“The game of life has two participants: spectators and players. Pick one.”  –Unknown

Yesterday, Gail and I and some of our family members were spectators, warming the benches as Gail’s son played volleyball on the men’s club team at Kansas State University.


Wyatt is #15, blocking the spike.

Wyatt has played on this team for the last two years, having received expert instruction from his big sister, who was also present.

Lucky for me I actually understand this game, unlike most sports. I get it; it’s relatively simple. Back and forth, above the net and inside the boundaries, three hits or less on each volley. I played for several years in high school, with an ugly crooked finger as a permanent memento of the game and the fun I had. Sometimes, the price we pay for having had fun in our younger years is worth the memories.


I just got off the phone with a friend. She was frazzled, making treats to take to her high-school aged son’s sports banquet.

I’m having anxiety about this,” she said. I should have known, knowing her as well as I do, that she was not concerned about measuring up against the other mother’s contributions. She is so far beyond caring about that.

No, it’s just stupid,” she responded, when I asked her if she was fearful of the comparison trap. “I’m over this shit.”

The idea is a good one, the intention is to celebrate the achievements of high school athletes. The downside, as she sees it, is that sports are the priority in the high school culture.

And, as Sunday NFL football will illustrate on my television today, it seems to be the priority in our culture in general. But here I go on my soapbox again. I continue to try to make peace with my perception that it has been elevated to an unmerited religious level in our society.

My soapbox is built on a poor understanding of the rules of the game, a lack of comprehension as to how the gladiator-like competition can be enjoyable for the spectator, let alone the athlete. Mooring up this soapbox are the memories of the many patients I have treated with head injuries.

When I step back and examine it, however, I realize that my lack of understanding as to how the aspect of fierce competition can be sanctioned in our society, I remember that when it comes to spelling bees, I’m in it for blood. (Under Our Spell, September 1st 2019). My hunger for victory is no different, so I have no room to talk.

But back to the love of the game.

Wyatt plays with his body, heart and soul, and took the second-place team finish in the tournament yesterday in stride, as did his teammates. Their mission was to play their best, champions or not. For us, it was a day of spectating, cheering, and enjoying time with family.


 Gail’s daughters Kate and Lydia, Gail, Wyatt, and her husband, Terry.



My husband and I got to spend a few hours with our son who will complete his degree from KSU in a few weeks.

These young men are strong and coordinated. Just like the team-building mantra in business, there is no ‘I’ in team. Neither is there a ‘U/you’ in “team,” but they function as if it is all about the other guy. They bump-set-spike, communicating by their looks, shouts, moves and familiarity with the game and with each other, knowing they can’t do it alone.


I don’t spectate much when it comes to sports. My boys played baseball in junior high and high school, and I enjoyed spectating. Like volleyball, I actually understand the game.

In life, however, I would prefer to participate rather than spectate. Each of us has the opportunity to play the game in whatever way we choose, and at whatever level of engagement. Like in sports, there are rules. Just like in volleyball and other most other sports, there are boundaries. There is teamwork. We all need each other, and playing together and playing nice always works better in the end than being in it just for ourselves, even if its harder than thinking about only ourselves.

The biggest difference between sports and real life, as I see it, is that real life should never be a competition with anyone but yourself.   It’s up to you to determine when you should stop competing with yourself and call it good enough.

In volleyball, I remembered that if the ball hit the net on a serve, it was dead. Now, it is considered fair play. That rule changed, and sometimes in life, rules change, too.

Rules, however, are sometimes made–and changed–to protect the powerful, and perhaps they should be bent, if not completely broken. This is your call, but for me, I like to remember this:


Again, its your call. Remembering our mom’s suggestion also helps: If it feels good, and it doesn’t break any of The Ten Commandments, Do It!




“The game of life is not so much in holding a good hand as playing a poor hand well.”   –H.T. Leslie





Some traditions are not meant to be carried on forever.  If, perhaps, they bring you more sadness than joy, you should consider leaving them behind.  Maybe, though, you could change them up a bit, and make something new out of the old, something happy out of the sad; something that brings you joy where it once made you blue.


Before Suzanne moved to my small city, she was nearly equidistant between here and Grand Island ,Nebraska.  Mom and Dad lived in the same small town she did; Gail lived about 2 ½ hours west of them where she still lives.

Shopping trips were split nearly evenly between the two; sometimes Suzanne and Mom would travel here, sometimes they would head north.  As I write this, I realize that maybe they went north more than they headed south toward me.  Perhaps Grand Island held more shopping charm than my small city, and I understand why.   I went along sometimes too.  When I could swing it, I would make the trip to their small town, and then we would drive further north from there.  Once or twice perhaps, Gail was able to make the even longer trip and join us too.  Most of the time, however, it was Suzanne and Mom who took this little trip.  After Mom and Dad died, it was too painful for a long time for Suzanne to return, so I didn’t go either.

We liked to take Mom here as a birthday trip.  Our last trip together was for her 71st birthday in January, just six weeks before they died in March.

