SUZANNE AND KATHLEEN-ISMS

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SUZANNE AND KATHLEEN-ISMS

Several months ago, I wrote a blog to share Gail’s wisdom—Gail-isms.  I wrote too, that I would feature Suzanne’s wisdom in a later post.  It is now time for her wisdom, so let I her know that I would need her to summarize her wisest offerings for the next blog. 

It didn’t take her long.  Very simply, she gave me one word:

Whatever.”

And she meant it.  Suzanne, ever the minimalist.  Even with words.  

In the sense that whatever will be, will be; that simply accepting things as they are and moving forward, doing your best to make the best of good and bad things encountered along the way, her single word of wisdom is perfect.  It does sum up her approach to life.

And it’s working for her.  

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:  I need to look up to Suzanne more.

So that leaves the rest of this post for more wisdom not from Suzanne, but my best offerings of what I see as wise words.   I will try to fill in the blank pages as well as Gail and Suzanne did.

I read a lot.  I read books, magazines, newspapers, song lyrics, plaques, magnets, labels, T-shirts and signs.  And, every day, I read my daily calendars—five of them.  You know, the kind where you tear off a page every day.  I am an annual repeat buyer of my favorite ones, and I save the pages—just like our mom did.  I even save some of them in the same box she used, the box I pictured in Gail-isms.

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I rely on wisdom from any source I can find; my brain is hungry for it.  Unlike Suzanne, who needs very little in possessions and words, I am very needy.  Unlike Gail, who has her own brand, her original quotes, I need to rely on other people’s words of wisdom.

So, I do.

I have gathered some of my favorites to share with you, in hopes that they may affect you as positively as they have for me.  I continue to look for new ones, because I am a collector of the written word.

Last night, I read an interview with one of my favorite authors.  She said she never feels inspired to write.  Ever.  So, she simply sits down and starts writing, and then the inspiration comes.  This made me feel very relieved and very normal, as I struggle in the same way.  Once I sit down to write, however, the words come.  Which brings me to one of my all-time favorites:

“Inspiration comes from doing, not from waiting.”  The corollary, then, would be another one of my favorites:  “Action begets action.”  I don’t know who is credited for these; I could find no source. 

In keeping with the idea that I simply need to get busy, this magnet speaks to me every day when I look at it in my room:

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Some of the quotes I share are credited to the source, some are not because there was none.  I will attempt to give credit where it is due.

On worrying:

I have lived a long life and had many troubles, most of which never happened.”—Mark Twain

“If you are going to worry, then why pray?  If you are going to pray, then why worry?”

“Worry and prayer cancel each other out.”

“Worrying is praying for what you don’t want.”

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This simple, yet profound statement is the essence of Bob Marley’s hit, “Three Little Birds.”

On gratitude:

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”  –Marcus Aurelius

Gratitude can turn common days into Thanksgivings.”  Wm. Arthur Ward

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero

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On courage:

 

She didn’t know it couldn’t be done, so she went ahead and did it.” –Bridget O’Donnell

“If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.”  —Seth Godin

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On being good to yourself:

“Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” 

“Forgiving isn’t about being nice to them, it’s about being nice to yourself.”

“Live and be happy, and make others so.”  —Mary Shelly

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”  The Dalai Lama

By all means, break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately, and well.”  — Robert Bringhurst

The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time.”  —Mary Oliver

On awareness:

Your dreams must be more powerful than your drama.”

“You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”  –Dr. Seuss

If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?”  — lyrics from  Cheryl Crow

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On relationships:

“In any relationship, the one who cares the least has the most power.”

“As long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold them down, so it means you cannot soar as you otherwise might.”  –Marian Anderson

The opinion which other people have of you is their problem, not yours.”  –Elizabeth Kubler Ross

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(This next one my paraphrasing, because it is a blend of several quotes that mean the same thing.  The idea is so powerful for me, and I wanted to share it with you.)

The things that bother you in other people may very well be the things that bother you about yourself, because they are so familiar to you, yet you don’t realize it.   Look a little closer at yourself when you find yourself irritated by someone else’s behavior.”

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Gail framed this gem for me from a daily calendar.  I love it, but so does Suzanne, because of the mermaid.  I can’t part with it, even for her, because the words are so profound.  We’re working on finding another one like it for her. 

**

A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words.  In my profession, sometimes a word, a word spoken by someone who is regaining their speech, is worth a thousand pictures.  Sometimes, as in the case of the pictured quotes above, pictures and words give each other power.

Sometimes, when a woman is so fortunate and lucky to have sisters like mine, there are no truer words than these:

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Thank you Gail and Suzanne, for sharing your wisdom, and for being my best friends.  

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO BE FESTIVE

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HOW TO BE FESTIVE

Festive:  having or producing happy and enjoyable feelings suitable for a festival or other special occasion.

I spent the weekend at our small city’s annual festival of the arts, music, food and fun.  Thursday evening through late Sunday afternoon–just an hour ago as I write, I planted myself, along with my family and friends, for as much time as I possibly could in Kenwood Park at the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, Kansas.

