THE JOY OF KLEENEX

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THE JOY OF KLEENEX

‘Tis the season. Cold and flu season, that is.

This week, between both of us, Suzanne and I succumbed to nearly every symptom on the list. Gail, however, remained healthy. I think illness is scared of Gail—as it should be.

I was out of commission for two days, and mercifully, was then able to be back among the living. Suzanne, however, had more of a struggle. She drug herself through work for too long, then finally took three days off. She went back, but still struggled. I told her to stay at home longer, but she didn’t listen. Apparently, she thinks I’m not the boss of her.

I have made it abundantly clear that Gail is industrious, hard-working, task-oriented and quite simply, loves to work. She works when she is tired, achy, not at her best or when she has already put in a full day. I would say she works when she is sick, but apparently, she doesn’t get sick.

As I lay in my sickbed this week, commiserating with Suzanne by phone, I let Gail know that apparently, both of her sisters had come down with winter health woes. I sent her a text to let her know, and to inquire as to how she was feeling.

She was fine, of course. No illness on her end. I asked her when she was last sick.

“Hmm, let me think. It’s been awhile. I think I missed a few days of work in 1995. I don’t remember being sick since then,” she said.

Twenty-five years. Gail hasn’t been sick in 25 years. Again, I think illness is scared of her. Or, perhaps it knows she will not be an easy conquest. If illness were to take up residence in her body, she would not be a gracious hostess. She would simply not put up with it. She has work to do, and she doesn’t have time. For the illness, it would be like trick-or-treating at a house that doesn’t have any candy to offer. Like opening an empty gift box. Like an empty jug of milk someone left in the refrigerator. Nothing to see here. Move on. You get the idea.

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Suzanne was concerned that perhaps, just as she did when she was five years old, she had pneumonia. She did get herself to the doctor, was tested for that and every other conceivable illness going around, and all tests were negative. She simply had a severe case of the crud.

She reminded me of her hospital stay when she was five—complete with breathing treatments; I had forgotten. I do remember her having violent coughing fits when she was about that age, so severe that she would end up in the bathroom, vomiting. Our little brother, bless his little heart, would follow quickly behind her and hold her hair out of the way.

So, when I found this while Christmas shopping, I knew she must have it.

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I had my share of childhood illnesses, but my sole hospitalization was to repair a hernia at age eight.  I didn’t recall Gail being hospitalized as a child, and no memory of her being sick.  She did remind me that she was hospitalized during college for strep throat and dehydration. Her room had a balcony, and three of her college friends—including her now-husband—scaled the outside wall to visit her on this balcony. She recalled going to the balcony door to greet her visitors with her I.V. pole in tow. Her only other overnights in the hospital were to deliver her four children—the last two were born at the same hospital as her college stay. It took her but a few highly efficient hours to birth each of them, and while the doctor was sure to keep her overnight, she was most likely jonesing to get out of there later that day and get her new work started because, as many of you know, a new baby brings a plentitude of new work.

Let it be noted that I labored extensively all night times two to bring my babies into the world, and Suzanne took even longer than that to birth her daughter. Even in childbirth, Gail’s work is time-efficient. Suzanne and me, not so much.

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The weekend brought blessed relief for Suzanne, and she was able to get back in the groove. There was weekend fun to be had, and she got out there and had it. We are both grateful for a return to wellness; feeling better always feels better after an illness.

Because we do have a collective online image to uphold, there will be no pictures of Suzanne and me in our diminished states. I didn’t see her and she didn’t see me, but I’m guessing we both looked something like this:

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And my head felt like this:

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The bedside of my sickbed was littered with Kleenex, magazines and books, which I tossed aside when I was finished with them. I finished a few good books, perused a few others, and blew (literally) through more than an entire box of Kleenex.

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I won’t go into detail, but Suzanne required Kleenex for more than one purpose.

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My previous blog post that received the most light-hearted feedback was Waste Not, Want Not (January 14th, 2018). I made it abundantly clear that while there was indeed a roll of paper towels next to my kitchen sink, they were to be used ONLY in case of emergency, contamination or contagion. This is how we grew up; paper towels were a precious resource not to be squandered, because they costed good money. There were old towels used as washable rags to be used for clean-ups and wipe-ups, as well as a kitchen towel at hand to dry one’s hands. This aspect of waste not has never left me.

I have entirely different standards for Kleenex. They are meant to be used without hesitation, and promptly thrown away. Their primary purpose invites contagion, and I don’t bat an eye at their liberal use.

Neither did our mom. She was frugal with paper towels, but not Kleenex. She was so liberal with them, as a matter fact, that she felt free to spend good money on good Kleenex—especially the pretty ones.

