Travel with Smiles

I am reminded today of my first time to take a trip on an airplane. I was 21 years old. I had become a skin care consultant-as I liked to call myself- for Mary Kay cosmetics. So had my twin sister. Their annual convention was in Dallas Texas, and we had decided to invest in our career and attend.

That’s the sequence of success you know. Decide to do something. Recruit your sister. Buy the right clothes. Get a cute briefcase. Get matching office supplies.

All the better, this job included travel! What a treat!

We get dropped off at the airport, and I am actually feeling pretty nervous. My husband wasn’t real crazy about me being away, but was willing. My sister told everyone that this was my first flight. We boarded the plane and got settled in our seats.

Once we were settled, my smile grew and grew. We giggled. We laughed. We were going to have a great time. And we did.

Life moved us to a distant state after that trip and our twin travel ceased. We traveled to see each other. We raised kids, we migrated in and out of Mary Kay, we went to college, we prayed while her son was in Iraq, and we cared for our parents as they each faced different illness and death. We walked with me through a divorce. We cried together and laughed together, but we didn’t travel together.

Then after 33 years, we took a twin trip together. We have taken a trip every year for 4 years. It is a treasure I cherish.

Today we are both traveling-She to another country, me across country. We will miss each other. But we have our next trip in February. What a way to warm the Ohio winter and the heart.

Travel safe my sis! See you soon!

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Sister Spirit

My sister woke me up early today. She wasn’t here. She was 25 miles away at her own house. But I knew she was awake. I could feel the sister spirit  prompting us to get ready for the day. Today Kaye takes her mother-in-law to the Trinity Nursing Home. She is nearly 96 years old and sadly lost her husband about 2 years ago. She is a remarkable woman. She isn’t on any medication and as Kaye has said, walks around like the energizer bunny.

She just doesn’t remember. She remembers some of the old times. She remembers how to smile. She has a delightful sweet spirit and an infectious laugh. She doesn’t remember to turn off the stove. She doesn’t remember how to get home. She will forget to eat if someone doesn’t assist in setting out the meal.

We had to place our mother in a Nursing Home. I prefer the name “assisted living facility”. Nursing homes can carry negative memories for many people. Assisted living sounds more pleasant. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is a place to go where you can be loved and safe-but it is away from your home where you nested for decades.

Maybe if this was the first time Kaye had to do this, the sister spirit wouldn’t have gotten me up so early. They don’t go until around 10. But Kaye will not just be taking Marion to Trinity. She will be taking mom. Every memory of the broken, confused expression when you take them to their new room will come flooding back. The words ” I want to go home” will thunder around her heart.

The sister spirit knows, she just knows. I wish I could explain it. I wish I could package it and give it to everyone. But I don’t know exactly what it is. I just know it surrounds us and comforts us and encourages us. It tells us how the other is doing. If one of us is struggling, the other feels anxious. So, she woke me up early. Today is a day that will take extra-ordinary grace and strength. I had to be awake to comfort Kaye.

I will go to work. Kaye will go to Trinity. Twins-who else can be in two different places and yet be together at the same time?

Never Walk Alone

My twin sister and I have already lost our mother. She died of Pick’s disease-which is a type of dementia. It was heart wrenching to see parts of her slip away. Our grieving started 2 years before she died; because a piece of her died every day. That was nearly a dozen years ago.

I recall with tears the days that we had to take precious things away from our mother: her beloved Buick, and her home. She had lost the ability to drive and to live safely in her own home.

Now, my twin sister is facing the sorrow all over again. Her mother-in-law has senile dementia. She is 95 years old and lost her husband about  2 years ago. She is no longer safe to drive, or to live alone. She has moved into my sister’s home. They didn’t have a downstairs bedroom, so they had to empty the den and create a bedroom. It is warm and inviting, but it is not home. Her mother in law misses her home. She misses driving. She asks every day where is her car? She needs to drive home. It is time for her to go home now. Every day my sister has to sit down and lovingly go through the same answers she gave her a few hours ago.

As we journey through life, there are days when we feel as though we are alone on our path. And we may be on the path alone, but people can stand by the wayside and offer water, fruit, and encouragement. Sometimes when people fall,  onlookers are allowed to assist them until they can carry on by themselves again.

I wish I could take my sister’s sorrow away. I wish I could make it not be her path. But it is her path. It is part of her journey. In some ways, I think it could be hurtful to a life journey to take away and alter what we are supposed to do. So I walk along the side. I offer water. I offer food. I step in when she starts to fall. Once she has gained her strength again, I have to go back to the sidelines and walk along the side. I watch to see when I am needed. I want to be ready to give her assistance.

I am close by. I believe our mother is close by. We stand at the ready.  Something wonderful about twins…what ever is happening to the one, the other feels it as though it were happening to her. So, while she may technically be alone during those long hours of concern and sorrow, I am with her in spirit and in energy.

I am reminded of the Rogers and Hammerstein song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high,

and don’t be afraid of the dark.

At the end of the storm is a golden sky, and the sweet silver song of a lark.

Walk on through the wind,

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown,

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone, You’ll never walk alone”

And that is what it feels like to be a twin.

“Leo and the Listener”

“The voices whisper. If you listen you can hear the past.”

“Leo is a runaway slave who dies in the cellar of the Frost home. He cannot move on until he tells the story. But no one is listening. He misses his beloved Sena and wants to return to her. He has to tell someone the secrets of the house so he can be freed. As the new owner tears down the old walls for restoration, the stories break out as the walls break open.”

