I found a piece I’d written several years ago, and realized that it is timely for this time of year. While this is a heavy piece–unlike most of my posts, I feel its message is important to anyone who may still be missing a loved one, which, I have found, is most of us. My wish is that if you are feeling this pain, too, that you will feel at least a small measure of peace, and realize you are stronger than you may know.


In just two days, we will experience the shortest day of the year; the longest night. There will be more darkness than any other day, and then the light will begin to return, slow but sure.

It always does.


The holidays are a festive time of year, celebrations of peace and joy abound. This is a favorite time of year for many people, but for some, it is not so joyous.

The last two years have been a crucible for many people, and for some, loved ones have been taken. Too many people have died from COVID; this is a heartbreak we all are aware of. Other losses abound too, and while holidays are meant to be a pinnacle of joy, they can also be extremely difficult for those who have lost a loved one in the past year, or years past.

We are approaching the 13th Christmas without our parents, and while our tears have been mostly replaced by laughter and warm memories, we will never forget how hard those first months and years were.

If the pain of your loss is still greater than the joy you want to feel, please know there is light ahead. The darkness always subsides, and you will emerge a stronger person. Just as certainly as December 22nd will be a bit lighter than the day before, the light will grow brighter every day for you, if you let it.

And that is the truth.


THE TRUTH (written in 2019)

The truth, my friend, is that you are going to be okay. This ‘okay,’ however, is yet unknown to you. It won’t be the savory, sweet okay you once knew; it won’t be the same okay you knew before the loss and want so desperately to get back. It will be a new breed of okay, and what it will look, feel and smell like, you don’t yet know.

The truth is that you will likely have many dark moments in the near future, even on the brightest, sunshiny days. You may feel your heart will be further ripped from your body as you feel so acutely how much you miss your loved one. You may even wonder how it could feel even more painful than the earliest days, yet, it just might. You might wonder how you can breathe long enough to get through to the next minute, but you will.

You will keep on breathing, and you will keep on moving forward, because you don’t have the choice to do anything besides that. You will move on to the next moment, the next minute and the next hour, and those will turn into the next day and the next week. The sun will continue to come up each morning, just for you.

You might wonder how the rest of the world can keep on spinning as if nothing has happened. Your loved one died, dammit, and they don’t seem to care. Curse them now if you must–I did, but remember this: there will come a day when you are ready to get back on the spinning wheel that the world revolves on, and these people have kept it spinning for you. You will then thank them. It would be impossible to get it moving again if they had let it grind to a halt when you wanted them to so that they could stop everything and grieve with you.

You will soon–and this soon can’t be defined in temporal terms–be able to smile from deep in your heart again, instead of forcing the smile on your face to make the world think you have the old okay back, because that is what they want for you, and for themselves. This is hard for them, too, because they truly don’t know what to say or do. They most likely haven’t been exactly where you are, and they don’t speak or understand the language. Don’t hold it against them, I was one of them before. Most people are one of them in the before.

Yet, here you are. You keep breathing when you think you can’t, and you keep moving forward when you think you can’t, putting one foot in front of the other, even if each foot weighs hundred pounds. And, you might even smile.

When this smile rises up from your heart, you may feel as if you should push it back down, stuffing it in because surely, you shouldn’t be smiling when your loved one is no longer on this plane, on this planet. You may feel a bit guilty, as if you are dishonoring them.

But you’re not. You are doing what comes naturally when you loved someone so much, and they were taken from you. You are simply feeling them in your heart, the same heart that felt like it was being ripped out just a short time ago. And in your heart they will stay, even on those days when the old familiar searing pain comes roaring back as if it were brand new, as if the wound was just made.

When you’re tired or not feeling well, when no one seems to understand–even those close to you , because they truly cant, when your job is hard or when the car breaks down or the basement floods, but especially when they don’t show up at your holiday table you may feel your heart being ripped out all over again.

The beast of grief won’t be leaving any time soon. You will soon become comfortable with it, even though you won’t want to. It will become a docile beast over time, and you will figure out how to manage it, even though it stays strong. It should be strong, because you loved them so much. But in time, you, my friend, will become stronger than the beast. You will crawl out of the belly of that beast. It swallowed you whole, but you will find your way out, back into the sunshine. Not right away, not as soon as you may hope, but you will. You never wanted to become this strong, but there you will be, feeling mightier than you ever thought you humanly could.

You may reach for the phone to call them, because they need to know this. They need to know about your great news. Or may you need to ask about that recipe. You may keep doing this–albeit, not as often–for a long time. Years, perhaps. But you will one day stop yourself and remember they can’t be called on the phone anymore. And one day when this happens, you will smile instead of feeling as if you need to cry again. This will very likely become routine.

You may, even more than eleven years down the road–that’s how long I’ve been living in my new okay, break down and feel as if you haven’t moved an inch since you got the news. You may wonder how you got this far; surely you didn’t fully grasp the finality, the darkness of their departure. And here it comes, the blackness, roaring back to remind you: they are indeed gone.

But not really gone. They are still with you, and they are with you every moment of every day. Everywhere your heart goes, which, of course, is everywhere you go, they will be there. They may feel a million light years away sometimes, lost in that next dimension, but they have never been closer than they are right now.

This, my friend, is the truth. And you are going to be okay.


This post is dedicated especially to anyone grieving a loved one lost to COVID, but to any other form of loss as well. You will be ‘okay’ again, and the light will indeed come back into your life. And they will ALWAYS be in your heart. May your holidays bring you a measure of peace and strength.

Merry Christmas from the sisters of The Sister Lode. We are living proof that the light comes back.

Christmas 2019



When Gail, Suzanne and I took our epic trip to Florida in July 2016, we had the time of our traveling lives. It was a vacation beyond compare, and, as usual, we didn’t tell all–we never do. However, as time passes, more details seem to seep out in our stories now and then…

Like the one about the evening we went out for ice cream. The Twistee Treat, a local chain in Florida, offers scores of self-serve flavors worthy of writing home about. Deciding upon the flavor of the evening was a tough thing for us, and apparently for other customers, too.

