DREAMING OF SUMMER

All it takes is a month or two of cold weather to get me reminiscing about warm memories.  Last summer’s vacation will not soon be forgotten. I was always envious of my friends who created annual family fun at the ocean or lakeside. My husband and I were determined to have that experience. We coordinated the dates with other family members who rented a house around the corner.  Unfortunately, our family event devolved into something else.

Last winter we found a rental house online at Fire Island.  It was a conical shape with several large decks. The clinching attributes were that it slept 10, had air conditioning, a hot tub, wi-fi and two baths. All last winter we readied ourselves, buying necessary bed linens, games to play on languid evenings and whatever else we could conjure up for this magical event.

The July day finally arrived with tremendous preparation and anticipation. All parties made it to the dock for the agreed upon ferry, with tons of baggage plus skimboards. Thankfully, we had bought two collapsible wagons to transport many food bags.

Arriving on the Island with our circled maps, we headed down the hot boardwalk. Not ten feet along, we were besieged by mosquitoes. Each of us were fending off ten to twenty at a time. It then became a race to find the house before we were devoured. Our grandson won and ran to the upper landing but found no lock box. The kids were beginning to freak out and were in danger of concussions from slapping mosquitoes. We spotted another pathway on the side deck around the corner.  Two volunteers ran with the code to lock box.

Shaken, we tumbled into what we thought would be an expansive living room. It might have accommodated two people with four bags, but definitely not six adults, two children, four wagons and multiple suitcases. There was little or no storage space, so it became quite a rubix cube of movement to settle in and unload. The kids were excited about the hot tub, but said they wouldn’t leave the house because of the flesh-eating bugs.

I spent the next few hours trying to fix the air conditioners, screen doors that kept coming off the tracks, the dishwasher that had no hot water, the outside umbrella that opened halfway and most important, figuring out how to turn on the smart tv, while the others were unpacking.  The kids bunk beds were in a musty utility space, which they refused to use.  Therefore, they slept on the living room futons, which caused everyone to have an early curfew. The other bedrooms were on the first floor, that eerily felt like a  basement.  In order to get there you had to climb down a ladder or go outside down the steps onto the deck to another door way. The rooms were hot, damp and dark.

The next morning, my husband convinced our grandson to go walking with him. They made it to the corner, but came running back immediately covered with bloody bug bites. By noon the mosquitoes seemed to be settling down so we ventured out and ran to the beach. Unfortunately, within a short time on the beach, our son-in-law was not feeling well, so he and my daughter packed up and headed for home which was three hours away. The rest of us tried to make the best of day one, while waiting to hear of their safe arrival and of his health condition.

Each successive day had us huddled in the house until noon and then running to the store, ocean or other nearby relatives while slapping ourselves silly. I pointed out that we resembled the Bavarian Slap Dance, which no one else found particularly funny. On one of her trips down the ladder, our granddaughter slipped and scraped her back. That had us all rattled until we realized she was okay. By the afternoon, the deck was not a bad mosquito zone so the kids made good use of the eight man hot tub and our granddaughter soothed her sore back.

We finally began to relax and settle into a routine. Our son-in-law was doing well. We had repaired all the appliances and oiled the screen doors.  Doused in Deet and/or our natural repellant, which really didn’t work, we spent a few fun days at the beach trying not to wonder if our lifespan would be shortened by chemicals or bug born diseases.

Our other son-in-law had to go to the mainland for work and was to rejoin us the next day. Little did he know he would be doing that in the dark.  As the sun was setting on the fifth day, we realized that the fans had stopped and all electricity surrounding us was out. We scrambled to find some little tea lights with batteries, a few flashlights and set up for a long hot night on the futons. Our daughter sat up with her flashlight trying to follow the mosquito drones. Ultimately they landed on our granddaughter, who got slapped repeatedly but didn’t wake up.

