Valentine’s Day is here. It is a day dedicated to love, and in my opinion, that is a wonderful thing. Where would our world be without love. When we think of love, we think romance, but love takes in so much more than that. Of course, we love our spouses or significant others, children, other family members and friends, but I wonder if our world would be a little better place if we could expand that some.

Have you ever thought of a day where people are kind to each other? A day of smiling at the people you pass on the street. A day where we don’t scream at every person involved in every annoying situation that goes on. Wouldn’t it be great to have a day, in which love really was the rule of the day?

I know Valentine’s Day is really about romantic love, and that is beautiful. But beyond Valentine’s Day, maybe we could all try to show a little more love and kindness to those around us, and maybe it could make our world a little better place to be…one random act of kindness at a time.

Most of my life is spent running here and there. I help care for my mom, and my in-laws, I work, I go to as much of my grandchildren’s activities as I can, Bob and I walk 2 hours 5 days a week, and we bowl. Basically, we live our life, but once in a while, I like to spend a lazy Saturday just sitting around in the quiet, maybe reading my Kindle…doing nothing really.

I think everyone needs a day, now and then, that is just for self. Our lives are so busy these days. You watch shows about the west, and while they worked hard, it just seemed like a more peaceful, easy time than today. The work day ended and the family spent time together reading, sewing or listening to someone play music. There was no rush to go here and there.

I guess those feelings of wanting a lazy day, is why Bob and I like being out in the wilderness areas of the Black Hills…hiking. There is no schedule, no hurry, no cars, and few people. That’s what it’s all about. Now while many of you might not consider hiking to be in the lazy day catagory, but it certainly is in that, all thought of responsibility is gone, and it is just you and God’s beautiful creation. That is what puts it in the lazy day catagory!

Now, remember summer vacation when you were a kid. School was out for 3 months. The weather was warm. The air fragrant with flowery scents. The breeze was gentle. You had no cares. No job to go to. No homework. Just days and days of freedom to play, and very little chores to do. It was a time to rejuvenate. Looking back, I think, “Why was I in such a hurry to grow up?” I wouldn’t want to go through the whole growing up process again, but really, who wouldn’t love to go back in time for just one more lazy day of summer?

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. I go over three nights a week and help her get to bed, to take some of the load off of my father-in-law who is on oxygen and isn’t very strong himself at nearly 81 years old. Most nights our conversation is much like the re-runs on television. I ask her what she did all day, and she pulls something from her dwindling memory such as the dishes or laundry, both of which she hasn’t done much of in years. Then she asks about my day. After telling her I worked, she asks where I work. I tell her that I work at The Stengel Agency, selling insurance. To that she responds, “That’s right.” Then I get her to bed and tell her that I will be back in two days. And she asks what day today is. Our routine is fairly predictable…on most days, that is.

Some days find my mother-in-law much more…confused, lost even. Last week, during our “normal” conversation, when we got to the part about where I work, she said, “Oh, at Kmart.” I know my jaw dropped, because I haven’t worked at Kmart since 1974. I told her, “No, at The Stengel Agency. I sell insurance.” Then came her normal response of “that’s right.” Then tonight, the conversation went along normally and I assumed we were past the bad spell, until she said that she would be glad when she could go “home.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that, so I asked where she was. She replied, “Casper.” That being right I asked where home was. She indicated north of town, and I thought she meant the place they used to live out in the country, but she said, after obviously realizing that something was not quite right, “That place we used to live when Walt was working for the railroad.” In talking to my husband about that part of her life, I found that his dad worked for the railroad in the 50’s in Montana.

I have known that this stage of the disease would come, and there would be things and people she would not remember, and confusion would become the norm, but when faced with these moments that are still shocking to me, I makes me feel very sad. I can see what the future holds for her, and it is heartbreaking.

Every Thursday night, I go over to my Mom’s house to spend the evening with my Mom and sister. Sometimes, like last night we are joined by Cheryl’s daughter Liz. I originally started spending Thursday evenings over there, and many other nights too, when my Dad got sick. After Dad went to live in Heaven, I continued going over on Thursday nights to spend time with Mom and Cheryl. Bob bowls on Thursday nights, so it was just us girls. We have dinner and watch television, or a movie. It’s just our time together.