I was too busy having fun to think much about what to write about this week, and I realized that fun is a topic within itself.  Many of us–myself included, at times, don’t allow ourselves to experience the sights, sounds, flavors and feelings that make us feel happy, if not just for awhile.  And just for awhile is much better than not at all. 

This annual festival brings a bevy of sensory experiences to the park, serving as a homecoming of sorts for many former residents, and an annual summer tradition for many families like us.

Because I spent my free time this weekend being festive, I am not spending much time writing.  And, because shorter is sometimes sweeter, I will keep it just that way.

I continue to realize more as I age, that festive fun is an important ingredient for successful aging.  I’m only 53, so I may not be the expert that those older than me are, but here is what I know for certain about the topic:

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1:  Music brings the spirit of fun out in most people.  It is a necessary ingredient in the mix for me.  The band is performing “Hey Jude,” one of my personal favorites.

 

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2:  Eating too much tasty food is good for you once in awhile–and great fun.

 

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3:  Artisans offer some of the most unique items for sale.  If you will regret leaving it behind, and you or your family won’t go hungry, then you probably should buy it.

 

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4:  Not everyone will agree on what constitutes fun, and that’s okay.  Have your own breed of fun.  As our mom used to say, “If it feels good and it doesn’t break The 10 Commandments, do it!”

 

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5:  Some sunshine is good for you.

 

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6:  Get your face painted, or get that tattoo, whatever makes you happy.

 

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7: Always be thankful for the liberty most of us have to exercise the right to have fun.

 

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8:  Fun is more fun with friends.  Suzanne was there with me Thursday night, and Gail wasn’t in town this weekend.  Find your tribe, whether it’s family and/or friends.

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Most importantly, you don’t need anyone else’s permissions except your own have fun.  Life is too short to NOT have fun, so get out there and have it!

MAINTENANCE REQUIRED

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MAINTENANCE REQUIRED

I got brave last week and decided to write about my hometown, something that was daunting, but I am glad I did it.  I sat on the idea for almost a year.  The idea for this post has been with me for over six months, and while it tells private stories, it is a shared concern.  We decided that even if we can help one person get the medical attention they need, then it must be written.  We remain well, and in our usual style, we will try to make you laugh about a heavy topic.  There aren’t many pictures–trust us, this subject matter is best not pictured.  

**

When I bought my car almost three years and 70,000 miles ago, the display on the dash told me how fast I was going, miles per gallon, how much gas left and more information than I knew what to do with.  The computer was set to tell me when the next maintenance was due, as it already had 36,000 miles.  It did just that, and it was time to be serviced.  After the first oil change—undertaken by my husband, of course, the Maintenance Required message remained.  According to the owner’s manual, it required a simple, simultaneous pressing of two different buttons to reset it, so that it could remind you again in 10,000 miles. 

Except that it wasn’t simple, and it didn’t work that way. 

I’ll figure it out later,” I thought to myself.  Meanwhile, I got the same message every time I started the car.  Maintenance Required stared at me from the dash display until I hit a different reset button, and it went away.  I kept track of the mileage in my head to know when the next oil change was due, and I simply let it go.  For over two years, I simply let it go on.

**

For over two years—over three, to be exact, I didn’t go to the doctor.  My beloved doctor, Dr. S., the woman who delivered my children and had been our family doctor for over 20 years, left our small city for greener pastures.  I can’t say I blamed her, but it broke my heart.  Perhaps I denied that she was actually gone, something I could easily do because none of us needed her—thank you, God.  I knew in the back of my head I needed to find a new doctor, but it was easier to, well, just not go to the doctor.  We had urgent care clinic calls for minor things, and that suited us well enough.  Plus, it’s always handy to have a nurse practitioner in the family–my stepson’s wife was one.

Until that little voice told me to figure it out.  A woman my age needs to have regular doctor visits, and Dr. S. is gone and she’s not coming back. 

I began to get real about that, and asked around.  I had heard good things about Dr. J., and I decided she would be a good fit.  She is likely young enough to be my daughter, which is probably a good thing—she will hopefully be practicing for a while.

Since it had been over three years, I got the whole shebang checkup, soup-to-nuts.    I had always skated through all my previous visits, so I thought this one would be no different.  I had no major concerns.  To overcome my little white-coat fear, however, I pictured myself walking with a spring in my step to the car after the visit, smiling, enjoying the sunny day.

Something you never want to hear from your new doctor on your first visit is this:  “I’m not sure what’s going on, I am going to send you to a specialist.”

I got in my car without a springy step, without smiling, and even though the sun was shining, I had a dark cloud hanging over my head.

I started the car, and the metaphor did not escape me.  There, glaring at me from the dash was the ominous message:  Maintenance Required.

I should have done the required maintenance on my body sooner.


 

This was a Thursday.  Mercifully, the specialist in her practice had a cancellation Monday morning, and I was first in line.  Dr. J. admonished me with this wise and timely advice I’m sure many doctors give:  “Don’t get online and try to figure this out on your own over the weekend.”  Wise words they were, and I listened to her.  I am so glad I did, because after it was all over, I did check it out.