We woke up sweaty, without power and the realization that our food had spoiled. This meant that we had to leave for home a day early.  Our last day was spent cleaning out the two refrigerators and freezers, throwing out all our food and packing for home. As we were running down the walkway, one of the wagons fell off carrying our grandson with it into the brush. Our daughter pulled him and the wagon up single-handedly without missing a beat or being bitten by a tick. We were never so happy to get home, except that in our hasty retreat, I had left my diamond earrings in a bowl on the shelf in the house…

NEW YEAR!

New Year’s Eve is not a raucous event in our neck of the woods. We do celebrate with a special meal and toast to the new year, but that is about it. In the last decade, we have not seen the ball fall or banged a pot at the stroke of midnight. At 99 years old, Mom was having more excitement than we were.  She said that she was  in a quandary about what ball gown to wear to her New Year’s party at her assisted living home. She started the new year with her sense of humor intact.

As soon as I wake up on the first day of the new year, something bubbles up in my soul. I feel the new year is rife with possibility and hope. It is like erasing the blackboard with the promise of scribing something meaningful, profound or silly.

My first action is to put away the holiday decorations and try to look at the house with a new vision of how it can be streamlined, cleaned or given a new look. Some of my most successful closet organizations have occurred at this time. I am not naturally organized but I do admire people who are and study their habits and advice. One of the books that gave me some ideas was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  She states, if you don’t love it, give it away or toss it. The UWVC, United War Veterans Council, has graciously assisted with picking up our excised items.

It is very freeing to weed out excess stuff. The Scandinavians have a process as described in Margarita Magnusson’s book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.  The word for this is dostadning and the process is not so gruesome as it sounds.  It is just downsizing and deciding what is materially important to you and what is not. Also by lightening your load, your loved ones may be spared excess work and pain if anything happened to you.

Around fifteen years ago, my mother moved from her home of almost 40 years and she jettisoned tons of stuff. Of course, she moved to an apartment which necessitated her downsizing.  Over the years in her apartment, she continued to cull out lots of treasures. By the time she went to assisted living, our job of disposing of the things she could not take was tremendously lightened. Her legal and financial affairs were also “in order.” She even went through her pictures, dating, labeling and sorting them for us.

She laughed when I told her about dostdning and that she had employed her Scandinavian heritage of death cleaning. Her sister, Aunt Ruth, is doing her own downsizing and recently sent me my Grandma Johnsen’s copper tea kettle, oil cruet and tray. These were made in Norway, given to her as wedding gifts and are over 100 years old. Now it’s my turn to do some load lightening and waking up those Scandinavian genes.

Last Day of Dublin

A brief restoration of body and spirit in our hotel, allowed us to jump up ready to go. We hustled down to have the hotel call us a cab to take us downtown. We were staying on the outskirts in a lovely old hotel called Sandymount, which the Loughran family has owned since 1955.  It is the largest family run hotel in Dublin. They seemed to have collected a few adjacent Victorian homes and joined them into the main building, creating interesting hallways to meander through. We had an hour to get to our meeting spot outside Trinity College. Our time was dwindling down to half, when the clerk announced that an accident prevented the taxi from collecting us.

With a brief explanation and map on how to get to the nearby DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit), we briskly headed off toward the Aviva Stadium. A quick left and we found the station. A helpful traveler assisted us with the foreign ticket machine and off we went to the wrong side of the platform… Zipping back down and around, we made the next train with a vague thought of where to get off. We jumped off at the station, but were trapped behind the turnstiles. Several sympathetic Darters walked us through and up to the street. Off we ran with hoards of young people, presumably headed to town and hopefully the college. We let their tide carry us down the thoroughfare.  Unbelievably, we landed at the meet up corner, proud and breathless, one minute past our rendezvous time.

