PEELING POTATOES

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PEELING POTATOES

Today is Easter Sunday, and I want to offer you the warmest Easter well-wishes.  The day is almost over as I write, but my hope and prayer for you–and for myself–is that the spirit of Easter may live on every day of the year.

It is fitting that we celebrate Easter in early spring when new life abounds.  The grass and trees are green again, and renewal is all around.  The great circle of nature begins once again; the promise of warmer days is being fulfilled. Like Easter, you could even consider it a miracle.

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I spent the weekend with family.  Yesterday, both Suzanne and I traveled north to the home of one of our brothers who lives near our family farm, where another brother lives.  Three of our four brothers were there; Gail was in Denver where her college-age son was playing volleyball for his school’s men’s club.  Our gatherings are always a bit more subdued without Gail, but, alas, she will be in our small city next weekend.

Today–Sunday–I traveled south to celebrate with my husband’s family.  More food and festivities followed, and family ties were celebrated.

I prepared and proffered deviled eggs today; yesterday I brought Mom’s famous potato dish to our family gathering.  As I stood by the kitchen sink peeling potatoes, I thought about Mom, and the thousands of potatoes she peeled for our daily meat-and-potatoes meals on the farm.  Thousands of potatoes, peeled as an offering of love for her family.  The more I peeled, the more I thought about her.  The more I thought about her, the more I felt her there, and it was sweet-bitter.  She wouldn’t be joining us physically for Easter, but she would indeed be there.

And she was.  So was Dad.  Whenever we are together, they are there.

It’s that simple.  It only takes potatoes and a little bit of tuning in.

The renewal miracles of Easter and nature are always there for us if we simply tune in.

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I had a great birthday this past week.  It, too, was simple.  Good food, family and friends; even a little bit of cake on my face–thanks to Suzanne and our friend Tanya.

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Thanks to all who helped me celebrate, and for all the well-wishes.  Please be sure to celebrate your next birthday, no matter how simple your celebration is.

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I’m spending the rest of Easter Sunday simply, which means I am keeping this post short.  I didn’t even post all three pictures at the beginning from our three Thanksgiving celebrations since the blog started; I only posted one.

Sometimes, less is more.  Sometimes, less than 500 words is better than my typical 2,000-plus.  Sometimes, something as mundane as peeling potatoes can bring unexpected joy, if we are open to it.

And sometimes, the most beautiful pictures taken are of the scenery we may overlook at first, like I did with this one until Suzanne pointed it out from our brother’s yard.

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My next six weeks are filled with weekend activities, and my posts may be hit-and-miss.  As always, I appreciate all of you who take the time to read my blog posts.

Happy Easter today, and every day.

IN CELEBRATION OF BIRTHDAYS

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IN CELEBRATION OF BIRTHDAYS

When we were kids, our parents always celebrated our birthdays.  Up until at least age 18 while we lived at home, Mom would be sure to make a cake of our choice, a special meal—again, our choice, and at least one small gift.

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When we turned ten, each of us got to have a full-on party, complete with gift-bearing friends invited.  Just one big party, and it was enough.  We anticipated the big decade mark for the party we would get to have in our honor.

Our younger brother was born on Christmas Eve.  Mom always made sure to observe his birthday that day, but she would sometimes plan a celebration later in the year–I remember one in July–so that his birthday would not be overshadowed by the holiday.

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I’m going to put it right out there:  I am having a birthday this week, and I am so excited.  I always get excited about my birthday.  I know it’s because our parents celebrated the day we arrived on the earth, into our family.  As an adult, Mom would call me at 4:15 p.m. on my birthday, the exact minute I was born.

This year, I am completing my 53rd trip around the sun, and I am not one bit ashamed to admit that.  Then, the day after my birthday, I will embark on my 54th sojourn, as time will not stand still to ask me if, perhaps, I’d like to take a little respite.   I embrace and welcome the opportunity to keep traveling.

Gail and Suzanne are on the same page with me.  We all agree birthdays are to be proclaimed, noticed and celebrated.  They do it for theirs, so I am taking pride in telling the world IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!img_20180414_151600003.jpg

Here I go again.  I’ve been up on this soapbox several times before, and I am getting back up on this perch again to tell you yet one more time:

AGE IS A GIFT.  Which is why I celebrate.  The old joke about how it’s better than the alternative is trite, but true, at least for those we celebrate with on earth.  Last week, however, I wrote about what lies beyond this plane, and all three of us agree it is something way better than this. So, technically, we don’t really believe birthdays are better than the alternative.  Again, as the country song says, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to go right now…”

Age is a gift to be unwrapped and enjoyed, just like any other gift.  Just as it would be an insult to the giver to complain about a material gift, it is an insult to the Giver to complain about being given another year.

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This board was posted on the wall in the employee area of one of the long-term care facilities I travel to, with anyone welcome to comment.  

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I meet some incredible people in my work as a speech therapist in health care.  I have honored some of them in the past by printing their wisdom, and, just in time for my birthday post, I met another one last week.  She will soon be 90 years old.  She lives alone, independently, as she has for years.