I didn’t have time to search the internet anyway, because I spent the weekend picking out my funeral outfit.  (This got an eye-roll from the invincible Gail when she previewed it for me.)   Thanks to Suzanne; she did her best to talk me down from the ledge–I backed up a little, but stayed there for most of the next three days.  She kept me sane.  She has a way of doing that; she has been there, but gave up that particular breed of madness after she was diagnosed with cancer.  More on that later.

 

As if Monday mornings aren’t hard enough, this one was among the most dreaded.  At the same time, I couldn’t wait to get it over with, just to know what I was dealing with.  The not knowing is the hardest part.

The specialist, Dr. A., came with high recommendations from trusted friends and family members, and I wasn’t let down.  On that dark Monday morning, it took her only a moment to lift my self-imposed death-sentence:  “Oh, it’s just a _______  ________.  And just like that, it was over.  I was going to live. 

As I walked to the car, the sun shone brighter than ever.

**

Just three weeks later, I was awoken at 6:30 a.m. by a sharp pain in my upper back.  It crawled up my neck, and started down my left arm.  It was unlike anything I had ever felt.  I got up, thinking “this is weird,” but since it was Christmas Eve morning, I didn’t give in to the idea that maybe something was really wrong.  I had too much celebrating to do.  Besides, that kind of high drama and poor timing only happens in the movies.

The pain subsided, and I went running as I always do.  I decided that if I felt short of breath during my run, or if it got worse, I would probably reconsider. 

It was a little tight, but I felt pretty good. I could breathe, so I let it go.  And besides, I’m a runner.  I’m in good shape, so this kind of thing really can’t happen to me…

Until 11:40 that night, when it woke me up again.  This time it was sharper, more intense, and crawling further up my neck, down my left arm and across my back. 

But it was Christmas Eve, and I didn’t want my holiday celebration to be marred by a little heart attack.  I knew, though, that this pain was nothing to fool around with.  The pain fit the bill for a woman’s heart attack, except there was no shortness of breath, no crushing weight on my chest and no upset stomach.  Still, I knew I must not ignore it. 

This night was reminiscent of the night I first gave birth.  My husband was asleep, tired out after building our house after work hours while I built the baby.  It was this same time of night, and he was particularly tired tonight like he was that hot day in May.  I knew it was time to go to the hospital then, and I had to wake him from this deep sleep.  We made it with plenty of time to spare before the baby arrived.

This night, Christmas Eve—only 15 minutes now until it was officially Christmas Day, I contemplated leaving him a note.  The pain was lessening, and I could probably make it there by myself.

“Merry Christmas, honey.  I think I may perhaps be having a little heart attack, but I didn’t want to wake you.  I went to the E.R., and I’m sure I’ll be back soon.”

But I did wake him.  Our boys were playing cards in the basement, and I let them know, as casually as possible, that I was simply having a little chest pain, and I think maybe I’d better go have it checked out.  They knew it might not be that simple.  

It was no Silent Night in the ER.  The man around the corner and down the hall required the attention of not only the two security guards on staff, but three policemen as well.  The nurses said it wasn’t anything special just for Christmas, just a typical night in the ER. 

But I think I fared better than that guy.  I spent almost four hours there, and was pronounced with a healthy heart—a wonderful Christmas gift.  After my follow-up visit to my new doctor, who, at this point, must be wondering what on earth she signed up for when she accepted me not long ago, determined it to be a strained muscle.  I had jacked up that shoulder by napping in a less-than-comfortable spot the day before.  All the awful things were ruled out, and my healthy heart remains just that—healthy. 

**

Usually it’s the little sister who imitates the big sister.  This time, however, it was Gail imitating me.  Nine days after my ER visit, Gail ended up in the ER of her small-town hospital with chest pains—her first ER visit ever. Now, if you know Gail, you know she doesn’t easily give in to pain or suffering, so this must be big stuff.  She, too, knew it was time to high-tail it there, knew not to mess around with this kind of pain. 

She was dismissed after the required testing, with a follow-up to the visiting cardiologist in two weeks.  She was admonished by him to make some lifestyle changes, and come back in two months, which she did. 

Her heart remains healthy, too. 

**

I remember going to my former doctor, Dr. S., for my annual exam shortly after my parents died. 

It’s strange,” she said, listening to my heart, “You can’t hear a broken heart.” She was so kind and sensitive to my heartbreaking situation, and I will be forever grateful to her for her help in those dark days.   I am grateful that she made my visits something I almost looked forward to, because she was so caring and empathetic.  She took care of me and my family for all those years, and we were fortunate to have her. 

Suzanne was diagnosed with thyroid cancer almost seven years ago—on her birthday.  She said she was dismissed by two doctors–an ENT and a radiologist– who told her there was nothing wrong when they checked out her symptoms.  Still she knew, in her heart, that something was not right.  She found a doctor who found the problem.  She persisted.  She listened to her heart.