Our guide, Aonghus, walked us to a wonderful tavern for the last night’s meal. There we shared lots of stories, impressions and spirits. Conservation of resources and culture were topics resonating around the table. One of our hotels was equipped to only turn on the room lights with the key card and conversely turned them all off as you left the room. Many of the toilets and bathrooms we encountered, were equipped to conserve water, which provided lots of puzzling over their individual operation. Trooping around with our bus mates provided helpful tips for the accommodations. The nationalistic pride of culture, history and language was refreshing. The suffering that the people endured over the centuries was not. Though, it did not seem to dampen the spirit of the people that we encountered, both on and off of the tour.

This was my second trip to Ireland, but hopefully not my last. A previously unknown fact that was revealed by a recent Ancestry.com DNA test, declared that I was 39 percent Irish and enhanced my experience. As we drove around the country side, I wondered where my ancestors had lived and died on that lovely green island.

Dublin Bound

The rain did eventually come. In and out like a ghost.  Appearing and then disappearing behind glorious sun. It howled in on our trip to the Charles Fort in Kinsale, so much so that we were barred from visiting. This disappointment quickly vanished when we walked to Desmond Castle, also known as the French Prison. The overcast day provided an eerie glimpse into what was surely a stark existence of the inmates. The stone edifice, constructed in 1500, was transformed over the centuries into whatever was needed at the time. Our docent regaled us with lots of well rehearsed silly tales along with the history.

A walk to our harbor side restaurant allowed a peek into the charm of this town. The deep harbor made it an important naval base in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is now an international yachting center. Kinsale is also famous for its cuisine and annual Gourmet Festival. Our meal held no disappointments. According to the guide book, it is considered one of the prettiest small towns in Ireland and we certainly agreed.

Next, we were on to Dublin, cruising alongside the greenest of pastures and hillsides. When we arrived in the Capitol city, we scurried off on our own to find our own lunch, without straying far from our rendezvous point. We stumbled upon an Italian restaurant that seemed to be filled with locals. All the walls were stacked with wine bottles. The food and service were outstanding. Having already frequented several taverns and sampled lots of local fare and Guinness, this was an unexpected treat.

A local guide joined our tour and pointed out important and fun facts about the city. Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Ireland’s largest church, St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College and of course the Guinness factory were some of the memorable places. The history engulfed us as we meandered across the Liffey River and down the main streets. We ended the tour with a trip to Phoenix Park, the site of the presidential residence.

This vast acreage is Europe’s largest enclosed city park originating in 1662 when the Duke of Ormond turned the land into a deer park. Lord Chesterfield opened it to the public in 1745.  It was the site of Pope John Paul II’s mass in 1979 before millions of people. Standing at the base of a huge cross on the hilltop, you could imagine the stirring event. Next to us a young boy on his bike went careening down the hill, squealing all the way.  This quickly broke the revery, but gave us a chuckle. The skies were clear and there were masses of people enjoying the beauty of the oasis just outside of their city.  Next, we were heading back for some free time in the city, or in our case, what we thought was a brief stop at our hotel…

 

Ireland Dreaming

They say that laughter is the best medicine and if it is true, then the Irish or at least the Irish tour guides, must be the healthiest people on the planet.  Aonghus Weber was our physician on the GoAhead tour. He kept us laughing from the time we stepped onto the bus, until we bid him adieu in the evening. His was not a memorized routine, but seemed to bubble up from his enjoyment of people and his life. Our vacation proved to be one that was busy from sun up to sun down and left us still chuckling as the lights went out.

We began at the Shannon airport, holding our breath as the bus took off on the wrong side of the road or so it seemed. At least fifty shades of green dotted the countryside on our way to Galway. They say the livestock outnumber the people and we could attest that we saw more sheep, horses and cows than countrymen.

The land was a bit more stark on the West coast, with peat bogs and hard landscape, but it was still enchanting with its stone walls carving out patches of land. The castles and ruins remind you that this is an old settlement and instantly bring you back to another time. Galway, Ireland’s third largest city, was our first sleeping stop and the tour of the town was lovely. We found an outstanding local tavern for lunch on the recommendation of a shop keeper. It far exceeded our expectations.