“I can’t wait to be 90.  I know some incredible people who are already there, and I can’t wait to join them,” she said.

If I feel it is appropriate, I often ask these elders what their secrets are to aging successfully.  Clearly, it was appropriate to ask her this question.

I’m continuing to be me.  I’m not allowing age to change me.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been discouraged.  I don’t let things get me down.  I can’t change getting old.  What am I gonna do?  Sit in a chair and rock away?”

As final words of wisdom, she offered this: “If you haven’t done what you want to do, do it now.  As soon as you can.”

We’ll call her “Ruby.”  She is a gem indeed.  I could tell you about the unique and interesting hobbies she still engages in, but that may very well be a HIPPA violation, as they may identify her due to her uniqueness.

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I decided several years ago that the best gift I get each year is from Mother Nature.   Just in time for my birthday, she typically gets the verdant green on the ground, and the leaves hung on the trees.  All for me.

Several years ago, she didn’t quite make it in time. My gift arrived a little late.  This year, however, it appears she is going to deliver in time.

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The Bradford Pear trees are in full bloom in our neighbor’s yard.

Mother Nature and Father Time have become my allies; I no longer try to fight them.  It’s pointless.  I have struggled more with Mother Nature lately; perhaps I need—yet again—to try to take Gail’s advice from last week about savoring whatever weather she brings.  Western Kansas got a spring blizzard last week; Gail’s small town shut down school and some other community operations.  The next day, the snow was gone.

Father Time, on the other hand, is now my friend.  I used to despise him for bringing another hash mark on my birthday tally, but I am old and wise enough to now know that every year, every month and week, every moment of every day is a gift.

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I always have, and still do—for the most part—think that women need to embrace the lines and wrinkles that age brings.  They are typically hard-earned and well deserved.  Surgery and expensive cosmetic treatments and procedures are a form of denial, and simply embracing the change is the healthiest and most natural thing to do.

That is, of course, until it is my face showing the age.

Last week, I looked in the mirror, and just like that, seemingly overnight, I had jowls.  I wasn’t even sure that was the right word; I hadn’t paid much attention because I really hadn’t cared until now.  I looked it up—being the word nerd I am—and sure enough, indeed they were jowls, arriving just in time for my 53rd birthday.

This rude awakening coincided with my haircut appointment.  I had a few minutes to read her magazines before it was my turn, and I picked up a popular magazine from a few months ago that highlighted the fads of 2018.

I’m not one to jump on any bandwagon, so I had never even heard of a jade roller.  There it was, being debated as useful vs. useless to tighten and shape skin on one’s face.

This interested me more than a little bit.  Some of the work I do—including some I did just yesterday—involves exercising and tightening facial muscles after a stroke.  The gentleman I saw had a recent stroke, and his left side was weak, including his lips and facial muscles.  He was losing liquid out of the corner of his mouth, and this becomes a functional problem that I treat.

So I did.

Knowing the value of stimulating facial muscles, I continued to research the jade roller.  Apparently, jade has been used for centuries for its seemingly magical healing qualities.  The jury appears to be out, but from my professional experience, this type of stimulation may be worth considering.

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I don’t need a party or widespread attention on my birthday.  I’m still getting a lot of mileage from the 50th birthday party three years ago.  It’s not too early to begin planning for Gail’s 60th, which will be in just ten short months.  Suzanne will have a big one in 16 months, and we will certainly blow the roof off for both of those.

I do have one request for a gift from you:  Please celebrate your own birthday.  If you don’t think it’s important, then you have some work to do.  Start by figuring out where that crazy idea came from, and work to change that.  Observing the day you arrived on earth is not ever to be dismissed as unimportant.

If “Ruby” is going to celebrate her 90th birthday, you’d better celebrate yours, too, no matter how old you are.

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I don’t have grand plans for my birthday, but I do plan to do what I please—for the most part.  Perhaps a dinner with my family, perhaps soaking up some rays that Mother Nature is predicted to deliver that day, reading, napping and even a little work—if I have to.

These freedoms to do my thing are the best gifts of all—along with Mother’s Nature’s touch outdoors.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I haven’t treated myself to a few goodies as well.  I don’t really need anything, but I indulged a few small wants.

The wants include the jade roller.  I don’t need it, but I am curious.  Plus, it was only 12.97 on Amazon…I will give you my product review in time.  Until then, I will do my best to embrace the jowls, and all the other gifts that age brings.

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Happy Birthday to my birthday buddies:  Charlie— a college friend born on the same day in the same year; Lois—a former co-worker, my new friend Glenda, and Libby—one day before me, a former co-worker as well.  My cousin Theresa celebrates one day before as well.  Happy Birthday today–Sunday– to Tammy.  Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law Melissa; she celebrates on tax day.  Happy Birthday too to Nesha; she lives in my small city now, having been born one day after me in the same hospital.  We were buddies in the hospital nursery.  My niece celebrates two days later, and so does my friend Nicole.

Whenever your birthday happens to be, Happy Birthday to you, too.

