LUCKY GIRLS

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LUCKY GIRLS

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

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

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

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

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

Another jackpot.

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

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

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

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

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

So, we did.

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

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

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

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

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

We chose to set it at infinity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Last year’s trip to Colorado

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELEVEN YEARS

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ELEVEN YEARS

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

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

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

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

Because, after all, it is always a choice.

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

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

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

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I WISH spring would hurry up and arrive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SEA LEVEL TO 9494

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SEA LEVEL TO 9494

Suzanne and I live at 1,227 feet above sea level in our small city.  Since I live north of the city, and I am eye-level with the tops of the water towers in town from my front porch, I am probably a few hundred feet higher than that.  Gail lives at 2,858 feet, perhaps a bit higher because she lives on a hill in her small town.

My first post detailed our adventures at sea level on the beach.  The subsequent posts detailing our travels took place at 9,494 feet in Cripple Creek, Colorado.

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While on this trip several years ago, we traveled up nearby Pike’s Peak by cog train to an elevation of 14, 114 feet.  Technically, we were higher than that at cruising altitude around 35,000 feet on our flights to and from the beach.  But that doesn’t really count.

These travels are anticipated before, enjoyed during, and savored in their memories.  But, like all events in life we enjoy, they are typically here and gone.

I work hard to enjoy life at my daily altitude as much as I enjoy it at each end of the altitude spectrum we travel to.  But that is hard.

I find myself eagerly anticipating the arrival of each trip, and savoring those memories after each trip.  During the trip, I want time to stand still.  I want to languish in the minutes and hours without them passing by so quickly.  Without them being over so quickly when we find ourselves back at home again.

Back at home, where the meat and potatoes of life are served up daily, where Real Life dwells in our day-to-day rounds.  Where we live with our families.  Where the minutes and the days may tick by slowly, but the months and years whizz by quickly.

Back at home, on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons and everything else in between that constitutes life.  Because, as we all know too well, time away is a respite, a sabbatical from the work of life.

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Another Colorado trip has been here, and is gone already.  We eagerly awaited it—as we always do, languished in the moments there, and we are now relishing the memories—once again.  If my calculations are right, this marks the twentieth time we have gone west, young women. 

There was a point in my life a few years ago when the pull of the mountains—and the beach too—were a mystery to me.  Like the full moon, I am drawn to the mountains instinctively; the deepest part of me is pulled by some invisible but undeniable force to travel there.

I decided upon a single word that describes this force that draws me to all three:  energy.  The mountains, the beach and the full moon have a living spirit about them, one that draws not just me and my sisters, but humans in general toward them.  Which would explain the high real estate prices in such places.  People with good money pay their good money to live in or near the mountains, and/or near the water.  And most of us cannot deny the beauty of the full moon, even though we can’t purchase real estate there—yet.

So, we go.  And we go again.  And again.  And we come home again.

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If I could characterize our latest trip in one word, relative to our other mountain getaway weekends, it would be this:  subdued. 

Perhaps it was the delayed departure—one month after our usual Labor Day jaunt.  However, we frequently talked about taking a later trip to enjoy the change of color in the mountains, so we relished this new schedule.   Perhaps it was the touch of altitude sickness one of us experienced—or both, that made this trip a bit more laid-back than normal.

You wouldn’t know it from our usual stop in Limon,

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Bear claws were always Gail’s favorite…

Or the great lengths that our newly-acquired friends go to in order to be in our group,

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Or the cult followers of The Rocky Horror Picture Show waiting in line with us to see the show at the local theater.  We hadn’t yet seen it, and we had no idea what we were in for…

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Perhaps the most surprising, unplanned event was the fortuitous, purely-by-chance meeting of our former hometown farm neighbors on Bennett Avenue.

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Gail and I used to babysit the young man on the right.  He now protects and serves our country.  Thank you for your service, Paul.

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You may know the subdued nature of our trip by the beautiful aspens as they turn their glorious golden color, as they do every fall.  We welcomed this beautiful sight, having never traveled here in October before.

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Their seasonal slow-down perhaps helped set the tone for our relaxed weekend.  Perhaps we, too, shed some temporary coverings—internally, of course.  The daytime temperatures were relatively balmy, but the evening and night-time temperatures were flirting with the freezing mark, so we put on extra layers on the outside.

You may know it by the mountains in their fall grandeur lined in the brilliant golden of the aspens, their fresh air and their majesty against the bright blue sky have a way of opening up one’s mind and soul, which is not a bad thing.  Instead of reaching out as much as we normally do, perhaps we reached inward.

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John Denver sings Rocky Mountain High to us every trip, so you wouldn’t know it by that..

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I signed up for the 1,000 feet below adventure at this local attraction with my family many years ago.  Gail and Suzanne have yet to sign up for it.  I went to the gift shop by myself; I needed a souvenir with this awesome name on it.

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In my profession as a speech therapist, we distinguish between receptive and expressive language.   Expressive language is that which we put forth, typically in our speech.  Essentially, it is what we express.

Receptive language is that which we take in from others, typically by listening.  It is what we receive.

Typically, my posts about our travels detail and expand upon our expressions, that which we put forth.  Typically, we have plenty of interactions with others; an abundance of connections and expressions made.  This trip was no different.

Besides the family from our home and our history pictured above, Gail and Suzanne connected with four people who pulled up in a car with Kansas plates outside our hotel.  It was a Veteran’s tag, so the home county was not on the plate.

The family pictured above lived about two miles—as the crow flies—south of our farm.  One gentleman in the car grew up about three miles north of our farm.

Small world.

