Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Haunting

The Haunting

“An intense cold swept over them all. Harry felt his own breath catch in his chest. The cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest, it was inside his very heart….” J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

When I was young and had a bad dream, I would tell the beast to “go away!” and poof, it was gone. What remained was this incredible sense of empowerment and I would peacefully return to my slumber. Wouldn’t our waking hours be so great if we could just simply tell our demons to disappear?

The truth is we all have demons that haunt us whether hidden in our closet or blatantly inhibiting our daily joie de vivre. For the past few years I’ve been haunted by this one particular apparition. I know he lurks but I am always caught off guard. Like a Dementor straight out of a Harry Potter novel, he sucks a little part of my soul and then disappears until our next encounter. Upon first sight, I am elated. I see him and am so excited and giddy, as if missing a loved one that has been gone for so long. In a trance, I reach for my love, waiting to feel his warmth, I call for him “My beloved, I missed you so!” My arms extended ready for his warm embrace, his kind eyes gazing adoringly at me, an aura of peace cloaks his presence.

And in an instant I remember my love is dead and all I feel is cold and haunted. What I long for and what is, is not to be. My heart feels heavy.

In an effort to cleanse myself of this unwanted burden, I sought a chance for a spiritual awakening, freeing myself to continue forward in peace and happiness. I headed west to visit my mom.

Landing 10,000 feet above sea level, I could already feel lightness in my steps. Encapsulated between the Colorado mountain ranges that stretched into eternity, with colors of amber and gold painting the landscape, I arrived at my mother’s home along the East River. I had visited this place before but many years ago when times and days were simpler.

Feeling good to be back to this comforting and familiar beauty, I cracked the window open a peep, letting the Rocky Mountain air engulf my room while the sound of the rapids lulled me to sleep. Refreshed from a good night’s rest, mom and I began a journey where I would encounter three spirits: the spirit of happiness, the spirit of endurance, and the spirit of humor. This is my story.

Mom and I began a hike along the lower pass. From our perch we could see snow-capped mountains to the north, Peanut Lake to the east, the Aspen trees changing colors in all their glory to the west. The mountain town of Crested Butte was below us to the south, with all its pastel colored, Victorian architectural buildings dancing in the valley. We rounded a corner in our path and met a man named Corkie.

Corkie was a gentle giant at six foot five, broad and well fed. With a distinct Mexican drawl he provided me with a gift, “Do you know what the best revenge is?” As if he could smell my need to unleash a pent up fury against an unmitigated force. “The Sweetest revenge. Happiness is the sweetest revenge.” And with his random words of wisdom, he gave me a hug, like a mother bear wrapping her powerful arms gently around her cub. Corkie then disappeared into the distance.

As we continued on our walk, we ventured down to town and stumbled upon a randomly placed old, beat up Subaru, reclaimed and painted sky blue with evergreens and mountain profiles. On the car was written “Happy, Healthy, Whole….Be Here Now, Love What is….” I paused a moment for reflection.

Beginning to feel philosophical and inspired by these encounters, and eagerly seeking my awakening, I resorted to an old and comfortable habit. With an epiphany of sorts I announced, “I must buy a pair of cowboy boots!” Scouring the streets in search of a bargain, there before me, with spotlights flashing, were my boots. I claimed them and proclaimed, “I am a new woman. I have cowboy boots.” Though not to be fooled by a little retail therapy, and a little roll of the eye from my mother, I knew my journey had not reached its pinnacle.

With some Sleepy Time tea by the fire, mom and I recounted the events of our day. The tea settling my mind, window cracked slightly, and the help of my river friend, I was carried to another day.

Mom and I spent the week riding horses through Snod Grass mountain pass overlooking the Maroon Bells of Aspen, visiting Crested Butte cemetery, its wrought iron arches situated with the Butte mountain in the background – no haunting just reflecting on the lives that once passed through these lands; my soul still groggy.

We dined at The Baccanale, an upscale eatery that specializes in using locally grown and raised food. There we were greeted by my second spirit named Cricket. Cricket was tiny in stature but formidable in frame. Her tanned skin had a healthy, aged glow that spoke of her life’s adventures.