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GAIL-ISMS

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GAIL-ISMS

Our mom had a penchant for collecting quotes, sayings, quips, cartoons and words of wisdom on paper, and she saved them in this box:

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I have frequently referred to them throughout my blogs, and, for us, they never fail to inspire.

Dad has his own wisdom as well, and I have shared that with you in many posts.

If you are a regular reader, you are likely aware that Gail, too, has her own wisdom.  So does Suzanne.  I sometimes try to disguise my input as wisdom; I hope I have given you some small bits worth your read.

This post, however, focuses on Gail’s words of wisdom.  She has much to share, and she has agreed to do just that today.   Suzanne has agreed to share hers another time.

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Gail and her daughter Lydia stopped by my house this afternoon on their way home west after spending the weekend east in Kansas City.  Gail’s son Wyatt was there playing volleyball for his state university’s men’s club volleyball team.

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He’s one of the best blockers on the block.

Because Gail had spent the weekend in a gymnasium with multiple volleyball games going on, she was in a competition state of mind.  Her first offering was this:

“Winning or losing, play your best until the end of the game.”

And whatever “best” means, remember this: “Always give 100%, but not everyone’s 100% is the same.  Don’t compare yours to someone else’s.”

I talked to her while driving home, and she offered this:

“Drive defensively, but be courteous.  Two or three car lengths won’t make a difference to your destination.  This, of course, works the same way in life.  Be kind.  And don’t rush all the time.  It doesn’t help.”

After an enjoyable weekend with three of her four children—her oldest daughter joined them—reflections on fun were appropriate:

“Don’t be afraid to have fun.  The more you have, the more you can share.”

Someone close to her recently quit smoking, a task they simply decided to do.  Gail believes in the power of mind over matter.

Make the choice to control bad habits that are controlling you.”

And for those who have had bad habits, or made regretful mistakes in the past (that would likely be most of us), she offers this:

“You can’t change the past, but you have the power to cultivate a present and future that doesn’t reflect your past.”

If only we could edit out the bad parts like I did with this blog just before I posted it, or crop out the unfavorable parts like I did with the pictures, life would be so much easier.

As we sometimes do, Gail and I spent a while discussing the books we are currently absorbed in.

“As Dr. Seuss says, ‘The more you read, the more you’ll know.’”

I am currently re-reading a fabulous memoir written by a Kansas farm girl much like us, but with struggles we never experienced.   She has made a name for herself on the bestseller list, and rightfully so.   She will be speaking just 45 minutes down the road from my small city next week, and I will be there.

Always have something to look forward to,” is timeless wisdom from our mother.  I am anticipating a great evening.

And speaking of our mother, it has always been a priority for us to live a life of peace and harmony in our family, not just to honor Mom’s message at their funeral, but because it is important to us.  We have all lived long enough, however, to know that some families can be sticky creatures, and keeping peace within them may not be an easy task.  To that end, Gail offers this:

“Families can be made or chosen.  Either way, living in peace with them should always be a priority.  It’s worth the work.”

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Suzanne stopped by my home while Gail was here, and we had a great visit, as always.

The words of wisdom that resound most frequently with me from both Suzanne and Gail involve the weather.  It’s a big no-brainer that complaining about the weather does absolutely no good, but Gail and Suzanne seem to have a better handle on this than I do.  They love the wind; I loathe it.  They accept the wind and the cold; I complain about it.

Notwithstanding the return of the winter-like temperatures predicted for mid-week next week, it appears that spring is indeed springing.

Yellow is one of my favorite colors, and it seems to be nature’s first harbinger of the warmer temperatures soon to come:

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The forsythia blooms are always a brilliant yellow

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Some people call them weeds…

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Daffodils never disappoint

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I feel my spirits lifting; the sun and the heat revitalize me, and make me love Kansas once again.  It was a long and difficult winter for our area; the cold, gray, wind and ice relented just enough after each storm to herald yet another round.  My soul began to feel drained and weary.

The late winter weeks dealt me several cruel blows, as I lost a handful of beloved patients that, in my fairy tale mind, really weren’t going to die.  Ever.  But they did.  I am no stranger to death taking people from me, but these losses wrought me and hollowed out my already-weary soul.  I couldn’t have done anything to help them in the end, much like hundreds of other patients I have lost.

Somehow, though, these few have stuck with me.

“Grief is for the living,” a wise friend told me years ago, and that, too, has stuck with me.   I know in my heart of hearts that their suffering is over and they have no desire to come back here, so I must let them go in my heart, just as I did with Mom and Dad.

Gail has no fear, not even of death.  She embraces it as a certain eventuality, having no control over its ultimate arrival.  I like to say I don’t either, but I can’t put myself on par with her.

“Like the weather, death is a fact of life and it’s going to come. It does no good to get upset about either one,” Gail said.

If Heaven is indeed a place of happiness and joy beyond our wildest imaginations, then hopefully, I’m in.  Paraphrased from the wise words of a country singer, “Everyone wants to go to Heaven, but no one wants to go right now.”

If Heaven is like a theater, I’m pretty sure my parents have front-row seats.  I’ll take a seat in the nosebleed section, if that means I made it.  Gail and Suzanne will likely have floor seats, probably somewhere in the middle.   It will be a gigantic theater, but I’m sure it will be easy to find the people you want to see.