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Sometimes, like on this trip, doing nothing special is really something special.  Sometimes, like on this trip, traveling without a plan is the most liberating form of vacationing.  Sometimes, our structured lives at home and at work spill over into our vacations, making us feel as if we must have a plan.

On vacation and in life in general, I often seem to do better without a plan.  Gail and Suzanne travel that way, too.  There is a long-standing joke between us about going to Colorado without a plan.  Perhaps that is why we get along so well.

Perhaps that is why I can safely say this trip was one more of reception vs. expression.  We let it all in.

The beauty of the aspens along with the change of seasons in the cool mountain temperatures was a refreshing new sight for us.

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I received a little bit of jack from this machine, but I’m pretty sure I put forth more than that all told. 

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This is a common sight along “The Strip” of Cripple Creek.  Gamblers and tourists come and go at all hours.  Like us, they keep coming back for more. 

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“The Strip” is relatively subdued; I was obviously able to stand at the top of the hill without interruption from traffic to take this picture.

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Two weeks ago this evening we returned home.  This morning, I took these beautiful roses outside.  They were waiting for us upon our arrival to our usual bed-and-breakfast/hotel; the proprietors do back flips to ensure we know how much they enjoy our stay.  Gail and Suzanne took their share, and the rest came home with me.  As with all their gestures of appreciation, we received them well.

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Like the trip, however, they are temporary.  The memory of this gesture, as well as all the new memories we made will remain.  Until next time, we will languish in those memories, and anticipate future ones.

Every day in between, however, we will attempt to enjoy the moments here at our own altitudes, our own longitudes.  Because here at home is where Real Life is lived.

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My front porch view of the tops of the water towers and small buildings of our small city.  The front porch of my home, where I live a pretty good real life.

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Our trip was so subdued, in fact, that we forgot to take a group shot.  We had a family event today, so we snapped this one just a few hours before this post.  We make it work wherever we find ourselves together.  

 

SOMEPLACE SPECIAL

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SOMEPLACE SPECIAL

When I was perhaps nine or ten years old, our dad loaded all of his children—I think all seven of us were there, unless our oldest brother was already gone—and took us on a Very Special Trip.  I remember it well, because we went on very few Special Trips.

He packed us into the white, wood-paneled Plymouth Volare station wagon that was the family truckster back then.  We spilled into the back seat and into the way back, no seatbelts were expected or used then.  We were going two hours away, so this was Someplace Very Special, because we rarely went anywhere.

We went to Abilene, Kansas.  Abilene is the boyhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, former U.S. president.  His boyhood home, presidential library, museum and final resting place are located there.  It is a Kansas jewel.    Our parents wanted us to experience this piece of history.

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It is an experience that is imprinted in my long-term memory.  The historical significance was coupled with the sure knowledge that this was indeed Someplace Special because we were making this four-hour round trip.  Abilene, Kansas then became Someplace Special to me.

I now travel to Abilene at least several times every week, sometimes five days a week as part of my work.   It is 30 minutes from my home now. It is still Someplace Special.  When I drive into town, that old, warm familiar feeling of being a ten-year old kid on a special trip fills me.  It hasn’t waned in forty years.

Today, I was called there late in the afternoon.  I hit the road at 4:00 to see a new patient.  I had the time, and even though it is typically the time I start to think about heading home, I headed east, and it felt good.

Typically, around four in the afternoon, I feel a funk settling over me.  I have never liked that time of day.  I think it is because the sunlight is starting to wane, and I love sunlight.  I get a little sad thinking about the sun leaving me, yet again.  Today, however, the thought of heading to Abilene at this typically blue time of day perked me up.  I was going Someplace Special.

 

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Our mom grew up in Wichita.  Her parents and three sisters lived there when we were growing up.  Our dad was an only child, and his dad lived in town close to our farm.  Visiting Mom’s family in Wichita was the only other traveling we ever did.  We would pile in the back seat or the way back, watching Dad navigate those three hours on the road from our farm right to the door of our grandparent’s home without a map.  He was so brilliant; he had to be to find his way each time.

Driving to Wichita became a profoundly memorable experience for me, just like Abilene was.  It still is.  Every time I drive to Wichita—perhaps ten times every year—I still get that feeling I had as a kid.  And, I can drive there without a map.  I’m not as brilliant as Dad was, but I do have a sense of where I’m going, even if I don’t know the exact direction I am traveling in.

 

Traveling by car now, while it is an everyday occurrence, can seem like a routine and mundane event.  That is, when I am traveling alone for work.  When I am in the car with my sisters, however, every trip becomes Something Special.  Much like a trip to Abilene or Wichita when I was a kid, a road trip with my sisters is always a special event.   As we continue to take more road trips, each holds special memories that are built upon the experiences from all the previous ones.

Traveling with someone can be an art form at best, and hell on earth at worst.  It is a delicate balance; a nearly-perfect blend that must be achieved in order for a trip with others to be a success.   I know this for sure, because I have travelled with people whom I would prefer never to travel with again.

Then, there are my sisters.  I could travel with them every day, and I would be a better and happier woman for it.  We know how to read each other, how to make our needs known, how to respect—and sometimes ridicule, in good faith, of course—each other.  We feel at ease in the car with each other, even if we don’t always agree where to go first, where to eat, when to leave, when to move on, or how to fit in all the fun we came for.

We make it flow, and we make it fun.

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Gail and I just returned from Colorado six days ago–another Someplace Special for me.  The morning of our scheduled return home arrived, and while the sun shone bright and warm—it felt warmer than 58 degrees beating down on us as we sat on the porch and drank coffee—the dark cloud of we have to go home today hung low and heavy around us.  We milked it.  We drank another cup of coffee, talked and laughed even more, finally packed up and went to see Christine at 9494 again for one last perusal of her baubles and jewels (maybe we each bought one more) and stopped at the casino one last time—I pulled Gail away when she was $10 up with that hand.