Suzanne, who lived just a few blocks away from Mom and Dad, reminisced about this penchant of Mom’s. She was well aware that Mom always had pretty Kleenex boxes on hand, and treated them as the necessary luxury they were for her. She didn’t spend extra money on anything except these pretty Kleenex boxes.

I still have one of her pretty Kleenex boxes. I took it from their home as we cleaned it out, and I have refilled it many times since, opening up the bottom and inserting a new roll out of a new box.

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Now, I make a point to always buy pretty Kleenex boxes, even if they cost a little more.

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I am recalling from Suzanne’s birthday post Happy Birthday Suzanne–Be Careful What You Wish For (August 13th, 2017), that Gail and I organized a community-wide and online appeal for anyone willing to present Suzanne with toilet paper on her birthday. We were simply fulfilling a long-forgotten wish she made earlier that year, when she was refilling her bathroom toilet tissue as hostess for our family at Easter. “I wish for my birthday, that everyone would give me toilet paper.”

The light bulb immediately lit up in my head. We can do that. I tucked that plan away at Easter for resurrection in August. When the 300-plus rolls rolled in at her door, her workplace, in the mail and on the street, she had no memory of this wish. She was thrilled, however. Ever the minimalist, she makes exceptions for such functional and numerous gifts, easily storing them in her basement.

My birthday is coming up in April. If you need gift ideas, I’m always up for pretty Kleenex boxes—or more paper towels.

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Suzanne and I enjoyed dinner together Saturday night.

May you have a healthy and cold/flu-free winter. If you are down with it, may you get back up soon. And, as always, if you are indeed able, join me in a thank-you for good health. And if Gail has any secrets for avoiding sickness, I will let you know.

 

 

 

THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR

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THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR

Solstice: noun—either of the two times in the year, the summer solstice and the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon, marked by the longest and shortest days.

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I survived the darkness again. Yesterday, December 21st, 2019, was the shortest day of the year, the longest night of the year.   Of course, the day had 24 hours like they all do, but the amount of daylight was the least there will be for another year.

And I didn’t simply survive it. I celebrated it. Along with my siblings and our families, we gathered at the home of our youngest brother and his family to once again welcome another Christmas–complete with a feast of our favorite foods.

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We have never missed this holiday together, and I am so grateful.

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Gail, Suzanne and I have our annual Christmas gift exchange. This is the pinnacle of gift-giving and receiving for all three of us, we delight especially in finding the perfects gifts for each other throughout the year, and stashing them away for this special celebration.

Second only to that joy is the receiving end of this exchange. This great care and caution we take in procuring the gifts is always worth the laughter and joy we create when we share our perfect finds.

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Gail knew Suzanne would love a gift card from one of her favorite stores–Ross–but she wasn’t able to get there to get her one, so she designed her own. 

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And speaking of joy, if you look closely at Gail’s gift in hand in this picture, you will see a memento of a place in Wichita that brought us so much joy in our youths. It was an amusement park not far from our grandparent’s house, and when we were treated to a trip there, the joy was unparalleled. It no longer stands; its former vibrance is now replaced by dilapidation and desertion, and this breaks our hearts more than a little. Suzanne, in her thoughtfulness, found these stickers and gave us each one.   Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best.

If you, too, have fond memories from this special place from your childhood, give us an Amen when you are done reading.

No joy is more savored and special than once again commemorating the arrival of the best Christmas gift we ever received: our youngest brother Ryan. He arrived on Christmas eve 46 years ago, and we never let it go by unnoticed. Mom and Dad always made sure to observe his birthday despite the holiday celebrations. When Ryan was a kid, sometimes Mom even made a special celebration for him in the summer to draw attention to his birthday away from the holiday.

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I awoke today to bright sunshine and tolerable wind. The temperature hung below the freezing mark for a few hours, but as the day progresses, it is already above 50° on its way to a predicted high of 56°.  I’ll take it. I have two loads of laundry hanging outside.

It will only be a gain of about 90 seconds, but there will be more daylight today than yesterday. It will be noticeable mostly in my mind, but that’s where it counts.

I live by sunlight; I am solar-powered. Even though winter officially began yesterday, my mindset is now turned toward spring. I will, however, try to retrain my mind to savor the day, no matter the weather, no matter how much sunshine I may or may not see.

Because I am a trivia nerd, I had to find out difference between solstice and equinox. Yesterday was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. June 21st will be the summer solstice, the first day of summer and the shortest night of the year. An equinox is the time or date—twice each year—at which the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of equal length. In simple terms, this translates into the first day of spring, and the first day of fall.

In my post Something to Look Forward To (January 7th 2018), I wrote that Mom helped us to see the importance of having just that. I am now looking forward to the vernal equinox, just three months away. But I will do my best to savor the winter.