Suzanne remains healthy, too.

**

Sometimes, women are not easily persuaded to take measures to take care of themselves.  We are typically more concerned about taking care of everyone else.  That’s our job, for many of us.  Yet, if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else likely will.

See your doctor on a regular basis.  If you are not as lucky as me to have great doctors, then find one you like. You are the customer, and you have that right. 

Listen to that little voice.  Listen to your intuition.  Listen to your heart, because these places are where true wisdom lies.  No one is wiser about your body than you.  Suzanne knew, and she exercised that wisdom.  I am so glad she did. 

Wisdom is power.  Knowing what you are dealing with, and how to deal with it is easier than torturing yourself with the unknown. 

I knew when I felt the pain that I thought was a heart attack, that it was unlike any other, and it fit the bill—at least in several ways.  During the follow-up visit to my new doctor, I expressed that I felt a little foolish for causing such a stir over a muscle.  She reinforced that I did the right thing by going to the ER, and that she would have sent her own mother or sister there herself if they had those symptoms. 

Lastly, if Gail herself, invincible, unbreakable Gail, went to the ER with chest pains, then it’s okay if you take yourself to the doctor for your concerns. 

**

After the last oil change, the Maintenance Required message no longer showed up on my dash.  My husband, in his MacGyver-like wisdom, figured out how to clear the message.  It is now set to display again when it’s time for more maintenance.

It was that easy.  Just like it was that easy for Dr. A. (the specialist) to take care of my issue.  If you are putting off your health issues, it may just be that easy for you, too. 

The Sisters of The Sister Lode hope so.  We are living proof that the required maintenance is worth the trouble. 

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 Thanks so much to everyone for the support and comments from last week’s blog.  We all know that Tipton is an incredible little town!

 

 

 

THE LITTLE TOWN THAT COULD

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THE LITTLE TOWN THAT COULD

I had planned to write this blog since last summer.  I wanted to pay tribute to our small hometown, this little town that built us; this little speck on the map that is Tipton, Kansas.  I wanted to paint a picture of this little spot that would honor the place where we grew up, the place that gave us roots and not only a strong foundation, but faith, a sense of community and a place we always knew we could come home to. But how does one pay tribute in words to a place that defies explanation and understanding?  If you know about Tipton, you know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, I will do my best to paint that picture.

For my readers who know Tipton, especially those who live or did live there, let me just say this is daunting.  Just as there are no words to aptly pay tribute to, say, Mother Theresa (a most humble saint), or President Eisenhower (my favorite), I am really not up to this task, but I don’t think I ever will be.  I sat on this idea for almost a year, probably because I didn’t feel worthy.  I didn’t think I could give Tipton the justice and honor it deserves in words.  Early last week, I decided it was time.  I had wasted enough time thinking about it, and it was time to just do the best I could.  It will be next Sunday’s blog, I committed in my mind.

Then, just two days after I made myself that promise, our hometown was on the evening news.

My husband and I were eating dinner, watching the 5:30 news on Tuesday of this week.  It had been interrupted for quite some time due to severe weather coverage around the state, including some in Osborne County, close to Tipton.  Osborne County, where our family farm is.  I have lived in Kansas nearly all my life, and I have only seen one small tornado.  My favorite weatherman was covering this growing storm system with his usual conviction and competence.

“There is a large tornado on the ground five miles southwest of Tipton.”  Our family farm is about five miles southwest of Tipton.  One of our brothers lives there now with his family, having recently built a new home there.

He was no longer my favorite weatherman.  I was no longer hungry.

I wanted to call or text my brother, but I knew they had more important lifesaving measures to take at that moment, and a call from me was not a priority.  We watched the radar, and heard “Tipton” about a dozen times as he continued to track the storm.

“If you live in or around Tipton, you should be taking cover immediately.  This is a powerful storm.  Go immediately to your shelters.”  I now hated this weatherman.

The seconds and minutes ticked by like hours, while I hoped and prayed for what would have to be a near-miracle.  The track of the storm was likely to reach our farm, followed by our hometown.

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Selfishly, I prayed a little harder for our farm to be spared than I did for the community.  I cannot deny that.  But, as our community taught us from early on, “We’re all in this together.”

Mercifully, it missed our farm, but then it headed toward Tipton.  I diverted my prayers, 100% full-on for Tipton.

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When it was all over, there was property damage, but nobody was hurt.  Thank you, God.

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According to Wikipedia and the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 210 residents in my hometown.  It reached its peak population in 1980, when there were 321 residents counted.  We were three of them.

Wikipedia typically profiles any famous people from any town they list.  There were none noted from Tipton.  There were no claims to fame listed for our hometown, just a simple description of this small Kansas burg.

It began as a burg, Pittsburg, to be exact.  Apparently, there was already a Pittsburg, Kansas, so the name was changed to Tipton, after Tipton, Iowa, the former home of a local resident.

This is all news to me.  I am embarrassed that, at age 53, I didn’t already know this.  I should have known this from my youth.  If anyone has any corrections or additions to this information, please let me know.