Now anyone who knows me very well, knows that I like cop shows, you know the good old blood and guts stuff, but Mom and Cheryl don’t go in for that stuff, so the choices in movies are, shall we say…much more tame that my first choice. We watch things like “Kate and Leopold” or “Letters to Juliette”. You know, the basic chick flick. Now at first, I found myself dozing off, but at some point, I started really watching some of the chick flicks, and decided that some of them are pretty good. It’s not that I’m not a romantic, it’s just that I had never really gotten into some of those shows much. I have to say, that it has open up a different world for me…the world of the chick flick.

I still very much like my cop shows, and that is the kind of shows Bob likes too, so I think it has always been a source of relief to him that he didn’t have to watch too many “chick flick” movies. And when we do watch television, we usually watch shows like CSI, Bones, and Criminal Minds; or movies like Red, Die Hard, and Terminator. And that is usually what I prefer, but on Thursday nights, I go over to my Mom’s house, and we three girls sit down to take that all important dose of the medicine called the “chick flick”.

When everything around me is in chaos, and I feel like I am being pulled in several different directions at once, I find the need as I’m sure most of you do, to escape to a place of peace. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just fly off to somewhere exotic every time life got a little stressful? Unfortunately for most of us, that isn’t feasible, and well…how many Calgone bubble baths can a person really take? And yet, we can all relate to the woman in the commercial with all the screaming kids, barking dogs, and broken dishes, holding her aching head and begging to be magically taken to a peaceful place where she can be alone.

Sometimes, when life gets too stressful, we really do need to find a place to have some alone time. A great peaceful place can be as simple as a quiet room, just you and a good book…or in my case, my Kindle. Curling up with a good book, especially in the Winter cold, a warm blanket, and a nice fire, can be very soothing to the soul.

The great outdoors is another great place to find a peaceful place. A quiet walk on a trail near my home is so peaceful to me. My husband and I walk almost every day, and when we can be outside, well that’s perfect. We love to hike, and the mountain is the perfect get away without having to go far. Some people, like my cousin Greg and my brother-in-law, Chris, love to fish. Now being on the lake or by a river is quite relaxing to me, but that whole waiting for the fish to bite, not to mention the worm issue, puts fishing in the “I don’t think so” catagory for me, but, that’s what makes people unique. You guys are welcome to the fishing thing…I’ll just soak up the sun, thanks.

When I was a little girl, and still today, one of our family’s favorite things to do was to go up on the mountain for a picnic, and stay there into the evening sitting around the campfire roasting marshmellows and laughing about any funny stories we could think of, and believe me, there were quite a few. This was one of my Dad’s favorite things to do. Just the smell of the fire, and the comfortable companionship of family puts everyone in a relaxed mood. Now you can buy a fire ring to use in your back yard, and many people find that to be a geeat get away. In fact, Bob and I just bought one at the end of the summer, and I look forward to using it this summer.

In the hectic world we live in, if you don’t find a way to unwind, you will find yourself moody and depressed. But if you can unlock the secret to your own peaceful place, you can rejuvenate your spirit, and be ready to take on the world.

Brooke was the daughter of our friends Dani and Nick, and she left us 7 years ago today…far too soon. She was named Brooke Noel because she was born on Christmas Eve. She had just turned 7 years old. She was such a lively child, always filled with grins and giggles. Her laugh was infectious, as was her personality. Everyone who ever met her loved her instantly. That’s just how it was. Funny how some people have that effect on you. Seemingly without even trying they work their way into your heart and there they stay…forever.

Brooke’s grandpa, Edd, owned a bowling alley, and I remember when he was cleaning up at the end of the day, he would let her (and her sisters, brother, and cousins) ride the vacuum cleaner around the room as he vacuumed. I always thought that was the funniest thing. Most kids are, at least somewhat, afraid of the vacuum cleaner. Not those kids. I remember Brooke riding around on that vacuum, and she would have the biggest smile on her face and she couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3. It was like her grandpa gave her the greatest gift ever. Ha Ha Ha…it still makes me laugh to think of it.