Every day, no matter the weather outside or the conditions deep inside each of us, every moment is a gift. In the winter, I have to dig a little deeper sometimes to find that joy.

I read recently that in ancient times, people grew anxious and depressed when the days grew shorter, thinking perhaps the sun was dying.   They worshipped the sun as a god, and without it, they would surely perish. In order to sustain themselves and life in general, they created midwinter rituals to coax back the light, warmth and abundance, which ultimately culminated on the night of the winter solstice. They burned great bonfires complete with music and dancing as their message to the god of the sun that they were doing their part, and needed the sun to keep coming back to do its part. Apparently, it worked.

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We no longer have to doubt the return of the sun. For longer than any of us can imagine, it has come up every morning and goes down every night. It’s presence each day becomes shorter, until, once again, it becomes longer.

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The wheat lying dormant in our Kansas fields reminds me that winter is a time for slower growth and perhaps more rest. It is a time to quietly prepare for the harvest, a time of renewal and reaping that, as long as I can remember, has always come.

It is a time of reflection, a time to think about the year to come. When the sun comes back in full force, we will be ready to reflect its light and warmth to everyone in our own sphere.

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It is a time of restoration, a time to replenish our inner energies that were wisely, but energetically spent when the sun shone bright and warm upon us. If we simply ask, we often are granted this restored energy when the time is right and ripe.

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It is a time of rejuvenation, a time to celebrate the gift of youth, even if we are not as young as we’d like to be. If we can still move our bodies and brains, then we are young enough. Looking through the eyes of the young can bring us a fresh, innocent perspective.

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It is a time of release, a time to let go of those things we may be holding on to that are not helping us grow. If it doesn’t make you happy, and it doesn’t make anyone else’s life better either, perhaps it’s time to let it go.

Along with the release, letting go of past hurts makes it a time of reconciliation. Even if the other party doesn’t care, or if they thought they never did anything wrong, forgiveness is a healing balm for you. Equally as important is forgiving yourself for your own shortcomings. Dragging those dead carcasses around doesn’t help anyone. Leaving them behind helps everyone—especially you.  Christmas is the perfect time.

 

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As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, I was able to capture images of the horizon outside Ryan’s front door. Stepping out and facing west, this panoramic view never ceases to renew me, even when I know the sun will be gone for the longest night of the year. His home is just down the road a few miles from where we grew up, offering an unobstructed view of one of our home state’s most exquisite gifts—the Kansas sunset.

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The last picture was taken about 5:40 p.m. I said goodbye and thank you to the sun, knowing the darkness would soon come, but would also be gone in the morning. And, as always, it was.

The promise continues.

I will take some time to renew, so my posts will be hit or miss for a while. Just like the sun, I will be back. I simply need to rest, relax and retool in order to renew.

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Reading is one of my all-time favorite pastimes, especially in the winter. I must share my recommendations with you regarding a great new book by a great author. My sister-in-law Lara recently wrote an amazing Christmas novel. I typically don’t read fiction, but she hooked me with a powerful story as well as amazing local history, as it is set in the area we grew up. Please search this title on Amazon to purchase it as an e-book, or in print as well. You won’t regret it.

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Merry Christmas to you from the sisters of The Sister Lode. We wish you a blessed holiday, as well as a season of rest, relaxation, restoration, rejuvenation, reflection and renewal.

 

 

 

 

ON ISLAND TIME

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ON ISLAND TIME

There is a Jimmy Buffett song that reminds me that traveling south often brings about a new perspective. Heading to the beach, or perhaps to the islands brings about a change in one’s attitude.

As the snow flies today in Kansas, I am watching it out the window. At this point, it is beautiful as it falls softly with no wind, and I am so glad to be here. However, the thought of an island always beckons in the back of my mind when Old Man Winter starts blowing that dreadful wind that Gail and Suzanne love, the same wind that I loathe (Sisters of The South Wind, November 17th).

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No wind!  I love it, Gail and Suzanne don’t.  

The snow is still virgin-white, still falling; still beautiful. I even got out and ran in it this morning, and it was a unique high. I do love this about Kansas.

Suzanne and I did change our latitude this weekend. We didn’t go south, however, like the song may suggest. We headed north to an old familiar destination: Grand Island, Nebraska.  And, true to the song, we did experience a change in attitude.

Now, if you aren’t familiar with Grand Island, you may wonder why we chose this destination, when a six-hour round trip in another direction may offer greater thrills. For us, it is about nostalgia; it’s a trip back in time.

Our hometown is halfway there from the small city we both live in now, and we traveled north to Grand Island as often as we traveled south to Salina when we lived at home. Both destinations offer attractive shopping and dining options, but Grand Island will always have an edge over Salina: we used to take Mom there on our shopping trips.

