THE POWER OF HALF-FULL

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THE POWER OF HALF-FULL

Apparently, I possess some sort of super-power.  Just a few days ago, I was thinking about how I really want a pair of gray/green Converse All-Stars like Suzanne’s.  I know I’m not supposed to covet thy sister’s shoes, and I know I don’t really need another pair (more on this later), but I really wanted them.  Like really bad.

Yesterday, Suzanne and I hit a few of the remaining end-of-season garage sales.  We met at one outside of a storage building, and a table of shoes immediately called my name.  (It should be obvious from previous posts that I am into shoes.)  Right there, with sunbeams shining down from the heavens upon them, were the green Converse shoes.  In a gently-loved condition with plenty of wear left. In my size.  They were even the deluxe leather edition.  The classic canvas would have been just fine, but I have long salivated over the leather ones, which are hard to find. 

One dollar later, they were mine. 

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Suzanne seems to think this happens to me quite often.  I simply wish for something and poof!  There it is. 

Perhaps it does.

Perhaps, instead, I simply focus on positive things that could be, things that would bring me joy in small and large amounts.  Small things like another pair of shoes (which obviously happened yesterday), or large things like a large lottery jackpot (which hasn’t happened yet).

Perhaps I should be focusing on more meaningful things, like, say, world peace.  Or maybe even national peace.

Unless you have been under a rock for the past few years, you know our country’s divisive contentiousness is at an all-time high.  While it does break my heart, I know that I have done my own due diligence by voting, and doing what I can to model the kind of behavior I hope to see in my country’s leader. 

This last part is the hard part. 

Above that, it does me no good to dwell on the division, or to enhance the conflict and strife by inciting arguments about it. My opinion is right for me, and if yours differs from mine, then yours is right for you.  I may not like it if yours doesn’t match mine, but that is the beauty of our democracy.  We all get to choose where to stand. 

So, I will stand tall, and I hope you will, too.

If you belong to the approximate 50% that is expecting the demise of our country in the next four years, then just know that the other approximate 50% survived the last four years thinking the same thing.  Last time I checked, our country hasn’t yet gone to hell in a handbasket.

I believe that the uncompromising spirit of this great country will prevail, and as the foundation for that, I believe in the great spirit of man—and woman—kind. 

I could choose to believe in our demise as a country, but I choose not to. It hasn’t happened yet, so I am choosing half-full.  I am choosing to believe in the power of optimism, because that choice is my privilege; yours too.  I can sign up for optimism or pessimism, and it will likely not affect our country’s operation and outcome one iota. 

Same goes for the pandemic.  Do everything you can to keep yourself safe and/or return to good health, follow the rules to keep everyone else safe, and stay optimistic.   Thinking half-full might even help you stay healthy.

So, I ask, why should any of us choose anything but half-full?

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I watched a great movie on Amazon the other day—The Secret: Dare to Dream.   It was based on the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.  I’ve read the book, and at its core, it states that by focusing on what it is we want, we are more likely to get it.   Like my new green Converse shoes.   Like when you are thinking about someone you haven’t been in touch with for a while, and then you see them, or they call you.  We’ve all been there.

Our thoughts work like magnets, this theory proposes.  Think good thoughts, and good is more likely to find you.  Think bad, and well, you get the gist.  I have seen it ring true many times, so I am a believer.

The movie was a somewhat predictable, mildly-sappy love story, but a good show nonetheless.  Its examples illustrating this power of our thoughts was indeed thought-provoking. 

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As always, I asked my sisters for their input on the topic, and here’s what they came up with:

Suzanne:  “I have the power to think positive, I just don’t always do it.  I can if I want to.  Some days it is harder to see the positive because I am a stubborn person, and I’ll be the first to admit to admit I am stubborn and bull-headed.  I know this about myself.  Awareness is the key.  Some people only like to see the bad.  I don’t like those people, even if I am one of those people sometimes.”

Gail: “It’s always easier to look at negative aspects of life and there is so much of that, why not accentuate the positive? I have said it before: there is good in everyone. Look for it! Instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop (be it garage sale shoe or not), try to put both shoes on the floor at the same time and be the good, the positive, the driving force that makes a positive impact on lives, be it yours or anyone in your circle!”

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So, if it was that easy to attract a new pair of Converse sneakers to add to my collection, perhaps I should keep wishing for more.  Another pair or two would be nice…they are my go-to shoes with jeans, and I don’t have very many ..if you  have a size 8 ½ or 9 laying around that you don’t wear, let me know.

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Byrne, R. The Secret. 2006. New York: Hillsboro, Ore. : Atria Books.

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

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ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

It began in 1989.   I am sure it was then, because, while I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, I can remember meaningless dates/time frames.  I found a treasure back then that spoke clearly to me, telling me you need to take me home and build a collection around me, so I did.  This was over 30 years ago, and I am still collecting.  I won’t bore you with the entire collection, but this was the piece that got it all started—the one on the right.  You can see the signs of love–and time.

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And, as one who is fond of word plays, the “once” printed inside this blue moon, made it speak even louder to me.  Just maybe, this is what began my love of word plays.

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By definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month.  Last night—Halloween 2020–featured a blue moon.  It was a grand sight.  I tried to take a picture as it rose, but my amateur skills, coupled with the amateur camera on my cell phone kept it from capturing its true beauty.  Nonetheless, I had to record it from my east porch:

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Several skilled photographers in Kansas posted their pictures of the Blue Moon last night, and this one in particular caught my eye–perhaps it is the farm girl in me:

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Blue Moon over Jamestown, Kansas last night, about an hour northwest of my home. Special thanks to Tim Grennan

The moon has always had a pull on me.  I have reasoned that, if it pulls the tides of the ocean, and I am made mostly of water, then why would it not affect me, too?  Perhaps it affects you, too, as you are (hopefully) made mostly of water as well.