Gail got an exotic chocolate mixture in her cone, and it was delectable. She was trying to help a gentleman there decide upon his flavor. She told him he could sample hers, and proceeded to get up to get a spoon to share a bit with him from the not-yet-licked part. Before she could even get up, he had leaned in and took a lick right off her cone. Tongue and all.

She shrugged, as if to say no big deal, and continued to lick the cone herself.

In the end, nobody was worse for the wear. At least, Gail was fine. We assume the other guy was, too.

I am 100% certain this would not happen in these crazy COVID times. But it happened just over four years ago, and it may never happen again.


The only thing in life that never changes is the fact that things are always changing. Continuing to roll along with these changes is essential in order to field these fly balls that keep coming at us. And, if you have lived long enough, you know the fly balls will keep on coming, just as they always have. Sometimes, we sign up for these changes; sometimes they come at us from left field.

The COVID fly ball ranks high up there with things that have brought changes to our lives and everyone else’s, too. We have done our best to keep rolling with these punches, and so far, we are hanging in there.

One year ago, if you had told any of us that our country would be facing the likes of a pandemic not seen for 102 years–the last major one was the Spanish Flu of 1918, we likely wouldn’t have been believers. This unfathomable truth has become reality, and we are all simply dealing with it the best we can. We have had family members and loved ones become sick and recover from the disease, but –knock on wood–the three of us are so far uninfected–as far as we know.


The Sister Lode took its maiden flight in June 2017, some three and a half years ago; 140 posts ago. To anyone who has read any or all of our posts, we thank you. We also hope you feel you have gotten to know each of us at least a little bit–and we hope that is a good thing for you. We have enjoyed having you come along.

Much has happened in our respective worlds since then, and in light of the changes brought about by COVID-19, we are celebrating changes, both those that felt good when they happened, as well as those that made us stronger in the end.

GAIL: You may recall that one of Gail’s iconic idols is Rosie The Riveter, whose “We Can Do It” message resonates throughout her life. When Gail’s daughter Lydia–now 20–was diagnosed with Type One diabetes in the fall of 2017, she helped–and continues to help–soldier through this daily challenge with her.

In order to fill the 28 hours in Gail’s every day (her daily accomplishments must surely take that long), she accepted another job in addition to her position as a chiropractic office manager. She took over management of a local bar/grill, keeping both places rolling in the usual Gail style–getting things done without excuses, delay or drama.

She welcomed her 60th birthday earlier this year in grand style with a big party. If you didn’t read that post, it’s worth going back: Dance Like Gail’s Watching, February 23rd. She treated herself to a most unique birthday gift: a 1974 Chevrolet Nova, which was owned by Lola, a local woman who passed away. She also left behind a small, empty house a few blocks from Gail’s house, and since she already owned Lola’s car, it seemed wrong not to own her house, too. #allthingsLola is her new mantra.

I look up to Gail for so many reasons, but her ability to take curve balls in stride with her strength is something I have always admired. In so many ways, I want to be like her when I grow up.

SUZANNE: Perhaps Suzanne has had the most changes in her life; changes she signed up for, and they are all good. She is playing house in a big way: she got a new house, and she will soon have a new husband to put in it. She also returned to her previous job in the last six months. She missed them, and I’m sure they missed her wit and brilliance–who wouldn’t?

We narrowly missed inhabiting the same decade of life–the fifties–all at the same time. Six months after Gail turned 60, Suzanne turned 50. Her party at the shore is on hold. We improvised in our above-ground background pool on her August birthday.

She continues to rock life without a thyroid gland, with her semi-annual checkups bringing good news. She is a survivor in so many ways, which is one of the many reasons I want to be like her too when I grow up.

As for me, I have emptied my nest, gained a grandson and started the slow process of transitioning out of my career as a speech therapist, and more fully into my Act Two: fulfilling my creative urges through more writing and other creative endeavors. I am thankful for this opportunity to work harder toward that which fills my tank. Life is too short to do otherwise, a lesson the sisters of The Sister Lode have learned the hard way.

I turned 54 in April, no parties here.

COVID has changed the way we all interact socially, and this feels like deprivation to most of us. We have drastically scaled back our traveling, the beach will still be there for us when we can finally go.

The lack of connection we all feel from our various levels of isolation must certainly be how my speech therapy patients feel when they cannot connect because their illness or injury has taken that ability away. Most of us can hope for a return to “normal” in the relatively near future, and as long as we are all doing our parts to get the disease under control, then we should never lose hope.

When this is under control and we are able to connect again, please don’t forget that this feeling of isolation doesn’t go away for some people. It may be due to a communication impairment, or social/familial/physical difficulties. Please try to reach out and open up a little wider to people who may still be suffering.

I forget, too, that not everyone has wonderful people in their lives like my sisters, and that we live together in harmony.

Whatever changes life may throw at you, keep rolling with them. The fly balls will keep coming, field them as best you can, and you’ll keep rolling, too.

Just like Gail, Suzanne and Rosie The Riveter, You Can Do It!

So, I wrote this blog this afternoon, intending to publish it much earlier, around 6:00 like I normally do. I typed it up on a Word document, like I normally do. When I went to copy and paste it to my blog page, it simply wouldn’t transfer. No matter what I tried, it wouldn’t move. Now, my IT skills are Flintstone-era, and my IT guys (my sons) weren’t here, so perhaps there was a simple solution, but I didn’t know what it would be. Apparently, things were changed up without anyone asking me first, so I was left to my own devices. This meant completely rewriting the post on my blog page. I came very close to chucking the whole thing out of frustration, then I realized I needed to take the very advice I had just dished out, and rewrite the whole damn thing. I decided to roll with these changes, and I am so glad I did. I hope you are, too.

I made this for a friend from recycled wood and other repurposed treasures. It appears random indeed, but it does have meaning. I hope to have more time in ACT TWO to complete more projects like this.




The words “Thank you for your service” seem to be the best we have to thank our service men and women.  It’s what I say when I see one in uniform and I reach out to speak to this stranger.   It’s meaningful, and it is always appreciated.

It’s also what I say to the veterans I know when I want to express my gratitude for what they have done for me, for you and for our country.

If I dug a little deeper, put a little more heart in it, I might find something like this:

There are no words strong enough to express my gratitude for the sacrifices you have made.  I want you to know how much I appreciate your service.”