We departed an hour and a half later than I said we had to.  Since I was driving, and I had 200 more miles to go after I dropped Gail off, I tried to make the rules.  Even though she is the big sister, I laid down the law—at least I tried.  She mostly respected it, but given our mutual affinity for the mountains that enveloped us, we lingered, and I didn’t fight back much.

We bade adieu to our favorite mountain town, and began the initial ascent out of the valley, followed by a descent out of the mountains.  We continued to talk, laugh, reminisce and dream.  We spoke of things we don’t normally speak of at home.  Things that the mountains and their rejuvenating air breathe into us, and then gently coax back out of us.  Things that are more grand than those we normally discuss, things that the mountain grandeur inspires us to talk about.  Heavy, but positive and important things that we may not say otherwise.

And all because we traveled.

I know it is a gift to be able to travel with anyone harmoniously. For some, traveling with one’s sister is the greatest challenge.  For us, however, it is joy multiplied.  We recognize this as a gift, and we give thanks accordingly.

We know too that it is a gift to have the resources of time and money to travel.  We know not everyone has these gifts.  Besides these resources, it is also a matter of priority.  It is each of our individual decisions to spend the necessary time and money to travel, because it is a priority.

It is a harsh, but true fact of life that we spend our time, money and energy on that which we value.  For many, and in the past for us too, this trifecta of time/money/energy was nearly 100% focused on supporting our families out of necessity.  In large measure, we have realigned our priorities after the loss we suffered in our family, realizing that this time together is necessary for our own support.  We choose to spend our time, money and energy on this time together.

And we are all richer for it.

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**

I was in Abilene two days ago.  When I drove into town, I got that special feeling, the one I have had for forty years when I arrive there.  All because my parents took me Someplace Special.

Take yourself and/or your family to Someplace Special, even if it is only a few hours down the road, and especially if it will leave a lasting memory of why the place is indeed special, just as Abilene is to me.

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Abilene is also rich with Cowtown history as an important part of the Chisholm Trail.

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Your kids may still be thanking you forty years later, whether or not you are here to hear them say it.

Today, I am in Wichita, another Someplace Special.  We have the privilege of spending the day with this delightful family.

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My stepson, his wife and almost-two children are only 100 miles from us, and we are so thankful.  It is yet another reason to feel excited when I travel to Wichita.

I still get that warm feeling when I enter the city, and today, it was even warmer when I drove through the neighborhood where my grandparents once lived, the place my dad could always magically find without a map.

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Another Someplace Special from my more recent travels with my sisters is mercilessly being ravaged by Mother Nature as I write.

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My heart breaks for everyone in the state of Florida and northward as Hurricane Irma relentlessly pounds the entire area.  Our new friends in St. Pete Beach are in my heart today, as are all the residents and visitors in Florida and all the areas affected by this nightmarish hurricane.  Those affected in the Caribbean, as well as those affected in Texas are in my thoughts and prayers too.

No matter what happens in the next few hours and days, St. Pete Beach will always be Someplace Special for me.  My sisters and I made golden memories there last year, and Suzanne and I returned with her daughter not even two months ago, creating more memories.  We hope and pray that we will all be able to go back soon.  More importantly, may the lives,  pets and treasured possessions of all affected be safe, and may everything else be replaced in time by the grace, strength and generosity of the rest of America.

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If you have a sister or sisters, may you consider a trip to Someplace Special, if you aren’t already traveling there.

May you take your children Someplace Special that they will remember forty years later.

May you consider a day or a weekend in Abilene, Kansas.  I think you will agree it truly is Someplace Special.

May you find a way to balance your desires to travel with your responsibilities to others.

May you find a way to balance your time at work and at home with time spent going Someplace Special.

May you find balance.

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This post is dedicated to my Abilene friends–may you realize you live in Someplace Special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LABOR OF LOVE, LOVE OF LABOR

 

 

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LABOR OF LOVE, LOVE OF LABOR

I noticed a pattern when I was looking through the old family photos for Suzanne’s birthday post:  in all the group shots of any combination of the kids, Gail is actively mothering one of us five younger ones.  In the two below, she is helping me celebrate my first birthday.

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Apparently I had a love of books even at age seven.

Gail is the second-oldest; the oldest daughter.  After her, the rest of us arrived three, four, six, ten and thirteen years later.  It fell upon her to help Mom mother however and whenever she could.

And help she did.

Mom used to tell the story of Gail waking up from a nap in the afternoon, bleary-eyed and still half asleep, walking by Mom changing the diaper of one of us, picking up the (cloth) diaper while still appearing to be mostly asleep, and depositing it in the diaper pail.

She was well trained.  She knew what to do, even when she wasn’t fully awake.

Those years may have been the last ones that she ever got really good sleep.

**

I was not a teenage angel; I stayed out far too late many times.  I, however, could blame it on the two brothers just above me:  we had one vehicle to take into town—a five mile trip, and I had to carpool with them.  So, if they were able to stay out later, then so could I.  I don’t recall ever getting in trouble for getting home late.

Gail, however, did.  I can’t expand here; it wouldn’t be fair.  Suffice it to say she served her share of time grounded at home.  She played hard.

She worked hard, too.  She was responsible for so much of the day-to-day labor in our household.  In general, the four boys were outside, and the girls were inside.  Gail did both.  Unlike Suzanne and me, she knows how to drive a tractor/combine/truck.   While she was filling these outside roles, she also cooked meals, baked—doughnuts were her specialty, cleaned, did laundry, mothered and did whatever Mom needed her to do.