So, on the surface, Tipton’s just an Average Joe kind of small town.

Except that it’s not.  No way, no how.

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If, just like the many potluck dinners one attends in a small town, life can be considered a giant potluck dinner, whereby everyone has to bring their best dish to the table in order to partake, then we learned this from early on, not just on the farm, but in our community as well.

Helping out for the greater good of the family and the community were values that were instilled in us more by deed than by word; quite simply we knew we had to do our part in order to be a part first of the family, then the community.

This lesson has served us quite well, as we know that no matter where we go or what we do in our lives, we must give our best with the gifts we were given.

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Both our grade and high schools began as private Catholic schools, as the community was predominantly German Catholic.  When I was in grade school, elementary grades ceased to be part of the diocesan Catholic school system, and the local school district absorbed our school into its public school system.  The high school remains a private, Catholic high school, funded by fundraisers and an endowment program that is well managed in order to provide this invaluable education.

I may be bragging when I say invaluable, but I think I have reason to do so.  Our school continues to be consistently recognized statewide for its math program and our speech and drama department, among other programs that are noted to be top-notch for any school, especially for a small, privately-funded parochial school.

Even when the graduating class has only three members, it still goes strong.

About 15 years ago, due to declining numbers, the public school district that served our grade school voted to consolidate with another school, effectively shipping the elementary graders to the next town.

No way, no how.  The community appealed to the Catholic diocese to re-develop a Catholic grade school, but—as I understand it—the numbers won.  Not enough kids, not enough money.  Therefore, there would be no returning affiliation with the diocesan Catholic school system.

Taking matters into their own hands, the community rallied, and began their own private Christian school.  Keeping the elementary children in the community was paramount, and where there was a will this strong, they found the way.

With some state funding, grants and an endowment of its own, it continues to go strong.  The elementary kids complete their coursework in this new building,

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then go on to high school next door in this old building.

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All seven children in our family graduated from this high school.  Now, some of our nieces and nephews have already, or will graduate from there too, as well as completing grade school next door.

The Main Street of Tipton boasts thriving businesses, including a grocery store with locally famous sausage produced there, a restaurant, a bank, hardware, library, dance studio, manufacturing company and a service station.

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The dance studio was once the grocery store.

Old School Seals, a specialty service providing wax seals, stamps and letter sealing is nationally recognized.  If you head south on Main Street about four miles, you will find Ringneck Ranch, a pheasant hunting ranch that is also nationally famous among pheasant hunting enthusiasts.

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I have no words to express my gratitude for the education and upbringing I received in Tipton.  It is an indelible mark of honor, and, as well as the academic knowledge from our stellar school system, the sure knowledge that whatever our gifts are, we have the power and responsibility to bring them to the potluck table of life to make the world a better place.

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I can barely stand to put it in the printed word, but our nation suffered another unspeakable loss this week at the hands of a mass shooter.  This time it took 12 innocent lives in Virginia.  The first news reports detailed the horror, but since then, the focus I have noticed is that the community has rallied, insistent that this will not define us. They are reaching out to each other—whether or not they knew them previously—to help each other heal the wounds and move forward.  This is only possible when the human group comes together with a unified goal to move forward, picking up the pieces to start again.

Much of the Midwest and Southeastern United States has experienced unprecedented flooding in the last month.  As human groups are known to do, residents of the areas affected have come together to help anyone who is affected, whether or not they know them.   Humans can be so cool like that.

After the tornado in Tipton Tuesday night, the community rallied.  There were no injuries—thank you God, and no homes were destroyed, but there was damage to property.   Enough damage that those affected required help.  Without hesitation, everyone else stepped up to lend a hand, followed by a meal for all.

The potluck effect once again prevailed.   Everyone pitched in, bringing their best to the table.  The humans in Tipton are so cool.

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Young and not-as-young alike pitched in.  This is the potluck effect being taught by deed right here.

I remember when our dad was hospitalized in Wichita after heart surgery. He was not yet retired from farming and it was in the fall at milo harvest time.  Dad obviously wasn’t able to be there, and our brothers couldn’t do the job alone.  Area farmers stepped up with their combines, donating their time, fuel and other operating expenses in order to get the job done.  On the farm, harvest simply must be done when the time is right, or it may not get done at all.  Weather often dictates that, as well as crop maturation.

It’s the farmer’s code; they all know that any or all of them would do it without a second thought when any one of them is in need.  I think Dad got a little teary in the hospital when we told him that harvest had been taken care of.  I’m getting a little teary as I write this—in a good way.

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Wheat harvest is the pinnacle of the year on the farm.  I never miss at least a day each year in the harvest field—except the year I spent in Philadelphia.

Last year when I was on our farm for harvest, I took the following pictures of our hometown:

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St. Boniface Catholic Church.  We were all baptized and brought up in this church.  Dad walked me down this aisle 25 years ago.  Our parents’ final profession of faith was here at their funeral.

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We chose the grade school as one of their memorial benefactors.  This brick honors them in the memorial garden between the two school buildings.