I have one veteran in my family.  My father-in-law Marvin served in the Korean War.  I called him yesterday to offer my gratitude on Veteran’s Day.


I sent an unspoken thank you to all the others.

Just like Thanksgiving Day, we should make Veteran’s Day every day.  We should go out of our way to thank them.  Be it for their service, or any other gifts from any other giver, we can never express gratitude too much.

The words “I am sorry for your loss” seem to be the best we have to express sympathy.  I say it to some people, but now that I have been on the receiving end, I try to dig a little deeper.

In the 150-plus cards I received after my parents died, there were three friends who sent cards—not even close friends—who wrote these words of gold I will never forget, and words of gold I now use:  “My heart breaks for you.”

I cannot find words that go any deeper in my heart.

If it is a parent of a friend or loved one, I also offer this:

We are never old enough to lose our Mom/Dad,” because we aren’t.


Our dad escaped the draft because of his flat feet.  Now, several of his seven children—including myself—have flat feet.  I don’t complain; I may not be here without them.  He was never outfitted in a military uniform, but he did wear another uniform for very special occasions.  The gloves were part of the uniform, and if not for a third pair of gloves, I may not be here either.


I wrote the following piece earlier this year. 

I will never forget the gloves.  I gave them to Mom as she sat under the green tent at her mother’s funeral.  It was a cold, but bearable early March day in Wichita, Kansas.  I was standing behind her, and I noticed she had her hands clasped tight in her lap.  I wanted her to have them; she was burying her mother and I wanted to comfort her in whatever small way I could.  So I gave her my gloves.  Her hands were in mine, so to speak.

I wore those gloves five days later as I stood under another green tent—it’s always green–to bury my father and my own mother, the woman who, just five days earlier had these same gloves wrapped around her living hands as she buried her mother.   I held the hand of one brother and one sister; we held on to each other literally and figuratively in order to get through.

I retired the black leather gloves soon thereafter.  I panicked for a moment when I thought I had lost one of them, but it showed up.  I tucked them away in my bottom dresser drawer alongside other keepsakes.


My father was a Fourth-Degree Knight in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization.  They were knighted and outfitted in a regal, caped tuxedo with a plumed hat fit for a prince, a red-white-and-blue band that stretched from shoulder to the other side of the waist and a sword in a sheath on the opposite side of the waist.  The final touch was a pair of thin, bright-white gloves.


The Fourth-Degree Knights would stand in full regalia in a majestic honor guard fit for a king when one of their own died.  Knights from nearby towns would come if they were available.  It was a solemn duty; one to be fulfilled if at all possible.

I remember my dad donning his tuxedo and all the extras.  As a child, it seemed mysterious when he would leave the house for a funeral fully garbed, but as I grew up, I saw the majesty.

I didn’t realize it until his own funeral, but apparently, he was the one who would cajole and beg other Knights to find a way to travel far and near to stand guard for one of their own.  One of the other Knights told me this, and took it upon himself to assume his powers of persuasion, and assemble a sizeable group for my dad’s funeral, since he did it for everyone else.

And it was sizeable.  He had a salute fitting for the earthly, humble king he was.   The Knight and his dame of 50 years got a special salute—women don’t normally get the honor guard treatment.

Along with other precious possessions, we were left with his tuxedo and accoutrements.  We turned in the tux, the sword and the hat in order for some other Knight to use it.  My brother was going to take the gloves and band and turn them in as well, but I stopped him.

Do we have to give those away, or can I keep them?”  I asked.

“No, they are his, we can do whatever we want with them,” he said.

So I kept them.  They are sitting in the bottom drawer, next to my black leather gloves that Mom wore.  They are sealed in a thin plastic bag, apparently they had just been professionally cleaned.   I kept the band too.  It bears the insignia of the Knights of Columbus.

I plan to let them rest there.



I started writing this after I found a little ditty I had already written about my gloves some time ago.  I felt like writing more, so I sat down and let it flow.  Not knowing what was coming, or what I would eventually do with it, I just kept writing.  It felt good.  The part about Dad’s gloves came to mind, and it seemed fitting to add that to the story.

I sent the first part to my older sister, ending just after describing Dad’s gloves.  She is my sounding board, my cheerleader, my positive and constructive critic.  What she replied back with took my breath away for a moment.

I had forgotten the story about Mom’s gloves.


My parents met on a blind date.  They lived three hours apart; Mom in the city and Dad on the farm.  They wrote letters to fill the hungry gaps of time when they didn’t get to see each other as often as they wanted to.

This was 1955, and long-distance telephone charges applied.  So letters it was.

Mom saved hers, and Dad saved his.  When they married, they combined them in a box.  When they died, we got the box.  I couldn’t bear to read any of them early on, and my sister took the box.

“Don’t you remember the story about the gloves?”  she asked when she replied with immediate feedback.  “In one of the letters, after one of their first dates, Mom said she left her gloves in Dad’s car on purpose so he would have to get in touch with her again.”

Without those gloves, I may not be here.

I knew I needed to honor my gloves that Mom wore. I knew after I almost lost one of them that I needed to keep my black leather gloves in a safe and special place, and then place Dad’s white gloves next to them.


I wish I had Mom’s pair of gloves from their date.

I wish I could offer my gloves to my mom again.

I wish I could see my dad in his Fourth-Degree Knight regalia again, gloves and all.

I wish I could hold both their hands right now.

I wish the damn cemetery tent could be orange or maybe even yellow sometimes.   Perhaps a little twist with a paisley print or maybe some tie-dye would brighten things up a little.


First, Dad wasn’t drafted.  That kept him here to meet Mom.  Next, the gloves.  Finally, to complete the trifecta that fate perhaps orchestrated, I must tell another story, just like the one about the gloves, one I recently learned from Gail.

Mom and Dad met on a blind date.  This I knew.  What I didn’t know was that Dad was not the first choice in this fateful match.

We’ll call him Fred.  Fred was the man my uncle had lined up to meet my mom, but Fred apparently had too much fun the night before.  By the time the scheduled date came around, Fred was in no shape to meet my mom.  My uncle rounded Dad up as a fill-in at the last moment, and the rest, well, you know.