If you are a Kansas native like we are, or perhaps from another Midwestern state, you already get it.  If not, perhaps we need to paint you a picture, an image that will prove to you that Midwest farmer’s daughters know how to create an adventure in what may appear to be land that lacks virtue, plains that may not look so great.  There is a reason why we are called the ‘plains,’ but there are many reasons why we are also called “The Great Plains.”

Kansas sunrises and sunsets are unquestionably several of our greatest virtues.



Suzanne and I took a little trip north Saturday, a trip to commemorate all those trips we used to take with Mom.  Gail already had five or six plates scheduled to be spinning in the air for Saturday, so we had to soldier on without her.  Suzanne and I went last year to go Christmas shopping, deciding to revive an old tradition.   It was time to leave the pain behind, and make new memories.

So we did.

I was inside shopping during the Nebraska sunset Saturday night, but I’m sure it had the potential to rival those in Kansas.

I’ll bet the Nebraska sunrise was beautiful, too, but I after all the fun we had last night, I didn’t get up early enough to see it.

I did get a few shots of  the scenery on the way there.




And just in case you are thinking this Midwest beauty is not so beautiful after all, take a look at the fortune inside my cookie after our Chinese buffet dinner:


It’s all in how you look at it.  The beauty is always there if you choose to see it.


Last year at this time, Suzanne was preparing to move to my small city.  She thought, perhaps, she may never come back here again since she was moving further south.

She was wrong.

Because the route on the way here last year and the way home went through her small town, we also drove by the sign that leads you to the geographic center of the United States.  After all those trips driving past it, we decided it was time to actually stop.



I’m so glad we did, because we didn’t take that route this year.

We have a long tradition of making a grand entrance into Nebraska.  Sometimes it’s just a honk and wave, sometimes it’s a stop.  One year, we actually came to a complete stop on the highway at the state line–after checking to make sure there was no traffic behind us of course, squealing out and perhaps laying a little rubber as we honked.

This year, we pulled over.



After a full day of shopping–apparently we were really, really good this year, because Santa got us each a few goodies too–we enjoyed dinner.  Our dessert tasted exactly like one Mom used to make, so that made it taste even better.


Then, we checked into our room.  This picture of an old tractor almost identical to one our dad had and treasured greeted us at our door.


That made our hotel room even more perfect.

And, after fully checking them out, we decided–in our very own Goldilocks style, that our beds were just right.



We tested the beds last year too, and decided we would make it a new tradition.


The holiday season is upon us.  Traditions abound; we know the drills and we carry them out, mostly without thinking much about it.  For better or worse, our holiday memories are rooted largely in these traditions.

Traditions anchor us, give us stability and bring back good memories.

Except when they don’t.

Sometimes, traditions have lived beyond their natural lives.  Sometimes, they no longer serve us with tidings of comfort and joy.  Sometimes, it’s time to think about leaving them behind; changing them up.

Sometimes, like rules, traditions can be bent or even broken without anyone suffering.  Sometimes, it won’t hurt a soul to change these traditions, just like it doesn’t hurt to bend the rules.  Sometimes, there is more fun to be had when things are changed up.

Sometimes, however, traditions serve as a lifeboat for some people, but not for others involved in the same traditions.  Referring once again to the 70’s song, I will reiterate a point that is so often unrecognized:  “There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.”   We all see things differently.

However, if you are the one who wants to rock the boat, just be aware that you may also be the one treading water in the end.

I consider myself a mover and somewhat of a shaker; I don’t hesitate to challenge the status quo if I think there is a better way.  Which is why I saved this page from one of my daily calendars the other day:


Don’t hesitate to consider that there may indeed be another way; perhaps a better way.


Sometimes, out of necessity, traditions must be changed.  The first Christmas after Mom and Dad died, my siblings and I were faced with a decision.  Our tradition had been to spend a day at Mom and Dad’s house with them, with all of our families.  Now they were gone, and their house was gone.  We had to make changes.   Now, it was even more important now for us to remain close as siblings, and spending a day together around Christmas was a priority for us.

My house was geographically in the middle for most of us.  We had the location, the space and the desire,   so my house it was.  For the last nine years, we have met with our families for a day of family, festiveness, food and fun.  This year, however, we are changing it up.

Our younger brother and his wife will be the new hosts.  On December 23rd, we will meet at their house near our family farm and it will be wonderful.  His birthday is Christmas Eve, and one tradition we will continue to observe–no matter where we meet–will be to observe his birthday.  Mom always made sure to observe it, so we will carry that on.


My holiday wish for you is to find peace and joy, no matter where or how.  If your old traditions bring you that, keep them going.  If they bring you more sadness than joy, consider changing them.  Start by simply considering it.  There may be a better way.


And next time you find yourself in a hotel room, don’t hesitate to test the beds like we did. The rules were broken, no one was hurt, no harm was done and a new, fun and wonderful tradition was begun.