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The locally famous grocery store on Main Street.

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Looking south on Main Street on a Saturday afternoon during harvest.  All the action is in the wheat fields.

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Formerly known as the Knights of Columbus Hall–and still known to me as that–the Tipton Community Center serves as a meeting place for celebrations, fundraisers, family gatherings, funeral dinners and basketball games.

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The southwest corner of Tipton.  The building on the right was once our grade school, now it is part of the manufacturing plant.  The tiny ribbon of white road on the horizon is the road to our farm.  

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I drove this road west out of Tipton thousands of times on the way to our farm.  Entering Osborne County at this road, there are four more miles to our farm.  It is always a beautiful sight coming and going.

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Our family gets together for holidays, sometimes at Gail’s house, sometimes at my house, and sometimes on our brothers’ farms—both on the one we grew up on, as well as our youngest brother’s farm a few miles north.  Our parents moved off the farm and into nearby Osborne in 2000, so our visits to them before they died were in Osborne, not Tipton.  Their funeral was in Tipton, and the outpouring of love and support from the community was beyond words.

I don’t spend a lot of time in Tipton these days, but when I do, the old familiar feeling of home is there.  Claiming Tipton as my hometown always brings a swelling feeling of pride inside of me.

I meet many people in my work, and I often have the opportunity to visit at length with them.  When the “Where are you from?” topic arises, and when they have heard of Tipton as many of them have, a warm smile always shows up on their faces.  And then they proceed to tell me who they know from Tipton, or perhaps that they attend our annual Church Picnic, which is known far and wide as the most remarkable Church event in the area.

My family has been away on vacation for the last several years during that time, so I haven’t been back for a few years.  Nineteen years ago, I was pregnant with our last child.  The due date was announced on my first prenatal visit–August 4th.  There were two things glaringly wrong with this prediction for me.  First, the words pregnant and August should never be used or even inferred in the same sentence.  Second, that meant I would miss the Tipton Church Picnic.  That due date clearly wasn’t going to work for me, so, just like his older brother, my second-born graciously arrived eleven days before his due date.

Thank you, God.  We went to the picnic, baby in tow in my arms—my sweaty arms.  Fun was had by all.  More importantly, the proceeds from this event keep the high school operating.  True to Tipton form, everyone brings their best to the table for this event, whether it is one’s donation of time, money, effort or food—or all four. Without question, everyone pitches in, and another year goes down in the Tipton history books.

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As I write, my mind keeps going in multiple directions, continuing to come upon more things that need to be said.  I’m already over my self-imposed limit of 2,000 words, but there is just one more thing I need to say:

Earlier in the post, I used a forbidden word.  A word, I recall from our upbringing both in my family and in our community, that was forbidden.  The “H” word.  I said I hated the weatherman.  We were allowed to hate someone’s actions, but we were not allowed to hate them.  I’m sorry, weatherman.  I don’t hate you.  You were simply doing your job.  You were bringing your best to the table.

Perhaps this simple rule is what makes Tipton so unique.  Perhaps, even though Tipton continues to be a speck on the map, and the population hasn’t yet returned to 300, we know there is no place for hatred.  Perhaps that is why this little town could, still can, and still does.

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Thank you, God.

FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

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FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA

The words Thank you for your service are powerful words, and when they are used to thank a service man or woman or veteran for their service and sacrifice for our country, they never fall on deaf ears.  I just wish there were stronger words to offer them.

Today is Memorial Day 2019.  It is a day to honor our fallen soldiers, but every day is a good day to honor our veterans as well.  It is also known as Decoration Day, in honor also of our loved ones who have passed.  I don’t normally post on Monday evenings, but I have been away for a week of vacation at one of our shining seas, and I feel compelled to write.  Having seen parts of our country that I never have, my mind has been expanded.  And, once the human mind has been expanded, one should do all they can to keep it that way.

Our trip took us to the southeastern United States, a part of the country rich with history; ripe with insight to offer anyone who opens their mind to it.  We toured an antebellum mansion, taking in its grandeur and learning of its history from the knowledgeable tour guide.  We took the driving tour of several others around this relatively small historic town.

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The beauty of these mansions could not be denied.  What was apparently denied, or at least not overtly acknowledged in the tour, was the travesty of the extreme racial injustice perpetrated in the name of slavery that allowed these wealthy landowners to amass incredible wealth, affording them this lifestyle.

As I age, I am increasingly grateful for the liberty in all its forms I am privileged to enjoy.  I have never known anything but complete freedom to do as I please.

It’s a free country,” was a phrase I recall hearing from other children, and using it as a child, not really having a clue what it really meant at its deepest level.  It was used as defense when we needed to justify an action that another child may not have liked.

It is indeed a free country, and for that, we have our military—past and present—to thank.

“Thank you for your service,” I am offering to anyone who did, or currently does defend our country, no matter what position they held/hold in the military.  I am so grateful.  I wish I had stronger words.