The second night had an added attraction of the Dunguaire Castle Banquet. We were welcomed with harp music and mead and then ushered upstairs to the grand hall for dinner and entertainment. The music and ditties were played throughout the meal and had everyone’s attention. Thankfully, forks and knives were provided.

Our weather was perfect and unexpected, as the sun appeared on many days, despite the predictions of rain. We walked the beach, visited a limestone plateau called the Burren and explored the majestic Cliffs of Moher, along the Atlantic Ocean, all in sunshine and beautiful clouds. Rain altered plans only once on the trip.

On day 5, we visited the town of Cobh, which was the portal for ships launching to America. The haunting Queenstown Story Museum revealed the stories of the travelers and their treacherous journeys. The saddest part was the “funerals” that were held before they left as it was usually the last time the travelers were seen by their families and friends.

The highlight for us was Blarney Castle. The Castle dates back to the fifteenth century and you can almost feel the pulse of centuries of inhabitants. A climb to the top provides an opportunity kiss the Blarney stone and a breathtaking vista of the surrounding land. Not only was the castle impressive, but the 1500 acres of grounds were fashioned into beautiful gardens.  One was a poison garden of medicinals and potential arsenal of herbs. Another was a tropical garden set down low in a gulley, with ferns and palm plants surrounding a waterfall. A rock Close contained a collection of boulders and passages dating back to prehistoric times. The river Blarney wanders through the grounds and as you walk along the paths and rustic bridges, a magical tranquility and timelessness pervades these spaces but not enough for us.

 

Surrounded by Goddesses

Dr. Christiane Northrup is an ob/gyn, best selling author and “visionary pioneer” of the mind, body, emotions and spirit connection.  In her book, “Goddesses Never Age”, she describes how to keep joy in your life and defy aging. I am currently navigating through her “Fourteen Day, Ageless Goddess Program”, outlined in her book.  Day one’s affirmation is ” I am eternally youthful and vibrant”.  She further states, “don’t act your age, in fact, don’t even think about it”.

That sounds pretty good to me. My 98 year old mother said that she still feels like 17 inside. That was pretty evident as she strolled around in her assisted living home, sounding the horn on her walker to announce her entrance or clear a path. Sometimes she blocks the path of an oncoming friend with her walker, just to provoke a giggle.

Making fun of myself has always been part of my sense of humor, including age jokes, so that needed some adjustment. I will have to drum up some new material. Another message for day one is “Be aware of your self-talk and make sure it supports agelessness”, another challenge. I was always very self conscious and mindful of the opinions of others. This would then turn to self criticism and self correction before becoming the imagined subject of other people. By becoming a Goddess, I wouldn’t have to worry about that any more.

Last week I was visited by another ageless Goddess. Aunt Ruth, my mother’s younger sister (92) came from California to spend some time with Mom. I don’t think Aunt Ruth would ever consider herself a Goddess but she fits the definition offered by Dr. Northrup and is a Goddess in my eyes. Her gait is as spry as a 40 year old and the twinkle in her eye is timeless. We laughed all week as we ferried back and forth to Mom’s place and visited old friends.

Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bill (former NYFD) retired young and traveled the world, much of it in an Air Stream trailer. They made friends everywhere they went, many of them lifelong. They embraced food and culture as an art form. She and Uncle Bill traveled through Europe for six months in a VW bus caravan. They ran a KOA campground in Virginia. They sold Christmas trees in Las Vegas. Aunt Ruth sorted vitamin pills from a conveyor belt in a factory like Lucy Ricardo with the chocolates. I may have told that story before, but it always makes me chuckle and Goddesses love to laugh!