And she did it well.  Without complaining.  Day after day, year after year.  Suzanne and I helped too, but not nearly at the caliber she did.  Gail would be happy to tell you the story about when she was preparing to leave for college.  I was twelve.  Mom and Dad gently took me aside to firmly let me know that since Gail would be leaving soon, I would need to take on more responsibility.

I went to my (shared) room and cried.

**

Suzanne reproduced once, I reproduced twice and Gail x 4.  After caring for all of us for all those years, she had it in her to have her own brood.

And she had it in her to keep working.  Even in high school, she worked.  She waited and cooked at the Pizza Hut 20 miles away.  She would eventually go on to manage it; a fitting continuation of her humble food service beginnings at home.  After moving further west with her second husband, she would turn that love of doughnut-making into a Daylight Donuts franchise.

After learning the hard way with all of us that life is indeed too short, she closed the donut doors six months after Mom and Dad died.  Since then, she has served as the office manager for the lone chiropractor in her town.   She took several years to catch up on sleep—she was typically up all night—and then she undertook a part time gig as a bartender/cook at a local establishment.   She also has a successful side business with Pampered Chef.  It would stand to reason that she would seek out a business that involves cooking/baking.  She also continues to cook, bake, garden and can at home as well, she seems to have a non-stop whirling dervish quality about her.  Oh, and she has a little artistic quality that she parlays into another endeavor she calls a hobby; it could be considered a business.  That, along with Suzanne’s and my creative sides will be covered in the future; stay tuned.

This work ethic is deeply ingrained into her brain, likely never to leave.

Now, Suzanne and me, well, our productivity levels don’t quite match hers—alone or together.   We all work to pay bills, but Suzanne and I could walk away from it all much easier than Gail could.   We wish the work wasn’t a necessity, but it is.  We sometimes wish we hadn’t had to learn the Midwest farmer’s daughter work ethic, but it has served us well.

Gail defines enough work as anything past the standard eight-hour workday.  Suzanne and I define it as whatever it takes.

Suzanne works in banking; she has a sense of precision and accuracy with not only her own money, but everyone else’s.  She is responsible for large amounts of money every day, and she handles it well.  She handles transactions without handling money, and she physically touches large amounts of cash every day.

She works the standard 40-hour week.

My productivity and income is not measured by a clock.  In several of my previous professional incarnations I did punch a clock, and I did normally log forty hours.  Now,  I don’t have a regular schedule.  I have a loose one, and it can and usually does change.  When duty calls with my contracts, I provide my services, and it works for me.  My time measurement at work is fluid with actual delivery of my services, travels, time, paperwork, phone calls and infrequent meetings (ugh).  Best of all, I actually get paid for some writing gigs that I contract on the side.

I have a love/hate/love relationship with my day job, and love always wins.  I get to make a difference in people’s lives (hopefully), but the system and the sadness take their toll on me.

Unlike Gail, I really don’t want to work full-time; definitely not more.  Some weeks I do work full time; once in a blue moon I think I actually work more than 40 hours/week.  Ugh.  When I consider working as much as Gail does, it still makes me want to go in my (private) room and cry.

I learned the hard way that while hard work is honorable and sometimes necessary to be responsible for ourselves and our families, it doesn’t necessarily make a woman whole.  It may actually take pieces of her away, giving them to people, places and things that may not honor and respect the woman she is, or the woman she yearns to be.  For too many women, however, there is no other choice, and my heart goes out to them.

**

The eight-hour workday was a product of the Industrial Revolution.  Factories needed to run around the clock, and three daily eight hour shifts became the norm.  While this was a good fit for this kind of work, much of today’s labor force doesn’t have to show up for eight hours to keep the wheels turning.   It still works well for some folks.  Others, like me, thrive in a work environment that doesn’t tick-tock. This is the information age, and for many, hours logged at work may not look the same as they once did.  I learned this as a student of the most influential and brilliant professor of sociology, Rose Arnhold.  As my instructor for Introduction to Sociology as an elective class in college in 1985, she inspired me to become a degreed sociologist.  On the lucky and auspicious day of Friday, May 13th 1988, I walked across the stage, never to look at life the same again.  She gave me new lenses with which I could see the world in its broadest social form, granting me a greater understanding of the human group, and why we act the way we do with and without each other.

One of the greatest compliments several people have paid me about my blog involve the word “insight.”  I give credit to Rose for giving me the tools to look at things differently than I once did, differently than many people do.

At the spry age of 75, Rose just retired from that position.  I happened to be driving through my alma mater town on the way here, and she was home.  I stopped to see her, to let her know once again how much she inspired me, and how it has made all the difference.

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Having no one else to snap it, we settled for a selfie.  Noting that we are looking sideways, she aptly stated that as sociologists, we do look at things a little differently.  Indeed we do, and I will forever be indebted to her for that ability.

She will soon be moving to Denver to join her daughter, her only child.  She lost her husband of 53 years after a tragic fall late last year.  She speaks the language of loss, but also of moving on.  I offer her what solace I can from my experience, but I will never be able to repay her for what she gave me.  Hopefully I will be able to visit her here in Colorado after she moves.

**

Happy Labor Day.  As I write this the day before, I am sitting in beautiful Cripple Creek, Colorado, laboring only at what I love to do:  write.

Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894 to honor the American labor force that contributed to the strength and prosperity of this country.

Seven years ago this weekend, Gail, Suzanne and I were here, beginning a Labor Day tradition that we hope will be timeless.  Sadly, Suzanne did not get to join us—again.  Gail and I came in March without her, and we are here again without her.  She had a little thing called labor getting in her way.