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I spent much of my highway time on the trip in the back seat of the car while my husband drove and our youngest son rode shotgun.  I set up camp back there with books, magazines, my Kindle, a pillow and blanket, as well as colored pencils and markers to go with the color book, and a giant bag of road trip snacks.  With these essentials in my little nest, my life on the road was good.  My sisters were the only thing I wanted to bring, but couldn’t.  Somewhere along the way,  I sent them this picture:

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At the last moment before I left home, I grabbed a book I had only just started, but put aside for whatever reason, probably to read the other dozen or so I had already started before that one.  Something told me to grab it, so I did.

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My firstborn shares my love of sociology, and he had this book as required reading for one of his classes.   I had heard of it, so when I saw it in his stack, I borrowed it.

Like traveling to a new place, some books have the power to expand the mind.  This one did for me.  I once heard that we should not say we are going to read a book; rather, we are going to visit a book.

This was a wonderful visit, with some of the material making me focus more strongly on the power of kinship that our United States—or any country’s—military has on its members.  The feelings of belonging, responsibility and contribution to the country usually overpower the feelings of fear, self-centeredness or apathy, thus forging the bonds of concern, care and allegiance most soldiers have toward each other, as well as toward their country.

One point in the book—as I understand it—is that many soldiers actually miss combat when they return home.  These strong bonds are not felt in the civilian life, and they feel alone and misunderstood among their families and society as a whole.

The power of the group cannot be denied.  This is the essence of the study of sociology, which is probably why this book appealed to me.  I didn’t fully realize the power of the military group.  I will likely never realize the sacrifices they made for me, and for all of us in this free country.

Another awareness I took away from the book is that while the thank you for your service is the right thing to say, we should also strive to find more ways for veterans to contribute in the work force, because most of them continue to feel the strong need to make a difference for the group.

Humans are like that, especially in times of crisis.  We bond together as a whole to get through hardships and crises, then go back to our own relatively solitary existence.  Unfortunately, there is a dire need, but as an affirmation of the good that exists in the human soul, many people in the Midwest are joining forces and helping each other through the flooding that is currently devasting much of my state of Kansas, and much of Missouri and Oklahoma as well.  This was taken out the car window on the way home Sunday south of Tulsa:

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The mighty Mississippi was flooding as well.

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Getting through hard times with the help of friends and even strangers keeps my faith in humanity going, even in my darkest days.  Speaking for myself, I leaned on my immediate family when we lost our parents, but the outpouring of love and support I felt from friends, and even people I didn’t know got me through.  May anyone who has been devastated by the flooding feel this love and support as well.

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I saw this sight on my porch first thing this morning:

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It was as if the live bird was telling the ceramic bird he had the power to simply fly away, so why not just take off?  “Why are you just sitting there like that when you can fly wherever you want to?” it seemed to say.

It reminded me of the picture I took outside our fourth-floor hotel window on the second leg of our trip in Natchez, Mississippi.  The mighty Mississippi River is in the background, with the bridge from Louisiana pictured.

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The metaphor of the bird on the wire under the United States flag silhouetted against the beautiful sunset struck me so profoundly, and still does.

In this historic town where slavery once was the order of the day, freedom should carry a more direct meaning for all of us.  Thanks to the sacrifices of our military, we all can fly away almost as easily as the bird on the wire, or the bird on my porch.

Too many of us—myself included at times—remain enslaved only by our own thoughts and fears, thus paralyzing us from taking off and finding the freedom we yearn for.  We are like the ceramic bird, sitting there frozen.

May the sacrifices of our soldiers and veterans be the voice that reminds you that it is indeed a free country, and you do have more power to fly than you may think.

To all veterans and to current members of our military,  THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE.   I wish I had stronger words.

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 The shining sea at Gulf Shores, Alabama

* Sebastian Junger, Tribe:  On Homecoming and Belonging.  Copyright 2016.  Hachette Book Group, New York, New York.

Available online and in bookstores as well–I highly recommend visiting this book.

 

 

 

COLLEGE TOWNS AND CONCERT QUESTS

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COLLEGE TOWNS AND CONCERT QUESTS

I wasn’t scared of anything when I was preparing to leave home for college.  Not the leaving, not the moving, not the adjusting.  Nothing, except for one thing:  driving in that big city.

My hometown boasted 321 people at its zenith in the 1980 census.  Therefore, the traffic was minimal, if existent at all.   My earliest driving experiences were on the farm, in the wide open.  I recall this thought clearly: “How am I ever going to learn to drive in that Hays traffic?”

Mercifully, I did learn to drive in that Hays, Kansas (population 16,301 in 1980 census), traffic when I moved there in 1984, spending the next four years at Fort Hays State University.  I spent the next four years out, and then I went back for two more.  Suzanne spent 1988-90 there.  One of our older brothers spent four years there as well, with his last year overlapping my first year.  Our youngest brother attended there as well.

I always feel a pull; a magnetism drawing me back there when I visit.  The memories are good, and there are many. So, when I visited there this weekend to attend an event with family and friends, I felt compelled to write about it.  I write about the things I love, and I am still smitten with Hays.  I know I said I was going to take some time off, but when something is begging to be written about, I write about it.

