A visit from an Angel

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For the past few weeks, my driving could have been compared to a young recruit at a police academy on a tactical driving course. The biggest difference is, I had been strategically steering my car to avoid running over fuzzy orange and black caterpillars, not trying to narrowly miss clipping each cone in a line of orange traffic pylons.

The Woolly Bear Caterpillar has been attributed with the gift of predicting the length and fierceness of the upcoming winter. I’m not sure if I would put money on those predictions, but The Farmer’s Almanac has historically used these furry little creatures to forecast the severity of the snowy season.

When I came home from work yesterday, I was greeted by two beautiful butterflies in my entrance way. I have had the pleasure of seeing many Monarch butterflies this year but these were unlike any butterfly I have ever seen. When their wings were open, the combination of colors was stunning. When their wings were closed, the mottled blend of grey and brown would be envied by any living being trying to camouflage themselves to find shelter in the forest.

I thought these butterflies were a product of the orange and black caterpillars I had so carefully been trying to protect, but these winged beauties are Compton Tortoiseshell Butterflies, also referred to as Angel Wing Butterflies. I immediately thought of my mother and the tattoo that has secured a permanent place on my forearm.

My mother loved butterflies. I always knew when she left this Earth she would find ways to come back and visit. Every time I see a butterfly, I know she has made that journey and my heart feels as full as it did when she was still a daily, physical presence in my life.

Never doubt our loved ones who have passed come back to visit. You just have to be willing to recognize the signs.

 

 

 

Applying my salve

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Like most people, I lose myself sometimes. I get so caught up in the emotion around me I forget the things I should be focused on. Nothing brings me back to myself like cooking. I find great solace in my kitchen. The world around me disappears and my existence is renewed by the smell of a combination of ingredients that transport me to a place I had professedly forgotten.

Life has a funny way of throwing countless distractions in our direction and it is up to us to tune out those interruptions and concentrate on the things we value most. Family and friends are always at the top of my list and cooking has consistently been the thread that weaves together all of the important people in my life.

My fondest childhood memories are richly steeped in the images of our family kitchen and my love of cooking was absorbed through osmosis. Whether it was my mother methodically following a recipe, my father taking every ingredient from our refrigerator to see what he could randomly create or my brother making delicious crepes from scratch, cooking has always been the one thing that holds a piece of each of them close to my heart.

Last night I got home from work and knew the only place I yearned to be was in front of my stove. Nothing else mattered. As much as I wanted to tackle the “to-do” items on my list or write the next five hundred words in my novel, cooking was the only avenue that would afford me the true escape I needed. The onions were chopped, the bacon was rendered and my house began to, once again, smell like my home.

In a collection of minutes, the chili was simmering on the stove and the cheesy beef tortellini was set to cook in my crockpot. All was right in my world and the chaos of the universe outside of my existence had been laid to rest for the evening. Cooking is the salve that heals my wounds. Whether it is a simple salad dressing, a comforting stew, a tasty casserole or a perfectly cooked sous vide piece of beef, cooking will always have enough positive energy to undo anything negative in my life.

 

 

 

 

Learning to leave it behind

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I internalize a lot of things and lately I have been bringing a great deal of negative energy home with me. The precious moments of solace I used to have at home are slowly being diluted and I am struggling to find the peace I used to have at the end of a long day. I know I need to leave it behind, but that is easier said than done.

Emotion is a fickle creature. As much as I think I can regulate mine, it has found a way to take the driver’s seat and I have been thrown into the back seat, a mere passenger in a vehicle that is recklessly careening out of control on what should otherwise be a smooth ride.

I have tried many avenues to escape the intensity of my emotions but I have come to learn this blog is my lifeline. This is how I process emotion. I write. I expel my demons into the void and hope I can free myself of the weight of the unhealthy aura I carry on my shoulders. My words are my own judge and jury and it is up to me to read them over and over again until I am convinced my phrases ring true and I rule in my own favor.

I need to walk away. I need to leave the negativity behind and free my mind from the challenges of my day. I need to close the door on the bad energy and open the door to my happiness when I get home. I am the only person who has control of how I let myself feel and it’s time to learn to leave the bad stuff behind and focus on the things I can control and the things that make me feel truly happy.

 

The symphony of silence

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Everyone feels the need to belong to something or to be connected to someone. It is a normal human desire to be accepted by others and we strive for that feeling of belonging. But there are times when we wish to pull ourselves away from society, bask in the glory of our own company and leave the rest of the world behind for a few blissful hours.

The state of solitude disengages us from the immediate demands of other people and, for a short time, we put our own needs and pleasures above all else. There is a fine line between solitude and loneliness but solitude is a conscious choice to remove ourselves from the whirlwind outside of our private sanctum and relish in the down time we can create in those moments alone.