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Suzanne moved to Salina three years ago, and we took a Christmas shopping trip to Grand Island then, spending the night in a hotel. We went back two years ago, but missed last year. It was time again, so we made a plan to leave on the auspicious and lucky date of Friday, December 13th. Gail wanted to join us, but she had too many of her multiple plates spinning in the air, and wasn’t able to get away.

Next time. It’s never the same with only two of us. Last weekend it was Gail and me in Manhattan. Perhaps Gail and Suzanne need to get away without me.

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Not surprisingly, the innkeeper remembered us. We can’t tell you why, that would violate our code of silence when it comes to certain matters. What she may wish she didn’t know about us is that we tried out her mattresses in our own unique Goldilocks style, and found them to be just right.

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But she is still speaking to us; still laughing with us.   We slept soundly at her inn Friday night, and were planning on spending Saturday night there as well. However, the weather prognosticators had a dire outlook for Saturday night and Sunday morning, so we departed early.

Now, Sunday, we are glad we did.

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The memories were still there.  Some of our favorite places were no longer there, and new ones have sprung up, but the spirit of our visits with Mom to La Grand Isle—French traders who settled it named it that—remains.

We shopped,

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and dined.

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Eating at an all-you-care-to-eat pizza/fried chicken dinner/ice cream buffet at 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon is always good for the gut.

I enjoyed ice cream, but Suzanne wasn’t able to at the end of her meal. Her gut quickly quashed that craving when she realized after her repeat trips to the buffet that her phone was nowhere to be found. We searched the seat, the floor, her purse, her coat, her car to no avail. Retracing her steps was the only solution.

The first call (on my phone, of course, because mine was safe and sound, and I didn’t let her forget that) resulted in a polite “Sorry, nobody has turned anything in.”

Going back one more store, we found that there are still honest Americans out doing their Christmas shopping. “Yes, we have an iPhone someone turned in.” Our description matched the phone, and she and her phone were reunited (and it felt so good).

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We wrapped up our shopping there, stopped on the way home in a Goodwill in this town with the iconic water tower, and made it home safely in the early evening.

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We woke to snow this morning, and knew we made the right decision.

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We made a dent in our Christmas shopping lists—including a goodie or two for ourselves. (We’ve been good this year.)   For me, I decided to celebrate Mom’s birthday a month early, and bring home the annual purse I buy to celebrate Mom’s birthday. It was at this very TJMaxx that Mom helped me pick out my new purse on her last shopping trip there for her 71st birthday, so it was only right to buy the one that jumped right off the hook at me–that’s how I always know it’s the right one.

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For the handful of you readers who know the whole story, let me just say this: The price was right.

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This shopping trip will always hold special memories, and this is one way we celebrate Mom’s spirit within us. Any time we are all together, however, we feel both her and Dad living on through us. Next weekend, we will celebrate Christmas with our brothers and all of our respective families at the home of our youngest brother. Wherever we are, Mom and Dad are there, too.

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May you enjoy the holidays with your loved ones, no matter where they are.

 

 

THE GAME OF LIFE

 

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THE GAME OF LIFE

“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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

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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.

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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:

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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!

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

PASS THE PIE

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PASS THE PIE

It shouldn’t be so complicated, really. But, like so many other things, we humans—myself included– make it so.

It doesn’t take much extra time or effort, and it certainly doesn’t cost anything. Just a few moments to think about what we have, and maybe what we’re lucky that we don’t have. Several minutes here and there to stop ourselves from the busy-ness and look around.

They are everywhere, if you just look for them. So many things to be grateful for, so much we can say a quick ‘thank you’ for.

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I am guilty. I don’t look around enough, nor do I always take those few extra moments that can make the difference between seeing something as good instead of bad.

In my blog two weeks ago, I strung my sisters up for loving the wind. The blasted Kansas wind that sometimes hollows out my soul. This time it was blasting northwest winds that brought me down, winds we fought for almost 3 ½ hours as we drove northwest to Gail’s house for the annual Thanksgiving celebration that she hosts with the most every year on Thanksgiving Saturday.

Driving into this driving wind, I tried to find some way to enjoy it, some way to see it as positive. I failed at that, so I downshifted one gear, and found a few things I could be thankful about despite the wind:

*The ground was wet from snow and rain, so there was minimal fire danger.

*There was no precipitation falling at that time.

*Our car was warm and sturdy, fighting the whipping wind. The space-age technology in our Subaru even braked the car automatically when a large tumbleweed blew across Interstate 70 right in front of us, causing the car to think it was an obstacle to brake for, which, obviously, it was.

Despite all this, I still cussed my sisters. So did many other family members.

But we’re not here to cuss and complain. Since the maiden post in this blog, we have tried to keep it positive, with gratitude and positivity as core element of our posts.   If ever we go down, we always try to come back up in the end, offering optimism and a happy ending.