I am so thankful for the series of events that allowed me and my siblings to be born.

I am so thankful for the service of all veterans that continues to allow me to live freely in the United States of America.



I wish you the peace I feel now over nine years later, knowing their hands are guiding me along my path every day, in every way.  Hands that no longer need gloves.

I wish our veterans peace every day, peace of mind to continue to live their lives to the fullest, despite the sometimes unimaginable pain and suffering they have seen as part of their service.



Gail’s beloved mother-in-law Mildred passed away peacefully on Tuesday with her family at her side.  She was an incredible woman whose smile will never be forgotten.  She  became the Thanksgiving Matriarch for my family at Gail’s when Mom was gone.

Mildred is pictured below with Gail’s daughter Lydia on her birthday 3 years ago.23167612_10210881722382522_2588106536783792728_n[1]

She will be missed, because we are never old enough to lose our mothers.

My heart breaks for her family.


Recall that my plan was to dress as Rosie the Riveter at Halloween.  Because this blog is dedicated to optimism, Rosie will be my final image and thought:







Just like my parent’s generation remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the heartbreaking news about John F. Kennedy’s assassination, mine remembers the day our country came under attack:  9/11/2001.

I was holding a sick baby, glued to the TV all day, staring in disbelief.

The sixteenth anniversary of that dreadful day passed last week, the same day our country came under attack from Mother Nature with Hurricane Irma.  I was glued to The Weather Channel all weekend, staring in disbelief at my beloved St. Pete Beach, and all of Florida as it was battered by wind, rain and the fury of nature.

My heart broke for everyone in her path.  But this wasn’t helping them or me, not one little bit.

I feel heartbreak as a routine part of my work.  People whose lives have been devastated by a stroke, head injury, progressive neurological disease or a myriad of other illnesses present themselves for my attempts at remediation of their communication and/or swallow abilities.

Most days I can make a small difference, but most days I want to make more of a difference for them.  Most days I cannot heal, I simply offer a new way.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, I think I can’t take this anymore.

But then I remember something I read in a book by one of my mother’s favorite authors:  I can’t take on enough sadness to make someone else happy, nor can I take on someone else’s illness in order to make them well.  The best I can do is do the best with what I have, and practice gratitude for all I do have.

Even if this regular practice of gratitude does make me feel guilty for all I do have, while remembering those whose lives are being torn asunder by an illness or injury, a hurricane, or the ongoing loss felt from all those affected by the senseless attacks of 9/11—I have to keep feeling it.

And so I try.  Every day.  Some days it is easier than others.  Some days, I really have to dig deep.

It’s always there, though.  Always.

I recently read a book that challenged the reader to write down three things every day they are thankful for.  Three different things every day; no repeats.

The biggies—health, family, faith, freedom, food, shelter and clothing are the easy ones.   I used those up in the first few days.   The hard ones are the ones that take longer to get on paper.  Sometimes, I have to sit and think for quite some time before I can find something new.


It is typically something easily overlooked, something like the beautiful orange-pink glow of the sunrise.


A luscious, tasty watermelon from the bounty of our neighbor’s garden–as well as their generosity.


From earlier this summer: the reflection of the water in our above-ground pool on the porch roof.   Getting a hand-written note in the mail.   Beautiful ground fog in the morning.  My boys enjoying an evening frog hunting.

These little things, when focused upon, become larger.  Larger, and more worthy of gratitude.

Sometimes, however, I have to turn it upside down to see the positive side in order to be thankful:  Electricity, as we sat for three hours without it.  Good dental care as I dreaded my six-month cleaning that afternoon.  Surviving a bad Monday.  No headlines in our daily paper about North Korea–no news is good news.  Realizing the reason a colleague irritated me was because I despise that too-frequent behavior in myself.

After a few months of making a point to recognize these small gifts worthy of gratitude, it started to grow on me, just like the author said it would.  I started to try harder to find the positive in what I typically considered negative.

I felt—do I dare say it—a little bit happier (just like the author said I would).  I realized I didn’t have to see something as negative if I didn’t want to.  Turning many thoughts upside down proved to be a good thing.

I felt empowered.

So, of course I wanted to share this good thing, this new view.  I asked Gail and Suzanne to try it for one day, just for this blog.  They each had to come up with three things that they don’t normally give thanks for.

Suzanne quickly came up with this:  she hasn’t taken it off since she got it in Florida.


And, as a fellow lover of puzzles, she and I worked on this one last night.  Dad made two of these puzzle boards for Mom, and Suzanne and I are both thankful to have one.  Gail is not a puzzler like we are.


She can complete a 1,000 piece puzzle in a day if she sets her mind to it, and she is grateful for this hobby that provides her with countless hours of enjoyment.

The third one was easy for her to come up with, but it is also something Gail is grateful for, and wanted to use as well.  It is something I despise.  It will wait until after Gail’s other two.

For over seven years, Gail was the owner and sole proprietor of a Daylight Donuts franchise in her small western Kansas town.  The bobblehead below reminds her to be grateful for all the friendships this created–her shop was the a.m. social hub in this small town.


When she closed those doors, the woman in the picture below opened another door for her, and she will be forever grateful to her.  It was time to move on, and April gave her the opportunity to manage her chiropractic office.  Their children were both members of the homecoming court on Friday.


The third one for both of them sets them apart from me, and makes me wonder just how they can both so enjoy and be grateful for something I loathe, something I gladly leave far behind me in one of my special places when I travel there.  In fact, one of my favorite things about Colorado is the relative lack of it:  wind.


They both love wind.  The windier the better.  They both got their wish two days ago.  Gail has thought about changing her name to Gail Force Wind. 

I can say this because they are my sisters:  they are crazy.


Because the title picture for my blog was taken during our Thanksgiving weekend celebration last year, it needed an encore presentation today.  It is taken in Camp Gail, a very special place in her home that will be covered in a future post.

Gail is our Thanksgiving hostess every year, and she does it up right.  It was my favorite holiday before she started the tradition, but her soiree enhances it.

I like the fact that there are no commercial expectations for Thanksgiving, just family, food and gratitude.

