I’m not in my right mind

Last night I took out my notebook with the intention of writing my weekly blog. It’s Friday, I thought to myself. I’m already a day late. I held the pen in my hand and waited for inspiration. And waited. Nothing came. I’m not in my right mind, I thought. Haha. That’s pretty funny. True, but funny.

I have bronchitis and a fever. Being clever and creative are not only difficult for me right now, they are downright impossible. I am thinking about the people who read my blog every week who are looking in their emails for the new one and not finding it. That bothered me. I have to write something! Maybe tomorrow. (Which is today.) So here I am, waiting for my muse. Maybe she’s on vacation. Maybe she has bronchitis and a fever.

I have written before that since retiring in 2011 I have been busier than I ever was during my career. My horse takes up most of that time. Then I have writing, friends, appointments, shopping, cleaning, etc. I don’t know where it all comes from, but my days are always full. Until I get sick. And then I have to clear my calendar, one event at a time. I have postponed a hair appointment twice and cancelled a few others. Can’t meet for lunch, can’t go to church, can’t even do my own grocery shopping. Thank you, Bill. It is beyond frustrating to just lie around all day being unproductive. Is there something I could learn from all of this? Yes – don’t get sick!

Today I feel like I might have the tiniest bit of energy, enough to write this blog anyway. And then it is back on the couch. A week from today we are flying to Portland for four days. I must be better by then. And so I eliminate anything short of life altering between now and next Saturday. That flight is booked and paid for. Can’t miss it.

What do you do when you are sick and have to put the brakes on your busy life? Do you let it frustrate you, depress you, anger you? Do you take it as a blessing, using the time to reflect, re-organize your thoughts, prioritize your life? Do you read more? Watch more television? Sleep more?

I’ve been frustrated, watched more television, slept more, slept a lot. I am trying to put myself in a positive place where I can appreciate what my body is trying to do (get well) and give it the time it needs to do so. It isn’t easy.

Being sick also means you need to depend on others, if there are others around. I had to ask my husband to take care of my horse and do the grocery shopping, both of which he did with love. I guess when you are sick you have to let go of your need to do, to be and to go. Listen to your body and get better. There will be plenty of time to do, be and go later, when you are well again. Did you hear that, Sarah?

Be well and God bless. :))

Down Time

When I was working, Sunday night would begin the depression over the weekend’s conclusion. Not that I had a bad job. It’s just that the weekend was never enough to accomplish everything that needed to be done. Laundry, grocery shopping, errands, etc. What happened to my down time? There was very little of it.

Now that I am retired, Monday has become my favorite day of the week. I give myself permission to leave my car in the garage. I take care of laundry, read my bible and do “homework” for my growth group,  check off items on my to do list for the week which includes appointments, grocery shopping, riding, taking care of my horse, de-cluttering the house, making a budget, etc. etc.

I answer to no one. My time is my own to do with as I choose. It is my one day a week where I am completely wrapped up in my comfort zone and feel very secure. Tuesday-Sunday I am out of the house every day running around. Monday is my sanctuary, re-group, soul refueling day.

It was great when my husband was working because I truly had a day to myself. He is taking some time off now before starting his next venture. Needless to say, the last two months have been a wee bit challenging for both of us. Don’t get me wrong, we love each other and have a good, strong marriage but I need at least one day a week comprised of several hours of solitude and complete freedom from anyone else’s needs in order to maintain my sanity.

The flip side of this, ironically, is that I get used to having him around and kind of like the company. The exception being Mondays, of course.

But he is getting antsy and looking forward to being out in the world again. He’s not a couch potato by any means. However, too much together time doesn’t work for either one of us. It keeps things interesting when we both go out into the world and come back with stories to share.

Spending so much time together lately has taught me more patience, consideration, flexibility, understanding and yes, more love. Some day we will have no choice. I think I will appreciate him more when that time comes and he, me. Until then, however; leave me alone on Monday!  :))

 

I want my Mommy!

