Happy Easter to you from the sisters of The Sister Lode!
This day is the day of hope and joy for all Christians. There are few words that can properly pay it the due it deserves, and I do not feel qualified to attempt to do that.
I will, however, offer the most basic advice I have to pay homage to Christianity in general:
My son and I took a trip to our family farm on Friday, and this was in a small town along the way.
I can think of no better way to summarize our most basic job as humans attempting to be good Christians–please be nice.
It should be noted that every major world religion has an element in its doctrine emphasizing the importance of kindness to others. Being nice, then, is that important. It’s the universal thing to do.
My husband and I hosted both sides of our families at our home today. Gail and her husband arrived yesterday, and Suzanne and her husband joined us for dinner and a fun evening last night. The weather was perfect, and we took advantage of it.
Gail and Suzanne challenged each other to several cornhole games; I am not a joiner in this game like they are. Clearly, they enjoyed themselves.
It should be duly noted that sometimes, it is okay to not be nice. Like when you are playing cornhole with your sister, and you want to throw one of the beanbags at her.
It is important to know when it is okay to do things such as this, and when it is not. As sisters, we don’t seem to have a problem understanding this.
Happy Easter to you, and when it matters–which is most of the time, please be nice.
The first lyrics I heard today on my iPod as I took off for my walk/run–it’s more of a walk than a run in high altitudes–were hard times come and hard times go.
Simple, yet profoundly true.
Once again, Gail, Suzanne and I Marched Forth today, for the fifteenth time. It has been that long since we said goodbye to our parents. I’m not sure how that much time slipped away, but it did. Time, however, as most of us know, is a healing balm. It has been for us, too.
Once again, without Suzanne, Gail and I Marched Forth as we went west into the beautiful splendor of the Rocky Mountains to celebrate their lives, not their deaths. Suzanne gives us her blessing to go, but it is never the same without her. It has been almost seven years since our epic beach trip that was chronicled in the first installation of this blog, and we all know it is time again for another one soon. Stay tuned.
We were welcomed by our favorite innkeepers in grand style, as usual.
I’m pretty sure it comes down between our visits, but it was on the wall in our room when we arrived.
Bonnie and Judy joined us on this trip again, as they typically do when it is just Gail and I.
I found Bonnie and Judy at a garage sale. I knew the sale hostess, and she said they were sisters as well. If you look close at their faces, and use your imagination a bit, you can see younger versions of Gail and me. These statuettes are dated 1953 on the back.
Gail’s friends Margaret, Mary and Cin-Cin joined us too, just as they did two years ago. They bring guaranteed fun along each time, and this time was no different.
I have long wanted to return to the top of Pikes Peak via Cog Train on one of our trips, but since it reopened only last year after six years of repair and renovation, we hadn’t yet made it. I decided it was time again, and Mary, Cin-Cin and I made the trip. Gail and Margaret opted to stay back and enjoy the day in Cripple Creek.
It felt right to get as close as possible to Heaven today, March Fourth.
We boarded the 1:21pm train at the station. It was reported that Mom and Dad left us “about 1:30,” so it was the perfect time to begin our ascent as well.
The views were indescribable on the nine-mile trip as it climbed slowly at about eight mph. From the view below, the conductor told us the Kansas border was below those far clouds.
As I sat facing Mary and Cin-Cin looking backwards down the mountain out the window as we moved on forward, I decided it was time to break out the Dove chocolates I brought along, one for each of us. I doled out theirs, and opened mine.
Here’s your sign.
After about an hour of magnificent views, we arrived at the top. It was fifteen degrees, 25-30 mph winds with blowing snow. It was frigid cold, but incredible.
At 14,115 feet altitude, this was as close to Heaven as I would get on this earth today, this bittersweet-turned-sweet-bitter day. This filled me up in a way I couldn’t have imagined that I would ever feel again 15 years ago today. I felt whole. I wanted to stay and savor it, but a moment was all I needed. They were there.
Lest you failed to notice the split-pea-soup-green coat I am wearing, let me draw your attention to it and explain its significance.
A dear friend lost her older sister in Colorado on March 5th, the year after our parents died. She had a collection of vintage coats, and my friend bequeathed this one to me. I wanted to honor her sister as well today. I’m pretty sure she was there, too.
It was time to leave the summit, and head back down the mountain for another beautiful hour of mountain scenery.