Like my patients.  And, of course, Mom and Dad.

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Happy Spring from The Sister Lode

WHEN COUNTRY WASN’T COOL

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WHEN COUNTRY WASN’T COOL

I couldn’t play a musical instrument to save my life.  Yet, every day, music saves my life.  Every day, at almost every moment when I can, I have music playing.  It fills me up, calms me down and transports me to magical places.  Very simply, it makes me happy.

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When my stepson was in college, he came for a weekend visit.  As he drove up the driveway, his music arrived before he did.   I was standing outside with my firstborn; he was about 12 years old.

“Wow, his music is loud,” I said.

“Mom, that’s what it sounds like when you pull up, too,” he said, in his usual poker-faced style.

I was busted.  I didn’t deny it either.

I’m pretty sure I still sound like that when I pull up, and it’s worth it to me.

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I am writing at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, March 30th.  Happy Birthday to our dad today; he would have been 85 years old.  Last week, I posted that I wanted to celebrate his birthday in a big way:  by going to the Willie Nelson concert in Newkirk, Oklahoma, a mere 2 ½ hour drive from my home.  However, since it is now 8:11 p.m., and the concert started at 8:00, clearly, I will not be going to the show.

I went to the website to check into purchasing tickets, and the show venue reported the bad news:  SOLD OUT.  The secondary sellers had some left, but for their inflated cost worth a month of groceries, I decided having had seen him three times already would have to suffice—for now.    The iconic Willie is one of my all-time favorites—obviously.

So, in his honor, I loaded up my five-disc CD changer with Willie CDs—I own eleven—all day.  I had my own concert in my home.

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Gail is the CD queen.  In her CD-purchasing heyday, she built her collection up to about 700 CDs.  I may own perhaps 200.  Suzanne—ever the minimalist– said she owns only enough to fit into a shoebox.

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Gail stores most of the CDs in old suitcases…

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Gail has vinyl too–this was her first purchase, followed by this sampling:

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Our oldest brother got his first turntable in the early 70’s, and Gail reports she was hooked.  It was a top-of-the-line Pioneer system.  T-Rex and Badfinger were the two bands she remembers most clearly from those early days of her newfound love of music.

Gail kept most of her vinyl, even replacing some of her favorites with the same one on CD.   She began her CD collection sometime in the late 1980’s, I think.  Several years later,  needing an adventure, I spent 1990 in suburban Philadelphia as a nanny.  Gail, Suzanne and I were not as close then as we are now, but we were still tight.  We kept in touch by phone—the land-line kind—and I recall very clearly a phone conversation Suzanne and I had, I think in the fall:

“I’m kind of worried about Gail,” Suzanne said.  “ I think she’s gone off the deep end with this new country music thing.  There’s this guy, Garth Brooks, and she listens to him all the time.  He has this song ‘Friends in Low Places,’ and she just loves it.”

This was the beginning of “New Country,” and Gail’s tastes were obviously on the cutting edge.  Suzanne and I just didn’t know it yet.

We have our favorite country artists, both new and old.  You know who my “old country” favorite is already.  Suzanne doesn’t have a clear favorite, old or new.  Gail also had a spell of Kenny Chesney fever, having gone to several of his concerts.

Being Gail, she found a way to express herself, even among thousands of other fans.  She and a friend saw him in Kansas City, and made a sign that read “KC in KC.”  They followed him to Oklahoma City, and made a sign that read “KC in OKC.”

Coming from Gail, this shouldn’t surprise you.  She finds a way to express herself, and it usually draws positive attention.

I am a concert goer, too.  Having been bitten by the bug with the Beach Boys live as a teenager, right here in my small city, I have always loved to hear my favorite musicians live, sometimes more than once.

None of us knew at the time, but the woman about my age singing with her family band at a wedding dance I went to with my college roommate when I went to her southern Kansas farm home with her in 1985 would become famous.  She was Kansas’s own Martina McBride.  Obviously, some wonderful women came from that neck of the woods; I credit Marilyn as my inspiration to become a speech therapist.

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I have seen Martina McBride two other times, and she has the biggest, most beautiful voice I have ever heard coming from such a tiny woman.  I am biased, but I think her version of “How Great Thou Art” is the best recorded version of all time.  If you haven’t heard it, check it out.  You won’t be disappointed, especially when she hits the high notes at the end.

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I have seen Phil Collins twice, and I would love to see him again.  Mary Chapin Carpenter is another one I have seen twice, and will drop everything when she comes around again.  I have about a dozen CDs from each of them.

Having crossed Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen off my ‘Buffet’ list, that leaves Van Morrison and Jimmy Buffet as must-sees.

Our small city boasts a beautiful art-deco theater in its downtown, offering unparalleled acts like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from just ten days ago.  Among the other stars I have taken in there include:  Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, Jackson Browne, Lindsay Buckingham, Jewel, The Mavericks, Cheap Trick, Rob Thomas, Weird Al Yankovic, George Jones, Don Williams, Phil Vassar, Rick Springfield, Willie Nelson once, as well as his son Lucas Nelson in a separate show, and Martina McBride one of the two times, then again down the road a few months later in Manhattan, Kansas.