I’m six years old, sleeping alone in my bedroom upstairs. I wake up from a very real nightmare. All I can think of is getting to my mommy as soon as possible. I don’t have to. She hears me scream and comes running up the stairs. She takes me in her arms, holding me so close that I become a part of her. “There, there,” she says soothingly. “It was just a bad dream. Everything is alright now. Mummy’s here.” I immediately calm down. All is right in my small world.

When we grow up and experience frightening, devastating or traumatic events, wouldn’t it be nice to be held once again in the arms of a loving mother, hopefully your own?

My mother has been gone for over fourteen years. I remember that as late as in my 50s I would go to her for a comforting hug when life got difficult. How wonderful that hug felt. When, as adults, do we outgrow that need? Never, I say. But not all of us have access to a kind and loving mother.

Some of us have dear friends, spouses or partners that offer open arms and loving hearts. Know that is a blessing, although it may still pale in comparison to your memories of mother.

When I am at the bottom, which doesn’t happen often, be it illness or depression, at the deepest core of my being I want my mother and the immeasurable comfort that her arms and soothing words brought to me. But she’s not here. What do I do? What do you do? I think about her. I imagine her. I hug my husband whose arms are broad and enveloping and ready at a moment’s notice. I have a sister who hugs me over the phone and a horse who lets me hug her and look into her big, brown, wise eyes for answers. I have two cats that I can hug and who consistently make me smile.

We all have our “go-to” people and/or animals in times of crisis. But to me, nothing compares to the original comforter, Mommy.  :))

Love is a four letter word

When she walked through the door of the upscale Newport Beach restaurant, she knew that someone was waiting for her just feet away at the bar. It was someone she had never met but hoped with every fiber of her being that she would like him and he would like her.

She caught his eye as she drew closer to the bar. He was handsome, with light brown hair and lovely green eyes. He stood up to introduce himself. “Hi Sarah. I’m Bill.” He motioned for her to sit down on the stool next to him. “What would you like to drink?” he asked. He was taking her in and memorizing her eyes, her smile, her hair. “A glass of champagne would be nice,” she said demurely. But this was no ingenue. She was in her early fifties and he in his late fifties. Is it even possible to find true love after all these years of empty relationships, bad dates and lonely Saturday nights? She would soon find out. Be patient, Sarah, she told herself. The evening has just begun.

That was August 16, 2002, the night I met my husband. I had been single for eighteen years, raising my son and taking care of my mother who had passed away just eight months prior. My son was getting ready to leave the nest. I would soon be alone, the dreaded “old woman with the cats”, grocery shopping for one. I could imagine the groceries as I laid them down on the conveyor belt: a bottle of champagne, one roasted chicken, some apples, oranges and berries, a few avocados, some kind of fish and of course, cat food. The image in my mind gave me the shivers. I didn’t want to end up like that. The thought was more than a little disturbing.

We started dating and getting to know each other. There were arguments as we each revealed the baggage we had brought with us. It took time. It took patience. It took the desire to believe in and accept another human being into my world. Did I mention patience?

I look back on that time and realize how much we have both grown. We are older now and I dare say considerably wiser. It’s nice that we have gotten to this point in our lives where the small stuff doesn’t matter anymore. The big stuff we handle together, as a team. There’s give and take, compromise and forgiveness. There’s being okay with imperfection, in each other and in the life we’ve built together. There’s knowing that we can withstand whatever confronts us, no matter how big or how destructive that monster may be. It’s letting the little disappointments fade and the special moments be etched into our memories.

When he comes down the driveway at night and honks to let me know he’s home, the butterflies invade my stomach. Knowing that I get to sleep next to him every night warms my heart and curls my toes.

My message to you? Love is real and not reserved for the lucky or the beautiful or the rich. It can happen anytime, usually when you least expect it. It is like a rare orchid that must be nurtured in order to grow and survive. It changes who you are into someone you never imagined yourself to be.