We talked, laughed, ate, drank coffee and other libations, shopped, gambled, puzzled and savored each other’s company. Time passed too quickly as it always does, and Sunday morning arrived too soon, with its inevitable checkout, and return home.
Hard times do come and they do go, but so too, do the good times. The memories, however, are always there for the reverie, and if you do it right, they appreciate in value over time. I do agree with my Dove chocolate wrapper, but this kind of backward-looking is necessary to savor these good times. Just be sure to live life forward.
And whatever your hard times are, be sure to March Forth.
In loving memory of Mom and Dad, “Liz and Ed,” and T.E. They are always with us, no matter what the altitude.
Twelve years ago, as I was pondering my upcoming 45th birthday–it felt big back then–I realized that if I was lucky, I was at halftime. If I lived to 90 years, I would be defying the odds.
Three years ago, we celebrated Gail’s 60th birthday (Dance Like Gail’s Watching, February 23, 2020). It was a big one, and on Tuesday, she will have completed yet another trip around the sun. She will get the birthday due she deserves, but her birthday is a bit overshadowed this year.
Gail, Suzanne and I come from a long line of strong women. Our mother, though quiet, possessed a strength that was fierce yet soft, powerful yet gentle. We never knew her mother; she died when Mom was eight, just as our dad’s mother did. Dad’s father didn’t remarry, but Mom’s did. When Mom was a teenager, he married “Granny,” the only grandmother we ever knew. She was an incredible woman as well.
Mom’s full sister, Jeanne, was two years older than her. Mom had two more younger sisters after her dad remarried, Reitha and Sharon.
When Jeanne was 18 months old, she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma–cancer in both retinas. This was in the 1930’s, and treatment was limited. She had both eyes removed, but it didn’t stop her from living a full, robust life.
She attended Kansas School for the Blind in Kansas City, and went on to marry and have two children. She was a medical transcriptionist for the Veterans Administration Hospital in Wichita, and had a full social life. She was a maestro on the organ, playing beautifully at my wedding, and often in her church. In 2006, she died at age 71. Mom died two years later at the same age.
Jeanne and Mom at my wedding shower. She is “looking” at a gift. She often used that word.
Don, her husband, is blind as well. He, too, is an amazing human being, and keeps going strong. On Wednesday of this week, he will turn 90 years old. He retired from a long career at Beech Aircraft in Wichita, but has kept his mind very busy since then. He has an insatiable appetite for information, and can cite current news, world events, historical and biographical information. He listens to news on the radio and television, listens to recorded books and newspapers, and loves to engage in conversation. He has an astonishing and sometimes mystifying sense of local, state and national geography. He lives alone in his home of many years, and has some help weekly with appointments, shopping and such. Our aunt Sharon often takes him on day trips around the state to “see” the sights; he often uses that word. He beat severe Covid in its early days–he spent a week in the hospital— and has conquered many other physical setbacks that may have sidelined a less resilient person. He has outlived his wife and both of his sons.
He “sees” more than most of us do.
This afternoon, Gail, Suzanne and I, along with two of our four brothers and many members of our extended families, gathered at Reitha’s home with her family in Wichita. Sharon lives in Wichita as well, and was there with her family.
It was a grand celebration for an amazing man.
Our sister-in-law Joni “showing” him the candles. Gail’s arm is helping too.
February in Kansas could be a beast, or it could be a perfectly beautiful, sunny, calm, 63-degree day. Today was the latter. It was one of the best gifts any of us could ask for.
There was another gift in hiding for me today.
I often feel a strong sense that Mom and Dad are still with us, and today was no different. I have written about the “Dimes From Heaven” they often send us; they saved dimes in a bank, and they frequently place dimes in our paths, sometimes in ways that cannot be explained. Today, as I entered Reitha’s house through the garage, there was a dime wedged in the crack in the concrete. I showed it to her, reminded her of this sign, and she insisted I keep it. Indeed, they were there with us.
Gail will celebrate her 63rd birthday in a relatively quiet fashion on Tuesday, and Don will turn 90 on Wednesday. Don was the star today, but we will celebrate Gail’s birthday in two weeks in our annual “March Forth” trip to Colorado. Stay tuned.
I often wish I had Gail’s indomitable attitude; nothing gets her down for long. I am continually amazed at Don’s curiosity and resilience; he always bounces back, and is always thirsty for more knowledge. Both of them are incredibly strong in their own ways. Perhaps it is the Pisces in both her and Don, as they are known to be boundless, loyal and can relate to most people. I wish I could “see” the world like both of them do.