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Not surprisingly, my favorite libation is Blue Moon beer.  Perhaps its flavor is enhanced in my mind because of the name, but it truly satisfies me like no other beer does.  Of course, I had to celebrate the blue moon last night with a Blue Moon.

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The history of the beer is best summarized on their glass:

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The blue moon occurs roughly once every 2.5 years.  Therefore, if something happens only once in a blue moon,” well, you get the idea. 

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Mom knew how much I loved moon-watching.   She never let me miss the grandeur of the full moon rising in the trees east of the farmhouse we grew up in.  And, as I have written in previous blogs, she loved sunflowers.  Given those two facts, I will add that I may, or may not be planning to get a tattoo of a sunflower with a blue moon around it in her honor.  I may or may not already have a wheat tattoo in honor of Dad.  Just sayin’. 

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So, here’s the takeaway:  drink your Blue Moon, or whatever else makes you feel alive.  Watch the full moon, or whatever else in nature pulls you in.  If body art is your thing, and you are sure it is indeed you, embellish it with that tattoo you are thinking about. Collect the thing that speaks to you. 

Whatever, whenever and however you do any or all of these, savor the moments in which you do them.  They are simple acts that we can enjoy with or without the blue moon.    But please remember this:  you are you—no one else.  And, as our mom said, “If it feels good, and it doesn’t break any of the Ten Commandments, do it!”  Because you, my friend, are more rare and unique than the blue moon. 

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Special thanks to my next-door neighbor Angie for this beautiful shot of the blue moon last night

RED SUEDE COWGIRL SHOES

RED SUEDE COWGIRL SHOES…and other necessary extravagances.

Greetings from the splendidly beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountains. It is time once again for our semi-annual Go West, Young Women trek.  Sadly, Suzanne is not with us this time; she chose to stay behind rather than fight the altitude sickness.  While we completely understand and support her decision, it is never the same without her. 

But we must forge on without her, so we do.  She sends her blessings with us.

As we all know, the world has changed in the last seven months.  Cripple Creek, Colorado has changed as well since our last trip here in early March.  Social distancing and mask-wearing are the norm, which precludes some of our favorite activities, namely, table games in the casinos—Gail’s favorite.  Some slot machines are spaced with every other one out of commission if they are close to each other, and some are divided by plexiglass.  Still, we managed to have fun. 

Fun,” as a noun, is defined as “enjoyment, amusement or lighthearted pleasure.”

Having fun, as we see it, is a priority in life.   We agree with the wise doctor:

In “Red Leather Cowboy Boots,” (June 7th, 2020), I wrote about the awesome cowboy boots I purchased after my quest to do just that.  This weekend, in Colorado, I broke them in.

It was indeed fun.

My friend Shari helped me find my perfect pair, and several weeks ago on our trip (Plan B:  Let’s Sea, October 4th) I helped her find her perfect pair.  While she was shopping in the vast western store in Oklahoma City, I discovered some western-themed footwear that I didn’t know existed.  These shoes sucked me in, and I was hooked.  Except that I couldn’t find the perfect pair that spoke to me, so my next quest was to find them online. 

And I did.  And they are fun. 

I broke them in this weekend, the day after I broke in the boots.  When I found these Ariat Cruisers, in the “Vintage Cowgirl” print online, they screamed fun, and then they whispered my name.  Needless to say, I couldn’t resist. 

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Among the various fun activities Gail and I engaged in while nestled behind Pikes Peak in this quaint little mining/gambling town, was simply relaxing in our room.  We stayed in our favorite inn, and, as always, we were welcomed back with open arms. 

Massages are not Gail’s jam, but once again, I received a fabulous treatment from Joanne, the in-house masseuse extraordinaire.  While I wouldn’t call it fun, exactly, it does help to free me up and relax me to enjoy the other lighthearted pleasures we partake in.

Gail rarely sits down to watch TV, but when she is away from home, she allows herself this lighthearted pleasure. We watched the good old favorite Saturday morning cartoons,

 The movie “Matilda” was showing later, and it caught our interest.

Matilda, the main character, is a little girl who possess extraordinary telekinetic powers, and generally tries to make life fun.  She struggles with the mean and nasty teacher/headmistress at her school, who had this quote on the classroom wall behind her:

“If you are having fun, you are not learning.”

We beg to differ.  Some learning, by nature, is not fun.  I recall not having a lot of fun in my high school math classes, but I did learn a lot, mostly how to persevere. 

We would argue that you can learn more by having fun.  These are the memories that stick; the memories that we carry with us because the memories of the fun we have is often a close second to the actual fun while we are having it. 

Above all, we have learned that having fun is a choice.  Fun, whether it is a simple picnic in the park, or a long weekend away—or perhaps a week away on vacation, is sometimes something we fight against.  Fun doesn’t have to cost anything, or take a lot of time.  Watching a good movie, having dinner with friends or playing cards is great fun. 

If your plans for fun, however, involve an expenditure of a considerable amount of money or time, then there are other factors that must be considered.  I hate to admit it, but I still wrestle with the guilt that tries to spoil my fun when I think about how I should be at work, and shouldn’t be spending money.  When I am with my sisters, I quickly beat down the little voice that reminds me “you are abandoning your family again,” because it always tries to be heard.  My children are grown and my husband is quite independent without me there—he was an ace bachelor for years.  They all encourage me to go, but still, that voice keeps trying.  Each time I shush it, it becomes a little more timid, a little more quiet the next time.  In time, I know, it will stop trying, because it knows that as long as it continues to lose each battle, it doesn’t stand a chance at the war.

Gail, on the other hand, is a seasoned pro, and reports only a twinge of this guilt for not being at work.  Her work ethic is strong, but her fun ethic is stronger.  Her family is independent as well, because she has trained them well.

We plan for our trips, we save year-round for them, and we have taught our workplaces that this is our priority, and that they will carry on fine without us.  

And they do. 

When our children were younger, it was more difficult to get away, but we made it work.

