Saturday, December 18, 2021

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. 

What I saw when I opened my eyes was the most beautiful 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.  I immediately 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.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Greatest Love

I have known such great love in this lifetime.  So much and in so many ways I can barely count.

There is the love I have as a mother for my beautiful daughters and precious grandchildren.

Incredible romantic love with many – from the very first to the one who has my heart forever.

Deep love of music and dancing from a family who taught me to have fun.

Eternal love of learning and growing.

True love and appreciation to have seen so many amazing places in this world.

The love I found in expressing myself in words.

Love of the beauty I see in kind people.

The greatest of all is at last, feeling true self love.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

How I Went from Downsizing to Minimalism

I began my downsizing journey many years ago.  I found that it is more of an ongoing process than an event.  Even though there were many events within the process, it was always focused around the removal of things.  All of those cherished possessions that were taking up all of my time and space.

Each time I moved, I got rid of as many unwanted and unneeded things as possible.  But always, within a short amount of time, they would creep back in.  Gifts from family, purchases that I really didn’t need, items I thought were too sentimental to part with, etc.  All of it, just stuff.

Very little of it actually enhanced my life or well-being. 

Most of these things were relics of a life that I no longer live.  Their purpose has been served and yet I still hang on.  Somehow there is an anxiety about letting go of these things that feels like a loss.  That is when I started thinking about what that means in my life today.  Am I willing to stay shackled to the past because I refuse to release these things?

I started reading more about minimalism and how it is much more of a mindset than a physical activity.  Decluttering and organizing are ways to manage your belongings but it doesn’t help to improve your inner environment.

For me, looking at a clean, sparsely decorated room feels peaceful.  Now it was time to take this to a new level.  I wanted that feeling in all areas of my life, not just my home.  I wanted to feel that way with work, my relationships, social interactions – everything.

Downsizing:  To reduce or decrease in size.
Minimalism:  A style or technique that is characterized by simplicity.

When I looked at the definitions of downsizing and minimalism, the word that jumped out at me was Simplicity.  That is what I am after.  It doesn’t have to be small; it just has to be simple.

I have been slowly inching toward being more deliberate in how I live my life.  Evaluating what brings purpose and joy to me right now and what does not.  

I’ve had to reassess what I truly value and what the cost is to keep it. 

Henry David Thoreau said - "the price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it".

Now, in my 60s, life is more precious than ever and I want to make the most out of this amazing time in my life.

As with most new things, I am starting small and taking it easy.  I don’t need to rush; I want to be thoughtful about this new lifestyle.

I am noticing that the more changes I make the better I feel and the better I feel the more changes I’m ready to make.  I love how it all works together.

Something as simple as turning off the notifications on my email feels like a victory.

Every day I am on the lookout for another area to simplify.  Is it a plant that needs repotting or a shelf that has gotten too cluttered?  Whatever it is, I just take care of it.

All the little things add up to the big things in your life.  It doesn’t matter how much you have as long as you have room for what really matters.
Have you downsized but still feel there is more to be done?  Is Minimalism something you would try?  Share your stories and join the conversation.

Original Post at - Sixty and Me

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Stanley Hotel - A Ghost Story

It was a beautiful spring day and my friend was coming for a visit.  We decided to go to Estes Park for the weekend.  We talked as we drove up the mountain, he asked if this was where “The Shining” was filmed.  It was a glorious day - blue sky, beautiful scenery and a perfect way to begin our trip.

As we approached the overlook of Estes Park with the Rocky Mountains rising up in the background it was a spectacular sight.  We drove toward town and noticed a striking building on the hill.  Neither of us knew what it was, so we decided to investigate.  As we drove closer, we marveled at the perfectly manicured grounds and then saw the sign “The Stanley Hotel”.  We agreed that we had to see this but that it would be too expensive to stay there.
As we entered the property, the massive white gates opened to a large patio.  The lobby was beautifully decorated with leather chairs surrounding stone fireplaces, antique tables with fresh flowers brightened every corner, it was warm and inviting.  We inquired about the rates and were surprised they had 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. 
As we climbed the stairs, we noticed the air changing, it became heavy and dense.  The brightness of the lobby faded as we walked toward our room.  We opened the door and immediately were struck with the closeness of the space.  Not only was it very small but there seemed to be no air circulating.  We decided immediately 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 at the restaurant and continued to marvel at the wonderful surroundings.  We planned on going into town later and do some sightseeing but never left the hotel.  Throughout the evening, several people approached me saying I looked like someone they knew.  When I went downstairs to the rest room, 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, it was funny and I quickly put it aside.   
It was getting late so we decided to go back up to the room.  As we talked, I felt a draft of cold air and looked to see where it was coming from.  I saw an apparition of a man step through one of the doorways and disappear.  Just then, my friend asked if someone was 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 or frightening.  Suddenly, the energy changed dramatically, the room filled with cold air and a bright light flashed across the room and splashed on the bureau mirror.  It felt as though dozens of very angry people were trying to get into the room. 
It was 2:00 a.m. and seemed strange to check out in the middle of the night but we could not stay.  We were relieved to see a friendly night clerk at the desk. She informed us that this was a regular occurrence and that she had seen some extraordinary things herself. We talked to her for some time and then she told me I looked very much like a woman 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, October 20, 2021