The tradition started in March seven years ago, when we decided to celebrate the black square on the calendar and March Forth, instead of staying put on March Fourth and perhaps feeling more blue, as we had on the first anniversary.  We wanted to honor our parents on the day they died with joy, not sadness.

While not world travelers, they liked to travel.  One of their favorite destinations was Las Vegas.  Not to gamble, but to watch people.  Feeling that Cripple Creek was a more feasible destination than Vegas, and would indeed be a fitting tribute to their love of travel, we decided to come.

So we came.

And we had so much fun, we decided to come back exactly six months later on Labor Day weekend.  Except for last year, when we couldn’t swing another major journey on the heels of our Florida trip that began this blog series, we haven’t missed a Labor Day weekend here.  We haven’t missed a March Forth celebration since the first one either.

This town, Cripple Creek, is an historic gold-mining town, with some active mining still taking place.  The mother lode was struck here in the late 1800s, rivaling the California Gold Rush.  It is rich with history and heritage, and was a major national economic force in its heyday.   I titled The Sister Lode as such from the inspiration I got from this town.

Now, its economy is revitalized not just with efforts to celebrate this heritage and history, but with gambling as well.  I would be a liar if I said I don’t enjoy that part, I do.  Gail does too. Suzanne, being the smartest of us three with money both professionally and personally, chooses to leave it mostly behind.

Good girl.

On Sunday morning as I write, both Gail and I are still waiting to strike the mother lode downtown.  As always, we continue to strike the sister lode every day.

**

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We have found our own niche in this town, with the most gracious, hospitable hosts providing us top-notch lodging in what once was the county hospital.  Rick and Mike’s Hospitality House B&B/RV Park is our home when we are here, and they treat us with graciousness and kindness, likely more than we deserve.

 

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Christine.  We love Christine.  I mentioned her in the Nevertheless, We Persisted entry on June 25th .  She is the owner and proprietor of 9494, our favorite jewelry/gift shop.  It is aptly named after the town’s altitude, and her jewels, baubles and especially her sweet personality give us an even greater Rocky Mountain High than before we step in her door.

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Our favorite waitress, Kaitlin, works at our favorite restaurant, McGill’s Pint & Platter.  Irish pub fare always hits the spot for us.

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We partake not only of the heritage, gambling and shopping, but the natural beauty as well.

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I like to run and walk, so I hoof it through town every morning, just as the small herd of donkeys do.  They are descendants of the original mining donkeys, and they are treated with earned respect.  They mostly roam free, as they should.

 

 

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The casinos do back-flips to keep their patrons happy.  The easiest way—besides giving away money—is to provide a free concert.  Saturday night, Zac Charles and the Reds were giving it all they had at the Brass Ass.  I was ready to hang it up at my usual 10 pm bedtime, but when we crossed the street and heard live music coming out the door, I found a renewed energy to stay up a bit later.  Their country/rock music vibe spread through the place, with dancing and singing adding to the mix.  They are a local band  from Colorado Springs,but should be on the national circuit with their incredible talent.

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We have friends along the way too.  Just outside of Colorado Springs, lies Peyton, Colorado, home of the Pop-a-Top Saloon.  Gail begged us to stop for the first few trips, but Suzanne and I denied her.  Now, we don’t miss.  The locals remember us, and the barmaids, even though we don’t always see the same ones, quickly become our friends, like Krystal:

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Teddy sat next to us.  We swapped life stories, and will hopefully cross paths again.  If not here, then online.

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After that stop, and after passing through Colorado Springs and all the small towns along the way, it was once again time to hear John Denver serenade us.  This time, unlike last time, both of us packed our CDs.  Gail’s, however, was empty.  I checked mine before I left home.  We popped him in the CD player, and sang along like no one else could hear us (because they couldn’t).   I did check satellite radio before I put the CD in, just in case.  No luck this time.

Apparently, however, our special forces Above aligned with satellite radio down here, and John Denver did indeed, once again, perform for us while we were in Cripple Creek.  The Force was with us.

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Tomorrow we will drive home.  We will be greeted in eastern Colorado and western Kansas by the annual coming-out of the Kansas state flower.  Labor Day always brings them out in full bloom, and they help me make peace with the end of summer, my favorite season.

My mother loved sunflowers, my mother-in-law loves sunflowers, and my son’s girlfriend loves them, too.  Karlee loves them so much that she and Joel took the two-hour trip to Lawrence, Kansas, to visit a famous field.

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Happy end of summer to you. Thank you for your labors that continue to contribute to America’s strength and prosperity.

Happy Labor Day to you.  May your labors be labors of love.

 

 

 

Lessons From My Sister–And The Sea Creatures

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LESSONS FROM MY SISTER—AND THE SEA CREATURES

I sat sweltering and sweating, but savoring the sun and steam at the beach with Suzanne and her daughter, Julia.  The waves rolled in, crashed, ebbed and flowed, high-tided and low-tided, drug in seaweed, reflected the sun and the moon and then did it all over again.   All the while, the sea creatures did their thing too.  And then did it all over again.

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We made it to the beach again—safely.  Just as Suzanne said we would.   Our plane didn’t crash—just as she said it wouldn’t.  I need to listen to my little sister more.    I need to look up to her more.

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There were three kind strangers behind me in the airport who picked up my things as they fell out of my bag and caught up to me to give them back.

These should have been my first three clues.

My carry-on bag was obviously overstuffed, and losing its contents.  I struggled to carry it in my arms as I wheeled my suitcase along, so I tried to strap it to the handle of my wheeled bag.