If you have it, be grateful for it and don’t ever take it for granted. If you don’t, then live with an open heart and never stop believing in the impossible. Impossible becomes possible every day. God bless. :))

Stepping off the treadmill

When I was working, I had this image in my head that Friday nights I would step off the treadmill for the weekend and return to it Monday morning at 7:00 am. Since retiring, the image has changed.  As long as I am doing the things I love, I see myself as fully participating in life. When I am forced to cease and desist due to illness, as I have been for the last seven days, the image is one of being taken out of the flow of life and made to sit on the sidelines. I don’t like the sidelines. I don’t know if you are like me in this regard but I love accomplishing, achieving and successfully stepping out of my comfort zone. Those things make me feel alive, excited and happy. Being stuck at home, either in bed or on the couch, trying to sleep, watching mind-numbing television or reading a book is okay for a day or two. After that I feel deprived.

As a very young child I was expected to take naps during the day. I remember struggling to sleep because I knew that I was missing out on something wonderful on the other side of my bedroom door. I think eventually my mother gave up on the whole nap idea as it clearly wasn’t happening. I rarely, if ever take a nap these days. I have to be very tired and already finished with what I wanted to do that day; i.e., it has to be timed just right so that I don’t feel cheated on possibilities. Is that neurotic? Probably, in some harmless way I suppose.

In my defense, my husband is worse! Although he does take occasional naps, he rarely rests. I am the opposite. I know how to rest and relax.

Mondays are typically my days at home. I try not to go anywhere. I do laundry, light housekeeping, bookkeeping and most important, re-group for the week ahead. I cherish Mondays and my time alone. I have learned that it is not only pleasant but necessary for my well being and general mood. The rest of the week I am on the go but Monday is my day without a schedule. Consequently I love that day of the week. Funny, I used to hate it when I was a working girl.

However, having seven “Mondays” in a row now is really taking a good thing to its ridiculous extreme. No thank you!

This afternoon I feel like my body has turned the corner and I am on the mend. (Fingers crossed.) I am ready to get back to living my life, riding my horse, visiting friends and participating in a soon to be book event and a trip up north.

How easy it is to take your life for granted until you are forced to sit on the sidelines. Some day I will be too old to do most of these things and then I will close my eyes to remember what it was like to have a busy, wonderful life. Until then, it’s “Wait for me ! I’ll be right there!”   :))

La Familia

When I hear the word “family” my mind sees a picture of my husband, sister, children and their respective spouses. And of course all of my grandchildren. (7) If I think about it long enough, the picture expands to include grandparents (long since departed), Aunts and Uncles (also gone) and cousins (only two left).

Not everyone thinks of relatives when they think of family. Not everyone likes their family or certain members of it. Their mind goes to close friends. Wherever your mind goes, I think you will agree that the word conjures up warm feelings. It has a positive connotation for most of us.

This past weekend my husband and I were in Chicago, Illinois for the graduation of our eldest grandchild, Alex, from Navy boot camp. We were there with my son, Alex’s younger brother Christian, Alex’s mom (my son’s ex) and her parents. You might think that it was uncomfortable being with the “ex family” but we get along quite well. In fact we spent the entire day together, going into downtown Chicago and sightseeing. Both sides of Alex’s family wanted to take advantage of the eight hour time allotment that Alex was given. He had to be back at the base by 7:30pm. He would be leaving early the following morning for Pensacola, Florida, his home for the next eight months.

That was Friday. Saturday we were on our own – me, my husband, my son and Christian. We decided to take a road trip to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (beautiful resort town) and Lake Delavan where my husband spent summers growing up. (He is from Chicago.) My son’s wife could not be with us because she is in her ninth month of pregnancy and could not fly.

Saturday night we met two of my husband’s sisters, their husbands, as well as two of his nieces and the husband of one of them. There were eleven of us for dinner. Two of them are not on speaking terms and so we placed them at opposite ends of the table. Another potentially awkward situation but everyone was on their best behavior.

We ate at an old Italian restaurant (opened in 1937) where the food was amazing even though for that particular night the service was not. No matter. I enjoyed two glasses of a delicious pinot noir and only felt love and joy. A wonderful time was had by all. It could have been less than enjoyable, given the circumstances, but it wasn’t. It was perfect.