In 1976, in the fourth grade, I took second place in the Mitchell County, Kansas, spelling bee. I never placed again, and apparently, I never got over it.
Over 15 years ago, when I worked at our local hospital, I had a dream that I won the “All Hospital Spelling Bee.” My winning words were “insufferable,” followed by a patient’s long and difficult last name, as if HIPAA would allow.
Last night, February 4th, 2023, Gail, Suzanne and I, along with my neighbor Jordan–two-time Ottawa County Kansas Spelling Bee winner–claimed first prize in the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Spelling Bee in my beloved Abilene. Our fifth team member, my delightful daughter-in-law, Meghan, was not able to join us. We had to soldier on without her. Last year, we placed second. Obviously, it was time.
Last year’s picture, same shirts this year.
This year, The Spell-It Sisters were the champions.
The words delivered to us by the emcee started out easily enough. Preferred. Gherkins. Easy peasy. Round four was a series of homonyms: three different words with three different spellings, but all sounding alike. Ours were road-rode-rowed. Thank God we weren’t given carrot-caret-karat. We may have struggled with that one.
The next round was a Shakespearean word, in keeping with the theme of the evening. Ophelia was a good one for us, but Calpurnia might have done us in.
We were grateful for our German upbringing and familiarity with its language patterns, because glockenspiel and blitzkrieg were handed to us as well. The French word discotheque might have taken out another team, but we were prepared, and aced it. We nailed debutante, too. Our high school Latin served us well with maraschino.
As the rounds continued, most of the other 14 teams struggled more than we did, until there were just two. We could have handled Czechoslovakia in the geography round, but the other team couldn’t. Perhaps they could have handled Peloponnese, but we couldn’t. So, after each of us struck out in that round, we were on equal ground again.
Wildebeest nailed us, but so did cetacean for the other team. Equal footing again.
We were down, but not out. The Sisters don’t ever stay down for long, and last night was no exception. Plus, we had Jordan, the grade school spelling champ on our side.
We sailed on through syllogism, aborigine, diphtheria, and sealed the deal with pernicious.
We were the champions.
In our post-victory haze, we forgot to get a group shot. The action pictures will have to suffice. Jordan took the Sister pic at the beginning of the night, and then we got too wrapped up in our spelling to remember much else. The evening flew-flu–flue by; it was indeed a privilege to be part of such an awesome group of people raising funds for this local, excellent charity.
Above all, we tried to keep a sense of camaraderie with the other teams, lest we seemed sanctimonious after our win. We certainly didn’t want to become unctuous toward them.
Once again, the Sisters of The Sister Lode created another evening of memories. It was an wonderful night-nite-knight.
Happy Birthday Kansas! Today, you are 162 years old, having become a state in 1861. And, there is no place quite like you, no sunsets and sunrises quite like yours, no rolling hills like yours. Most importantly, there are no people like yours.
“Ad Astra Per Aspera.” “To the stars through difficulties.“ This is the motto of your people, and we don’t disappoint. The Kansas farmer feeds the nation, and we know how this works. Gail, Suzanne and I are farm girls, and we know how farmers make it through difficulties to keep going. We learned from our parents, from each other and our brothers, our schools, our community and our state.
As adults, we continue to learn this from each other, but perhaps more importantly, we also continue to learn how to reach for the stars, and how to celebrate when we arrive there.
I had grand plans to make my second annual Kansas Day tour with my husband, but it was not meant to be this weekend. It worked last year ( There’s No Place Like Kansas, January 30th, 2022), and it will work again soon. The weather is bitter cold today, but it is warm inside. Inside where Gail, Suzanne and I gathered briefly at my home when Gail was passing through our small city.
We take every opportunity to gather, even if it is for a brief visit. Today was no different. In honor of Kansas Day, we took a group picture, but it appears Suzanne didn’t get the memo, instead sporting a Colorado shirt. We will let her off the hook. Especially since she never fails to notice my Kansas Day “costume.”
In honor of our magnificent state and its birthday, I am offering a montage of pictures of us enjoying the wonder of Kansas from previous posts.
