Friday, December 29, 2023

Gone

I watched as the hearse pulled up to the house across the street.  Out came a gurney with a body draped in a white sheet.

I had noticed a lot of activity throughout Christmas week and had hoped that my neighbors were having a nice family holiday.

Thinking back now, I should have seen the signs.  The kids and grandkids had been there much more than usual.  And there was an excessive number of strangers coming and going, carrying what sometimes seemed like medical supplies.

They were my age, so I thought perhaps one of them wasn’t well but I didn’t think the worst, until the hearse arrived…  He was gone.

 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Christmas Magic

 It was just a few weeks until Christmas and I could hardly wait.

We had moved into our beautiful new house, and I had my very own bedroom.  No more sharing with my annoying younger brother.

Mom was busy decorating and getting ready for the holiday.  I’m not sure I had ever seen her so happy.  She finally met someone who treated her well and even liked us kids too. 

Buzz was a kind man, quiet and gentle with a warm smile.  Walking in with his dusty work boots, exhausted from work, he was never too tired to pick me up and give me a huge bear hug.

We were living a life I could never have imagined.  There was so much food in the house we had to put another refrigerator on the back porch.  We didn’t have to worry about moving in the middle of the night because we couldn’t pay the rent.  Life was very good.

“You are not going to start another project this close to Christmas.” I heard my mom telling Buzz.

He was always working on something.  He built a new patio with a rock garden for mom in the summer and a mini playhouse for me and my brother.

Despite her protests, he began working.  

It was unusual for him to be doing it inside, but it was winter, so I didn’t think much of it. 

Mom was beside herself with the mess.  She had worked so hard to clean and decorate the house.  He had even pushed the Christmas tree off into the corner.

I was surprised and confused when I came home from school and saw that he was actually tearing down the living room wall. 

He and mom almost never argued but this was different.  There were pieces of wood and sheet rock everywhere.  I was happy I had a room to go to where I could stay away from it all.

As the days passed, mom accepted that this was going to happen whether she liked it or not. 

Just a couple of days until Christmas now and I was more excited than ever.  This was our first Christmas in the new house.

Behind the canvas tarps, Buzz worked away, he looked like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.

He even enlisted my brother to help with his “secret project”.
I was a little jealous that I wasn’t included but I kept myself busy playing with my dolls and reading in my room.

Finally, it was Christmas eve.  I knew this year would be special, but I had no idea how much. 

After dinner, mom sent me and my brother to our rooms.  “We have something to do before Santa comes, so you have to stay there until we tell you to come out,” she instructed. “And no peeking,” she nodded to my brother.

Presents, it must be our presents we both thought. 

When she opened the door, she told me to close my eyes.  Gently guiding me, we walked into the front room. 

When I opened my eyes, I saw the most incredible fireplace I had ever seen.  

That is what Buzz had been working on.  Whoever had lived there before had covered up the fireplace with a wall.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale – the fire was glowing with twinkles of light reflecting on the hearth.

Under the tree were two boxes, one for me and one for my brother. 

We didn’t usually get to open any gifts before Christmas morning, so this was another unexpected surprise. 

My box was not wrapped, so it was easy to just open the top.  As I did, up popped the most beautiful little gray kitten in the world.  

Immediately I began to cry, as I carefully lifted her out of the box.

“Is she really for me?” I asked in disbelief, petting her gently. "I think I'll call her Thumbelina because she's so tiny," I said.

My brother grinned at me and began opening his package.  It was a toolbox with real tools to build things, he was thrilled.

Mom smiled and watched quietly as we laughed and played.  Buzz reached down from his rocking chair and lifted me, still holding the kitten, into his lap.

It was truly a magical Christmas.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Finding the Path with a Heart

As we age, it becomes apparent that we must create new lives.  We ask ourselves should we change careers, begin retirement, travel, downsize or stay where we are?  

What often comes with that are the fears associated with making those choices.  We begin to worry about money, our family, our health, where we should live, should we settle down or roam the world.  

When we were raising our families, those decisions seemed to be made for us - we must keep a job, take care of the children with all of the responsibility that entails.  There was very little free time and what there was usually consisted of weekends or once a year family vacation and then back to the routine.

Now, in our 60s we have to make a conscious choice about what we want in our lives. 

Our work is not to make something happen but to learn how to let it reveal itself.  It is that time in our lives when we have the opportunity to allow the soft flowing of events to become clear to us and then follow the path that has the most meaning in our lives. 

It can be very easy to remain in our old patterns, letting familiar circumstances drive our daily lives.  