Music is a healing balm, providing the brain with stimulation that cannot be achieved in any other way.  In my work with stroke patients, I have encountered several talented, certified music therapists who provide musical stimulation to the injured brain.  The results are always positive.

Music—specifically special songs—have the power to transport us back in time to a place filled with memories, as if we are returning there physically.  Every time I hear Boston singing “More Than A Feeling,” I am immediately transported back to May, 1982.  And that’s all I am going to tell you about why I remember that song.

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Our living room remodel that I recently wrote about cramped my style in several ways, chiefly the loss of my in-home CD player.

Our five-disc changer, along with the rest of the components sit in this Hoosier cabinet that my husband refinished.  It sat in our grandmother’s garage for years, having been carted from one home to another after a previous resident left it in their newly-acquired home years ago.  Wanting to pass it on, and knowing my husband was the man for the job, she gave it to us.  It began as a dilapidated treasure, but he restored it to its present state of beauty:

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The components are in the bottom,

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And the CDs are in the top.

I had to suffer through several months without my CD music, but mercifully, I was able to play Amazon music through my Kindle.  It is now back where it belongs.

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We even have speakers wired through to the back porch so we can enjoy the music when I am tending to my redneck clothesline,

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Or when we are enjoying our redneck backyard pool.

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I remember Mom and Dad’s vinyl.  I wish we had kept some of their records, but it simply wasn’t practical then.  With Gail’s help, we recalled a few of their favorites:  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Eydie Gorme, Eddie Arnold, Mama Cass and Helen Reddy.

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I didn’t question this cover as a child, but perhaps I should have.  I do now.

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Suzanne, ever the one who is happy with simple, doesn’t have a Buffet list for concerts.  She is simply happy listening to her 70’s and 80’s music on Spotify.  Having Sirius satellite radio in my car, I find my favorite stations are the 70’s and 80’s songs as well.  Those songs are the soundtracks of our youth.

Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss,” is one of Gail’s concert quests.  Having seen him once, he is the one show I would choose to see again if I could.  He delivered three hours of non-stop rock with every ounce of energy he possessed in his early sixties, pausing only for ten seconds of silence to honor his recently deceased saxophonist, Clarence Clemons.  Perhaps we should make that a priority for us to see him.

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I have the Bruce station on preset in my car.

As well as Bruce, Gail has always wanted to see Bob Seger.  Sadly, for us, he recently announced his upcoming retirement from touring after 56 years.   Perhaps it’s not too late to work on that dream as well, as he still has a few dates left.

Music.  Live or recorded, let it fill you.  Let it move you.  Let it be a part of your day, every day.  It is a gift to be opened and enjoyed.  Whether it’s Bruce or Willie, Bob or Martina, or whoever you enjoy, their gift to all of us is their musical talent.

If you possess a singing talent, or perhaps you can play a musical instrument, then please share your gift with the world.

I’m always available for a private concert.

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Happy Spring from the April Fools!

 

MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTERS

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MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTERS

I’m all about celebrating birthdays.  Gail’s was last month, and we honored her in several posts.  Suzanne’s is in August, and she will be feted as well.  And, just so you don’t forget, mine is coming up next month.

We recognized Mom’s birthday in January, and now it is time to celebrate Dad.  He would have been 85 next weekend, and I like to think we would have had a big party for such a big birthday for such a big-hearted man.

We had a giant party for his 70th birthday.  We had one planned for Mom on her 70th,  but the weather didn’t allow it.  We never did make up for it, and I wish we had.  Yet another reason to keep celebrating them every day of our lives.

So, in his honor, we are celebrating his farmer heritage, which also gave us our farm-girl heritage.  We wouldn’t trade it for all the riches we never had, and likely never will.

If you knew our dad, you knew this about him:  he loved to talk—to anyone, he spoke his mind—even when it didn’t make him popular, he called a spade a spade and he was a man of his word.

He worked the land, and he worked it hard.  He knew the value of hard work, and, along with Mom, he taught this value to his seven children.  And we are forever grateful for that lesson.

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Dad’s favorite tractor was his  Farmall “H”

Life on a farm in a family of nine people brings many tasks; work that simply must be done.  Ground to work, crops to plan, plant and harvest, livestock to breed, feed, care for, take to market and perhaps butcher, machinery to maintain and a multitude of other obligations to the land that must be met in order to have our needs met.

And they were always met.  Perhaps not our wants, but always our needs.  Nine mouths to feed was not an easy task.  Having beef and pork in the freezer—and chickens to butcher in the earlier days, I recall (more on this torture later)—was the most fundamental building block of our meal planning and preparation.  Despite the toughest of times in the farm economy in the 1980’s,   I don’t ever recall a time when there wasn’t enough food to go around.  I remember an abundance, to be exact. We always had a garden planted in the spring (Mom didn’t enjoy gardening much, but she knew it was part and parcel of the package), we had fruit trees—apple, pear and cherry (more on cherry picking later), and in our small-town grocery store, we had a running credit account.  I remember the folded, lined card that was produced from the box under the counter that constituted our “bill.”  It was ongoing, and it was a wonderful service the grocer provided for many families in our community.  We simply initialed it when we made a purchase large or small, and somehow, Mom and Dad always had the money to pay it off.