It started me thinking about family and how special the times are when we can be together, considering that most of us live in different parts of the country. Even when we live in the same general area we don’t see each other often because our lives are so busy. That’s a shame. Hundreds of years ago it was not that way. Families lived under the same roof when the parents got older. This is true today in cultures other than our own.

I left Chicago with a warmth in my heart that I hope will remain for a long time. People aren’t perfect; families aren’t perfect but they are the families we were given.

We are sharing this life together and most of us do the best that we can with what we have. Learn to forgive, reach out, and embrace those family members you would rather ignore. If your efforts are rejected, bless them and let them go.

Cherish the family you have, whether it is the one you were given or the one you chose. Enjoy the blessings that follow.

For the love of horses…

I have always appreciated the beauty of horses but never owned one until 2006. As a young girl I was fortunate to take lessons on a horse named “Honeyboy”, a beautiful paint gelding. I decided, being a willful young lady, that I would save up my allowance and purchase him. By the time I had saved  maybe $100, my father announced that we were moving – to another state! My young heart was broken. I recovered and after the move forgot about horses for many years.

Fast forward to 2002. While visiting Sequoia National Park with family and friends, we went on a trail ride through the hills. It was fun but not enough to turn me into the crazy horse lady that I am today. There were a few other trail rides on vacations with the same result, no desperate need to own a horse.

In December 2005 at a church silent auction, I bid on an hour session with an Icelandic horse and won. As I was riding this beautiful animal, it hit me. I knew I wanted to pursue riding. The horse’s owner told me that the barn had a regular trainer who could give me lessons. I contacted her and by taking this step, my world had expanded.

By August of 2006 I was in the market for my own horse. Thus began my journey into the equine world. Initially I rode “western” and felt every bit the cowgirl. My husband bought a horse and for a few years we rode together.  We moved our horses to a barn closer to home where I continued to work with a trainer.

One thing you learn and often too late is that choosing the right horse for you is like choosing a mate. You and your horse should have similar or at least compatible personalities. Secondly,  your horse should enjoy whatever riding discipline you are into, be it trail riding, barrel racing, jumping, eventing or dressage. Forcing a horse into a discipline it neither enjoys nor is good at is tantamount to animal cruelty. Strong words but my belief.

Once you find the right partner, there is nothing you can’t do together. It took me three horses to get there. My third horse, Barbie, was the one who got sick last December and passed away in January of this year. That led me to my fourth horse, Ruby, who is even more suited to me. She is a treasure.

Another mistake that many people make with horses is seeing them as a pet, like the dog or cat they have at home. No! If you treat your horse like a pet you are putting yourself in a potentially dangerous position. This is not a 50 or even 100 pound dog but a 900-1200 (average) pound animal that can  put you in the hospital or worse if you do not pay attention and have a healthy respect for it.

What do I love about horses? Their sensitivity to the world around them. The fact that they are prey animals and yet learn to trust humans, a.k.a. predators, to ride on their backs! How much trust is involved in this? One can only imagine.

Horses live in the moment. You won’t catch a horse lamenting over the past or worrying about tomorrow.

They are mentors who teach you how to be present. Horses only know the now.

Horses are used as therapists for the disabled and veterans with PTSD. Successful work with autistic children has also been documented.

Because of their innate sensitivity, you can “cue” your horse while on its back with such subtlety that no one watching will know what you have done. Watch a rider during a dressage performance. The horse will walk, trot, canter, do precise circles of different circumferences, lead changes, transitions, etc. and you will think it was all the horse’s idea and not the rider.

There are moments while riding your horse when you are so in sync that you feel like one creature instead of two. These are the moments riders live for.

Horses are beautiful, spiritual, trusting, generous creatures. You would be blessed to know one.