If we look more closely, we realize that we are entering a brand-new chapter and are being given a tremendous gift.  The possibility, maybe for the first time, to do something just for ourselves. 

For many of us, as this realization sinks in, we employ the same principles of how to get things done – we take action.  

What is really ironic about this concept, is that the harder we try to make anything happen the less likely it is to turn out in a way that is pleasing to us.

If we can learn to let go, we will discover things that we never thought possible.  

Letting go is much easier said than done.  We are taught our entire lives that we must work and struggle in order to get things accomplished.  

That hard work is the only way to achieve the results we desire.  Always trying to control external circumstances is exhausting and, in the end, never really possible.

We cannot control anything outside of our own self so that is where the work must be done.

That is why so many spiritual teachers advocate practices like Meditation, Mindfulness, Yoga, Prayer and Journaling.  

Anything that allows our conscious mind to relax and release resistance will provide benefits in all areas of our lives.  

Just like any other skill, we must learn to develop techniques that work for us.  This is not a one-size fits all solution so we must do what feels right for us personally.

It doesn’t matter where you start, you just have to begin. 

Like everything else, it is very easy to approach this as something else to manage or control.  Trying to unlearn that is the most difficult thing I will ever do in my life. 

Even now, after many years of practicing many aspects of letting go or allowing, I find myself slipping back into my old habits.  It is important for me to do something each day, even for just a few minutes, to reclaim my balance and continue forward. 

What works best for me is to keep it simple and find those things that bring me joy.  

Sometimes it is writing in my journal or going for a walk.  Other days it is playing with my grandchildren or planning a trip to some faraway place.  It really doesn’t matter what it is, all that matters is that you find ways to release the anxiety and tension so that you can learn to experience the peace that comes from just being in the world.

With that peace comes an unfolding of events that we never could have planned.  Bringing to us those very things we thought we had to chase after.  

It is ultimately more satisfying to have everything we desire come to us in the perfect way and at the perfect time than to try to manipulate or coerce it. 

For me, appreciation is a key factor in everything I do.  I am grateful for what I already have in my life and look forward to whatever new surprise is on the horizon.  

I always trust that something wonderful is about to happen and my only job is to relax and enjoy it. 


Saturday, October 7, 2023

The Stanley Hotel - A True Ghost Story

It was a lovely spring day, and my friend was coming to Colorado for a visit.  We decided to go to Estes Park for the weekend. 
 
We talked as we drove up the mountain and he asked if this was where “The Shining” was filmed.  I told him I wasn't sure, but I thought it might be. 

It was a glorious day - blue sky, beautiful scenery, and the perfect way to begin our trip.

As we approached the overlook of Estes Park with the Rocky Mountains rising in the background, it was truly a spectacular sight.

We drove toward town and noticed a striking white building up on the hill.  Neither of us knew what it was, so we decided to investigate.  

Driving closer, we marveled at the perfectly manicured grounds and then saw the sign that read - The Stanley Hotel.

We agreed that we had to see it but were sure that it would be too expensive to stay there.

As we entered the property, the massive white gates opened to a large outdoor patio.  Inside, the lobby was beautifully decorated with big leather chairs surrounding several huge stone fireplaces.  Antique tables with fresh flowers brightened every corner, it was warm and inviting.  

We inquired about the rates and were surprised that they were offering a special price for the night, so we decided to stay.  

After checking in, the desk clerk informed us that the hotel was haunted and that they had ghost tours in the basement after dark.  We thought it was amusing and a good tourist attraction but declined.

Climbing the stairs, we noticed the air changing, it became heavy and dense.  The brightness of the lobby faded as we walked toward our room.  

When we opened the door, we were immediately struck with the closeness of the space.  Not only was it very small but there didn't seem to be any air circulating at all.  

We knew that this would not be comfortable and asked to change rooms.  They moved us to a large, beautifully appointed suite with a great view of the mountains. 

We enjoyed a luxurious meal downstairs at the restaurant and continued to marvel at the wonderful surroundings.  We planned on going into town later and do some sightseeing, but we never left the hotel.  

Throughout the evening, several people approached me saying I looked like someone they knew.  

When I went downstairs to the restroom, I felt a chill in the air.  The entire time I was there I felt as though I was being watched, it made me very uneasy, and I hurried back to our table.  

My friend laughed when I told him and reminded me about the ghost tours.  I thought it was funny, and quickly put it out of my mind.  

It was getting late, so we decided to go back up to the room.  As we sat and talked, I felt a sudden draft of cold air and looked to see where it was coming from.  