Suzanne glided along smoothly, with her light load, consisting of a (smaller) wheeled suitcase, and a small, over-the-shoulder carry-on.  Julia had an equally small wheeled bag, and a small backpack on her back.

I had seven books packed in there.  I had snacks.  I had my jewelry holder.  I had water, which, of course, had to be drank before security.  I had my Kindle.  I had other stuff.  Too much stuff—obviously.

**

Jettison:  to throw or drop something from an aircraft or ship; to throw away as no longer useful.

I am a self-proclaimed word nerd; I wear the badge proudly.  This particular word was the word-of-the-day not long ago on my calendar, and it quickly came to mind.  As I walked through the airport with this ridiculous load in tow, this word wouldn’t leave my mind.

I watched my little sister advancing easily along toward our gate.  Her 21 year-old daughter did the same.  I, however, struggled.  I, however, signed up for this.  I didn’t expect their help.  I did expect Suzanne to tell me I didn’t need all this stuff.  She did, and she was right.

Unlike Gail and me, Suzanne is a minimalist.  Gail and I strive to be more like her, but so far, it’s not working.

When Suzanne moved to my small city about six months ago, she jettisoned many of her possessions.  She sold or gave away much of what she owned, and started over—minimally.  Gail and I have been collecting stuff, and living in our homes 20 and 21 years respectively.  We want to be like Suzanne when we grow up.

Perhaps it is her minimal nature.  Perhaps it is her experience with cancer that made her realize she doesn’t need stuff. Perhaps it is both.

Perhaps she feels at one with the sea because the sea offers that same lesson to anyone willing to listen.  All one really needs on the sea is a minimal amount of clothing.  The creatures of the sea also offer that same lesson.   They may or may not carry a shell on their back, and sometimes they shed that.

…but the sea does not change.”  These lyrics were the first to come through my earbuds after I turned on my iPod (name that 80’s tune, if you can) as I started my morning run on the third of our four mornings there.

I don’t believe in “coincidences,” so I will take it as something meaningful.

I should have left the iPod in the room and listened to the crashing waves, because I can listen to music any other day.  These precious few days here are the only ones I can tune in to the ocean.  Ocean music trumps 80’s music—or any music for that matter, but, like so many other habits, I rely upon my daily patterns, this one with music to get me running.

Another habit I engage in during my daily run at home is the mental lamentation of my left knee pain.  I know the point as I take off down the driveway when it starts, I know the downhills hurt more and the uphills hurt less, and I focus on the exact spot inside my knee where the pain resides.

Except today.  I wasn’t in that daily groove like I am at home, so I didn’t think about it.  And there were no hills on the beach.

And it didn’t hurt nearly as much.

The sea does not change, but I did.

I know the power of the brain.  My day job is in the field of brain rehabilitation.  I know how habits are formed.  I know how patterns in the brain are made.  And I know they can be changed, starting with conscious awareness of them, followed by simply thinking differently about them, then ultimately acting differently.

I have some nasty habits, some patterns that should have been turned around long ago; some that should never have been started in the first place.

So I started looking around here on the seashore.  There before me was a wealth of learning opportunities, lessons from the sea and its creatures waiting to be learned.  In the spirit of keeping my 51 year-old brain in better shape than my left knee, I am always up for taking in new information, no matter how or where I can find it.

SEA TURTLES:  I didn’t see any sea turtles, but I know at least one had been there, and more would soon proliferate there.   A female Loggerhead Sea Turtle had crawled ashore and buried her eggs in the night, and returned to the sea.  The rule on the beach is that sea turtle nests are not to be disturbed—under penalty of law.   The nests are roped off, monitored, sponsored, studied and revered.

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When the buried eggs hatch, they climb out of the nest and go toward the light.  Hopefully, this light is the moon reflecting on the sea, and they crawl back in.   To minimize the chance that they will go toward artificial light instead of the sea, beachfront property owners are urged to keep their lights down because the baby turtles will not survive long if they go the wrong way.

Following the true light is a survival matter.  So it is with humans too, but we can survive longer than the sea turtles in the darkness if we choose to follow that.  Except that the darkness is the wrong way, and too often we don’t listen to those forces that try to guide us into the right light.

SEAHORSES:  I have long had a fascination with seahorses.  Julia does too.

In my work with the brain—and as a word nerd, I latch on to the cool words that describe its structures and functions.  Hippocampus is one such word.   It is the structure largely responsible for memory.  It is shaped like, and named after the seahorse, as hippocampus is the species name of the seahorse.

The male seahorse takes it upon himself to gestate and give birth.  Having been the star of Act One in the delivery room twice, I have a respect for him that is beyond words.

Both seahorse sexes shake it up a little bit and swim vertically as well horizontally.  I like any person or creature who goes against the grain, and I try to examine the grains of every social fabric before I go with it or against it.  Even if everyone else is doing it, it might not be right for me.

Seahorses aren’t easily found on this beach, and we weren’t lucky enough to find one. Julia, however, did find one on a trip to Mexico with her mother four years ago, and she has been fascinated ever since.   To commemorate this creature and this trip, I found this necklace in a cool little shop called Landing Company.

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In celebration of Suzanne’s five-year cancer survival, she deserved her own special piece of jewelry.  With the capable, kind and personalized attention from the amazing jewelry lady Dawn, we were able to find the perfect necklace in Landing Company, something Suzanne truly wanted—and she doesn’t want for much.  It was a beautiful silver image of her favorite sea creature:

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THE MERMAID:  Don’t bother telling Suzanne they are not real, because she has chosen to believe they are.  She has a new-found fascination with this mythical (real?) creature, and to show her just how happy I am to still have her with us, I put it on my tab with the seahorse necklace.

