports in its purest form can do for the human body.

If you, or anyone you know could benefit from this, please visit their website at:  www.rocksteadyboxing.org.

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Gail is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  Our husbands are Kansas City Chiefs fans.  Suzanne and I are not football fans.  We don’t understand what all the hype is about.  We don’t even understand the game; our brains simply aren’t wired for it.   The spelling bee is more our style.

If you are a football fan, I hope your team wins.  Most importantly, I hope it is a source of fun for you, like it was intended to be.

And if you aren’t already, get out there and move your body.  If you move it within a competitive sporting event, be sure to have fun while you are competing.  If it is a solitary venture, do whatever makes you feel best in your body and mind.

And in tomorrow’s regional NFL rivalry, may the best team win—and may every team member and spectator leave the stadium as a better person.

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I have had the pleasure of getting to know some awesome sisters through this blog who have made me a better person in ways small and large.

I wrote about Martha and Mary in Loads of Sisters (November 19th).   They are Gail’s twin aunts by marriage, and they live in Manhattan.  They came to see their great-nephew play volleyball, and I got to enjoy their company today as well.  Today, their 60-something birthday. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTHA AND MARY!

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I have honored my friends Tana and Amy, two other amazing sisters in two other posts   (Swheat Girls Part Two—July 9th, 2017 and Stars and Stripes and Sisters Forever–July 8th, 2018).  While on the Kansas State University Campus this morning, we took a moment to honor their grandfather, a former Director of Housing at KSU.

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Shari and I took in the majesty of the Kansas sunset from atop a hill outside Manhattan.  Every time I take time to enjoy this splendor, I am always a winner, and I become a better person.