Little Jerusalem State Park in Logan County
The backyard of Gail’s/Lola’s home in Atwood
Konza Prairie Trail in Riley County
Somewhere in rural Rawlins County in the wee hours as Gail celebrates her birthday in grand style
The bike shop in Osborne— Trixie and Lucille are their faithful bicycles
Suzanne and her husband Steve preparing for a journey through Kansas
My front porch
Classic big hair/big dress for Easter in the 80’s on our family farm
Gail soaking up the Kansas sun on her back patio
Sunflower season near my home
Bennington State Lake
Easter on our family farm, Osborne County
Bundling up for a winter outing on the farm
Meeting in Colby to head to Colorado, Thomas County
Suzanne and me wallowing in the mud with our little brother on the farm after a Kansas summer rain
My backyard during my favorite season in Kansas
I’s born in Osborne. So were Gail and Suzanne
The famous bathroom in Lucas, Russell County
Gail’s back patio
Saline County fair
Swheat girls, our family farm in Osborne County
Again, Suzanne, that’s a great shirt from another great state, but we are celebrating Kansas here…and that Nebraska shirt in the Sunflower picture? We’ll talk.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY KANSAS!
Be sure to tune in next week for the second annual “Spell-it Sisters Spelling Bee edition. Once again, win or lose, we guarantee we will hold you spellbound.
Today is January 22nd. One month ago today on December 22nd, I posted that the sisters of The Sister Lode would be celebrating a late Christmas with our brothers. It would have been our mother’s birthday, and we felt it was the perfect date to gather. It was not meant to be.
Old Man Winter and Mother Nature conspired against us to make travel difficult for Gail yesterday, and possibly for our brothers today, which was predicted several days ahead, so we decided to call it off just to be safe. We will keep trying, as Christmas can–and should–be celebrated throughout the year.
The snow flew all day yesterday, and this morning, we woke up to a beautiful winter wonderland. As the afternoon goes on, the snow continues to melt, and will soon be gone.
While I much prefer 100-degree temperatures to bask in the sunshine, this morning’s weather is my favorite for my daily run/walk–if there is no wind. I loathe the wind as much as Gail and Suzanne love it, and it was very mild from the west this morning.
Gail lives in western Kansas, and they typically have much more snow there than we do in central Kansas. These are pictures from her yard today, where she estimates they had about 9 inches of snow.
Our mom would have been 86 years old today. This day, as well as Dad’s birthday at the end of March, has become sweet-bitter, instead of bittersweet. Time may not heal all wounds, but it gives us the opportunity to gain strength, and to find new ways to celebrate their lives, instead of mourning their deaths.
Just like after a snowstorm, there is beauty after loss. The sun always comes up again after a dark day and night, and the snow begins to melt away. The cold and dark never last, and we are given warmth and sunshine again. In life, we are given the opportunity every day to make it a brighter day and to find the beauty, but we have to do the work.
It is sunny and 33 degrees now, and there is a mild 5 mph wind from the west. The snow is melting, and I might just lace up and go for a short walk. I know there is beauty out there I am not seeing from inside the window, and a walk would make it a brighter day.
Happy Heavenly birthday, Mom. It is indeed a bright day.
Mom didn’t like to be photographed, but I don’t think she minds now if I share these. She loved sunflowers and cardinals, though, and we loved to celebrate her birthday when she was here. This is one of her last birthdays.
“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”–Albert Camus
Today is Thursday, December 22nd, 2022. 12/22/22. “22” is my lucky number, so this day of the month is always one of my favorite.
Yesterday was December 21st (obviously). Yesterday was also the winter solstice, the day of the year with the least light, and the most dark. After the summer solstice on (about) June 21st, the days leading up to it shorten incrementally every day, and I do not fail to notice the absence of light as the daylight continues to wane.
My spirit wanes with it.
I have a small legion of friends who are acutely attuned to it as well. We celebrate the light, and bemoan the dark. I say “friends” because even though my sisters are my dearest friends, I am not referring to them. Suzanne prefers the dark (weirdo). Gail, in her usual fashion, loves each and every day, no matter the minutes of daylight, the amount of sunshine, the weather conditions, or the reading on her own personal barometer. She knows not a dark day, or a long night–mostly because she hardly sleeps, but I digress.
I bemoan the dark and celebrate the light, and I wish I could celebrate both. But, since I know there is likely a majority of readers who actually (like me) prefer more daylight, I am speaking to you.
This is the season of light. Christmas lights, Hanukkah lights, light from one person to another in the form of holiday cheer, and the reason for Christmas, the Light of the World.
Light keeps hope alive, just like the Star of Bethlehem did over two thousand years ago.
This morning, on the 22nd, in the frigid minus-30-something wind chill, I opted to stay inside and use the “dreadmill.” My outdoor morning run/walk jumps starts me almost every morning, but it was not meant to be today. I made it for 22 minutes and burned 222 calories. I took those auspicious numbers as a sign to call it good enough.