The mermaid is noted to have powers of telepathy and immortality.  Suzanne has always had an intuition that I cannot explain.  Before she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer five years ago, she consulted several doctors.  An ENT and a radiologist pronounced her without cancer, but nevertheless, she persisted.  She knew something wasn’t right, and she moved on to a doctor who found the problem, and began treatment.  Now, five years after she visibly exercised her power of telepathy, her powers of immortality have commenced.

May these powers live long, and may she continue to inspire all of us with her powers that, like the mermaid for her, are very real.

 

CRABS:  One of our favorite restaurants in this beach town is Crabby Bill’s.  Seafood is a local specialty—of course—and this spot is our favorite. I am not a crab eater, but there is a lesson to be learned from crabs.

In a bucket of crabs being harvested, if one tries to crawl out, the others will pull it back down.  No wonder they are called crabs.

Don’t hang out with crabs.   They will try to drag you down to their level.

Our host at Crabby Bill’s was Ed.  Our dad’s name was Ed.  He even has the same sweet smile that our dad had.

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We also found an old friend there from last year.  Gregg was the host we mentioned in my first blog post, and of course, he remembered us.  Gail was the one who hugged him upon his introduction last year, but he remembered us too.

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Now, because I don’t want any of you to suffer the fate that the next creature can deliver, I must bring you down for a moment.  I promise I will bring you back up.

SEAGULLS:  Recognize them for the beautiful creatures of God and Nature that they are, but beyond that, be careful.  They are takers.  They may charm and woo you with their natural beauty, but don’t be fooled:  They are there to take.  And when you give them—even a little, they will stay for more, because they already know your weakness.  They know they can get something for nothing from you, so don’t even give a little.

Leave them to their own devices and vices, because they are not going to change.  Give up hope, as I mentioned in my last post.  Give up hope on changing a creature who only knows how to take.  Bless them and send them on their way.

Shoo.

**

We missed Gail terribly.  She was with us last year in this beach haven, and even though we thoroughly enjoyed Suzanne’s daughter as proxy, there is no one like our sister Gail.  She is the spark plug that ignites our fires inside and outside.

People remembered us.  Even before we checked in to our hotel Friday night, one of our favorite restauranteurs greeted us heartily when we stopped in for a late dinner.

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Gail was not able to join us, as she had recently returned from a trip to Michigan to see one of her older daughters.  Suzanne and I, however, kept her spirit and her memory alive here.

We were able to reach out—without Gail–and make a few new friends.  Fred B. happened to be sweeping his driveway as we walked by his house.  He lives adjacent to our resort, close to the beach walkway.  We were staring, slack-jawed at this perfect little house, perfectly located by the beach.  His house has been in his family since the 1930’s, and he has lived in it since he arrived in the 1940’s.

We are so jealous, but a house like this couldn’t belong to a nicer man.

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Dawn at  Landing Company, and Terri Anne at The Tervis Store are now counted among our friends there, too.

**

The sea does not change, but after spending this trip with Suzanne and her daughter, I am motivated to change.  Suzanne’s spirit of minimalism is admirable and I want to be like her when I grow up.  So I am starting small, but starting nonetheless.  Despite the purchases I made that, perhaps I didn’t really need, I am trying to jettison other possessions at home.   I am trying harder to recognize the patterns of thought in my brain that lead me to repeat the same futile actions over and over yet again.

Next time I’m preparing for a trip, Suzanne has volunteered to pack for me.  She said she will be able to fit it all in a Zip-lock bag.

Like the sea creatures, we shouldn’t need all this stuff.

Like Suzanne, we should all celebrate every day of this life we are granted, because, unlike Suzanne, we are not immortal.

**

This post is dedicated to Suzanne the Survivor, and to Denise who is fighting the fight right now.  Denise, let’s plan a trip to Florida in five years—and maybe even before.

 

 

 

 

 

SWHEAT GIRLS: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

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SWHEAT GIRLS:  SEPARATING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF

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No trip is shorter or more meaningful in our family history and heritage than the one Suzanne and I took today.  It is a mere 72 miles from my home; I could drive it with my eyes closed.   Suzanne moved to my small city about six months ago, so we enjoyed the ride together. Gail wasn’t able to meet us there from her home several hours west of the farm.  So we persisted—without her.

Today, we drove to our family farm to partake of the annual wheat harvest.  I have only missed one harvest in my life; even a quick ride in the combine and/or the truck constitutes a visit.

That one harvest I missed was in 1991.  I was spending the year in suburban Philadelphia, fulfilling a one-year contract as a nanny for a couple with a 2-year old girl and a 4 year-old boy.

I was between degrees, and leading a gypsy lifestyle.  No real job, no real money, no real boyfriend, so I set out on an adventure.  (That “no real boyfriend” became a real boyfriend when I got back, and eventually my husband.  The story may or may not be covered in a future post.  Stay tuned.)

Mom, in her trademark thoughtful style, knew I was missing harvest, so she sent me a card with several heads of wheat tucked inside.  The kids and their mother were unimpressed, but the chemist father was intrigued.  He sat on the patio with a head of this wheat, examining, feeling and dissecting it.  After about 20 thoughtful minutes of inspection, he appeared to have a revelation:

“So this is what they mean when they say ‘separate the wheat from the chaff.’”