There has never been a time when our families and our workplaces approached us and said: “You deserve a vacation. Take some time off and go, and don’t feel a bit guilty about it.  And, here’s plenty of cash to make it all happen.  Go, and have tons of fun.”  Perhaps this has happened to someone, somewhere, but generally speaking, it doesn’t happen.  So, if you are waiting for this kind of special permission, accompanied by a bunch of money, keep waiting.  I would bet the entire cost of this trip that it will never happen to me, or you.

This translates into a simple truth:  you need to give yourself permission, and make it happen.  If your plans for fun involve considerable time and money, only you know what you can afford in terms of time away from your family responsibilities, time off work and money to spend on fun.  Sometimes, however, looking at these resources—time and money—from the fun is a necessity perspective may reveal that just maybe, you have enough of both to create some fun.

It’s your decision. 

The sisters of The Sister Lode, whether it is one, two or all three of us having fun, are here to tell you that it is worth the effort it takes.  The time you take for yourself is never wasted time.  And the memories of the fun you have will stay with you long after the time is gone. 

Or maybe it’s buying your own version of red suede cowgirl shoes…or both.

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As always, we never tell all from our travels, but we do tell some.  Here is a montage of the fun we had.

Neither of us won any money, but it was fun to try.

Where’s Gail?

She’s in there, I swear…

Watch for the rocks—and Gail

We took in the purple mountain majesty…

We shopped at our favorite store, and came away with more beautiful jewels…

And staged a little crisis on the way out of town…

I had to talk Gail back from the edge…

We had to stop for a photo op at this historic site with a great name:

And on our way in and out, in the last stretch of beautiful mountain hairpin twists and turns, we always crank up this classic and sing like no one’s listening:

And until next time, we had to leave this beautiful little mountain town behind.

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PLAN B: LET’S SEA

PLAN B:  LET’S SEA

Life, as many of us know, is not about how well we execute Plan A.  Most often, the way we pull off Plan B—or sometimes C or D–determines the quality of our days.  And the quality of our days, as we all know, determines the quality of our lives. 

As you may already know, Gail, Suzanne and I are seasoned travelers—at least to Colorado.  We have grand dreams of returning to the beach, and in time, I know we will execute this Plan A.  Suzanne’s birthday came and went without the beach trip we had hoped for, thanks mostly due to COVID—the biggest Plan A demolisher any of us have ever seen.

I can only speak for myself, but I am pretty sure none of you reading this—as well as anyone who isn’t—had a plan eight months ago to be on high alert for an invisible, biological enemy that could take any one of us down and/or out.  None of us planned to stay home for the second quarter of 2020, none of us planned to wear a mask in our daily rounds, and none of us planned on a loved one getting sick or succumbing to the virus.  Perhaps you yourself had it already, and your life is still working back to “normal.” If you have, I am sure that was not your plan, and here you are, making Plan B work.  Keep fighting the fight, my friend. 

Welcome to Worldwide Plan B, a.k.a., “The New Normal.”

I cannot complain (much). Some of my work involves inconveniences such as this,

But it is for my own protection, and ultimately the protection of my patients, and everyone else in this medical setting I come in contact with, and everyone else they come in contact with.  It is my part, and I am willing to do it.  That doesn’t mean I like it, but this Plan B is not about me.

My life of relative luxury involves adventures.  No grand mountain-scaling or diving from airplanes, but simply getting away with my favorite people.  Some of these have been scaled down from Plan A, including a trip to the sea with my sisters for Suzanne’s 50th birthday in August.  If you recall from Life is Good After Fifty (August 16th, 2020), this seashore trip took place in our backyard—and in our imaginations.  It remains alive in our hopes for the next year.  Plan B was executed in my backyard redneck above-ground pool

And we made the best of it, cool weather and all.

Speaking of Suzanne making the best of it, she is living out her Plan B in a big way, and I’m pretty sure it’s better than her Plan A would have been.  She is letting me print her Plan A, which was this:  she was two weeks away from loading up all her possessions in her car (she’s minimal, remember, and they would have fit) and heading for the Florida shore.  She was going to make this her new home.  Now, just over two years later, she is living in her dream home, and her dream guy is soon to become her dream husband.  In that two-week period while she was making her Plan A, he waltzed into her life and, well, you know what happened next.

As her big sister, I must say this:  she is happier than I have ever seen her in this Plan B.

Gail had a Plan A, too.  She married him, had her first two children, and when that union ceased to be The Plan, they both moved on.  Her current husband became Plan B, and she has two more children with him.  Plan B turned out pretty good for her, too.

Both my husband and I had a plan A, which involved alternately dismissing the other for greener pastures.  Before we got married, we took turns walking away and back again, and here we are, 26 years into Plan B.

Our nest recently emptied.  For 23 years, we have had a child living under our roof, and now it is just us.  My dear friend Shari’s nest just emptied after 18 years, and we knew we needed to get away to remember our lives outside of motherhood, because in our day-to-day rounds, we were no longer actively mothering. 

We decided to fill this hole up a bit with a trip to the sea.  Shari planned it, I was all in and we took off on Friday, September 18th.  Our destination was Mustang Beach at Port Aransas, Texas.  Except that Tropical Storm Beta had the same destination in mind, and shortly after our departure, we realized the need for Plan B.

If not for the possible hurricane that didn’t materialize, we never would have discovered beautiful Medicine Park, Oklahoma.  At the urging of several sweet ladies we met along the way, we detoured and spent four nights in this small, but grand town.  Its population is not much more than the tiny town we all grew up in—Shari grew up with us, but it swells with tourists enjoying all the activities we did:  taking in the grandeur of mountains (who knew there were mountains in southwest Oklahoma?), hiking and kayaking, as well as enjoying the relative peace and quiet of this small cobblestone-rich town. 