One month from today, Gail, Suzanne and I, along with our brothers, will gather to celebrate our family Christmas a bit late. We decided the Christmas season was already too busy, so we will celebrate it on what would have been our mother’s 86th birthday–January 22nd. That’s why my lucky number is #22.
If you know Gail and Suzanne, then you know they both shine their lights in their own unique ways, every day of the year. Gail, in her usual over-the-top but ever-so-awesome way, has once again organized a celebration for her small western Kansas town to heighten their Christmas joy.
Modeled after the “Georgetown Santas” in the small city Suzanne and I live in, she began this tradition three years ago: Gail, along with 14 other residents on those two blocks on a hill, and Elm Street, at the bottom of the hill, become the “Santas of South Sixth,” and the “Elves of Elm Street.” They all prepare treats–candy, snacks, small toys such as Hot Wheels and Play-Doh for the community’s young, as well as adult treats for the young at heart. The city police department works in conjunction with her and the neighbors on those two blocks to direct traffic down their street, letting the cars cruise slowly down the hill, and the “Santas” come to the car to deliver their goodies to everyone. This year, they will again brave the extreme cold, undeterred.
Gail is preparing over 300 of these adult treats—both in small cups and in cubes.
It is a young, but already much-anticipated Christmas tradition in her town. It is yet another way Gail chooses to shine her light. I wish I could go, but family celebrations will be underway at my home, too.
According to an online almanac, daylight increases by less than a minute every day at this point, but continues to increase as we move toward the summer solstice on Wednesday, June 21st, 2023. I stepped outside in the one degree temps just long enough to take this picture from my porch at 4:45 pm, then again at 5:13 pm. I came in, cozied back up under a blanket as I wrote, and turned on the weather to check the local wind chill. Of course, it was minus 22.
This post is unusual in that it is a Thursday evening, and I generally post on Sunday evenings. This Sunday, however, is Christmas Day. My hope for you is that your light will be shining bright with your family on Christmas and every day, and will continue to shine brighter as the sun shines for just a bit longer every day.
MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE SISTERS OF THE SISTER LODE
This picture was taken on the winter solstice from our brother’s front porch three years ago. We gathered at his home to celebrate Christmas a bit early that year.
It is that time of year again. The time of year when we should make an extra effort to count our blessings.
It should be practiced every day, because without it, life can feel quite dark.
The gratitude we offer on Thanksgiving, that is.
The first picture in our series above was taken on Thanksgiving Day 2016. The last one in the series was taken this weekend in Camp Gail, the sacred space in Gail’s house where we hang out when we visit. They have all been taken in Camp Gail on Thanksgiving weekend, and for obvious reasons, we didn’t gather in 2020.
This is the non-negotiable (except in Covid times) time that we gather as a family at Gail’s house. It is expected that we will all be there with as many of our family members as possible.
This was her grandson Myles’ first Thanksgiving feast
It is a joint effort; each of us brings our specialty, as well as whatever else we would like to contribute. As you may have noticed, my specialty is sweet potatoes. Gail, Suzanne and I re-create Mom’s delicious dressing, and it tastes almost as good as hers.
Suzanne and I arrive on Friday to help with the preparation, and to soak up the mirth at Gail’s house. It’s always there.
This takes place on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. On Friday evening, before the cooking begins on Saturday, Suzanne and I–and our spouses–arrive to help Gail celebrate one of the joys of small-town life in the form of their Christmas parade.
Perhaps you remember Lola from former posts. She is the 1974 Chevrolet Nova Gail bought for herself on the occasion of her 60th birthday, almost 3 years ago. Whenever Gail takes Lola out, she is always a faithful ride, turning heads, just like a showgirl would.
This year, she knew it was time to get Lola into the parade action.
In the unforgettable Barry Manilow song, Lola was a showgirl. This Lola is a show car, and Gail proved that in a big way in her small town’s Christmas parade Friday night, right down to the yellow feathers in her hair (on her roof). She had a specially mixed blend of holiday songs to blast from the speaker hanging out side the door. In that blend, however, were snippets of the classics that were perfect for this occasion, just for this car: “Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl…” and the 1970 hit by the Kinks, “Lola, L-O-L-A, Lola.”