I was shocked when I saw an apparition of a man step through the doorway of the bathroom and disappear.  

Before I could react, my friend asked if there was someone behind him.  Standing over his shoulder I could see the faint outline of a young girl.  We both were stunned, not sure what was happening.  

Slowly we began to speak, this felt like a child’s spirit nothing malevolent, but terrifying just the same.

Suddenly, the energy changed dramatically.  The room filled with cold air and a bright light flashed across the wall and splashed on the bureau mirror.  It felt as though dozens of very angry people were trying to get into the room. 

We were both in shock at what we were seeing and feeling.  It was 2:00 a.m. and checking out in the middle of the night seemed strange, but we could not stay any longer.

It was a relief to see the friendly night clerk at the desk. 
 
When we told her what happened, she said that it was a regular occurrence because the hotel really was haunted.  She had seen some extraordinary things herself. 

We talked to her for some time, hoping to calm down before driving home.  

She said she was not surprised that I had a bad experience.  She told me that I looked very much like a woman from the hotel who passed away many years ago.  
 
We drove back down the mountain in silence.  Years later, I still think about what we encountered in that strange and dark place.  
 
I have never returned to the Stanley or to Estes Park.
 

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Opportunities

The great American anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.”

That is the philosophy that I embraced as a child. From a very early age I understood that even if they were less desirable, there were always options.

Whenever I find myself feeling limited or restricted, I think back to some of the defining moments in my life. 

During those times I needed so desperately to have some hope of escaping what was happening that I would create every possible scenario I could think of. 

Truly, some were very unrealistic, but it did not matter, everything got equal consideration.

Then I would sort out what seemed to be the most reasonable course of action and always trusted my heart to guide me.  I knew how I was feeling could not be wrong. 

That brought me to where I am today, trusting and believing that anything and everything is possible.


Thursday, August 24, 2023

Happy Accidents

I've written about this many times before, but it is something I appreciate even more as time goes on.

I absolutely believe that what seems to be a bad experience can truly be a blessing in disguise or what I like to call a happy accident.  

This year has been full of opportunities to find the good in even the most trying of circumstances.

Everything from having a serious health condition discovered during a hospital visit for something completely unrelated, to a severe hailstorm that uncovered a much larger issue with my roof.  Both of which can now be easily managed and/or resolved without further damage.

Honestly, when things like that first occur, I feel frustrated and vulnerable.  But as soon as I can begin to look at the situation a little differently, I can see that there is a positive aspect to whatever has happened.  

Not only does it make me feel better, but the solution comes much quicker.  I often forget that the best answer will present itself when I can release the negativity that I am feeling.

Somehow, it is easier to think of the worst-case scenario instead of letting the universe surprise and delight me.  

Albert Einstein said it best - "There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle."  


Saturday, August 12, 2023

Gratitude and Appreciation

We've all heard it many times and many different ways during our lives. Count your blessings, give thanks, feel lucky for what you have, think of people who don’t have as much.  We understand the words, but seldom do we stop to think what they really mean.   


I'm not sure exactly when it occurred to me, but one day, I began to really understand what it means to be truly grateful.  Not just for the good things but for everything. 

When I started looking at my life in a new way it was very revealing.  As much as I thought I had been a grateful person, I realized I had been taking a lot for granted.  Not just the big things, but all of the small, seeming insignificant things that make up my life.

I started focusing on very specific things to appreciate, like my morning cup of coffee.  I wondered, what did it take for me to enjoy that simple pleasure?  

It had to be grown, picked, processed, distributed etc. by others who made it possible for me to sit at my kitchen table with little to no effort on my part.

Pouring a glass of clean water, sleeping in a comfortable bed, turning on the lights - the list goes on forever.  There is so much to appreciate and be grateful for.

What about when things go wrong?

The big shift occurred for me when I began to see problems as opportunities.  Something that would have upset me in the past, like an issue at work or something going wrong with my vehicle, became a challenge for me to find the best in the situation.

This was when I had to be more general and not so specific.  I was happy to have a job or a car, I felt fortunate to have the resources and ability to figure it out.  

I applied this philosophy to everything I could think of.  If it was a good experience, I thought about how much I appreciated having it.  When it didn’t feel so good, I thought about how grateful I was for the lesson and what positive aspects of it I could find. 

In the beginning it was a little difficult to always find the silver lining but with practice it became easier, and I’ve learned that even when I slip back into my old habits, I can quickly recover by simply remembering all that I have to be grateful for.