If you have never been, and you need a getaway, Medicine Park, Oklahoma comes with our highest recommendations.  If you have been to Manitou Springs, Colorado (one of our favorite stops along the way in our westward adventures), think of it as a miniature of this beautiful village. 

Plan A on the beach—had it not been closed—would have been a grand adventure, I’m sure.  But Plan B in Oklahoma was grand as well, and I am so glad we got to experience it. 

And, as a bonus, I got to return a favor to Shari. If you recall in Red Leather Cowboy Boots (June 7th, 2020), she helped me pick out my perfect pair of cowboy boots. In a grand western store in Oklahoma City, I got to help her pick out her perfect pair.

Giddy-up Shari!

Plan B, as I think about it, is most of what life is made of.  Aside from the pandemic, I must say that every other Plan B in my life has been a grand detour. 

I hope the same for every Plan B in your life.

SHARI AND I FOUND T-SHIRTS TO COMMEMORATE OUR BEACH TRIP THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN: LET’S SEA

Happy Birthday today to J.F. He is a young-ish man who has lived his life to the fullest, mostly according to Plan B. He is an incredible man who will likely never let the old man in.

THREE TIMES THE FUN

THREE TIMES THE FUN

Fun is double the fun when it is shared with one.  In most cases, it is triple the fun when it is shared with two.  In the case of my sisters and me, it is always multiplied when we are all three partaking.

I have made it clear in previous posts that Suzanne and I love garage sales.  Gail, not so much.  At least, that’s what she thought.  She has always loved estate sales, but shies away from garage sales. 

This weekend, Gail and her daughter, Lydia, were in our small city for prime-time garage sale-ing.  Saturday morning, Suzanne and I talked them into joining us for the fun, and I think perhaps we may have turned the tide for her. 

It was actually a jackpot for all of us, because there was a massive estate sale in town in a home that apparently housed its members—and their cool stuff—for many years.  We all came away winners from that one.  Gail even stuck around long enough to go back at noon when everything became half-price to score several more expensive treasures:  a large stone crock, a vintage blue fan, and a Depression glass bowl that completed her set.

Suzanne found goodies for her new house and a few other treasures; I found my usual stash for my art projects—especially vintage jewelry. 

These people were obviously cool folks, because we found some goodies from one of our favorite brands with a favorite message:  Life is good. Suzanne found a shirt, and I found a beautiful coffee mug. 

We proceeded to another estate sale, hoping to score big like we had at the last one.  Let’s just say I’m glad we made it out without any purchases.  We couldn’t leave fast enough, but I assured them all that this is indeed a numbers game, and you have to kiss a lot of frogs in the process—much like dating.  Gail was quick to whip her hand sanitizer out of her purse, and we proceeded on to a few more sales.  We should have taken a picture of the disaster that they called an estate sale, but we were too concerned about getting away with our lives, so snapping a picture may have been detrimental. (Have you ever seen the movie Deliverance?)

Then, we were redeemed by Alainna. 

She was the life of the party at her own garage sale, so they got along beautifully, and Gail came away with several beautiful pictures.  We all learned something new, because we had never even heard of a giclee before yesterday:

I chauffeured them around in my car, and with all these treasures we scored, space became tight:

Clearly, Lydia wasn’t having as much fun as we were, but she remained a good sport.  She had no choice, really.  Her mother and two aunts wouldn’t let her hang back.  We are like that when we are faced with a straggler.  Have fun or go home could be our mantra, except Lydia had no choice.  She was celebrating in other ways, however.  She and Gail were in town for her four-month check-up with her endocrinologist.  Her Type One diabetes is in control, her numbers are good, and she has won another four-month battle—and she continues to win the war. 

Gail and Lydia had to leave early in the afternoon, but Suzanne and I are priding ourselves on our possible conversion.  We think perhaps Gail may indeed have come around to our way of thinking. 

If so, next year’s garage sale season may bring exponentially more fun when we get her back to our small city for another morning of garage sale-ing.  In the meantime, Suzanne and I are preparing for one of our own in her new garage/driveway. 

May the circle continue; hopefully our fellow garage-sale buffs will find a new home for our cast-offs.

Gail’s thinking of a new do…

THE SEASON TO CELEBRATE

THE SEASON TO CELEBRATE

It’s that time again, and I don’t like it.  I don’t like the cooler temperatures, I don’t like the shorter days, and I don’t like the thought of cold weather returning.  Call me crazy, but I am in my element when the mercury is in the triple digits. 

I have tried for over fifty years now, but it does no good to be upset about it.  Fall still comes, and behind it, winter.  I try a little harder every year to embrace it, and I think perhaps, I may be just a bit more successful each year.

I am sitting on my porch at 8:40 p.m., feeling the cool breeze.  It is 69 degrees, and I cannot deny that it feels nice.  But with the cool evenings and mornings come the cooler days.  We have had temperatures in the forties this week, and rain for four days straight, no sun.

The backyard pool must come down, and this breaks my heart. 

However, I am seeking out the other joys that arrive only as summer begins to depart.  Like the sunflowers.  For about two glorious weeks at the end of August/beginning of September in Kansas, our state flower is in full bloom in the wild.

This year, my husband planted some in our yard, so we have our own personal blooms to savor. 

I cannot deny that I immensely enjoy this part of late summer.  When it becomes obvious that summer will soon wind down, the state flower steps it up and shows off its unparalleled beauty to remind me that nature’s splendor remains in other ways.  I simply needed to take another look.

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Not that sunflowers aren’t beautiful and grand, but Gail and Suzanne have other, more exciting reasons to celebrate. 

Gail was together with her four children and her two grandchildren two weeks ago.  Her second-born lives in Michigan, and their visits are not frequent enough.  Her grandsons live there with their mother, so these visits are an incredible highlight for all of them.

But Gail, as you already know, can make a celebration out of pretty much nothing.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a bad day or a wasted day in her life.  She chooses to let the bad roll off her back, and focus on the good.