Brooke took a special liking to my husband, Bob. When we would come into the bowling alley, she would be waiting to say hello to him. Then she would spend the rest of the evening practically glued to him. I had to play second fiddle. He was her special adopted uncle, and that is just the way it was. I even joked with Dani once that Bob had a girlfriend. She was ready to strangle the girl who would dare try to come between Bob and me. She asked who it was, and I told her it was “that girl over there in the purple.” She didn’t see anyone in purple…until I finally pointed it out to her that Brooke was wearing purple. Then she laughed and laughed. Brooke was the only girl who was allowed to be Bob’s girlfriend…well, other than me…maybe!

Brooke was such a little mother. Dani babysat my grandchildren, and when I would bring them over in the mornings, Josh, my youngest, instantly became her baby. She was in charge!! But that was Brooke’s way in many things. If Cameron or Felicia wanted something they didn’t think their parents would let them have, they would get Brooke to ask. She was just in charge and could usually get her way. Anyone who knew her, knew that about Brooke. She just had a way of wrapping people around her little finger…and you didn’t seem to mind.

I still find it very hard to believe that Brooke has been gone so long. And to this day, I sometimes call Mady, her little sister, Brooke, because they are quite similar. I often wonder who Brooke would have been today, as she was just a 10 months younger than my oldest grandchildren, so it is an age I can relate to. She had such a special way about her, that I can’t help feeling that we have all really missed out. Love you Brooke, and miss you very much.

In a world filled with reasons to rush here and there, we seldom have the time to see what is really important. Most families have no choice but to have two incomes, meaning many parents can’t attend many events that their children are involved in. Children are coming home to an empty house and no supervision. Homework gets pushed to later in the day, especially if parental help is needed at all, because by the time the parents get home, get dinner made, and get started helping with homework, it is almost time for bed.

Where did the day go? And for that matter, when you think about it, the weeks and years seem to fly by. Before we know it, our children are grown up, and we find out that we have missed all those precious years. And the sad thing is that there often isn’t any solution to it. Parents can’t make ends meet without two incomes, and times are tough. And so the important things must once again be pushed to the background, so we can make enough to support our families.

So, is there a solution? Probably not entirely, but if we do our best to find a way to make as many moments as possible, we will find that we aren’t missing out on as much as before. There is a song by George Strait that goes like this, “Life’s not the breaths you take but the moments that take your breath away.” It is about doing your best not to miss the important moments. Make as many games as you can. Go to their concerts. Make the moments you can make, so they know that when you can’t make an event, it isn’t because you don’t want to be there.

I went shopping at Walmart on Saturday, and after loading our groceries into our car, I went to put the cart in the cart station. As usual, there were a number of carts jammed in there in such an unruly manner that the station was half full. I pushed the carts into the proper order, leaving room for lots more carts. All in all, the process took me less than a minute, but if each of us would take a minute to straighten these carts, it makes the job of the people who collect the carts easier, and leaves more room to get the carts out of the parking lot.

Have you ever had your car hit by a cart in the parking lot? Carts that are put in the cart stations are far less likely to be blown across the parking lot and into your car. And yet, all over the parking lot you will see perfectly healthy people who are too lazy to walk their cart to the cart station, so they just leave it beside a car thinking, someone else will put it away. Why is that someone else’s job? Shouldn’t the person who used the cart have the decency to put it away?

Another place that the public could do a better job of doing their part is in the public restroom. Have you ever noticed how after some people wash their hands, they leave water all over the counter, wad up their paper towel and toss it in the direction of the waste basket…usually missing, and walk out leaving a horrible mess that not only has to be cleaned up by some poor soul, but makes it hard for the next patron to even think about going near the sink. It only takes a minute to wipe up any water you spill and make sure your paper towel actually makes it to the waste basket. Is that really so hard?

I guess what I’m saying here, is when did we all become so “special” that we couldn’t “lower” ourselves to clean up our own messes? Most of us were taught to clean up our own messes, but somehow we think that job belongs to someone else. How would we feel if we were that “someone else”? Would we like to clean up some of the messes we leave? I don’t think so. Everyone’s job is easier, if we all just do our part.