Seems Cricket had led quite the colorful life. Following her husband’s career around Asia, she cultivated the art of Asian cooking. Upon the dissolution of her marriage, she embarked on a catering business. Ronnie Reagan called her one day and asked her to be a cooking advisor when Asian dignitaries visited the White House. The two began a life-long friendship. I was stunned by Cricket’s story. And like a cricket whose melodious tune rings passively in the backdrop, I was filled with admiration and courage at the endurance of this living legacy.

With a week’s worth of adventure behind us, yet still more to explore, the next day we visited an old mining village called Gothic and hiked up to Judd Falls. As we reached the falls, a little bench sat at a vantage point where water gushed thousands of feet below. With a palpitation of my heart brought about by daring to peer over the rapids, I spotted a little box of ashes placed purposefully next to a tree. Legend has it, they are the ashes of a dog whose owner lost his best friend years ago. The ashes have been left untouched ever since. It reminded me of my dog Chester who recently passed, and a chill swept across my heart, forming a tear in my eye.

Sad that my week was nearing its end, still longing for that full “awakening” I so desperately sought, I scheduled a Reiki appointment; the ancient Japanese art of restoring physical and emotional well-being. Feeling silly and skeptical, I entered the small room filled with the scent of lavender and patchouli oil, music chanting silently. My Reiki therapist warned me that some people become very emotional during a Reiki session. “Sure, whatever,” I thought.

I laid down and closed my eyes. She began to pull chords on my chakra, pounding drums, gently touching my shoulders. She had me repeat a mantra:

“I release you. I forgive you. I allow you to continue on your journey. I do not need to understand your words or actions. I release fear, I release anger, I release sadness. I allow myself to follow my path. I allow myself to love again. I love myself. I allow my spirit to show.”

With the power of the mantra I released years of burden and sorrow, worries and resentment. I began to cry, and cry, and cry. Choking on an attempt to hold back emotion, I tell her that I feel so strange, that this outpouring of emotion is so odd. Along with releasing the agony of the mourning of my husband, she then gently touches my ankle and I begin to cry for my dog Chester?!

It was an exhausting yet exhilarating hour and a half. I felt so light, my weight removed, my heart open with joy pouring in. I felt empowered and at peace. This was the awakening I envisioned!

With blood shot eyes and a glazed expression, I greeted my mother after my session and began to recount the events of my Reiki tale. Suddenly the third spirit, spirit of humor, presented itself as my mother joltingly interrupted my Reiki story and said, “Oh, I forgot to call Titty today!”

 “Say what?”





“Yes, Titty, my hairdresser.”

“Your hairdresser’s name is Titty?”

“Yes, why?” Then mom turned her gaze to the sky, trying to comprehend my sarcasm.

“Oh, Titty? I never realized!” and then we both burst into laughter, thanking Titty for having such a humorous moniker.

We carried that laughter into the sunset, the town alive for their annual art walk. We meandered in and out of art galleries, chatting with the artists as to what inspires them to bring such images to life. With snow forecasted for the day of my departure, stars began to hide behind a fog. I cracked the window and listened to the river hum its lullaby one last night.

The morning of my departure we stopped at a local pit stop, “Camp for Coffee,” an organic, locally roasted, fair traded coffee shop. As we sat by the window, sipping our lattes, snow began to gently fall, muting the brightly colored leaves on the Aspens. While the snow blanketed the mountains, I reflected on my trip knowing my spiritual journey was complete. Ready to bid adieu to this magical and majestic place, I clicked the heels of my cowboy boots three times and was home.

Home. It felt good to be home. I couldn’t wait to greet my kids and tell them about the beauty I had witnessed. Anxiously awaiting their arrival, ready to greet them, there standing before me was my ghost. His haunting began to cast a shadow over my awakening. But with great strength and resilience, I summoned the spirits of Corkie, Cricket, and Titty. Remembering the mantra I had learned, I breathed a deep breath and exhaled “I release you!”

Poof, my ghost was gone.

My spirit revealed, my soul awakened. I am free.

Friday, October 25, 2013

To Blog or Not to Blog: That is the Question

“Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?”
William Shakespeare

 I took a leap of faith the other day and created a blog. All my life I have been talking about how much I like to write yet all I write is in my diary. My diary is not even under lock and key. Whatever scrap I find I randomly and inconsistently jot down my emotions and thoughts and who the heck knows where it’s filed. So, without any more pomp and circumstance, I took the leap. I was so excited but hesitant at first. I didn’t share on Facebook as I was too embarrassed and nervous. Instead I emailed my link to a select testing market (cousins, parents, sibling, and good neighbors.). They could judge and critique and I’d only shrivel a little. Or so I thought.