I want to be like her when I grow up.

Both Gail and I have been married for twenty-plus years, and have lived in our homes that long as well.  Both our husbands and our homes are nothing new, but they are tried-and-true, and we are still very much smitten with both.  There are no big celebrations planned at this time, but there is no need for any.  Every day is a gift to be savored.

Suzanne has quite the opposite news.  She is getting both a new house, and a new husband.  This is super-exciting news not just for her, but for Gail and me as well.  Her husband-to-be got a 127% approval rate from both of her sisters, and while Gail has not yet seen her new house, I gave it five stars.  My husband the builder gave it five stars as well when he checked it out for her.  (This never happens.)  Guys aren’t much into approval rates, but I know he finds his future brother-in-law at least as favorable as the house. 

In the interest of her limited self-disclosure, that is really all I can tell you, and that’s enough for you to know she has a lot to celebrate right now.

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If you recall, one of our mother’s many nuggets of wisdom she shared with us was this:  Always have something to look forward to.

In this year of COVID, our excursions have been greatly limited.  Last weekend, however, my husband and I ventured out to western Kansas to see some of our Sunflower State’s natural beauty that we had not yet taken in.

Topped off by an overnight stay at Gail’s house—along with patio sitting, we had a lot to look forward to last week, and none of it disappointed.

This week, I am anticipating a long-overdue trip with a dear friend.  No details at this point, but suffice it to say that even though our backyard pool came down already, my time splashing in the sun is not done yet for this year. 

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Two years ago this fall, I featured a group of six sisters we know who take annual sister trips—all six of them, which makes us look like amateurs, which we are.  This week, they have been celebrating in Michigan, very close to where Gail’s daughter lives.

May their annual celebrations continue to inspire us, and hopefully you, too.  They set the bar high for making it all work, but when family and fun are priorities, they show us that the sky is the limit. 

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I am sitting on the porch again, this time I am savoring the sunshine and 80-degree temperatures.  The weather is simply splendid, even if it lacks perfection by 20 degrees in my book.  The humidity, however, is a breathable 44%, and I cannot deny I do love that part. 

I am working harder than ever to savor every beautiful day of the fall, even if I know that means the cold will be here soon.  I am working on savoring the cold days, too.  Life is too short and too beautiful not to at least try. 

Kansas has four beautiful seasons, and each one is distinct in its gifts.  The hardest gift for me to accept—no matter which season—is the blessed/cursed Kansas wind.  Gail and Suzanne call it blessed, I call it cursed.

Suzanne’s new house is tucked away on an almost-secret street in our small city, surrounded by trees.  I don’t think she realized until I pointed it out to her that she would not have full benefit of the wind.  This may have been a small downer for her, but the wind, along with all the other simple things to celebrate, are always able to be found somewhere.

Sometimes, we just have to look a little bit, and sometimes, we have to look at them differently in order to call them celebrations. 

But they are always there.

THE LUCKIEST BLACK CAT

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THE LUCKIEST BLACK CAT

They weren’t even “cat people” until they met Blackie. They had to take her; she came with the house. She simply wouldn’t leave.

“Blackie” was our parents’ cat. She was an outside cat, faithfully returning to their step every evening after roaming the neighborhood in their small town every day. She was happy there, and they were happy to have her.   Suzanne found her when she was a kitten and got her for Julia, her daughter.  They lived in the same town as Mom and Dad, and soon thereafter, they moved to a house a bit further away.  Blackie didn’t like their new home, and she would go to Mom and Dad’s house.  Knowing she would be a perfect match for Mom and Dad, Suzanne let her stay, but Julia stayed close to her.

She was indeed perfect for them.

When Mom and Dad died, Suzanne took Blackie the four blocks to her home, fully intending to adopt her again and take good care of her just as Mom and Dad did. She did her best, but Blackie kept returning to Mom and Dad’s house. She wouldn’t stay with Suzanne, so she had no choice but to feed and water her there.

The housing market in their small town was tight at the time, and their house sold quickly. Henry and Debbie were hand-picked from above to be the new owners of Mom and Dad’s house. We couldn’t have asked for nicer people to move into the small home that our parents had lived in and enjoyed for eight years after moving to town from the farm.  Henry and Debbie moved to Osborne from another town, so they didn’t know our parents.

“We’re not really cat people,” they said. But they knew that they would be entrusted to the resident cat if they bought the house, and it didn’t deter them from becoming the new owners. Not only were they the most perfect stewards for the house, but they were the most perfect adoptive owners for Blackie.

Apparently, she felt the same way. While she had been a happy outdoor cat, in short order, she became an indoor cat. No longer could Henry and Debbie say they were not “cat people.” Blackie had worked them with her charm, and now she lived inside the house. Her favorite spot, they told us, was the soft cushion on the seat of the glider rocker.

That chair had belonged to our parents.

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Blackie was not your garden-variety cat. She had special powers; specifically, some form of extra-sensory cat perception.

I mentioned that Blackie typically roamed the neighborhood all day, returning to their step every evening. On the afternoon Mom and Dad died, however, the neighbors told us she spent that afternoon on their step. She knew. She was holding vigil.

Four days later, on the morning of their funeral, Gail was getting ready for the service at her mother-in-laws house.  It was just across the street, across an open lot from Mom and Dad’s house.  She saw  Blackie  in that lot, apparently holding her own memorial for her beloved owners. In that lot, there was a gathering of neighborhood cats. It appeared that they had loosely formed a half-circle around Blackie, as if she were delivering her own eulogy to honor her owners who had just passed.

Blackie surely felt lost without Mom and Dad there, but she survived, as cats do. Suzanne continued to take good care of her, and attempted a few more times to take her to back to her house, but she always made her way back to her “real” home.

Henry and Debbie became friends with our family; their kindness during our time of mourning was beyond words. They felt honored to live in the house our parents lived in, often commenting that they wished they had known them. We hate to brag, but it was something about how great their kids were, so surely the parents of these fine folks must have been outstanding people.