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. The family, food, faith, friends and fun are celebrated today—especially today—with a reminder and challenge to offer up this gratitude every day. There are no commercial expectations, no gifts to buy—just good food, and lots of it.

Gail, in case you couldn’t guess from previous posts, is the hostess/cook extraordinaire.  We honor our mother’s dressing recipe by repeating it to our best abilities, which is usually pretty darn good.  We try to make it with all three of us together, but this year, it was only Gail and Suzanne. It is so good, in fact, that there are a select few people in Gail’s small town who request a sample, and Gail delivers.  It’s all in the spirit of giving.

Along with the dressing, the menu consists of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, cream cheese corn–all from Gail’s kitchen. Every family member brings their specialties, including: sweet potato casserole (mine), green bean casserole (Suzanne’s), rolls, vegetable trays, cookies, appetizers, sausage/cheese/cracker tray and multiple desserts. There is no shortage of food.

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Gail and I delight in preparing homemade pies. We must brag that never once, with the hundreds of pies we have made collectively throughout our lives, have we purchased ready-made pie crusts. Mom taught us well. I made nine pies Wednesday evening to share between my two family celebrations. Gail, always the over-achiever (in a good way), went the extra mile to carve the flesh out of a fresh pumpkin for her pie.

 

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Family is always the first important ‘F’ of all them listed above. Being together with most of our family is the greatest gift of the holiday. Everyone helps,

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and everyone partakes and enjoys.

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Full stomachs match our full hearts,

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and family is celebrated in many ways.

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The hostesses and hosts with the mostesses and mosts.

Full stomachs and hearts also translate into a full house, so for the second year in a row, my husband and I enjoyed the solitude of a small cabin on the small lake in Gail’s small town for the night.

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Mercifully, the wind died down overnight, and we awoke to some wind with the cold, but it was manageable.

Giving thanks for the basics of fabulous Thanksgiving food and shelter from the wind was the order of the day. This morning, I gave thanks for the third basic element of physical survival: clothing. With four thin layers on top and one heavy layer on the bottom, I gave thanks for the opportunity to stay warm while moving my legs and body with my daily run/walk, this time around the lake.

Taking a lesson from the birds of nature, I offered up thanks for the water and the sunshine as well. No matter the weather, nature offers a daily bounty to be thankful for, and despite the wind and cold, it was no different this morning.

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The geese have it figured out; they know how to enjoy the cold, the wet and the wind. With their cue, I did, too.

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We got back to Gail’s house this morning, and we were greeted with fresh coffee and brunch. Gail, of course, was back at it in the kitchen again. After the eggs and ham, the pies once again beckoned, so we answered the call. We passed the pie.

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Our signature picture at the beginning of every blog was taken three years ago in Camp Gail, her small but mighty room-of-her-own in her home. It is decorated with anything and everything that brings her joy. I have Fort Kathleen in my home, which is my space that fills me up, filled up with all the things that bring me joy. We are immensely grateful for these spaces and for the joy they bring us.  Suzanne, ever the minimalist, does not want such a crowded space, and that’s okay too.

Every year during the Thanksgiving celebration, we take another picture in Camp Gail, and they are posted at the beginning of each blog. They signify our continued sisterhood, which keeps going and keeps growing in its depth and meaning.

Despite our losses, we continue to be grateful for each other, for the rest of our families, our friends, for our health, happiness, hopes and dreams fulfilled and those still in progress.

Gratitude, in its simplest form, is just two words: thank you. No matter which force you pray to, this is the building block of living a simply wonderful life. It’s not hard. Just remember to give thanks every day of the year for all things great and small.  It can turn negativity into positivity.  It’s your choice–and mine, too, free for the taking.

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May every day be Thanksgiving Day for you.

 

 

SISTERS OF THE SOUTH WIND

 

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SISTERS OF THE SOUTH WIND

I have made it abundantly clear that I love my sisters. We are harmonious toward each other, even in the face of potential differences of opinion about politics, religion, genetic cloning perhaps, even public nudity, if it were to become an issue. I consider them my best friends, and they are my first line of defense when I need a go-to friend to help me get through a crisis, solve a problem, or someone to cry to. However, there is one issue, one topic that I stand diametrically opposed to Gail and Suzanne on, and I cannot go to them with this problem, because it is not a problem for them.  They simply don’t understand. In fact, they feel just the opposite.  If there is a scar on the face of our otherwise beautiful sisterly triad, it is this: Gail and Suzanne love the wind, and I loathe it.

Further, I know I am the sensible one here, and they are the insane ones. I mean, really. What kind of person loves the wind?

In my post Weather Girls (January 28th, 2018), I wrote about just how much they really do love the wind. And, if you know either of them very well, you will likely know this fact about them. And, hopefully, you side with me and realize they are indeed crazy.