**

Therein lies the challenge. Keeping the good stuff, and letting the rest go.  And I don’t mean literally, as in what Suzanne is doing in the picture below:

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**

Most of us—myself included—carry around too much chaff.  We hang on to useless, dirty, compostable refuse.  We think we need it—and I’m not talking about material stuff, although that describes me, too.   I’m talking about worries, concerns, stresses, hurts, regrets, sorrows, anger, illusions, fears and despair; you get the idea.  We don’t need any of it, but we cling on like a life raft.  Without them, we fear, we will sink.  We won’t know how to function.  They propel us forward, but only into a life of more misery; more of the same.  We hang on because we have always hung on.  Because it is now a habit.  Because we don’t think we have a choice.  Because we don’t even realize we are hanging on.

**

At the time of our parents’ deaths, our older sister Gail was owner and sole proprietor of a Daylight Donut shop in her small western Kansas town.  She toiled long hours with little sleep for many years, churning out donuts and other sinfully delicious pastries.  The glazed donuts were always the best sellers.

I used to get so mad at myself if I made too many glazed donuts, or not enough glazed donuts, because they sell the best and I never knew how many I should make.” 

Life changed for all of us after that day.  We were hanging close and comforting each other in the days and weeks after.  We took the time to open up and talk, trying to find ways to ease the pain.

“Now, I don’t care anymore about the ******* glazed donuts!”  You have to know Gail to understand the full emphasis of the expletive.

The metaphor was obvious.  In our heightened state of awareness, we realized, at that moment, that we still cared about other, equally unimportant glazed donuts.  We had just been given a hard-earned gift, a tool of insight that would allow us to measure any stress against the one we were all surviving.  In this comparison, every stress was as inconsequential as a glazed donut.

“It’s just a glazed donut.  Let it go.”  This became our mission statement.  It still is.

**

Harvest is the climax of the agricultural year.  The wheat that was planted nine months ago is ripe, and ready to determine the financial course of the next year.  Some years, it’s a make-or-break proposition.  It can be wiped out by hail, hammered down by high winds, flooded, frozen, or rendered nearly worthless by the Wheat Gods who determine the price.

Dad used to say that the farmer is the only businessman who doesn’t get to set the price for his product.  Dad was a very wise man.  Mother Nature and Uncle Sam are often ruthless relatives to deal with in one’s farming family.

On purpose, I didn’t marry a farmer.  Neither did my sisters.  One of our four brothers, as well as his two young sons inhabit our now 5th-generation farm.  They, along with help from our youngest brother who also farms with his father-in-law, are capable stewards of the land that is part of our family heritage, and will continue to build our farm family legacy as my two nephews have shown a keen interest to continue down this path.

I am so grateful.

The home I grew up in is set to come down later this summer.  Mold overtook it, and my brother, his wife and their three children built a new home close to it.  The house that built me will always be in my heart, even after it no longer stands.  Sticks and stones they are, but if they could, the walls would speak of sheltering this family of nine for four decades.  They would speak of a family history warm with love, respect and kindness between the seven children and two parents who inhabited it for all those years.  We had enough but not much extra in terms of material things.  We always had enough love.

Always.

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**

Suzanne and I arrived in the harvest field mid-afternoon, and stayed for several hours—long enough to ride in the combine with our nephew, and for a trip to the elevator with our brother.

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The air hung still in unlikely Kansas style, with nary a breeze.  The dust wafted straight up in small clouds and hung lazily.  The sun beat down hot and hard when it came out, and I loved it all.  I sweated, got dusty, dirty, scratched, greasy, stinky and fulfilled.  And, when it was all over, I truly felt like a swheat girl.

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Traversing the hills is part of the adventure.  Hugging the right side of the road as the peak of the hill approaches is non-negotiable.  The vista from the top is beautiful, but until you get there, you must assume there is a truck or a combine coming at you from the opposite direction.  And, chances are that whatever you are driving, you are no match for either of those behemoth farm machines.

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The roads often fork in this part of The Wheat State.  Should you go left, or should you go right?  Should you turn around?  Or should you just sit and think about it?  Sometimes the road more traveled appears to be the safe choice as below.

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Or, sometimes it’s a 50/50 proposition.

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So many decisions in life.  Separate the worthless from the valuable, the good from the bad, the wheat from the chaff and the glazed donuts from the important matters.  Get rid of the chaff, just like the combine so effortlessly does.

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After harvest” was the answer I frequently got from Dad when I asked him if I could have something—whatever material thing I thought I needed before harvest.  It always depended upon the success/failure of each year’s cash crop.  Imagine one paycheck a year, with no guarantee how big it would or should be, or if it would even arrive at all.  Such is life on the farm.  I learned to simultaneously respect and fear harvest, to love and loathe it at the same time.  I am so glad my brothers and their families love it.  Keeping our farm in the family is priceless, and I am forever grateful to them.

For myself, I decided to leave it behind.  I swore I wouldn’t marry a farmer, and I didn’t.  I never fell in love with one either, so who knows.  But I never want to miss harvest.  It is the culmination of one year of my brothers’ work, the annual peak of my farm-girl heritage.  It is what our economic lives revolved around for my first 18 years.

More importantly, harvest is a symbol.  It is the golden wheat, and I continue to learn to leave the dirty and useless chaff behind.  The glazed donuts are no longer a part of my life either.   Gail opened my eyes in her forceful, meaningful, expletive-rich statement, and I took it to heart.

Today, in the center of The Wheat State, Suzanne and I celebrate all that—as well as a golden day with each other.   And, of course, with Gail and her donuts—or lack thereof–in spirit. 19554420_1759936490687934_7965154539688390526_n[1]

 

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Thank you for reading my blog.  My second-favorite holiday is approaching in two days, and I wish a safe and Happy Independence Day to all of  you.  Greater than that, may you make every day Independence Day as you leave the chaff–and the glazed donuts behind.