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As an only child, Dad inherited the family farm without question.  He was the third generation to farm our family land, and now two of our brothers farm the land he left.  Two of our nephews show promise to be fifth-generation farmers, and for this, we are so grateful.

The land is more than just property, and farming is more than just a job.  The land is part of our heritage, and farming, if it is what you love doing, is in your blood.  It is a lifestyle, not just a job.

Perhaps it would have been different if any of us three farm girls had fallen in love with a farmer, but none of us did, and neither did any of us marry farmers.

We would have made good farm wives, though.  Gail, being the eternal Swiss Army Knife in whatever job she finds herself in, was the Jill-of-all-trades, (and master of all) both indoors and outdoors.  She could drive a tractor, truck or combine—and often did.  She also could cook and bake, clean and do laundry, change diapers and take care of whatever younger siblings needed care, which was five of us.

Me, I was mostly inside.  I never learned to drive any farm machinery, but I could—and still can—bake and cook.  I remember folding clothes, a task I rather enjoy now.   I still enjoy baking, and I will cook when I have to.  I was also in charge of taking out the trash, which was mostly burned in barrels just across the fence near the chicken house.  Speaking of the chickens, they were my responsibility, and I loathed them.  My husband occasionally jokes about getting me more chickens, and I tell him “I hope YOU enjoy taking care of them.”

Gail reminded me that the chickens were initially her idea.  When she was in the eighth grade, apparently she felt she needed more responsibility, so she set up the chicken operation.  She quickly became disillusioned with the idea, and since she had plenty of other tasks to complete, the responsibility fell on  me.  Thanks, Gail.

To further illustrate my distaste for chickens, I must share this story:

Our grandpa—Dad’s dad—lived in town five miles away and would often come to the farm to see how his progeny was continuing his legacy.  (I think he was pleased.)  He accompanied me into the chicken house once to feed them and gather the eggs.  My routine was swift and mindless, as I had performed it hundreds of times.  So mindless, in fact, that I forgot he was in there with me.  I got in and out quick, locking the door from the outside when I left.

Several hours later, one of our brothers heard a faint “Hey! Help!” coming from the direction of the chicken house.  They let him out with no apparent harm done.

I was only an observer of the chicken’s demise when it was time to butcher.  I know firsthand where the phrase “like a chicken with it’s head cut off” comes from.  I wish I could un-see that, but it’s burned on my brain.

Suzanne’s responsibilities included a lot of mowing.  She also kept the cats and dog fed and watered—we always had one dog, and several cats, and some indoor duties as well.

Come June, we were all involved in cherry-picking. (Ugh.)  I remember groaning at Mom as she woke us up early to beat the heat when it was time to pick the cherries.  We picked most of the morning, and pitted most of the afternoon.  I grew to despise that job, too.  Now, however, I am thrilled to finally have a producing cherry tree in our backyard thanks to my husband’s efforts.

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Last year’s harvest

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I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have grown up on a farm:  for the lessons the farm taught me, for learning about nature from the seasons, the weather and the animals, for the chance to get dirty and dusty—and especially muddy, for learning how to climb trees and how jump safely into a hayloft or out of a swing.

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We delighted in the muddy squalor the heavy summer rains sometimes left us, just like our boys did when they were kids.

 

More than that, I am thankful for the women we became from our early years on the farm.  Each of us spent our first 18 years on the farm before leaving for college.  We learned how to work hard to make our way in the world, because, for us, there was no other way.   Looking back now, we would have it no other way.  We learned early and often that in farming, and in life, there are no guarantees.

 

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Spending a day in the harvest field every summer is still a priority for me.

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My husband and I had the opportunity last week to take in an amazing concert in the beautiful Stiefel Theater in the downtown of our small city.

Playing together for 53 years, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band put on a show we will never forget.  Much of their music has a sense of fun and lightness, such as one of their most notable songs—”Fishin’ in the Dark.

They were talkers as well as singers, often explaining the meanings and origins of many songs.  Another one of my favorites hit home for me after they explained the origin.

Nowhere To Go” is a heavier song, a 1988 hit that tells the story of a farmer who lost his farm due to the ailing farm economy.  The 1980’s was a devastating decade for many Midwest farmers, due to extremely  high interest rates, record debt for land and equipment, record crop production which subsequently lowered the grain prices and the grain embargo against the Soviet Union.

“I’m a workin’ man with nowhere to go…”

I was in high school in the early 80’s, and I remember clearly the specter of the auction block lingering around us and many other farmers in our area.  I recall that several of the farmers lost their farms, and I remember the very real concern that it could happen to almost every farmer.

My heart broke for those who lost their farms, and mercifully, we were able to hold on to ours.  I will be forever grateful to my dad and my brothers for their hard work that helped us survive these toughest of times.