I am separating the idea of a holiday from a holy day, as I look at them differently.  Christmas is my favorite holy day, but I don’t like the commercialized, societal aspect of Christmas.  I prefer to keep it a holy day, and let the holiday buzz go on without me.   Thanksgiving, however, is a holy holiday for me.  It is all about gratitude—and good food with my family.


Today, I am thankful for you, my blog readers.  My day so far hasn’t been among my best.  When I finish this post, I am going to turn a few things upside down to find two more.

I am challenging you to start this daily practice as well, and sit back and see if maybe your life doesn’t become a little bit happier too.

Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving—every day. 


Dedicated to the victims of the recent hurricanes, the ongoing grieving from 9/11 and my patients, all who fight their battles every day of their lives.  May you be filled with new hope for new and more frequent Thanksgivings.

Special thanks to my husband Mark, who suggested this post.







I noticed a pattern when I was looking through the old family photos for Suzanne’s birthday post:  in all the group shots of any combination of the kids, Gail is actively mothering one of us five younger ones.  In the two below, she is helping me celebrate my first birthday.








Apparently I had a love of books even at age seven.

Gail is the second-oldest; the oldest daughter.  After her, the rest of us arrived three, four, six, ten and thirteen years later.  It fell upon her to help Mom mother however and whenever she could.

And help she did.

Mom used to tell the story of Gail waking up from a nap in the afternoon, bleary-eyed and still half asleep, walking by Mom changing the diaper of one of us, picking up the (cloth) diaper while still appearing to be mostly asleep, and depositing it in the diaper pail.

She was well trained.  She knew what to do, even when she wasn’t fully awake.

Those years may have been the last ones that she ever got really good sleep.


I was not a teenage angel; I stayed out far too late many times.  I, however, could blame it on the two brothers just above me:  we had one vehicle to take into town—a five mile trip, and I had to carpool with them.  So, if they were able to stay out later, then so could I.  I don’t recall ever getting in trouble for getting home late.

Gail, however, did.  I can’t expand here; it wouldn’t be fair.  Suffice it to say she served her share of time grounded at home.  She played hard.

She worked hard, too.  She was responsible for so much of the day-to-day labor in our household.  In general, the four boys were outside, and the girls were inside.  Gail did both.  Unlike Suzanne and me, she knows how to drive a tractor/combine/truck.   While she was filling these outside roles, she also cooked meals, baked—doughnuts were her specialty, cleaned, did laundry, mothered and did whatever Mom needed her to do.

And she did it well.  Without complaining.  Day after day, year after year.  Suzanne and I helped too, but not nearly at the caliber she did.  Gail would be happy to tell you the story about when she was preparing to leave for college.  I was twelve.  Mom and Dad gently took me aside to firmly let me know that since Gail would be leaving soon, I would need to take on more responsibility.

I went to my (shared) room and cried.


Suzanne reproduced once, I reproduced twice and Gail x 4.  After caring for all of us for all those years, she had it in her to have her own brood.

And she had it in her to keep working.  Even in high school, she worked.  She waited and cooked at the Pizza Hut 20 miles away.  She would eventually go on to manage it; a fitting continuation of her humble food service beginnings at home.  After moving further west with her second husband, she would turn that love of doughnut-making into a Daylight Donuts franchise.

After learning the hard way with all of us that life is indeed too short, she closed the donut doors six months after Mom and Dad died.  Since then, she has served as the office manager for the lone chiropractor in her town.   She took several years to catch up on sleep—she was typically up all night—and then she undertook a part time gig as a bartender/cook at a local establishment.   She also has a successful side business with Pampered Chef.  It would stand to reason that she would seek out a business that involves cooking/baking.  She also continues to cook, bake, garden and can at home as well, she seems to have a non-stop whirling dervish quality about her.  Oh, and she has a little artistic quality that she parlays into another endeavor she calls a hobby; it could be considered a business.  That, along with Suzanne’s and my creative sides will be covered in the future; stay tuned.

This work ethic is deeply ingrained into her brain, likely never to leave.

Now, Suzanne and me, well, our productivity levels don’t quite match hers—alone or together.   We all work to pay bills, but Suzanne and I could walk away from it all much easier than Gail could.   We wish the work wasn’t a necessity, but it is.  We sometimes wish we hadn’t had to learn the Midwest farmer’s daughter work ethic, but it has served us well.

Gail defines enough work as anything past the standard eight-hour workday.  Suzanne and I define it as whatever it takes.

Suzanne works in banking; she has a sense of precision and accuracy with not only her own money, but everyone else’s.  She is responsible for large amounts of money every day, and she handles it well.  She handles transactions without handling money, and she physically touches large amounts of cash every day.

She works the standard 40-hour week.

My productivity and income is not measured by a clock.  In several of my previous professional incarnations I did punch a clock, and I did normally log forty hours.  Now,  I don’t have a regular schedule.  I have a loose one, and it can and usually does change.  When duty calls with my contracts, I provide my services, and it works for me.  My time measurement at work is fluid with actual delivery of my services, travels, time, paperwork, phone calls and infrequent meetings (ugh).  Best of all, I actually get paid for some writing gigs that I contract on the side.

I have a love/hate/love relationship with my day job, and love always wins.  I get to make a difference in people’s lives (hopefully), but the system and the sadness take their toll on me.

Unlike Gail, I really don’t want to work full-time; definitely not more.  Some weeks I do work full time; once in a blue moon I think I actually work more than 40 hours/week.  Ugh.  When I consider working as much as Gail does, it still makes me want to go in my (private) room and cry.

I learned the hard way that while hard work is honorable and sometimes necessary to be responsible for ourselves and our families, it doesn’t necessarily make a woman whole.  It may actually take pieces of her away, giving them to people, places and things that may not honor and respect the woman she is, or the woman she yearns to be.  For too many women, however, there is no other choice, and my heart goes out to them.


The eight-hour workday was a product of the Industrial Revolution.  Factories needed to run around the clock, and three daily eight hour shifts became the norm.  While this was a good fit for this kind of work, much of today’s labor force doesn’t have to show up for eight hours to keep the wheels turning.   It still works well for some folks.  Others, like me, thrive in a work environment that doesn’t tick-tock. This is the information age, and for many, hours logged at work may not look the same as they once did.  I learned this as a student of the most influential and brilliant professor of sociology, Rose Arnhold.  As my instructor for Introduction to Sociology as an elective class in college in 1985, she inspired me to become a degreed sociologist.  On the lucky and auspicious day of Friday, May 13th 1988, I walked across the stage, never to look at life the same again.  She gave me new lenses with which I could see the world in its broadest social form, granting me a greater understanding of the human group, and why we act the way we do with and without each other.