My test market gave rave reviews. I was elated, on cloud nine, proud of myself, excited, new life breathed into me. I began to day dream about my future book, talk shows on Oprah, Jon Stewart, Tosh O. What celebrity would I cast to play me? Sheer ecstasy at my accomplishment!

And then there was my mother.

She is my toughest critique. So I waited to hear from her all day. Finally I ran out of patience and called her. “Hi Mom, so what did ya think?”

“Well, you mean the actual writing or the blog?”


“Well, I don’t really get what a blog is supposed to be. To me it just seems like Facebook and I don’t understand the purpose of all those postings. I read them but I don’t get it. As for your writing, seemed a little choppy but maybe that is how you are supposed to write for blogs. What do I know? Just didn’t seem to flow and what about potential employers? What about that part that talks about how you don’t know if you can juggle job and kids? I don’t know. I don’t know why you don’t just keep a diary.”

I was silent and then I hung up the phone on her which was not a very nice thing to do to your mother, especially when you asked her for her opinion.

I couldn’t help it. The wind from my sails was knocked clear out of the water. I started to panic. “Oh crap. I’m out there for all of cyber space to read. I posted my picture. People can find me. I really expressed some heavy, personal stuff. Oh I feel so vulnerable! I think I am going to be sick. What have I done?”

Like in the classic movie “The Christmas Story” when Ralphie writes his theme about how he wants an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle and the teacher says, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” and he was mortified because he thought he wrote such a masterpiece; that was me. All I heard was every teacher's criticism coming to haunt me, “You’re writing is awkward, it doesn’t flow, I see what you are trying to express but you failed!”

That night I tossed and turned. I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about what a voyeuristic proposition I set in motion. I was disappointed in myself. I’ve lost focus. Thoughts raced through my mind, “I’m wasting time. This is irresponsible. Instead I should be focusing on finding a job. Instead of 50 resumes a day, I’ll send out 100. I will target 20 firms, appear in person, network so that when that job becomes available they will know where to find me. This is serious stuff. I can’t be messing around with a blog. I need employment for my future and the kids. I could be homeless in a couple of years. I’m black listing myself with my BLOG! Now no one will hire me. ARGH!! HELP ME!!”

 When I woke from my fitful sleep, I felt a new sense of courage and purpose. I would throw caution to the wind and write a blog! Ideas started pouring into my head and after I dropped the kids off at school I raced to my desktop and turned it on. While it was warming up I grabbed some coffee, full of vim and vigor to start my next posting.

As I entered the office, my computer sounded winded. “Gee, it’s really out of breath.” I played around with it for a while. No screen of death but no life either. I realized this was a sign from the heavens above that I should NOT write a blog. I went to my smart phone and pulled up my blog. It was not even in existence. It had been wiped from its page. “See, divine intervention has spoken and rendered a decision: Not to Blog.”

“But wait, perhaps instead this is a sign that I need a laptop so I have easier access to write all my wonderful stories.” With renewed sense of purpose, I dashed to Best Buy, consulted with Geek Squad. They diagnosed that it was just my monitor that wasn’t working. They also highly recommend I invest in a laptop because my desktop was old.

Coincidentally and cosmically my dear friend and neighbor Debbie happened to have a flat screen monitor that worked but she just didn’t need it anymore. SCORE! So now, I not only have one computer, but two. My very first blog is up and running. I made some edits with my mother’s suggestions to hopefully make it flow and less choppy. However, Mom and I agreed I would not ask for her opinion on future postings. I shared my maiden voyage on Facebook and I am a Blogger, hear me post!

“To sleep: perchance to dream” William Shakespeare

Tonight I will lay me down to sleep, no bed bugs biting, and with a little winter chill in the air, I will sleep as snug as a bug in a rug. Goodnight.

Next week, in honor of Halloween: “The Haunting”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Stripper

During my days as a recently divorced, single, unemployed, stay-at-home-mom of three (I know, I sound like a real catch), Facebook has replaced the stereotypical soap opera and bon-bon eating. My days really don’t include much down time to even fathom a soap opera commitment – unless you count "Downton Abbey" or "The Bachelor," but that is at night, once a week, and the shows are seasonal. In fact, I am quite fearful that when I do land that job, how will I juggle house, job and kids? I struggle being the only adult on site. Between cleaning, grocery shopping, laundry, yard work, kids’ school and activities, cooking, sibling rivalry interventions, bills and budgets, job hunting, driving here, driving there; the list goes on. 