They were.

Unfortunately for us, they have since moved to a nearby small city for work reasons. We will always be thankful for their stewardship of Mom and Dad’s house, but especially for their friendship, as well as their tender loving care of Blackie.

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I’ve heard it said that dogs often take on the personalities of their owners, but I can’t say I have heard—or seen the same—with cats. Cats seem to have their own personalities, their own agendas. Blackie, however, was always a kind, obedient and docile cat, not to mention smart. Of course, this is a direct reflection on our parents, and then Henry and Debbie.

Henry was famous for posting great stories about Blackie on Facebook. His post detailing her last day is below:

If you have spent any time with me in the last few years, you have probably heard me talk about Blackie the sweet cat. She has been with us since we moved to Osborne in 2008 and she was already several years old. We think she was 17.

Blackie’s health has been failing this summer. Thursday, Blackie was able to wander around the yard awhile, but by Friday night it was obvious it was her last day. Those of you who knew her know that she was an amazing cat.

Blackie was smart and obedient. She had a pretty good vocabulary of words she understood and would obey quite a few commands. We let her sharpen her claws anywhere she wanted on the carpet. One day she decided to use a nice rug instead. I told her NO and she never clawed that rug again. That was well over 10 years ago.

One of my favorite things to do with her was to have her hunt for treats. I would tell her “HUNT,” and give her hand signals like you might for a bird dog. She would follow the signals. When she got close I would say “LOOK,” and she would stop and carefully search the immediate area until she found the treat.

Everybody loves their pets and hurts when they are gone. Many tears in Hays tonight.

Thank you to the Ketter family for letting Blackie be a part of our lives. Thank you to the Osborne and Hays Veterinary Clinics for the care they gave Blackie (and us) through the years.

The first picture is as a kitten with Julia (Suzanne’s daughter) who has so graciously allowed us to have Blackie with us. The second photo is the last one of her drinking from the bird bath on Thursday.

I love the last photo because yes Blackie was a black cat and this is the most Black Cat photo we have of her.

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 Blackie as a kitten with Suzanne’s daughter Julia

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Blackie’s last trip outdoors on Thursday of this week

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Blackie was truly a black cat.

I’m not even a “cat person,” but I had to wipe a few tears as I copied this.

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Gail, Suzanne and I mourned together by phone this weekend.  Suzanne and I were consoling each other yesterday after we got the news.  I had this thought already, as well as the awareness she then had, but she verbalized it first:

It’s like the last living piece of Mom and Dad’s history is gone. Wait, I guess all seven of us are still here…”

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My faith assures me that a person’s spirit lives on in the next world. Until now, I never though much about an animal’s spirit. Being farm girls, Suzanne and I recently talked about how we knew from early on that animals on the farm—whether it was livestock, or the multiple farm cats and dogs –were destined for a very temporary stay with us. It was the way of the farm world. I remember mourning several of our farm dogs when they passed. They had become family members in a sense, but life always went on.  Several cats became beloved as well, but none were as special as Blackie.

I haven’t felt this moved by an animal’s passing since then. Blackie was indeed a part of our family, then she lived on as a part of Henry and Debbie’s family.

I believe her spirit lives on. It has too. She was too smart, too kind, too special for her spirit to be gone forever. I believe this with all my heart.

And I’m not even a cat person.

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 The luckiest black cat ever, looking out the front window of Mom and Dad’s/Henry and Debbie’s house.

LIFE IS GOOD AFTER FIFTY

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LIFE IS GOOD AFTER FIFTY

And we should know.

As of today, August 16th, 2020, the three sisters of The Sister Lode are officially fifty years old or older. Suzanne celebrated her 50th birthday today, and, as much as we could, we helped her.  Her initial hopes of spending it on an exotic beach were reduced to a day in our backyard above-ground pool. In the end, those hopes were dashed, too. There wasn’t even any sand, and, we didn’t even get wet today. We were ready, though. Ready with our respective spirit animals of the sea, and they had to huddle together to fight the storm.

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The rain started with just a few drops,

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then storms rolled in around noon.

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The clouds lingered. When it did warm up, the pool water was too cold, so Suzanne found a dry spot inside Gail’s whale/narwhal.

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Our friends Bonnie and Judy showed up again, just as they did a few posts ago. They were ready to celebrate, too. These sisters were dressed to the nines again, but didn’t bring their suits, so they took a quick float on my seahorse.

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Suzanne’s love of mermaids became the theme for the weekend, but the overriding theme was that age is indeed a gift. Fifty may sound old until you get there, and we have decided separately and together that life is indeed good, no matter what the age.

It’s always Fifty-o’clock somewhere.

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I resurrected my Life is good® T-shirt from my birthday four years ago to further the festive mood,

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and Gail reminisced about her epic 60th birthday party in February. She, too, wore one of her many Life is good® shirts, as this is one of our favorite ways to share the love.

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Suzanne’s daughter made the short trip to join us, she is always a welcome smiling face.

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We enjoyed family and plenty of good food, and, of course, good porch-sitting.

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Each of us has an affinity for separate sea creatures, forming them independent of each other. This tells me that a part of each of us belongs to the beach, and we hope to find one again soon.

Suzanne loves mermaids because, if one had the power to escape to places where few would follow like these mythical creatures can, she thinks that would be fabulous.

Gail loves whales because they are a powerful presence to be reckoned with. She doesn’t fully realize it, but so is she—in a very good way.

I love seahorses because they are unique creatures in several ways. The male gives birth, and they are known to swim vertically as well as horizontally.   I like to think I don’t always follow the “normal” patterns in life when I find a way that works better for me.

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Last time I posted, I wrote that as long as we have the power to change a situation, we should never lose hope. None of us can change the pandemic situation that is dictating the new rules, but we must do our part. We decided to wait until perhaps her 51st birthday to try for the beach getaway. It doesn’t matter when, celebrating safely is always a good idea.