One of the greatest compliments several people have paid me about my blog involve the word “insight.”  I give credit to Rose for giving me the tools to look at things differently than I once did, differently than many people do.

At the spry age of 75, Rose just retired from that position.  I happened to be driving through my alma mater town on the way here, and she was home.  I stopped to see her, to let her know once again how much she inspired me, and how it has made all the difference.


Having no one else to snap it, we settled for a selfie.  Noting that we are looking sideways, she aptly stated that as sociologists, we do look at things a little differently.  Indeed we do, and I will forever be indebted to her for that ability.

She will soon be moving to Denver to join her daughter, her only child.  She lost her husband of 53 years after a tragic fall late last year.  She speaks the language of loss, but also of moving on.  I offer her what solace I can from my experience, but I will never be able to repay her for what she gave me.  Hopefully I will be able to visit her here in Colorado after she moves.


Happy Labor Day.  As I write this the day before, I am sitting in beautiful Cripple Creek, Colorado, laboring only at what I love to do:  write.

Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894 to honor the American labor force that contributed to the strength and prosperity of this country.

Seven years ago this weekend, Gail, Suzanne and I were here, beginning a Labor Day tradition that we hope will be timeless.  Sadly, Suzanne did not get to join us—again.  Gail and I came in March without her, and we are here again without her.  She had a little thing called labor getting in her way.

The tradition started in March seven years ago, when we decided to celebrate the black square on the calendar and March Forth, instead of staying put on March Fourth and perhaps feeling more blue, as we had on the first anniversary.  We wanted to honor our parents on the day they died with joy, not sadness.

While not world travelers, they liked to travel.  One of their favorite destinations was Las Vegas.  Not to gamble, but to watch people.  Feeling that Cripple Creek was a more feasible destination than Vegas, and would indeed be a fitting tribute to their love of travel, we decided to come.

So we came.

And we had so much fun, we decided to come back exactly six months later on Labor Day weekend.  Except for last year, when we couldn’t swing another major journey on the heels of our Florida trip that began this blog series, we haven’t missed a Labor Day weekend here.  We haven’t missed a March Forth celebration since the first one either.

This town, Cripple Creek, is an historic gold-mining town, with some active mining still taking place.  The mother lode was struck here in the late 1800s, rivaling the California Gold Rush.  It is rich with history and heritage, and was a major national economic force in its heyday.   I titled The Sister Lode as such from the inspiration I got from this town.

Now, its economy is revitalized not just with efforts to celebrate this heritage and history, but with gambling as well.  I would be a liar if I said I don’t enjoy that part, I do.  Gail does too. Suzanne, being the smartest of us three with money both professionally and personally, chooses to leave it mostly behind.

Good girl.

On Sunday morning as I write, both Gail and I are still waiting to strike the mother lode downtown.  As always, we continue to strike the sister lode every day.



We have found our own niche in this town, with the most gracious, hospitable hosts providing us top-notch lodging in what once was the county hospital.  Rick and Mike’s Hospitality House B&B/RV Park is our home when we are here, and they treat us with graciousness and kindness, likely more than we deserve.




Christine.  We love Christine.  I mentioned her in the Nevertheless, We Persisted entry on June 25th .  She is the owner and proprietor of 9494, our favorite jewelry/gift shop.  It is aptly named after the town’s altitude, and her jewels, baubles and especially her sweet personality give us an even greater Rocky Mountain High than before we step in her door.


Our favorite waitress, Kaitlin, works at our favorite restaurant, McGill’s Pint & Platter.  Irish pub fare always hits the spot for us.


We partake not only of the heritage, gambling and shopping, but the natural beauty as well.



I like to run and walk, so I hoof it through town every morning, just as the small herd of donkeys do.  They are descendants of the original mining donkeys, and they are treated with earned respect.  They mostly roam free, as they should.





The casinos do back-flips to keep their patrons happy.  The easiest way—besides giving away money—is to provide a free concert.  Saturday night, Zac Charles and the Reds were giving it all they had at the Brass Ass.  I was ready to hang it up at my usual 10 pm bedtime, but when we crossed the street and heard live music coming out the door, I found a renewed energy to stay up a bit later.  Their country/rock music vibe spread through the place, with dancing and singing adding to the mix.  They are a local band  from Colorado Springs,but should be on the national circuit with their incredible talent.


We have friends along the way too.  Just outside of Colorado Springs, lies Peyton, Colorado, home of the Pop-a-Top Saloon.  Gail begged us to stop for the first few trips, but Suzanne and I denied her.  Now, we don’t miss.  The locals remember us, and the barmaids, even though we don’t always see the same ones, quickly become our friends, like Krystal:


Teddy sat next to us.  We swapped life stories, and will hopefully cross paths again.  If not here, then online.


After that stop, and after passing through Colorado Springs and all the small towns along the way, it was once again time to hear John Denver serenade us.  This time, unlike last time, both of us packed our CDs.  Gail’s, however, was empty.  I checked mine before I left home.  We popped him in the CD player, and sang along like no one else could hear us (because they couldn’t).   I did check satellite radio before I put the CD in, just in case.  No luck this time.

Apparently, however, our special forces Above aligned with satellite radio down here, and John Denver did indeed, once again, perform for us while we were in Cripple Creek.  The Force was with us.


Tomorrow we will drive home.  We will be greeted in eastern Colorado and western Kansas by the annual coming-out of the Kansas state flower.  Labor Day always brings them out in full bloom, and they help me make peace with the end of summer, my favorite season.

My mother loved sunflowers, my mother-in-law loves sunflowers, and my son’s girlfriend loves them, too.  Karlee loves them so much that she and Joel took the two-hour trip to Lawrence, Kansas, to visit a famous field.


Happy end of summer to you. Thank you for your labors that continue to contribute to America’s strength and prosperity.