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Solitude can bring healing, bliss and a sense of abandon but you must be truly comfortable in your own skin to be able to fully appreciate the pleasure of being alone. Being able to let your mind wander in a myriad number of directions, having an inner dialogue with yourself or just enjoying the serenity of your company is a rare gift.

Everyone needs to occasionally give themselves the gift of guilt-free isolation, the permission to do nothing except for the things that you never give yourself time to do. Forget the needs of others for a brief period of time and read a book, take a bubble bath, cook a fabulous dinner for one, watch the show that is your secret guilty pleasure and kick back with a glass of wine. Whatever your vice of quietude is – seize the opportunity to revel in it.

The moments we have alone to reflect are the rare gifts we are able to give ourselves. Enjoy your own company once in a while and give yourself a chance to really breathe in your life. Solitude does not mean isolation. Solitude is merely silencing the outside world for a moment and obtaining that inner peace that we all crave.

Just go where the road takes you

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Spontaneity does not run deep in my veins. I am a planner and I always have been. My brain is wired to know what to expect and is also programmed to be able to come up with a Plan B on very short notice. Up to now, it has served me well.

There are very few times in my life when I feel comfortable not having a plan in place. The days when I get into the car and just drive, with no destination in mind, are some of those times. There is freedom I feel being in a car that has no purposeful end in sight. If a dead-end sign is nowhere to be seen, any road is fair game. This blind journey is one of my greatest pleasures.

The arteries of paved streets could take me anywhere and I always take comfort in the fact that my car’s navigation system will be able to put me back on the road to home. But the most enjoyable part of this pilgrimage is seeing the sites I would never have planned to see if I let my brain plot the course. Landscapes paint themselves on a canvas as I drive and I am awed by places I never knew existed. The world becomes a vast collection of vignettes after I take the time to slow down and recognize the beauty that is in my peripheral vision.

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I need to allow the aspect of that freedom to take over more of my life. While structure is a welcome friend, improvisation could be that lonely kid on the playground who I tentatively get to know, but becomes the best friend I ever had.

Did they grow on me, or did I grow on them?

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Twice a year, we have a bus tour company bring a group of seniors to the lodge. Some of the faces are familiar but many are new to us. One particular couple has been to the lodge several times and, each time they come, they have kept to themselves and not engaged with us in a way many others do….until this trip.

When they arrived on Monday, I greeted them by name and welcomed them back to the lodge. I pointed them in the direction of their room and they ambled off to settle into the place they would reside for the next three nights. They came in for the 4:00 pm welcome coffee and cookies, got comfortable in their seats and made little conversation with the others on their tour.

By breakfast the next morning, something had changed. As she made her way into the lodge, her arm found its place around my waist and she let me walk her to the table with our arms around each other. He steered his walker through the door and followed us. I asked if they would like a pot of tea and, for the first time in their past four visits, he actually smiled at me. The tea was delivered, breakfast was ordered and we found ourselves absorbed in a conversation beyond their breakfast preference.

To say I was astounded would be an understatement. The word curmudgeon always sprung to mind when I thought of him but his smile has since changed my mind. I honestly cannot tell you if they grew on me or I grew on them, but my relationship with this couple has grown. They no longer regard me with contempt but embrace me with their smiles and their gratitude.

Perhaps moments like these can change our first impressions. Two people who struck me as being eternally grumpy now present themselves as two people who have had their share of struggles and still face each day with determination. My wish for them is that they continue to rally and I truly hope to be able to greet them by name if they are able to make it to the lodge for another visit.

 

As if no time has passed

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We met in college. When you register for a program specifically geared towards hospitality, you are bound to meet friends who are outgoing and love people and that is exactly what happened. And, although twenty-nine years have gone by since we shared those hallowed hallways and classrooms, their voices still make me feel like it was only a few years ago.

We connected immediately and, for the two years we spent together within those walls, we shared innumerable laughs, a few tears and a great many games of Euchre. If I were hooked up to a polygraph machine, I would have to admit we spent more time playing cards in the cafeteria than we spent in several of our classes and, yet, we somehow managed to graduate with top marks.

As fate would have it, reality began to seep into the happy bubble we had created in college. Marriages, careers and families pulled us in many different directions but we managed to get together on a few rare occasions to catch up and talk about all the wonderful memories we could recall from our college years. These friends became a part of my family and, after almost three decades, I can still pick up the phone and talk to them like I just saw them last week. That is true friendship.

Very rarely do I miss a birthday and, though now it may only be a message through social media, their faces pop into my head when I realize what day it is. I have never forgotten April thirteenth, June third, October twenty-sixth and November seventeenth. Those dates and those people will always have a special place in my heart.

A twenty-minute phone call today reminded me of how much of an impact these people had on my life, and how much they still do. I may not know their children or how they spend their days, but I do know they were and always will be a big part of my life.

Jeff, Tara, Rob, Marc….2020 may be the perfect time for a long-overdue reunion!