Gail’s former donut shop was in the Oddfellows–IOOF–building across the street. Lola was named after her former owner, and Gail extended an invitation to her son, John, to join her in the parade. He was thrilled to be a part of it all.
Gail’s daughter Lydia helped to toss out candy. Her grandson, Myles, and her step-granddaughter, Macy, helped, too.
There were other entrants in the parade, too, of course, but none quite like Lola–in my opinion.
The Grinch-mobile was second only to Lola, in my opinion.
We arrived home this afternoon, with another weekend of Thanksgiving memories–and full stomachs– under our belts. Gail never fails to entertain and uplift, but more than that, she inspires every day of the year by living her life to the fullest every day of the year, not just on the holidays. She knows how to make any situation fun, and cares not one iota what anyone else thinks. She knows life is a ride, whether or not she is riding in Lola.
I wish everyone had someone like Gail in their family to remind them to keep life light, to have fun in any and every way possible and to offer gratitude even for the smallest things. I am so fortunate, and I give thanks every day.
It’s a wonderful place to be. Relaxed, gliding through the day, nailing every task you have signed up for. You have done them a thousand times, and you know what’s next, notwithstanding the curveballs life sometimes throws each of us. You’ve rehearsed it, and you kill it (mostly) every time. It’s easy peasy (mostly).
So, why would anyone ever choose to leave this cushy place? Why would you sign up for something that forces you to navigate an unfamiliar land and speak its unfamiliar language? That’s hard. That’s not the path of least resistance that most of us humans want to take, and do take.
Because that’s where the good stuff is. That’s where you find the high-hanging fruit, and it is much more luscious and tasty than the stuff hanging right in front of us, the stuff we reached for all our lives, because we don’t have to reach too high or too far.
When reaching for this high-hanging fruit, however, we may question our own sanity. Why, for the love of all things easy, would we voluntarily take ourselves to a place that makes us think and act in ways that require sharper focus and herculean effort? What the heck?
One must be crazy to do this, which is exactly what I thought of myself on about day two of the eight-day training I signed up for, and paid good money for. “What were you thinking, Kathleen? Are you nuts? You are not an auctioneer, you are a speech therapist. You have had some crazy ideas in your life, but this one tops them all. Now get back in your cage, and don’t try to pull this s*** again.”
Except that I’d already paid my hard-earned money for those eight days of class, and I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I was supposed to be here. This had been on my “Liberty List” for a long time (see Liberty List, September 11th, 2022). I was way outside of my comfort zone, and it was painful. I wanted to run back into the open arms of all things familiar in my life, and leave this crazy idea behind in that hotel conference room in West Des Moines, Iowa. Surely those other 21 people in my class belonged there; they all appeared to be perfectly suited for this adventure. Still, I didn’t run. Looking around, I noticed I wasn’t even the oldest one there, which I had expected to be. Nor was I the only female. There were five other women–but I was the oldest female.
I stayed. My higher self–the one who knows what is truly best for me–overrode the scared child in me, told the woman who had lived in her speech therapy bubble for 28 years that she was not too old, nor too inflexible to learn this new language. Most importantly, she was ready for something different in her life (see Change is Good, October 9th, 2022).
And different is what I got.
Now, back at home, back in the comfort of my home, two days after I graduated, I feel a sense of accomplishment that cannot be experienced without having left that comfort zone. Two hours after getting home yesterday, I went to my first auction last night and helped as a ringman/bid caller, thanks to the ongoing leadership of another auctioneer I am fortunate to be mentored by.
I have a lot of practicing to do; I can’t expect to sound as good as him without daily practice and continued pushing myself to new heights in this new field. I have a diploma, which is only a license to continue to learn and improve my skills.
The verbal and mental boot camp I attended for eight days–8:00 am until 7:30 pm–kept me disciplined and accountable. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I hadn’t sat in class for that long for 28 years since grad school, and my days weren’t that long then. Frequent breaks were necessary; I took a pre-victory lap on foot around the outside of the hotel for most breaks. My 56-year-old brain was being stretched, and my body needed stretching, too.
Arriving for the first day, a quick scan showed me the strangers I would be learning with; I don’t remember the last time I felt this isolated. This group of 22 quickly went from being completely unknown to each other, to cheers, camaraderie, encouragement, friendship, exchanging contact information and hugs on the last day. There were six women and16 men, and fourteen states were represented, as well as two Canadian provinces. The most amazing students were the under-25 group; ten of the young men–as young as 17–were lifelong learners, already having spent years learning the skill in their everyday rounds. Still, they supported their elders in the class, uplifting and encouraging us every step of the way. We were the amateurs and they were already the seasoned experts, but they inspired everyone around them.