Gail loves it so much, that she has thought about changing her name to Gail Force Winds.

But enough about this fundamental difference between them and me. Let’s get down to the business of making peace with this stumbling block. That’s what we are all about, after all. I’m trying to create optimism and positivity here.

Clearly, I know wind is a fact of nature that cannot be eliminated or altered. It cannot be escaped in Kansas. As a matter of true fact, our state’s name is from the Native Americans, and it means People of the South Wind.

I know in my heart, mind and soul that no amount of lamenting or complaining about the wind will change it. As a general policy in my life, I try very hard not to complain about things I cannot change, and if I can change something, I try not to complain about it. Yet, I continue to complain.  Gail and Suzanne remind me that nothing I say or do will change it, so why not embrace it? I have tried, but to no avail—yet.

This morning—November 17th, I awoke to a beautiful, calm, 40-degree sunny morning. The flag was beautifully still,

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The pampas grass wasn’t moving,

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and neither were the remaining leaves on the trees.

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I enjoyed a morning run, but by the time I returned, all this had changed. The northwest wind was blowing, the trees and the flag were moving and the pampas grass was swaying. It was tolerable, but it was there. It is generally a fact of life in Kansas.

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Today, we are The People of the Northwest Wind.

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Wind is generally a fact of life, no matter where you go, even to Colorful Colorado, where we just visited two weeks ago.

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It seems, however, that Kansas has more than its share. I don’t mind the wind in the summer. I rather enjoy the feeling of a blast furnace when the strong winds blow in the 100-degree plus summer heat. Call me crazy. Go ahead, I know you want to. I’ll take that weather any day over the cold.

do like the wind for several reasons, at the right time, at the right speeds.  First, it keeps the bugs away in the summer.  Second, I rely upon it to dry my laundry on my back-porch redneck clothesline, all year round.  Here it is, doing its job today, as well on the front porch.  If you look under the flag in the picture above, you will see the wind at work.

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I like the cold when the wind isn’t blowing. Give me a sunny, calm, sub-freezing day, and I’m happy. My favorite running weather is just that: 20°, sunshine and zero wind. Throw in some snow on the ground, and it’s perfect.

Again, call me crazy.

As soon as the wind kicks in, however, all bets are off. It’s a complete deal-breaker. If the skies are gray too, I find myself wanting to hole up in my basement where I am oblivious to the weather conditions outside.

Because, I realize, the weather conditions outside play a big role in determining my weather conditions inside. I am solar-powered, and without the sun for an extended stretch, I feel gray, too.

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We grew up in a 100-year old+ farmhouse. Gail and I shared an upstairs bedroom on the north, and Suzanne moved in with me when Gail moved out. I remember the cold north wind freezing us out; the house wasn’t exactly insulated well. I remember the wind whistling and howling in the winter as we shivered in bed.   The house came down a few years ago, but I will never forget it. Most of the memories were good ones, and I will be forever grateful for the shelter it provided.

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Our north bedroom window was the large one upstairs.

My bedroom now is upstairs on the north side of the house. When the north wind howls in the winter now, I send up a silent thank you for the warm and well-insulated home I now live in. At least once every winter, I try to tell my Mark-of-all-trades husband thank you for building it so well to keep us warm.

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Last Monday was Veteran’s Day. As I age, I continue to deepen my gratitude for the freedoms that were won for me, and protected still by active military.   I know that none of us can ever repay the veterans for their sacrifices, so a deep sense of gratitude is the least they deserve from us.

The temperature was about 20° Monday morning, and the feels like index, according to the weatherman, was 2°.  The north wind was brutal and blowing a light snow, and it simply wasn’t safe or smart to be out in it if it wasn’t necessary.

I depend on my morning run to start my day, and to keep me running all day. Quite simply, if I don’t run, I don’t run. If I wanted to get any exercise in that day, it would have to be on the dreaded elliptical trainer in my basement. So, that’s what I did. I realized as I ticked off the minutes, however, that it was fitting that I had to sacrifice just a little freedom on this sacred day. Still, I didn’t like it one bit.

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As fall continues to fall, and so do the temperatures, I feel the annual sense of dread and doom, the specter of internal darkness that begins to hover over and around me when I know that winter will soon be here. The days continue to get shorter—only 34 days until they get longer again, but who’s counting—and this darkness tries to pervade my sense of happiness.

I know the cold winter is almost here, and from all professional prognostications I have heard, it’s going to be a bad one. And by bad, for Kansas that usually means lots of snow, icy conditions, colder temperatures and strong north winds.  I could make it through with a smile if not for the blasting north winds.