 

Selfie of me and Ruby 2

 

I’d like you to meet my new friend, Jesus

I get the inspiration for my blogs from things that happen to me or lessons I have recently learned that I have yet to share. On Father’s Day my older son and his family came over for a cookout. After dinner we watched a DVD of a comedian named Michael Jr. You probably have not heard of him. I hadn’t either. He is a very funny Christian comedian who actually performed at my grandson’s church on Father’s Day. My son bought his DVD after the performance. I laughed until tears ran down my face. Very funny guy. And clean humor, too. Something rare these days.

The following day I wanted to google him to see if I could find the same DVD. I thought I would purchase it to watch again some time. I found the DVD but also a 30 minute YouTube video which had some new material on it. I was home alone and decided to watch it because I knew it would be funny. It was, until the last ten minutes of the video when he spoke of Jesus.  He used an analogy saying that we are all individual houses and Jesus wants to come into our house.

Let me share with you my religious background. I grew up in a Christian family. My father played the organ and was the choir director at our church which was across the street from our house. My sister and I were in the choir and my mother helped with community functions and rummage sales. (There’s a word you don’t hear anymore!) My sister and I went to Sunday School every Sunday. Only illness would keep us from going.

When we moved from that town (this was outside of Providence, Rhode Island) I was eight years old. We not only left the town, we left the state. We moved to Philadelphia, PA where for a while we attended a Methodist Church.  That fell by the wayside and soon we had stopped going to church altogether. And so it went for many years. There was one summer I attended a Catholic Church with my mother, but just for the summer.

Years later, as an adult, I found the Science of Mind Church in Huntington Beach, CA where my sister had been going for some time. I started going there and have gone to one of their churches every since. I was perfectly happy with their teaching. It was more philosophical and scientific than religious, but it suited me (and my current husband) just fine. Until I listened to Michael Jr.

He guided us through a process. As I began the process, I merely thought of it as interesting and I wanted to see where it would lead. He said that Jesus wants to come into your house but he will not force his way in. Only you have the power to let him in. The doorknob is on your side of the door. He said that most of us open the door a crack, just enough to ask a favor of Him and then we close it again. We don’t want him to see the mess in our house, which, as it turns out, is the mess in our lives. What we don’t realize is that Jesus would gladly come in and help us clean up.

The process continued. It caught me by surprise and before I realized it I was crying. I was crying and then I was letting Jesus into my house! Afterward I contacted my younger son in Oregon who is a Christian. I relayed the story to him. He was very happy, as you can imagine. He said he would be my mentor and anytime I had questions, I should not hesitate to ask. He also gave me assignments. As it turns out, the Bible he wanted me to read (“New Believers” Bible) I already had in my possession. Not that I had ever read it, but I still had it. Incredibly, I was able to locate it. It has been ten years since I last laid eyes on it.

He told me to start with John. Then he also told me to watch the movie, “Son of God” which came out last year. I did. It was a powerful film and very well done. After finishing John, I asked for my next assignment. “What did you learn?” Ah, so I can’t slide, just because it’s my son. And so I told him. “Good. Next I want you to read Romans.” And on it goes.

Ever since this “happened” to me, I have felt differently. Things in my life seem to work themselves out and I am basically happier. I also feel closer to God.

Why am I telling you this? Because it is something significant that happened to me. Because if you haven’t heard Michael Jr. then you should listen to him. If you haven’t seen the movie, “Son of God” you should watch it. It is a beautiful film. Because maybe there is something missing in your life that you just can’t put your finger on. And finally, just so you know that it is okay to go back to something you believed a long, long time ago and start to believe it again, if it feels right.

I remember one Science of Mind minister telling us that Christianity served us well as children. But now that we were adults, we needed to move on to something more. I actually feel the opposite. Science of Mind is a great philosophy. It has many teachings that I believe in and will continue to follow. But clearly it was time I reached for something more. And so I did. And it feels right and it feels good.

Amen. :))

I owe you an apology…

There was no blog last week. Not because I didn’t feel like it and not because I wasn’t inspired. I left the country! The few days leading up to our trip were so jam packed and stressful that I completely forgot to sit down at my computer and create something interesting to read. I was a crazy person and therefore no blog was written. Mea culpa.

