By Jan Peitz
“Sisters, Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…” Irving Berlin
Since our parents passed 23 years ago, my two sisters, Sandy and Brenda, and I have made it a priority to spend time together twice a year. We named this special time Sister’s Retreat, and we rotate between our home states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Arkansas. No husbands or children allowed! We sleep in, talk, shop, hike, watch movies, and never cook but eat plenty. This is strictly girl time when we catch up on each other’s lives.
My middle sister, Sandy Olson, from Omaha, is the steady and supportive one. She was four years behind me in school, so after grade school, we were never in the same school building. Our baby sister, Brenda Bowers, of McPherson, Kansas, is 15 years younger than me, but is a perfect fit for us. We enjoy her enthusiasm and party planning.
Although there is a wide age difference, it didn’t matter when we became adults. We share many of the same family memories and feelings. We were raised that family is important, and we have made family time a priority. We trust unconditionally, share concerns, sorrows, and joys. We were taught to love the Lord and each other. Sharing, telling each other the truth about what’s going on in our lives, and showing honor and respect for each other is our foundation. Ours are not average friendships, and we try to make our retreats as special.
Our Spring Retreat is usually in April, and this spring was my turn, but April was not an option, so we scheduled our retreat in February instead. I planned a mystery day trip and invited some of my closest friends—neighbors, church friends, and volunteers from the Peitz House. The only hint was to bring warm clothes. The possibility of bad weather weighed heavily on my plans but didn’t stop me from plowing ahead.
Cold temperatures and a strong possibility of rain was forecasted on the day of our girlfriend getaway, so we broke our “girl only” rule and Peter, my husband, arranged for an airport-style mini-bus to be our mode of transportation. He was the chauffeur with conductor’s hat, wig, and long, double-breasted uniform. He welcomed each of us as we boarded the bus that chilly morning.
The bus was perfect for our trip. The seating allowed us to face each other and visit easily. This was a great opportunity for me to introduce my sisters to a mini-bus full of friends. We chatted the entire day; sometimes we were so loud we couldn’t hear each other. Sandy and Brenda had heard me mention these friends for many years, and for them it was a highlight to be able to put names with faces. Having a full day together certainly beat having just lunch and a glass of wine! My friends also got to see how much “Baby Sister Brenda” and I look and act alike (a little over-the-top) and how Sandy is the calm, composed one of the trio.
Peter decided it would be nice to have a male friend come along. Sad to say, there wasn’t a seat by “Chauffeur Peter,” so his friend got the privilege of sitting with the girls, and I don’t think he minded one bit; in fact, he really added to the mix.
Our first stop was an unscheduled one for coffee and yummy pastries at Neighbor’s Mill in Harrison—a welcomed addition to the plan. I was delighted that the sun was shining as we boarded the bus, but by the time we arrived at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, the clouds had not only returned, they had opened up. The rain hit us in a cold wind, but as I expected, my adventuresome sisters and friends were ready to go anyway.
The staff was pleasantly surprised to see that “real women” were willing to make the tour in such adverse, inclement weather. I think we were their only paying guests! Everyone was such a good sport, especially the few who had forgotten their gloves, umbrellas, or heavy coats, and I’m not mentioning any names!
At Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, all the smart tigers took cover while we silly humans stood in the rain, and this brings a smile to my face. The animals definitely showed better judgment!
The tigers were fabulous. Have you ever heard about ligers? That’s when nature gets confused and lions mate with tigers. We got lots of closeup photographs of the tigers, but to see the hibernating bears, a return trip on a sunny day was required.
We lunched at the Cathouse Lounge in Eureka Springs and were welcomed with a warm fire and appetizers. After lunch, our bodies were warmed, tummies full, and clothes mostly dry.
Our next stop was a visit to Castle Rogue’s Manor about five miles northwest of Eureka Springs. Who would believe there is a real castle in Arkansas, let alone one as magnificent as this? What a great place for weddings and other special events. The honeymoon suite is something to see, and the enormously large, walk-in fireplace added to the ambience of the great hall, which can serve 122 with matching silverware and china. The fascinating tour took our breath away.
King-of-the-castle Smith Treuer welcomed us. His castle project began about 20 years ago and is a dream in progress. The woodwork, stonework, design, and details of the castle show that Smith is truly a visionary and master craftsman.
Dusk was upon us as we started home after one more stop for nourishment, and believe you me, the stories got better and more hilarious as darkness descended! The darker it got, the funnier the stories became. Magician pink panty and lacy tennis panty stories livened up the return trip home. When we see each other, there will certainly be a connection that we didn’t have before.
“Sisterhood” this trip took on a larger meaning as bonds were made with friends and deeper ones developed with my sisters. Spending quality time together is what made the day so special. The activities were simply a bonus.
The inclement weather turned out to be another bonus, as my sisters stayed a day longer waiting for safer traveling conditions. We were also thrilled to learn that Brenda’s daughter plans to carry on the “traveling sisterhood” with her own sister, and so the baton passes to the next generation. It definitely did not rain on our parade! The word “marvelous” takes on a completely new meaning for me after this retreat. M! June/July 2014!
For more info about Castle Rogue’s Manor, visit castleroguesmanor.com. For more info about Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, turpentinecreek.org.