One does not engage in that frequent and intense repetition of tongue twisters and number drills without having difficulty leaving them out of their head. Some of the twisters were familiar to me and some were not. I had never heard Tommy Attatimus took two Ts, tied them to the top of two tall trees, but now it won’t leave my mind. As a child, How much would could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could if a woodchuck could chuck wood was one of my favorites, so that came easy. However, I wasn’t used to repeating it ten times with increasing speed each time. Nor had I ever counted to 100 and backwards by 2 1/2s, certainly not ten times in a row, with increased rate each time as well. And I certainly didn’t do it every day for eight days straight.
Now, any series of numbers–even two–sends me straight into an auctioneer chant. The tens are especially persistent in my head. You will likely read this with the short /e/ vowel sound you have said it with thousands of times in your life: 10-10-10-10-10, but to me, it sounds like “tay-un, tay-un, tay-un, tay-un, tay-un” and that is the desired sound I hope to master one day.
I checked my alarm clock last night as I wound down, but the display sent my brain back into that drill, keeping me awake a bit longer: it read 10:10.
Before this class, I didn’t know any big names in the auctioneering industry in America. Now, I can say I got to meet some legends.
The legendary Paul C. Behr
I knew so little about this industry, but now as a graduate, I can say I received a well-rounded education, as well as a diploma. My 28 years as a speech therapist played well into this learning; so much of what the breathing and voice mechanisms have to accomplish as an auctioneer are the things I have been teaching my patients for years. Except as the student now, I had to work so much harder than I ever worked as the teacher.
Each student had to auction many items in our drills. As the week progressed, the auctions became more frequent, more spontaneous and more complicated. Among the multiple items I “sold” were: tables, chairs, chandeliers, wall sconces, neckties, my jewelry, an Iowa state flag, a mountain bike, a Corgi, a television, a dinner for ten at a fancy restaurant, a year’s supply of bottled water, an umbrella and a briefcase. Each student brought an item for our “live” student auction. I sold a bag of locally-grown Kansas popcorn for $110, with all auction proceeds going to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.
I have grand ideas about how I am going to develop this new trade; there is so much opportunity, even for women in what has been traditionally a male-dominated field. I have a new skill set I didn’t have ten days ago, and I wouldn’t have this if I’d stayed in that comfortable bubble. If I’d listened to the doubter that most of us have living in our heads, I would have left on day two, or not even gone at all. It will be the perfect complement to my speech therapy career.
I knew so little before I started; I didn’t even know that, because auctioneering dates back to Civil War times, auctioneers are respectfully called “Colonel.” Gail and Suzanne called me that upon graduation. They knew. I ask that you call me the same, but only after you have stepped out of your own comfort zone and have done that thing that you want to do, but are being held back by fear, or that voice of doubt.
Become your own Colonel in your own dream. If I did it, so can you.
“According to my watch, the time is now.” –Jimmy Buffet
My generation remembers where we were and what we were doing 21 years ago today: I sat in the recliner all day, holding my sick baby as he slept, watching the horror unfold before my eyes on TV. These memories are seared into the brain of anyone old enough to remember that dark day, the day that forever changed our country.
Gail was preparing her soon-to-be opened donut shop for business. I called and told her about it, she hadn’t heard yet. She went home to watch it on TV, something she rarely does. She knew this needed her attention at that time. The donut shop could wait.
Suzanne arrived at work, not knowing what was happening. She and her co-workers remained glued to the TV for the rest of the day. Her five-year-old daughter had a friend over that evening, and they wanted to watch TV. She heard her ask him what they should watch. He replied innocently, “I guess we could watch the explosion channel.” We all remember there wasn’t much else on, and he realized this, too.
That dark day won’t ever be forgotten, nor should it ever be forgotten. The people who lost their lives that day should be remembered as heroes, even though they likely had no idea what was happening in those horrific moments leading up to their deaths.
The rest of us get to continue to live our lives, even though that scar will always be on the face of our country. The family members and loved ones of the victims, as well as the first responders and others who sacrificed their safety that day should always hold a special place in our memories and hearts as well.
Our veterans, active duty military, Reserves and National Guard are the heroes every day of every year; they are the ones who protected and continue to protect the freedoms most of us take for granted–including me.