Coincidentally, Gail visited her college town this week, too.  She lives only thirty miles from it, and her daughter now attends Colby Community College, where Gail attended from 1978-80.

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Gail’s husband celebrated his birthday last week, and they went to Colby to celebrate with Lydia.  Gail and Lydia took advantage of this generational photo op.

Hays boasts a hometown, home-made brewery/restaurant in it’s downtown.

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It is our favorite place to dine when we visit.  This treasure wasn’t there when I was, but it is across the street from a favorite hang-out from way back:

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So, when the guys were getting lost in the stories and reverie from the years they spent together there,

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I took a little walk down to campus.

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My old dorm still stands, changed only a little on the outside.  The inside is now coed, and stepping back inside was a step back in time.

It still smells the same.

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I crossed this bridge perhaps several thousand times on my way from my dorm to the quad, and the cement and wire, I’m sure, are still the same as they were 35 years ago.

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I attended most of my undergraduate classes in this building.

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I got a bit more serious when I went back for a master’s degree; I had no choice.  This building kept me from the light of day for most of my graduate student career.

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A chunk of my readership hails from my hometown, with many of them and/or other family members having attended FHSU.  Not only is it a solid school, it is close to my hometown—90 miles.  The college is named after the army fort that was active there from 1865-1869.  It was an important frontier post during the American Indian Wars of the late 19th century.  It is now operated by the Kansas Historical Society as Fort Hays Historic Site.

One of its claims to fame is that it provided the college education for the world’s second-oldest college graduate.  Nola Ochs, a western Kansas native, graduated from FHSU in 2007 at the tender age of 95.  She passed away in December 2016 at age 105.

While researching this online, I found out that her record was eclipsed just this year, but no further information was available.  I will certainly keep you abreast of any new news releases regarding this, because, as you know, I am enamored with useless trivia.

Speaking of such trivia, you may want to know the difference between the terms college and university. I sure did, so I’m certain you will want to know too:  Colleges typically provide undergraduate (bachelor’s), four-year degrees, while universities provide undergraduate as well as graduate (master’s) degrees.

You’re welcome.

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As I write Sunday afternoon, I am anxiously awaiting Gail’s arrival.  She fulfilled one thing on her bucket list wish to see Bob Seger in concert Saturday night.  She and her friend Karen traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to catch him before he hangs it up at the end of this tour.  This legendary music man will celebrate his 74th birthday tomorrow, May 6th.

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They are stopping here on their way home west, just over the halfway mark of this seven-hour trip.  I don’t even have to ask her if it was worth it.

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We hate to brag, but the sisters of the Sister Lode are experts in the Life is short so do it now way of life.  We’ve told you this before, and we will likely tell you again.  Several posts ago, I mentioned  that Bob’s concert was one of the things on Gail’s list,  Because a seven-hour jaunt didn’t deter Gail, and because this is his farewell tour, she made it happen.

We learned the hard way that at some unknown point, tomorrow won’t come for our loved ones and eventually for each and every one of us as well.  Because of this lesson, we have made good things happen in our lives.  For that awareness, we are grateful.

So, go to college—or not.  It’s not for everyone.  If you did, and you have warm memories from your college town, go back and visit when you have the chance.   Go to your favorite concert—if you want to.  Go on that cruise or take that art class.  Re-connect with that old friend you have been meaning to call.  Grab the mic on the karaoke stage.  Whatever it is, do it now.  Make some new memories.

There is something to be said for bucket lists and for old time rock and roll, because it never forgets.   Neither do college towns.

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GAIL AS GUEST BLOGGER

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I wrote last week that my posts may be sparse in the next month or so, due to the many weekend activities, plus, I need a little breather.  I hosted Gail as she took her artwork down the road to a show in Abilene.  Along with a friend, I helped her there on Saturday.  The rest of the weekend was filled with Gail-time, which never fails to entertain.  This weekend was no different.  

Wanting to add her own contribution to the blog posts–however short and sweet, she wrote this for me in my hiatus.   Gail takes fun wherever she goes, as this post shows.

Kathleen didn’t write this time, but I decided to.  Yes, it was a busy weekend; but no matter how much work I have to do, I always make time for fun.  There really wasn’t much time for writing, what with the show all day, then coming back to her house with our friend for an evening of cooking and eating lasagna, which turned into a night of story-telling and laughter with her husband and son, perhaps a few drags on a cigar, dancing, and practicing on each other with a taser–it’s best to know how to use that thing before you actually have to.  (Kathleen didn’t partake of the last three.)

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She turned in early–like she always does–so she missed the 11:00 p.m. ACDC concert on DVD in the basement two floors below her.  She said she heard it loud and clear.

Fun was had by all, which, after all, is what it’s really all about.

Take care and make sure to have some fun of your own.  –Gail

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Thank you, Gail.  You’re an amazingly talented artist with your tin and wood, as well as your words.  Your ability to share fun and laugher is perhaps your highest art form.–Kathleen