Happy Labor Day to you.  May your labors be labors of love.







She doesn’t remember, but I remember clearly that Suzanne said: “I wish for my birthday that everyone would bring me toilet tissue.”

It was perhaps six years ago on Easter Sunday.  She hosted dinner for our siblings and all the offspring, so there were likely twenty-plus people in her home.  She stepped into the  bathroom off the kitchen to change the toilet paper—again—and I heard her say it.

The ding-ding-ding of the great idea bell sounded in my head, and the light bulb lit up too.  “We can make that happen,” I thought to myself, but didn’t say a word to her.

That was Easter Sunday in the spring, and Suzanne’s birthday is August 16th, a few days from today.  She claims it as her day before she had to share it with Madonna when she became famous, and she had seven years of that day to herself before Elvis died on the same day.

I mentioned the idea to Gail, and she too, thought it was brilliant.  We let it rest for several months.  Then, in perhaps mid-July, we started making plans to make her wish come true.

Be careful what you wish for.

Gail sent out mass emails, and if we were even on Facebook then, we probably posted it unbeknownst to her; I don’t remember.  We spread it by word-of-mouth, with the admonition that A: it was to be kept secret from her, and B: there must be a card or note attached that read be careful what you wish for.

She was still living in the small town where our parents lived; she moved to my small city only six months ago.  She worked in one of the two banks there, and she knew everyone in town.  Gail had lived there as well some years prior, but, being Gail, she still knew everyone.  She got the word spread around town, and we sat back and waited.

It was a success.  Fortunately, her boss had a sense of humor, as multiple rolls of toilet tissue were carried in the door that day by customers and non-customers alike.

Multiple, soft packages were showing up addressed to her in the post office, and the postmistress was a bit confounded, but fully appreciated the humor when she found out the story.

There was personalized toilet tissue, toilet tissue with pictures, toilet tissue with jokes, as well as the standard garden-variety toilet tissue.

Still, she didn’t remember making that wish.

Be careful what you wish for.

At the end of the day, she ended up with over 300 rolls of toilet tissue.  She loved it.  Who wouldn’t love 300-plus rolls of toilet tissue, especially if you had storage space, which she did.



Several years later on her birthday, it wasn’t so funny.

The generation before mine remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.  My generation remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the devastating new on September 11th, 2001.

I remember where I was and what I was doing on August 16th, 2012 when Suzanne called to tell me it was cancer.  I was pulling into the driveway of a rural home health patient.  There was no way the strong, healthy and invincible Suzanne could have cancer.  I tried to collect myself and go in.  I was visibly shaken, but the kind gentleman and his family knew something was wrong.  They listened while I explained to them, and then I managed to get on with my business.

Suzanne tells me it was all business for her from that point.  She blocked out the ugly word and plowed forward with the doctor outlining the treatment plan with her husband beside her for support.  She continues to plow through the aftermath.

Suzanne is one of the strongest women I know.  As noted in Lessons From My Sister (July 30th), she passed the five year mark, and aside from the scar, there is no visible trace.

Suzanne, and all of us, wished for healing, and she got it.


I had the entire day yesterday to spend cleaning, sorting and purging useless stuff out of my house.  It had been too long.  Again, from the July 30th post, recall that Suzanne has inspired me to get rid of the useless stuff.   As I nodded off the night before, I sent up a little prayer, asking for bountiful energy to complete the herculean task of letting go.

Be careful what you wish for.

I woke with boundless energy, and tackled the house, but I wanted to work in every room at the same time.  I wanted to spin like a whirling dervish, getting all the work done in minutes instead of hours, so that I could move on to the basement, the garage, my car, the laundry, etc.  I found my attention splintered, so much that I had to sit for a bit and collect myself.  One task at a time.

I thought about this post I was writing, and wished I had more pictures of Suzanne in her younger years.  I had looked through a box of old pictures Friday evening, and found only one that was marginally suitable.

I did move on to the shelves in the garage, and there was a shoebox there that Suzanne had given me several months ago when she moved, but I had not addressed it since then.  I couldn’t even remember what was in it.  I took it down and took a peek inside.

Be careful what you wish for.

Inside was the mother lode.  It was a box full of pictures that Suzanne had taken from Mom and Dad’s home, and didn’t know what to do with it.  She entrusted it to me to share with the rest of our siblings.

I had to put the brakes on my sorting/cleaning/purging efforts, which were now in high gear.  I had to sit for awhile and take a trip back.  These pictures were gold.  Mom was so good about labeling pictures, and these two are the perfect additions to this post:



Happy Birthday Suzanne, 42 and 41 years later.


Name this tune, again it is from the same artist in the July 30th post:

“You get what you want, but it’s not what you need.”

In my several-hundred song iPod, I heard this one Friday morning as I ran.  It is the same message; the same reason the age-old adage has stayed around.

A wise woman once told me that instead of wishing for a specific outcome, we should pinpoint the exact feelings we are seeking to find in that outcome.

I am a runner with no desire to complete a marathon, but I know many runners do.  A runner friend of mine held on to that goal for years, but finally admitted with a sense of defeat that he knew, for health reasons, that it would not be possible.   His friends in his running circle had all completed one, and he felt utter disappointment in himself for not reaching this goal.

I asked him if he would have had that same goal if his friends had not met his goal.  He thought for a minute, then looked at me for a moment without speaking.  After a bit, he said, in an introspective tone of voice:

“I never thought about it that way.  I guess I was holding myself up in comparison to them. If it were only me, I don’t think I would have cared so much.”

Getting to the heart of the matter; the real meat of the goal should be our first step.  If it is not the best thing for us in terms of positive growth, perhaps you should re-examine it.   Perhaps we should be careful what we wish for.

Life is too short to waste time on something we don’t really want.


Don’t get me wrong, goals are good things.  Wishes are good things.  I am simply suggesting you step back and look at it as an outsider.  If it is indeed what you want, then proceed full steam ahead, and Godspeed to you.  Make your wish and say your prayers, appeal to the universe or whatever force you seek to enlist.

Your wish for a bigger bank account or a smaller stomach, or whatever it is should be accompanied by your best efforts.  I believe God/The Universe/The Force treats anyone with a wish much like we should treat our children with their homework.  We should expect them to give their all in their homework efforts, and then we can help them if they still need it.