Unfortunately, Uncle Bill passed on to travel beyond earthly realms but Aunt Ruth still has some destinations to conquer. Recently, she took a river cruise, visiting the Netherlands and several other countries. The year before, it was Hawaii and Russia. She volunteers at her Church thrift store, laughs often and is open to all life still has to offer. She broke the traditional female mold in our family and made it appear so much more fun.

Day two of the program is for pure pleasure and fun.  You can’t find fault with that. This program rocks. Day three focuses on the mind/body connection and finding a balance between rest, eating well and exercise. I can’t wait for day four. I love being a Goddess in training.

Earth’s Oils

For about a year and some, I have been experimenting with essential oils and having such fun. Though intimidated at first to apply what I was learning, my friend Jane Smith, yes that is her real name, would encourage me to dive into this natural, healthy world. My first exposure was Jane’s invitation to a DoTerra party. It was so amazing. We were slathered with the most amazing scents and offered lots of uses for each oil. The practical application of them blew me away. Lemon and lavender are wonder products for everything, including cleaning, calming and healing.

Jane and her two DoTerra partners, Sherry and Pat hold regular introduction classes as well as crafty applications for the oils. They supplied everything, including food cooked with oils by gourmet Jane. It was delicious fun as we gobbled first and then made various air fresheners, roll on concoctions and hand scrubs to name a few.

I have been emboldened by their guidance and love the applications. One of my go to oils is a digestion blend called Digest-zen. It has provided me lots of relief, especially through the over indulging holidays.  Another is a drop or two of lemon in my water first thing in the morning. That accomplishes the inside cleaning. Then I spray my counter tops with a mixture of lemon, white vinegar and water and lastly add it to the laundry. Next, lavender gets rubbed into my scalp for dry itchiness or dropped into a soaking bath. I also put a few drops into an oil locket necklace. The lovely scent reminds me to relax and keeps me grounded. Frankincense is a cure-all, that gets applied to the bottom of my feet each day. There are numerous tests being done on this miracle oil’s ability for fighting cancer cells. Then I go blissfully to sleep with lavender and Serenity blend. This is just the tip of my Pandora’s box of lovely oils.

Jane’s cooking experiments have lately empowered me to add a few drops here and there. The first was in a smoothie and then a fabulous Finnish Easter bread with cardamom, orange and lemon drops. I know that this is just the culinary beginning. Thanks to my wonderful friends, I have new life enhancing natural ingredients in my medicine chest and pantry. As a bonus, the eco-consciousness of the company and its global responsiveness to all its workers and their communities is life affirming.

The oils are a gift from the earth and my friend Jane.  What could be more timely!

Dance

You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

–Plato

Dance has been an integral part of most cultures for thousands of years. Archeologists found traces of dance, in paintings found in Bhimbetka rock shelter caves in India, from 30,000 years ago. Dance has been used to drive away illness-causing spirits and provide healing rituals, purifying the body and soul. It can express who we are as a culture, as in traditional folk dances. Dance also provides socialization and bonding. It can express who we are as a person.

Our society is recognizing the therapeutic benefits of creative dancing. Dance therapists utilize the beneficial effects in treating patients with autism, emotional problems, psychosomatic illnesses, chronic pain, muscle tension, limited motion and coordination problems. Dancing can relieve stress, burn calories, exercise muscles and boost confidence.

Ballroom dancing was an important part of socializing in the first half of the last century. It was important for both sexes to learn the basics of the dances. The popularity of the Lindy continued this tradition. Country line dancing has fired up enthusiasm for couples all over the country and ballroom dancing is making a comeback at colleges.

At my Mom’s Assisted living home, they regularly have music to entice the residents into moving and shaking their stuff. It certainly puts a smile on their faces and a jiggle in their steps.

Adult education classes offer dance lessons ranging from belly to ballroom. Thankfully, many venues and dances don’t require bringing a partner. It can be wonderful exercise for all ages with side effects of meeting people, burning calories and possibly kindling romance. Move from wallflower to dance floor in one easy fox trot.