While this is not a story about twins, it does mention the closeness of twins in my new novella eBook. It’s title is Leo and the Listener. It is available on Amazon for $3.99 and will download to your Kindle or to your iPAD. The story was inspired as we rehabbed our 200 year old home. The discoveries were fascinating!

Should you wish to purchase it and read it, please share with me your thoughts!

Tennis Shoes

While I lived in Texas I made a trip home to Ohio to see family. My daughter was only 6 months old and had already had two surgeries. She was born with spina bifida and her first surgery was to close the opening in her back. The second surgery was to place a shunt in her brain to drain excessive cerebral spinal fluid to protect the brain cells from hydrocephalus. We had driven home for Christmas to spend time with family.

On our last day there, my mother and sisters decided to go shopping. My husband kept our daughter and son and I saw this as a great break from the day to day responsibilities of a young mother and relished the opportunity to be with my sisters and mother. We talked and laughed and had a relaxing time. It was so refreshing.

When we got back to the house my husband said Kristen had been really fussy. This was not like her. She was a very good, and generally contented baby. When I held her, I knew the problem. I could see the ‘bubble’ of the shunt had collapsed. We needed to take her to emergent care. Off we went to the local children’s hospital to find a neurosurgeon. We discovered she would need emergency surgery to replace the shunt. Family got word and they all met us and stayed with us while she underwent the surgery.

It is so difficult to turn over your small, helpless, baby to people you do not know. To let them take her into the cold sterile room. They don’t let you in there-you have to trust them.

Surgery went well. Everyone but Kristen and I went home. I slept beside her in a little cot. Early in the morning, when my eyes were just opening, I could see under Kristen’s crib to the other side of the room. There were little white tennis shoes silently rising and falling with the rhythm of the wooden rocking chair. I rubbed my eyes, and sure enough someone was quietly sitting with us-My Twin.

Somehow that memory is logged in my brain. It is one of the portraits in the art gallery of my mind. It comes to me often. I think it is because it made me feel watched over. Here she was, I am not sure when she got there, but she patiently waited and watched over us. Ready at any moment to be of support and assistance. I was rather new to this world of special needs. It was the third of 13 surgeries. No matter what surgery waiting room I was in, I never felt alone.

When I feel a little unsure, or a little overwhelmed, I can see those shoes. I know I am not alone.

Twin Trip!

Our birthday is about to arrive! Over the last few years we have started a tradition of going on a trip together for our birthday. Our first trip was to French Lick in Indiana. It is a delightful spa with a fascinating history. It is set where the natural sulfa springs were. While there we rested, talked, laughed, dined, and enjoyed the spa. We found a book that was written by an author while he stayed there. “So Cold the River” by Michael Koryta. Very good-highly recommend it.

We would wander to a pretty spot and read that book, get up, wander to another pretty spot and read….another pretty spot and read. We read they whole book while there. We were inspired! Somehow that experience motivated us to start writing together. We booked a room at the sister spa in Indiana-West Badin for the next year. West Badin is a fabulous place. It has a huge dome and is full of flowing statues, and again with a rich history.

For two years we returned there for a writing retreat. We completed a manuscript that is under review in the self-help-memoir genre.

This year we go to Pennsylvania. The Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. We will start the brainstorming on our new book. The amazing part is our thought process. As identical twins, we think so much the same, yet we have somewhat different perspectives. Thoughts can be jotted down before they are completed…the other one instinctively knows what the first one was saying! So we accomplish a lot in a few days.

We will giggle, laugh, wine and dine, rest, and come home with a complete book outline of chapter summaries!

It is so much fun being a twin! Happy Birthday Sister!

Thunderstorm

I wonder if i would like thunderstorms if I were not a twin. That is a funny thing…I do not know what it would be like to grow up as an individual. I do not have any memory of laying in bed at night, alone, and hearing a thunderstorm. Would I have been frightened? Would I have run to my parents room? I just do not know. I didn’t have that situation.

When the thunder would roll, I had Kaye beside me. We would listen together. We often got out of bed and went to the window to see the lightening. As we got older and the family moved into a two story, Kaye and I had a room with dormers. We continued to do the same thing. Each one of our twin beds was under the dormer window. We would open the window, see the rain, hear the thunder, and marvel at the lightening. We had each other to comment to…ohh…ahh…that was a big one!…it was like watching the fire works.

If it was during the day, we would go outside and sit on the patio under the eave of the garage. Our wonder was the same.

Recently we went to West Baden Resort and Spa for our birthday trip. It is a beautiful hotel with a huge dome over the bigger than life atrium. It was one of the 8th wonders of the world at the time to have such a suspended dome. We go to relax and write. This trip a marvelous thunderstorm come through. We were just finishing a nice lunch when we heard the rain on the dome. That was a sound to hear! We had to rush out to claim the big wooden rocking chairs on their surround porch. We were certain everyone in the hotel would be running outside to sit and watch the storm. When we got to the porch, we had our choice of chairs. One family with little children were there. I was delighted to see them. Those children might also grow up to love the storms and not be frightened.

We rocked in our chairs, sipped our wine, commented on the beauty of the leaves as they roll over with the wind, and thought how like life storms can be. All is going along fine, when a storm whips up. Storms don’t wait until you are ready for them. You might sense one coming and try to prepare, but when they hit, they seem to be in control. And like life, it is easier to weather a storm with a friend. Perhaps our storm watching days were preparation for the storms we would face in our lives. Thankfully, we learned to embrace them. Just like the leaves, we may have to give to the current storm a little, but like the roots we can stay grounded.

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