Ah, the Super Bowl. The day when even non-football-fans and those who watch just the occassional game, gather together with the die hard fans, pick a team to support, even if it isn’t the one they would normally go for, stuff their faces with Thanksgiving Day sized feasts made up of mostly snacks, and scream like they know what is going on. Those who really don’t want to watch the game, come to the party anyway, for the food and socializing with the other people who really don’t want to watch the game, and laugh every time a “fight” breaks out over a play.

I used to be in the non-football-fan category, but my Dad always liked the Broncos and my husband and I love to go to Denver, so we became the die hard Bronco fans, that like to kind of know how their team is doing, and watch an occasional game, especially if they have a chance at going to the Super Bowl. But, when it comes to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t matter who is playing, we are watching. That all started one year when the Broncos went to the Super Bowl. I believe it was 1987. And we have not missed a Super Bowl since. We get on the game boards, hoping for a win, which has eluded us so far, but we are, never the less, hopeful for this year. We yell and scream at the refs, and of course when our team get a touchdown, you might not want to be too close, or plugging your ears would also be good, because we will be screaming.

Yes, the Super Bowl brings friends and football enemies together to fight it out for the championship. It is a very unique day in our year…or maybe, just the mid-Winter, un-holiday party opportunity!! And since my team isn’t playing, my daughter loves the Packers, and my grandson loves the Steelers, all I can say is…”Go Broncos!!”

Since I have been thinking about old times, I thought a few of the funny things that have happened might be interesting. My sisters and I are no different than I’m sure most of you are, and when you get 5 girls together, and then the neighbor kids, and a few cousins…well, it is a recipe for either disaster, or the funniest stories ever.

One that keeps coming to my mind, is the time my cousin Forest was over at our house, and all of us kids decided to play Hide and Seek. I can’t say for sure how old I was, but I couldn’t have been more that 5 or 6. Forest, who was the same age as I was, and I couldn’t figure out where to hide. So being the “helper” she was, my sister Cheryl, who was two years older than we were, decided to help us out. In our garage was a clothes dryer. It was one of those old style dryers with a window in front. So, Cheryl said, “Here, climb in and I’ll shut the door softly so it doesn’t close all the way.” Well, as you can imagine, Forest and I, trusting as we were, climbed right in. Cheryl slammed the door and said, “I’m going to turn it on.” We started screaming, and she started laughing. It didn’t take very long to realize that since it was out in the garage…it wasn’t plugged in! My sisters and I were always trying to see if we could pull one over on each other…good one, Cheryl. I still laugh about that every time I think about it!!

My sisters and I are all very good friends now, but as children, there were…shall we say…cat fights!!! Now these weren’t the type you might think. When we got mad at each other, we literally took matters into our own hands. We scratched, bit, hit, and pulled hair. We all had long hair, so hair pulling worked very well. After a few minutes into a fight, you would find both of us holding a handful of hair, and the attached head, firmly planted against the floor. Neither of us would give up, but we didn’t mind screaming so loudly that my mother finally had to come in and put a stop to it. We must have driven her crazy!! I’m sure you have all seen your share of sibling fights, but the is nothing quite as funny as two stubborn girls holding each other’s head to the floor by the hair and refusing to let go. Again, I laugh about that every time I think about it.

And here’s one last story I wanted to tell you about, and it is perhaps the funniest one of all. My parents had gone to the Fireman’s Ball, which they don’t have anymore, but used to be a big deal. My older sister Cheryl was babysitting the rest of us, and since it was going to be late when Mom and Dad came home, we had all gone to bed. Suddenly, we heard what sounded like the livingroom picture window crashing in. Cheryl jumped out of bed and ran out into the livingroom to see what was going on. I promptly pulled the blankets over my head as a form of “self preservation” I suppose, and my sister Alena started laughing. What is so funny, you might wonder. Well, Alena’s bed had a metal frame, and stuck between the bed frame and the wall was a metal Chinese Checkers board, which Alena had kicked, causing the crashing noise we heard. Way to go Alena…but then we all know that with your sense of humor, you had probably planned it and only got the reaction you had hoped for.

Yes, growing up with four sisters, a multitude of cousins and neighborhood kids was quite an adventure, to say the least. These are just three of the many stories I could tell. We often tried to outdo each other with our pranks and antics. Sometimes I wonder how we managed to survive without being choaked by our parents.

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