This autumn, however, I have made a conscious effort to savor the beautiful weather and splendid show of color Mother Nature provides every year at this time. It’s working a little better that usual. But it’s not enough to fend off the winter-is-coming blues.

I have committed myself to Kansas, and it is my home. It is in my heart and soul; it is the land that shaped my past and will continue to positively influence my future. If I had to name my least favorite aspect of Kansas, it would be the wind. It is the fly in the ointment, the pock mark on an otherwise beautiful face.

So, dear reader, here is my request: Surely many (most?) of you feel the way I do about the wind. If you do, and you have some positive insight/affirmation/encouragement, I want to hear it. I want to know how you get through the cold, windy days and nights. I want to remain smitten with Kansas, and if I can make peace with the wind, I would be a much happier camper when the cold winter winds blow.

We’re all in this together, and I am hoping you can help me. The struggle is real, folks. I need help, and I am reaching out to anyone who may have some to offer. Gail and Suzanne, as dear as they are to me, are useless in this fight, because they don’t see it as a fight. Again, I think they are a little crazy, but I try to respect their likes and dislikes.

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My husband spent many years constructing buildings in every kind of weather. While he did his time in hard labor, and now manages projects instead of building them, he feels the same way I do about the wind.   He knows his sisters-in-law love the wind, and more than once after a day in the wind, he would cuss them to me. I always understood. It would go something like this:

I’d like to see them take a sheet of metal and try to get it up on a roof in this wind without sailing away, or getting their hands sliced open when the wind tears it out of their hands.”

My neighbor stopped by this morning, and, without me complaining first, she said, “I can’t stand the wind. It’s depressing.”  Obviously, I concur.

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I often go to senior living facilities to see my home health patients. I noticed a pattern several years ago, one that serves to offer me wisdom, should I choose to accept it.

In many facilities, there are outdoor patios. Many of these patios are adorned with wind chimes. It struck me, one windy winter day, while looking up at three stories of apartments with their patios/balconies, that so many of the residents had wind chimes hanging outside. Could it be, that in their wisdom from their years of (likely) living in Kansas, that they are choosing to celebrate the wind, rather than bemoaning it, like I do? Could it be that simply accepting this fact, and maybe even celebrating it with things like wind chimes would offer me much-needed inner peace on cold, windy days? Perhaps. And that is why I am asking for your help, because clearly, I am not achieving it on my own.

I will continue to find peace in so many other naturally beautiful aspects of Kansas, especially the sunrises and sunsets.

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Next weekend, I am gallivanting off for more fun, this time with friends, so there will be no post. I am celebrating a birthday for a dear friend, along with another dear friend. Like me, the birthday girl is in and out of her car all day as part of her work. Like me, she loathes the wind. Any advice you have for me will also be a birthday gift for her.

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She gave me this beautiful piece of outdoor art with the sun face on it several years ago for my birthday, and last spring, I caught it capturing the brilliant light of the sun as it rose.

Hanging just above it are my own wind chimes. This morning and this afternoon,, they are silent, hanging on the east side of the porch.  Next time they  offer me beautiful music. I will choose to listen.

The lines are open for your comments. I appreciate any an all advice and inspiration you have to offer on how you cope with the wind, no matter what state you live in.

Thank you.

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I believe when we lose a loved one, they remain with us in so many other ways, but we have to be open to them. This morning, I sat down to write this post, knowing I was writing about the weather. I decided to first read the day book that belonged to my mother, a book I gave her that she loved, highlighting her favorite parts. Some days, she highlighted the title, which I interpret to mean that she liked the whole thing.   Many days, she speaks to me, telling me exactly what I need to hear through the highlighted parts. This morning, she did just that. *

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*Sarah Ban Breathnach, 1995, Simple Abundance:  A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.  Warner Books, New York, New York.  

ALL OR NUN–OR SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

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ALL OR NUN—OR SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN

Even a nun’s habit isn’t completely black and white–at least, ours weren’t. If you look close, you will see a bit of gray. Gray—not black and white– seems to be the rule in life.

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Halloween blessings to you from The Sisters of the Stained Cloth

Gail, Suzanne and I departed from Gail’s home Thursday morning—Halloween—after Suzanne and I traveled to her home from our small city Wednesday night. It was time once again for us to head west, and this time, all three of us were in tow. We missed Suzanne last time, and she was up for a rally against the altitude sickness. It appears she lost a few of the battles, but this time, she won the war.

It’s just not the same if we’re not all three together.

It was her idea, after all, to dress as sisters—nuns. We are sisters to each other, so the costume idea was brilliant. We were born and raised Catholic, so we know the territory.

It was Halloween, but still, it appeared some people weren’t sure if we were the real deal, or if we were in costume. Several people said it was the socks and shoes that gave us away.