Now that all three kids are in elementary school, and I have "extra" time on my hands, there are still not enough hours in the day. Yet, as busy as I am, I confess, I get a little lonely. Thank goodness for Facebook! So oftentimes I post what normally I would and should just say out loud to myself in the privacy of my own home.

For example, the other evening, while preparing dinner, my eight year old daughter asked me a question of which I later posted. She had completed her homework, practiced piano, finished her chores, and was permitted her one hour of electronics. This new schedule just started yesterday. Prior to that, the kids took advantage of the system of too much free time after school.

As I recall “What Not to Wear” was airing that fine afternoon. Now I am not sure if this is an appropriate show for an eight year old, but at least my daugther is learning good fashion sense early on. And while I was not witness to the word in question that prompted my daughter's intrigue, I gather Stacy, the host, compared the show's victim to this particular profession. So imagine how caught off guard I was when, while cooking wholesome, homemade, cage free, Chik Fil A knock off nuggets, steaming organic broccoli, boiling organic whole wheat noodles, and sipping wine (it was after 5pm and it was red), my eight year old daughter shouts from the family room, “Mom, what’s a stripper?”

I holler back, "Whaja say?" making sure I heard her clearly. You see I was jamming to Pandora 80’s Pop and my hearing was muffled.

“Ma, stripper, what’s a stripper?”

Oh. Hmm. How do I answer? “Ah, let me think a minute, see if I can recall what that is.” Hmm, stripper, stripper, stripper. Ah yes, a stripper. “Oh yeah, ya know when someone is sick in the hospital, then they get better and go home? A stripper is the one who strips their bed sheets and puts on clean ones. That is what I know a stripper to be.”

My daughter responds, “Ok.”

I was quite amused with my answer, so naturally I SHARED on Facebook. I think I amused a few people too. And this morning I took it a step farther. I commented on my own post that stripping was my new night gig to make a few extra bucks. I quickly retorted on my own comment that I was teasing, “Just a joke. Ha, ha,” or BAHAHABAHAHAWAHAWABAHA as they say on Facebook (told you, too much FB. I will quit tomorrow.).

I later realized that lately I have been a stripper, though not in the traditional sense. You see, these last few years I’ve been emotionally beaten and battered, keeping myself draped in heavy clothing. I was told by the man I loved that from A to Z something was wrong with me. And, in hindsight, the demise of our marriage really was my fault. I was selfish. I didn’t realize that I was a roadblock to my husband and his mistress’ path of eternal love. All I knew was that my life as I knew it, my husband that I loved so dearly and unconditionally, my family that I cherished, was eternally gone, torn and ripped right from me by a younger “career” woman with no spit up from an infant on her clothes. Such pain to process; such deep, deep grieving; such crushing pain. So much sadness, fear, anger, feelings of self worthlessness have been following me that I have felt them to be the norm.

Little by little though time does truly heal, and last night, while jamming to Pandora 80’s pop, MJ (aka Michael Jackson) came on and I started singing and dancing like a silly, crazy lady in the kitchen. My kids were amused and horrified at the same time. I had fun making them laugh and laughing at myself in the process.
This morning, while driving them to school, another 80’s pop “Eye of the Tiger” came on the radio. I started to jam to that diddy, pumping my fists, once again horrifying my children and making them laugh in the process. I said to them, "As long as you aren’t hurting someone else or yourself, you should not care what other people think; just be yourself and have fun."

They told me I was hurting them.

I kept singing.

While I belted out lyrics and rocked the car, I had an "Ah ha" moment that perhaps I am a stripper and how liberating an action! One emotion at a time, I was and am beginning to shed my fears, my sadness, my inhibitions, my anger. My spirit is finally beginning to show and it feels good.

I recently read a quote a friend posted that prompted this blog:

“What we love determines what we seek. What we seek determines what we think and do. What we think and do determines who we are – and who we will become.” – Dieter Uchtdorf

I’m taking one of the things I love – writing and storytelling, stripping myself of my fears, letting down my guard, shedding the past, living in the present, and seeing who I become.

“Life is not a dress rehearsal. This is it.” - Lucinda Basset