The lead singer of the band went on to talk about his friend Willie Nelson, who, along with John Mellencamp and several other musicians, started Farm Aid.  Their goal was to provide their musical gifts in concert to raise money to keep American farmers on the land.

Nelson and Mellencamp then brought family farmers before Congress to testify about the state of family farming in America.  As a result, Congress passed the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 to help save family farms from foreclosure.

Farm Aid continues as an annual event; this year’s concert will mark 34 years in operation.

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In the process of sorting and rearranging during the remodel, I rediscovered this book that I stacked under some other books, never reading it.  I am reading it now.

My husband and I are Willie Nelson fans, having seen him in concert three times.  Dad’s birthday is next Saturday, the same day Willie plays live just across the Kansas border in northern Oklahoma.

Happy Birthday Dad.  I think it’s time to celebrate.

 

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My son in the harvest field with Dad

 

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Gail’s son enjoying a tractor ride with Dad

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Dad taking a meal break in the field

LUCKY GIRLS

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LUCKY GIRLS

We hit it big this time.  We hit the jackpot not once, but several times.  And then again.  And again.  We doubled down on the fun, increasing our winnings.

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The satellite radio gods were tuned in to our frequency on this trip…except they didn’t play “Rocky Mountain High” for us, and we both forgot our John Denver CDs, so, we found it online when we had reception, and sang along.

In Gail’s favor, but not mine, the wind was on her side.  The western Kansas wind was a gentle beast on the way,

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but the Colorado wind was a force to be reckoned with.

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Gail took a stroll down Memory Lane with the newly available Daylight Donuts in the new shop downtown, and offered at several places around town.  We even saw a Daylight Donuts semi on the way there.

Another jackpot.

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Rules are maybe just suggestions.  I believe I posted that earlier.  I believe this to be true.

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Suggestions like, perhaps, maybe you should cross the street in the crosswalk, not in the middle of traffic.

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We kind of own the place when we are there…at least, we think we do.

Or, perhaps, that silly rule about ‘no pictures in the casino.’  Again, it’s just a suggestion, and we didn’t take it.

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As Mom said, “If it feels good, and doesn’t break The Ten Commandments, do it!”

So, we did.

We did a lot of things that felt good, and broke no laws or Commandments whatsoever.  Things that made us laugh, and made other people laugh, too.  Uninhibited things, things that we normally wouldn’t do before noon on a Friday—or anytime–but we did them there.   But we’re not telling what they were.  You had to be present to win.

We would do them again given the opportunity.  It’s who we are.  We simply like to have fun, and this is our breed of fun.  It may not be yours, or many other people’s kind of fun, but it is ours, and we own it.

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Gail and I arrived in Cripple Creek after dark on Wednesday evening, Ash Wednesday, which, for Gail, then became Cash Wednesday.  Not so much for me.  At no point in our casino dalliances was I rolling in any dough.

But I remained lucky.  It’s all in how you look at it.   In the end, our jackpots were not measurable in monetary terms; rather, they could be measured in the currency of memories, fun that was had by both Gail and me, accompanied by lots of laughter.  And we shared it with others, making them laugh, thereby increasing the value.  But that always happens when we are together.

We bought experiences and memories.  And, unlike the paltry interest one can earn when money is banked, memories and experiences banked can earn an interest rate that we determine.  We get to set it as high as we chose.

We chose to set it at infinity.

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The only fly in the ointment was that Suzanne wasn’t with us.  We weren’t complete without her, but we had her blessing to go without her.  We will travel together soon enough, tripling down on the fun and memories we make.

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In a post a few months ago, I shared our interior renovations in our living room.  They are now complete:

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Special thanks to my Mark-of-all-trades for his expertise and hard work in our home.

I also posted that Gail and I were doing our own interior remodeling, and our progress is almost as refreshing, just not visible.  We’re still not sharing the exact nature of these renovations, but rest assured that they are allowing us an even greater sense of renewal both at home, and in Colorado–or anywhere.  Suzanne is quite proud of us; she has mastered the challenge we are meeting, and knows the rewards are better on her side of the equation.

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Our Colorado destination will remain a favorite for Gail and me.  Other places, too, are beckoning us.  Not sure where just yet, but somewhere the three sisters of The Sister Lode will arrive, ready to make more memories.

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I don’t think we’ll ever tire of this view.

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If you have a sister or sisters, and you are waiting for a better time to plan and execute a sister trip, perhaps the perfect time is now.  Perhaps a better time will never come.  Maybe you should start planning.  Maybe you should give them a call today.  If the greatest distance you need to travel is bridging the gap,  today is the perfect day to start that journey.  You may not realize it, but you, too, are Lucky Girls.

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Last year’s trip to Colorado

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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  May the luck of the Irish be with you today, and every day.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELEVEN YEARS

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ELEVEN YEARS

Beautiful.  Perfect.  Awe-inspiring.  A gift from Above.

I struggle to type these words about another snowfall blanketing our area.  Yet, this morning, as I take in the brilliant white splendor of the snow in the bright sun, I must say they are the most apt words I can use to describe the outdoors this morning.