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We made a few trick-or-treat stops in Gail’s small town to see several of her friends at work before we headed west. Because everyone—and I mean pretty much everyone—in her small town of 1,194, according to Wikipedia– knows Gail, those who saw us knew we were in costume.

Nuns have to eat, too, but down the road a bit when we ate lunch, most people weren’t sure.

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And, because most people don’t realize that nuns can indeed drink beer, I think the socks/shoes were indeed a giveaway.

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A kind man named David who stopped to take a picture of the iconic sign was nice enough to take our picture at the state line.

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I’m pretty sure real nuns wouldn’t attempt to climb on the nunasaurus, but we did.

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Our usual stop at the Pop-a-Top saloon just outside Colorado Springs wasn’t to be missed, so we didn’t.

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And, because the world is indeed small, we met some fine folks there who live just down the road from Gail.

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Old traditions prevail, like John Denver singing Rocky Mountain High to us as we complete the final twists and turns just before our arrival. That’s a black and white matter.

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Lunch at one of our favorite restaurants can’t be missed either.

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Even though she doesn’t like to drink beer, Suzanne is just as much a real woman as Gail and I are.

We were a bit chagrined because we expected more Halloween revelers like us at the casinos. However, we realized that everyone who was supposed to be there, was indeed there.

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Sometimes in life, things “coincidentally” line up so perfectly that humans couldn’t have planned them any better without screwing them up. Quite by surprise, Cruella found one of her Dalmatians at the casino. The Dalmatian waitress Janelle didn’t know that Julie—Cruella—would be there, and neither did Cruella know that she would find a Dalmatian there.  With a bit of red added, that was a black and white matter, too.

Because we saw them both alive and well the next day, Cruella lived a bit more happily ever after than she fared in the movie.

We had goodies to pass out in our jack-o-lantern bucket—the usual candy, and special treats for certain people that fit into the we don’t tell all category. Let’s just say that nuns are hip to the world, and understand more than one might think.

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The population of Cripple Creek, Colorado—according to Wikipedia—is five people less than Gail’s small town: 1,189. However, it is the county seat of Teller County, and is home to this beautiful courthouse, built in 1904.

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When we ask some people if they have been to Cripple Creek, sometimes they respond “I think I’ve been through it.” We think, however, that this response means they are confusing it with another Colorado town, because, except for seven miles further to Victor, it is essentially the end of the road. It is typically the destination that one has when traveling the twisty-turny hairpins on the last 18 miles of road there, 18 miles on Colorado 67 when you turn off US Highway 24 at Divide, Colorado.

These twisty-turny roads were snow packed and icy early in the week, just before we arrived. This proved to be challenge for the extra hundreds of people—potential jurors, national media and spectating citizens– traveling to this courthouse for the beginning of the trial of the man standing accused of killing his fiancé last year on Thanksgiving Day in nearby Woodland Park.

No media cameras were allowed inside, so they set up camp outside, across the street.

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This tragic real-life saga stood in stark contrast to the comedy in the local theater half a block away.

This contrast, as I see it, is indeed black and white, as black and white as the Dalmatian’s spots. No gray there. Sometimes the blackness of real life can be devastating. The time for sadness, the time to mourn can be overwhelming. We’ve been there, too. But in time, and with a little faith and a little help, perhaps, the black fades to gray, and eventually some white shines through.

Whenever possible, we make time for laughter because we know it heals. It permeates the black, and helps the gray become white. So, we took in the afternoon show, which provided several hours of entertainment and raucous laughter. We can be cultured when we want to, although it may not be apparent from our earlier antics.

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Gail and Suzanne are gifted with the ability to bring the gift of laughter to others. Quick and sharp, they both pounce on any occasion to create humor, sometimes apropos of nothing otherwise funny, like a daily shower.

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Or fruits and vegetables–this one is a classic from a long-ago trip.

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Or challenging a road sign

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Or, while driving,  the opportunity to fling me off my seat when I unbuckled to crawl into the way-back to get something that Suzanne didn’t want to get for me from her nest in the back seat, probably to cause a laugh.

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But there is a time to be serious, too. We need that time just as much as we need to laugh, and we took that time while we were away. Time to sit and talk about our heartbreaks and joys. Time to reflect on our lives—past decisions that forever closed one door and flung open another. Time to talk about dreams derailed and deferred, and dreams we keep working on. Time to tell secrets we only tell each other. Time to reflect on the profound loss we all experienced when our parents died together, but even more so on the legacy of love and joy they left all of us.  The legacy that continues to grow and strengthen as we continue to celebrate our sisterhood—and I’m not talking about our nun get-ups.

Our black and white—and gray—nun costumes. Gray like life. And gray is beautiful.

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Happy Halloween from Sister Gail Jean, Sister Kathleen Ann and Sister Suzanne Patrice.