We are holding on to that hope, because we are doing our part.

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Happy Birthday Suzanne. Life is indeed good.

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Whenever your birthday is, happy birthday to you, too. And never forget that age is a gift.

ASK…AND HOPE

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ASK…AND HOPE

I live in a rural area.   When I take my daily run, I begin on the highway, and go half a mile in either direction before I turn on to a gravel road. The highway is well traveled, and these side roads have some traffic as well.   In my 22-plus years of running along these roads, I have found some interesting treasures on the roadside, but none as interesting as the one I found a few weeks ago.

I have had intermittent trouble with my left knee, and now my left hip is making noise, too. I had a quarter mile left to go on this particular day, and I gave in to the pain.

Maybe I need a new knee,” I thought.

Maybe I need a new hip, too,” I added.

“Maybe I just need a whole new leg.” I left it at that.

Now, I don’t wear my glasses when I run, so I can’t see small things clearly. However, not even 100 yards after I sent up that request,  I ran right by this treasure. I realized I’d better go back and take another gander. It was flesh-colored and only several inches long, so I couldn’t quite visually decipher it.

I bent down to pick it up.

Be careful what you wish for.

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It was even the left leg. I guess I needed to be more specific, because it was obviously too small, and a bit battered from the roadside trauma.

Prior to this find, my most interesting roadside treasure was a beautiful blown-glass marijuana pipe. Initially, I left it behind. I didn’t want to be in possession of paraphernalia, which, as I understand, is a crime in my state.

It was still there the next day, so I picked it up. I incorporated it into an art project and gifted it to a friend who was moving to a state where she could be legally in possession.

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I recall an article written by a famous TV doctor who told the story of his patient, a woman who, without life-saving surgery, was sure to die. No one had survived her condition without surgery. Her religion forbade such invasive procedures, and her family chose instead to gather around her and pray for her.

This doctor expressed that he was incredulous with disbelief, unable to understand how anyone could deny their loved one this life-saving treatment. Without it, his expertise told him she didn’t stand a chance at survival.

But she did survive. And he reported that he would never again doubt the power of prayer.

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It helps me to think of prayer—the kind where we ask for things (my most common form), as a flexing of our spiritual muscles. When we pray—whatever form it may take, it can be an individual, or in this woman’s case, a collective flexing of many muscles joining together, directing their spiritual energy toward one goal.  The more people praying, the greater chance of the petition being answered. Think of it as a group of people lifting a car off of a person, whereas one person may not be able to do it alone.

But asking alone is okay, too. Asking for something in prayer and knowing that some force greater than our own is listening is a gift of grace. If you have ever asked for anything from this divine source, however, you know that your wish isn’t always granted. This may very well be a good thing.

I believe our prayers are always heard, even if they aren’t answered. Sometimes, as in the case of my new leg that was immediately granted, it is apparent that our prayers need to be specific. I should have described the leg I wanted a little better.

I believe, too, that no matter how jumbled and disjointed our prayers may be, the meaning is always heard.

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I believe that sometimes, we ask for things that are not what we really need. We think we know what we need, but perhaps we are not ready for it yet. Or, maybe it is indeed what we need, but we need to do a little more work on our own to get there.

I remember many nights of homework with my boys. One in particular stands out. My youngest son heaved his heavy backpack up on to the kitchen counter while I was doing the dinner dishes on the other side of the counter.

“Mom, will you help me with my homework?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “But you haven’t even started. You need to do everything that you know how to do, and then I will help you after that.”

He looked up at me with a groaning expression, as if to imply that I would make it a whole lot easier for him if I just helped him from the start, even before he did his part. Of course, it would have.

I was busy doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, and he had the ability to get at least some of it done. Sure, it would have been much easier for him if I helped him, but he wouldn’t learn that way. Plus, I knew he could get it if he tried. He had the knowledge and the know-how.

I think that sometimes we are able to do more than what we attempt; we have the ability. It is much easier, however, to ask for divine intervention to make it easier for us to reach our goals. But we wouldn’t learn that way. And we wouldn’t be using our gifts and knowledge. Plus, I think God is busy doing the dishes sometimes and we can get started while he finishes them. When we deplete all our energy, when we have utilized the gifts we were given to figure these things out, then I think God steps in.

And, just like I smiled upon my son for putting his resources to work and exhausting them to get closer to the solution before I helped, I think we are smiled down on from above when we do our homework on our own, as far as we are able.

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Since I gave up hope, I feel so much better.”

Even though Gail and Suzanne don’t remember, I recall Mom saying this. Now, it needs to be qualified: I believe she meant that it was a relief to give up on changing other people, not to give up hope on a brighter future, brighter because you have done all you can do to make it that way, and you have said your prayers.

The world right now needs hope. If, like me, you are feeling a sense of doom about the current state of our world, it is helpful to remind ourselves that there is indeed hope. We should not give up hope on a brighter future. But right now, we all need to do whatever we can to keep ourselves and others safe; this is our homework right now.

Gail, Suzanne and I are products of Small-Town Kansas. For the last sixty-plus years, our hometown has hosted an incredible festival. The Tipton Church Picnic takes place on the first Saturday of every August. Festival-goers come from far and wide to take place in the various activities that keep our private, Catholic high-school operating. It has always been one of the smallest high schools in the state, but it keeps going strong.

Except this year.

It should be happening right now as I write on Saturday evening. Even though I don’t always go, and we weren’t going to make it this year due to a family wedding that we didn’t go to either, it still breaks my heart that it is not taking place.

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Last year’s festival.  The high school is on the left.

The auction that typically brings in over six figures will now take place online, as will the raffles. Without fail, the generosity of the attendees has provided an abundant windfall every year to keep the school doors open. I have hope that, even though it is taking place virtually, it will again prove abundant.