Our small hometown held its 150th birthday celebration last Saturday; Suzanne and I were able to go to this special gathering, but Gail couldn’t join us. The veterans of our hometown who were present were honored with recognition: a profoundly moving speech and a special flag salute by some of our town’s youth, followed by a standing ovation:
They are the reason we live in this nation of freedom. We have so many liberties that we fail to realize, all thanks to them.
One of them is the opportunity to travel freely about this country, and take in all it has to offer. Gail, Suzanne and I do our best to enjoy this privilege. Another is to partake in whatever activities interest us, because this country is indeed the land of liberty.
Which is why the term “bucket list” is widely known. Popularized by a movie of the same name, many of us have a list of things we’d like to do, or places we’d like to travel to before we euphemistically “kick the bucket.” Instead of using that term, however, I decided to call it “The Liberty List.” It reminds me that I am so fortunate to have these liberties.
My 25-year-old son lives on the other side of the world. He is checking something big off his “Liberty List” at a relatively young age, exercising the freedom he has as an American to put this big world right in the palm of his hand. He has had the opportunity to travel to other countries as well, and has given himself permanent reminders of this liberty.
Last year, when America was celebrating it’s Independence Day, he traveled to Egypt with 5 other American friends. To remind themselves of this freedom, they gave themselves a permanent reminder in the local language–Arabic. This year he spent July 4th in Thailand, and added to this reminder in Thai:
The translation is “freedom” or “liberty,” both translate into the one foreign word. You pick the one you like best. I like the ring of “liberty.” And what kind of a mother would I be if I didn’t follow my son’s example? An unfit one, that’s for sure. So, my next tattoo will be inside my upper arm, just like his, with “Liberty” as my English word of choice.
I am already sure I will never regret this permanent reminder of all that America has given me.
I asked Gail and Suzanne what they had on their “Liberty Lists.”
Gail: “I don’t really have one. I just live life to the fullest every day.” I can attest to this. She makes every moment of every day the most it can be, whether it is working one of her multiple jobs, or cruising around with her friends in “Lola,” her 1974 Chevy Nova, into the wee hours of the morning. It’s usually a party whenever Gail is there. Always has been, always will be.
Suzanne: “Going to any beach, anywhere, anytime.” Simple and true. If you recall, my maiden post on this blog just over five years ago detailed our epic beach trip to Florida (The Sister Lode, June 16th, 2017). We haven’t been back to a beach together since, but it is on all three of our “Liberty Lists.”
If you know me, you may want to be sure to be sitting down when you read what I am soon to check off my list. When I tell people, it is generally met first with disbelieving laughter, then something along the lines of, “That’s so cool!”
This endeavor has been on my Liberty List for some time now, and the time is right to check it off. I see it as a natural extension of my 28-year career as a speech therapist. I have been a speech scientist, and now it is time to be a speech artist.
I will spend eight days at the end of October/beginning of November in Des Moines, Iowa, training to become–wait for it–an auctioneer! I have long been fascinated with this skill, knowing that one day I would learn it. That day has come. I don’t know yet how much, or in what capacity I will use it, but I am doing it–now! All we have is now, and as the wise Willie Nelson says, “It’s always now.”
Now only comes once, which is why I am struggling so much with some heartbreaking news I received this week. A friend, a bright light with an electric smile and unforgettable laugh, was cruelly taken by COVID and its complications. We bonded after she lost her parents separately, but both in devastating ways. We understood each other. We spoke this dreadful language. We connected, but I had let too much time pass, knowing I needed to reach out to her again. But I didn’t do it then, and I can’t do it now. My heart breaks for her family, because I know how it feels to lose your mother way too young.
I’m not feeling the strength yet, but I will regain it after this heartbreaking news, and I will check a few more things off my Liberty List. They are things I have needed to do for some time in order to reach out to other important people.
We never know when it may be too late. I smugly thought I had learned the Life is short lesson after our parents died in that one moment, but if I think I have fully learned it, that only means I need to go back to school. Clearly, I didn’t. It is a lifetime of learning in order to make sure every now is the most it can be.
We would all be well-advised to think back 21 years ago to September 12th, or perhaps a few more days or weeks later, when so many people used that tragedy to galvanize their efforts to create more peace toward each other. Let’s all do our best to do that again, every day. Connect with those you need to reach out to before it’s too late. The time is now.
So, turn off the explosion channel in your head; we’ve all seen enough, and it will always be there. Use that memory to honor those who lost their lives, their families and loved ones, the first responders and our military–past and present.