We need to do our homework too.  We need to make the wish and do the work.  We need to put our backbone where our wishbone is.



May God/The Universe/The Force be with you.


Recall from last week’s post that fair only comes once year, so we seized the opportunity last night to savor it in our small city, complete with a demolition derby.



On Wednesday, August 16th, I wish for my dear sister Suzanne to have the best birthday yet.  I may even throw in a package of toilet paper with her gift.


Suzanne and me, circa 1973.







The Sister Lode


I sat in 28B holding my sisters’ hands.  The take-off and landings are the hardest for me, so when I booked the trip, I put myself between them.  They are not scared.  I am.  I squeeze their hands for the first five minutes, those first five when the flight is most likely not to make it—extremely infinitesimal chance, according to one of our four brothers.  He pilots one of these silver birds; he knows.  But then, he always acted like he knew what he was talking about anyway.  We still love him, we love them all.  But this is only about sisters.

My sisters are used to my in-air neuroticism by now on this, the last of four flights to complete our trip.  We have never before flown on our travels, always by car.  We take off out of O’Hare, we will land in just under two hours.   The sun is setting to the west, and on the opposite horizon the full moon is rising.  We climb above them both.  This is something I have never seen before and may never see again.  It, like our latest adventure, is priceless.

We have had the time of our lives.  We always do.  This time it was on a beach.


I have always been close to my sisters, but over the last nine years, they have become my best friends.  They are always there for me, and I do what I can for them.  We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but that’s okay.  We respect each other’s differences.   We don’t argue.  We keep peace; we have to.  We have no choice because our mother saw to that in The Letter.

We know of many women who don’t feel such peace with their sisters.  Women who may want to feel it, but don’t know how.  Women who have the choice to opt out of peace and harmony.  We don’t have that choice, and that’s okay.  We don’t need it. We do feel the need to share our peaceable ways, to share the love.  We don’t always know how, but it usually involves simple advice like, “Figure it out,”  “It’s not about you,” “Let it go,” or “Life is too short.”  Advice that sounds easy, but is harder to put to work.   Most importantly, we teach by example.  This, my friends with and without sisters, is how we do it.   We would like to help in whatever way we can.

Perhaps we can help you too.  That is why we are here on this blog.


Life is short. We learned the hard way, and will never forget that lesson.   We use it now to celebrate our sisterly bond, to find all the joy we can on our travels, and to simply have fun every day, traveling or not.  Fun, we have observed among others, is generally under-exercised and underrated.  We refuse to follow that example. We try to compensate for all the fun our mother never had the time or the money to have, as well as our own share for our lifetimes.  And then some.

We post some of our antics on social media, but not all.  Some things, however, that happen on our trips, well, you know where they stay.  We don’t share it all.  We do, however, share enough to show people we have unparalleled fun; experiences that most people don’t think of having; don’t think is possible.  It is with us.

Many people ask—some in a coy, shy, roundabout fashion—if perhaps they might possibly be able to come along on one of these trips someday with us, maybe?  Perhaps? They see the fun we have, and they want to be a part of it.  Who wouldn’t?

The short answer is no.  The long answer is hell no.  Our sisterhood is the exclusive price of admission.  Nothing personal.

These are sister trips for us only, because only we three understand the importance of this time together as sisters.  We celebrate the joy in the moment, remember the good times of the past, and relish the lessons life and loss have taught us.  We stay positive.  It is a choice, and we choose positivity.  By and large, we don’t let crap creep into our lives.  We ain’t got time for that.  There is too much fun to be had; and we are out here having it.



It is fitting that our usual getaway destination is an active gold mining town.  Cripple Creek, Colorado is nestled behind Pike’s Peak, and in its heyday, it’s gold production rivaled the California Gold Rush.  The mother lode was struck there, and it became a boomtown.  There are beautiful mountains there, but no beaches.  And it was time for the beach.

We had already hit the mother lode, and the father lode too.  They were, quite simply, the best.  Now, we celebrate our sisters in the Sister Lode.


Most people wait five years to observe a milestone cancer survival date.  We’re not like everyone else, so my sister chose to celebrate it at four. Besides, she knows.  She has an unshakeable faith in God, in her good health and long life ahead, so why not celebrate now?

So we did.  On the beach.  Her choice.

Since we can easily make friends even with someone as cold as a snowman, we had no trouble signing up a fresh batch of folks we now call our friends in and around our new favorite warm, sunny beach town.  No snowmen here.  We have new BFFs in this delightful place; we could probably eat Thanksgiving dinner with them if we asked. We might.  Except that our oldest sister hosts Thanksgiving every year, so we probably won’t.  We will all be at her house.  Perhaps we will invite some of them to join us there.

In order to make these friends, we may need to go against some socially prescribed norms.  I’m all for that, rules are meant to be broken, or at least stretched, so we do.  Anyone who might have the good fortune to be around us when we are in this friend-making/rule-breaking mode will easily see that we mean business in our fun.  We make our own rules, and if we need to break them and remake them, we do.  For example: We just met this group of locals in this hole-in-the-wall bar, and most outsiders like us wouldn’t even talk to them, but we do, and when we leave, we will hug them and tell them we love them, and we will mean it.  Or, it’s probably not generally acceptable to most people to hug the manager/host as he greets us upon our arrival in his restaurant, or to dance with the owner—complete with a dip– as we leave, but we do it anyway.  We’ve told our life stories to the hotel clerk within five minutes of meeting her, made her laugh like never before (she says), then made her an honorary sister on the spot. 

Most people wouldn’t dream of these antics.  We don’t dream of it.  We do it.  That’s the difference between them and us.  We are doing it, and, if you want to, we want you to do it too.  Whatever it is.  Whatever makes you happy, sister.  Whatever brings you peace.

I will celebrate the wonderful sorority of true sisterhood through the bifocal lenses of Real Life and Real Loss, always from a place of peace and positivity.  I’ll double down—no, triple down–on optimism, with a healthy shot from each of us.  We want to share the love with you.

You, and perhaps your sisters—if you have any.

We’re here for you; right here in this blog.  Thanks for coming along.