Creative Writing for Fun and Healing

I have loved words and written in one form or another most of my life.  What felt like a small, isolated world became rich and full of grand adventures on the page.

My early experiences were in making up stories for the lives of my dolls and the make-believe places that they lived.  I would take inspiration from the books I read and create an entirely new story.

Somehow, putting those words down on paper made them feel more real. 

The Beginning

I was in Junior High when my English teacher asked if I wanted to write a short article for our school newspaper.  Even though I was writing in my diary almost daily, it never occurred to me to write something that someone else would read.  The thought terrified me.

With a lot of help and encouragement I wrote about some of the civil rights events that were going on at the time.  What I realized was that writing it down and sharing it helped me release some of the anxiety I was feeling.

True Expression

Over the years I continued to write – diaries, journals, short stories and even the beginning of what I thought might turn into a book someday.  I didn’t want to share any of that, those were my deepest thoughts and feelings.

Writing gave me the confidence to express my true self without worrying about criticism or praise.  I was able to let my feelings flow from the pen to the paper and it always felt like a relief to let it out.

Over time, I found that writing had become my pleasure as well as my personal therapy.  Everything I was feeling – happy or sad, went on the page.  Sometimes it was just a scribbled note while I was sitting at the doctor’s office.  Anything to just get it out of my head.

Do it for yourself

As I began to share some of my writing with my family and friends, I received a mixed response.  Some offered support and others were very critical.  Neither felt satisfying.  Going through that made me think about why I was really doing this.  Did I want acceptance and acknowledgement or did I just want the outlet? 

Like anything else, I needed to try some things on to see what felt right.  For me, writing was a very personal expression and I learned that if I would just do what made me happy, that was all I needed.

I didn’t want to write for a living, or be a famous novelist – I just wanted to write whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Start Small

Ten years ago, my daughter suggested that I start a blog.  It sounded interesting but I had a lot of apprehension about sharing anything publicly on the internet.

I was such a private person that I wasn’t even using social media yet.  After giving it some thought, I decided to dip my toes in to see what it felt like.

Blogger offered a free, easy way to get started, so I decided to give it a try.  If I didn’t like it, I could just stop and take the blog down.

At first, I published very short, generic thoughts and comments.  I had always written long-hand so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this new electronic format. 

I liked that I could see what posts people were reading and where they were from.  It fascinated me that I could connect with people all over the world through my simple blog.

New Avenues

As I became more comfortable with this new medium, I explored some of the avenues that were available.  I could write reviews of products and services, articles for magazines, even eBooks if I wanted to.  The internet provided so many resources, the options were endless.   

Then I saw a post asking for guest bloggers with Sixty and Me.  I wondered if this was something I could do.  It was an opportunity for me to write about issues that mattered to me and share it with a community of people my own age.

I appreciated the different topics and viewpoints on the website and decided this was something I wanted to do.  That was 6 years ago and it has been such a wonderful experience. 

Have Fun

What was important to me was to continue to stay true to myself.  I found my voice in the world and now it’s all about enjoying the journey.
Do you like to write?  What is your favorite medium?  Do you want to be published or are you happy just doing it for yourself?  Share your stories and join the conversation.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Untangling the Bones

Many years ago, I took a sabbatical from work to focus on myself. I had been a busy single mother raising my 2 daughters and had taken care of my mother before she passed away.

I was searching for meaning and purpose in my own life. It was that year that 3 separate people gave me a copy of Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Not exactly a subtle message from the universe. 

One of the most memorable stories was about the Skeleton Woman. It is an old myth about a fisherman who pulls her bones out of the water and puts her back together. With the warmth and care of this man, she comes back to life and then nourishing herself with his tears his loneliness is relieved and his heart is whole again.

This story resonated deeply with me and reminded me of the beauty of the eternal life cycle that exists in everything and how love can nourish us and bring us back to life.