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What I wanted to type, and what I said to myself as I braced yesterday for yet another winter storm—in early March, for Pete’s sake–were these words describing our winter so far:  Interminable.  Ugly. Painful.  Never-ending.  Soul-draining.

While I thought those words, and I fight not to continue to think them, I am choosing to stay positive.

Because, after all, it is always a choice.

Choosing to relish these weather conditions has always come easier to Gail and Suzanne.  Especially the wind.  The cursed Kansas wind, in my book.  Not in theirs.  As Gail says, “Embrace it.  There is nothing you can do to change it.”  Wise words.

“People of the South Wind” is the translation of our state’s name from the Kanza tribe of Native Americans.  This wind, however, sculpted a beautiful scene in our backyard this morning.

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It is early March in Kansas.  It could be 70 degrees, or it could be 4 degrees, with a sub-zero wind chill.  We take what we get.  We have no choice.

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I WISH spring would hurry up and arrive.

Interminable.  Ugly. Painful. Never-ending.  Soul-draining.  These are the words I would use not only to describe this winter, but the deep grief we endured when we lost our parents.  Eleven years ago today, March 3rd, 2008, we saw our parents for the last time at our grandmother’s funeral.  It was a beautiful celebration of a long and blessed life, and we shared a wonderful afternoon with them, not knowing it would be our last moments together.  The next day, March 4th, they departed on their three-hour journey home, but never arrived.

We needed and accepted any and all expressions of sympathy immediately after they died, and for a long time after.

We have come a long way since then.   We will be forever grateful for the support we received from so many people.  We no longer need it, though it helped sustain us through the darkest days of our lives.

Since then, we have turned that black square on the calendar into March Forth.  With that support, time and continued perseverance, we now see their lives in full splendor:  Beautiful.  Perfect. Awe-inspiring.  A gift from Above. 

For those of you who were at their funeral—there were so many, and we remain so humbled by the obvious love and respect they earned—please recall Mom’s message.  And please continue to take it to heart.

For everyone, please use every moment of every day you possibly can to make the relationships in your life all they can be.  If you have either, or both of your parents, let them know how much you love them.  If you need to make peace with your parents or anyone, do it now.  They may not be here tomorrow.

Make your life all you want it to be.  Start today on something you have always wanted to do.  Put a jigsaw puzzle together.  Learn to play the piano, even if no one ever hears it.  Write the poetry, even if no one ever reads it.  Travel to the place you always wanted to travel to.

Or, maybe, like Gail is learning to do, simply slow down.  Take one or two things off your plate, like she recently did.  Let go of some of the meaningless busy-ness.  If Gail can learn to slow down, anyone—even you—can.

I attended a funeral this week for a beloved patient.  She left a legacy that reached beyond what most of us realized.  She lived and loved, and left a model for living life to its fullest.  Funerals are a time of sadness, but also a catalyst to keep moving forward to honor the memory of the one we loved and lost.  They would want it that way.

We weren’t ready to let her go, but we don’t get to choose when.  And the when for all of us is only a matter of time.

I struggle to fully grasp that it’s been eleven years since our parents died.  Four or five, maybe…six tops.  But eleven?  Why has the time gone so fast, and where did it go?

A wise woman once told me this:  The reason time goes faster with age is because when you are ten, time goes ten miles per hour.  When you are twenty, it moves along faster at twenty miles per hour.  At fifty…at sixty five—you get the idea.  It only moves faster.  No matter what your age, I don’t think you will disagree.

Age is a gift, just as I wrote several weeks ago.  The corollary, then, is that time is a gift as well.  Use it to do the things to make your life as full as it can be, and to celebrate the relationships you have with other people.

Enjoy the Monday mornings, the Thursday evenings, even the hour in the grocery store at the end of the workday on Tuesday.

I need to take this one to heart more than most people—more than Gail and Suzanne, anyway:  enjoy the cold, the snow and the wind.  Enjoy the gray, slushy melting snow two days later.  Enjoy the cloudy days—even long series of gray, cloudy days on end that we seem to have had multiple times this winter.

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It’s much easier to enjoy the fun times, the getaways, the days off; the vacation.  Which is exactly what Gail and I will be doing in several days.  With Suzanne’s blessing, but without her, we are heading west once again to our favorite Rocky Mountain town.  It is our original celebration destination; we started going there nine years ago to celebrate our parents lives, and ours as well.

And we continue to do just that.  Their legacy lives on in so many ways through their seven children, and we have chosen to celebrate and enjoy our lives, thanks to the love they gave us throughout their lives.

Life is too short to not have fun.  So, whatever fun looks like for you, get out there and have it.  Or stay home and have it.   Find what works for you, and give yourself the gift of time to do it.  Let some time-sucking obligations go if you need to; Gail paved the way for you to do the same.

And tomorrow, as my siblings and I March Forth, we have but one favor to ask of you:  If  they are still here, let your parents know how much you love them. Show them if you can.   And next time you get to see them, be sure to take a picture.

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Gail and I will have a partial report of the fun we had on our trip when I write again in several weeks.   We never tell all.