That being said, let me tell you where we went. CUBA! A dream come true, mostly because of my book, “The Story She Had to Tell”, which takes place in Havana, Cuba in the early 1950s. A love story about a young American woman who travels to Cuba after college with a girlfriend. She meets a rich, handsome Cuban at the Tropicana night club and falls in love. The story evolves from there.

Ninety percent of the story is in Cuba. I had to go there. Of course going to the Tropicana was a necessity. Because we went with a tour group, I was concerned about being able to get away for a night. Even if we had free time in the evening, I was aware that we were in a Communist country and our tour had restrictions on what we could do. As it turned out we had two free evenings and were encouraged to go there if we so desired. I desired!

The Tropicana was amazing, even though for the most part it had been brought forward to 2015. I had wanted to go back in time to see what my characters saw and experienced. The show was great and the singers fantastic. All in all I am very glad we went.

There is so much more to tell and not enough room or time to tell it. I am writing a travelogue for the travel agency we used which I will post on FB within the next couple of weeks. If you are not on FB, send me an email and I will send you a link to the travelogue.

Suffice it to say that it was well worth our time and money. The tour operator and our Cuban guide were incredible. Not only was the trip informative but also very entertaining. The Cuban people are warm, welcoming and hard working. The music is fantastic, the food was delicious and our experience invaluable.

If Cuba is on your bucket list, then I highly suggest you contact YMT Vacations. The cost of the trip is very reasonable and you will get back in memories considerably more than you paid.

Below are a few pictures from our trip. Look for my travelogue for more information and highlights of the tour. Cuba is an experience waiting for you.    :))

Church from book cover Courtyard Old Havana Tropicana

 

 

New Beginnings…

I am currently living my own advice. Tragedy, given enough time, can lead to miraculous and life-affirming changes.  In the beginning, there is only negative. You feel the pain and see no glimmer of light nor is there hope for happiness to return. We all know that even after the harshest winter, spring follows and life is renewed. New beginnings are found in nature but also in our own lives.

It has been five and a half weeks since my precious horse left us. I talked about how time brings hope and happiness – I believed it in my head but my heart was stubborn and could not see past the hurt. Lo and behold, today I experienced real joy again, on my new horse, Ruby. Life looks good. It is perfect and complete. The truth is, it always has been. But weeks ago there was no way I could possibly know that without being a completely enlightened being. I’m afraid I fall very short of that distinction.

We picked up Ruby on Sunday and brought her to the barn, her new home. On Monday my trainer rode her and today I did. She is truly a wonderful horse. She has a good mind, sound body and both a sweet and willing disposition. How did I get so lucky? And how did it happen so fast? As I said to someone recently, I believe Barbie led me to her. I did ask her to do that. There were so many criteria that had to be met – age, price, disposition, mind, soundness, height, etc. She fit them all!

I am back at the barn after a 44 day absence. My tack locker has been cleaned out and new grooming supplies and tack box (different color) have replaced the old ones. The process was bittersweet but bearable which told me that the timing was right.

Riding her today, feeling her under me, made me realize that there is joy after pain. I am happy again. It was both a surprise and a delight. There is a new soul for me to love and care for. Not that I will ever forget Barbie. She will live  in my heart forever. But there is room for a new one. And we will have adventures together and will bond in time. I am grateful and I am truly blessed.

The other exciting news is that my second book, my first novel – “The story she had to tell” is now in production with my publisher. I submitted the final edited manuscript this morning along with the cover which was designed and drawn by my youngest son, Kirin. I am thrilled that he will be a part of it, just as my older son, Otto was a part of my first book by writing the forward.

My life is going well. The road is currently smooth, no bumps, at least no significant ones. But as a spiritual being experiencing life as a human, I know the bumps will come again, and even the boulders. Yup, that’s what we all signed up for.

If your life is bumpy right now, or if there are boulders in your path, have faith. They are not permanent. You will survive and even find joy once again. It is only a matter of time, and an open heart.  :))

 

Ruby 1