The full-course chicken dinner—complete with homemade pies—will not happen either, nor will the locally famous burgers be sold by the thousands well into the night.

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Last year’s feasts, pictures courtesy of Gail.

I consume both, and to honor this, I made peach pies today. Even though they were made from fresh, luscious Colorado peaches, it won’t taste as good as the pie at the Picnic.

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My boys are grilling hamburgers and while they, too, will be delicious, it won’t be quite the same.

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Gail is celebrating on her own with a cold one in the classic koozie that is an annual souvenir.  Being the gamblers she and I are, we always practice hope in that we will be big winners at the raffle…maybe this year.

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I have hope that next year, the Tipton Church Picnic will happen again. I’m going to ask.

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There is another small Kansas town that, by its very name, exemplifies the spirit of Kansas. I drove through there on my travels last week.

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We are a tough bunch, and our hope and faith will get us through.

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Gail, Suzanne and I are aunties again. Late in June, our brother and his wife added to their family. Their son was born here in the hospital in the small city Suzanne and I live in. Initially, both mother and baby fared well, but complications arose. Blake had to spend a week in the NICU, and his mother pulled through after her crisis. I don’t think I’ve prayed that hard in a long time.

Suzanne and I were able to visit with them—minus the baby—in the lobby after passing the COVID screenings. Spending time with them gave me hope that they were going to be okay, because their hope and faith were obvious.

As I waited for them before one of our visits, I picked up a magazine and leafed through it. Inside, someone had left a handwritten message, asking for hope and help with prayer to get through their crisis. Even though I have no idea who it was, my heart broke for them, and I haven’t forgotten about them, haven’t lost hope for them. I continue to ask for help and grace for them, whomever they are.

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Asking for help from above and all around is sometimes all anyone can do in the most desperate of times.

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I began this post early this week. Mom, in her usual style, found a way to let me know she is still with all of us. I have referred many times to her “pink book,” and when I opened it Friday, she had highlighted the entire title. I think this means she liked the entire passage for that day.

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I believe I will believe. And ask. And receive. And continue to hope. Sometimes, the asking is as basic as simply asking for wisdom and strength to know how to use your gifts. I believe this is our homework right now in these crazy times. God is probably pretty busy doing dishes and cleaning up bigger messes than mine or yours, but when we have used all our resources, I believe we will get the help we need.

I believe I should have been more specific when I asked for the new leg. If I had, perhaps I would have been granted the right left leg.

I believe that these tough times will pass, and although we may not be able to be as carefree as we were in the past, there is hope for happiness to return.

Loss in life has taught me that we can endure more than we think we can.  And in the end, we emerge stronger, more faithful, and believers in hope for brighter days.  And those brighter days  will indeed come, but we may have to ask.

And, as Mom and Dad taught us, don’t forget to say thank you.

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Ban Breathnach, S. (1995). Simple Abundance.  New York, Warner Books

HOME IS WHERE THE SISTERS ARE

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HOME IS WHERE THE SISTERS ARE

Last weekend, I had the privilege of spending time on our family farm. And, as a bonus, three of our four brothers were there. Spending time with them is always welcome. However, neither Suzanne nor Gail were there.

This weekend, I got to see Gail and Suzanne.

Unlike harvest, this visit wasn’t planned. It was an impromptu decision both Suzanne and I made to make the trip to Gail’s house for the weekend only 24 hours before we took off. We were bored, tired of staying home, and Gail, in her usual gracious style, invited us to come.

Sometimes, spur-of-the-moment decisions are the best. Sometimes, like this weekend.

We took off separately late Friday afternoon with our respective other halves, arriving at Gail’s with daylight to spare. The patio called, and we answered.

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Four years ago this week, Gail, Suzanne and I arrived on St. Pete Beach, Florida. Even if no one else thought so, we owned the place for four days. It was epic, and it was the topic of my first blog post three years ago. We had hoped to make another such historic trip for Suzanne’s upcoming milestone birthday, but it appears that travel restrictions will keep that dream from coming true.

I take a summer vacation with my husband and sons as well, but it appears we won’t be going anywhere this summer. Our boys are now grown and independent, and perhaps have better things to do, but even if we could, there may be nowhere to go.

Thus, this trip to Gail’s house—in one of only three counties in Kansas that have zero reported cases of COVID—may indeed be our summer vacation.

It’s always a vacation when my sisters are there. Without our mom on earth, home is now where my sisters are—no matter where we are. The beach in Florida is one of our favorite destinations, but Gail’s is a close second. It feels like home when the three of us are there.

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It should be no surprise to any of you who know us, either in person or through the blog or both, that we make our own fun, no matter where we are.

It may be dancing to classic rock at 11:15 in the morning in Camp Gail—the highly personalized spot we hang out in at her house, the spot where our four pictures at the beginning of this blog are taken,

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touring the new-to-her house and yard she recently bought to renew while still keeping the retro look,

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watching her in the garden–she loves it,

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or welcoming Sunday morning back on the patio.

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And, of course, we never tell all when we get together, just some. There were a few antics that will remain just between us, because that’s how we roll.

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We will give you a little teaser about Judy and Bonnie, two sisters who joined us this weekend.  They are my latest garage sale treasures, and they were sworn to secrecy regarding our antics.  You may see more of them in the future.

We hit the one garage sale happening in Gail’s small town, and shopped where we could—including the thrift store.

We ate high on the hog, and indulged in our favorite libations.

Our significant others enjoy time together as well, which is always a bonus.

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It is now Sunday evening and we are all back in our respective homes. The party is over, but there will be more.  This post is purposely short, because, again, we don’t tell all. Plus, we spent most of our time hanging out, which left little time for writing. That’s how it’s supposed to be when we are together.

If you have your mother here, make sure take the time and make the effort to find home within her presence. If you don’t, and you have a sister or sisters, may you find that peace and joy with her/them.

It’s the next best thing, and it can be wonderful. We are living proof.