Quantum Leap

Have you seen the You Tube Scottish video, which shows a young man dancing with residents at an old folks home? They come alive and begin to laugh and have fun. I intend to be in a future video when I am 90 years old, teaching dancing at the old folks home. I fully expect my Mom at 120, will be there and taking the lessons. Learning about how to make my body and mind more active and healthy is my passion. I recently watched a series of free videos from HayHouse.com that explained how to do just that and boy am I excited!!

The first one is by Bruce H. Lipton, PhD. It is called Break Through the Barrier of Belief, Unlocking the Science Behind Health and Happiness. Dr. Lipton is a scientist who was at the forefront of discovering that we are not solely products of our genetic make up. We are what we think and that is what programs our brains and bodies. We do not have to be at the mercy of our heredity, such as inheriting family traits of bad hearts or high cholesterol.

Another free video by Hay House is by Dr. Joe Dispenza, titled, Training Your Brain to Create the Life You Want. He too, is a scientist with tremendous credentials. Both doctors have written several books and have lectured all over the world. They are able to break down their discoveries and ideas in a clear, absorbable manner.

There is a drumbeat of information getting louder by the day, about how we are in charge of our destiny. That is pretty exciting information. We have the power to heal our bodies by changing our perceptions. I love being in charge of my health, instead of placing it in the hands of pharmaceuticals. Though it is easier in the short run, to fall back on old tunes and tapes in our heads, the impact of that may negatively affect the rest of our lives.

Negative thoughts can be debilitating, sending messages to the brain and the universe. This energy begins affirming those thoughts to make them real. The body reacts to fight or flight mode, by interfering with the normal process of healing. This may eventually wear down the body, setting it up for disease. By becoming aware of negative thinking and knee jerk reactions to these thoughts, you can begin to reprogram your mind and body to heal itself. How powerful is that!

According to Dr. Kim D’Eramo, who wrote  The Mind, Body Tool Kit, 85-95% of emergency room patients’ problems don’t have primary organic causes, such as broken bones, but are emotionally based diseases. She states that traditionally trained doctors are not educated to treat these types of diseases.

Modifications in eating and nutrition, stress reduction and mindfulness seem to be the most effective in healing these diseases. I know personally that this was the only prescription that eliminated my symptoms. Trooping from doctor to doctor, did not and I intend to go dancing into the good night..

 

Still Tapping! Hear The Rhythm?

This week, I managed to tune into several of the audio presentations on the Tapping World Summit for Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), on thetappingsolution.com with Nick and Jessica Ortner. Each year, they have a free series and this was the first that I had experienced. As I learn more about this medium, I have found out that many of the authors of self empowerment books that I have read, utilize this practice.

Each EFT audio session, that I have read or listened to so far, has put its own spin on the practice, which means that there are no hard and fast rules to apply to make it work. This practice has had success on many levels, including health, emotions, past traumas, financial worries, anxiety, and relationships. The unifying actions are digging into what is troubling you, identifying it, facing the truth, tapping and accepting yourself, easy peasy!

Cheryl Richardson’s audio session, “Navigating Change: Embracing the Ups and Downs of Life Through Tapping,” was very enlightening. She has a book that is soon to be published, titled The Heroes Journey. Boiling it down into a sound bite, when you are in a depression or shock in your life from a death, loss or challenging change, there is a descent into a period of not knowing. One may feel lost and unable to see or feel the future. For a while there is the mystery of how it will resolve itself and finally the ascent. She said we all have experienced that Hero’s Journey, many times over. During this journey, you can use tapping to ease the discomfort by giving voice to it. Admit the truth and the fear in all its glory.

The process that seems to work is to tap several rounds where you identify all the issues troubling you. It may even be good things happening, but are causing stress and tension. You make a statement to start; “Even though, I hate my job, life, husband, wife, clothes, house”…..fill in the blank or “Even though, I am nervous about getting married, having a baby, getting the job I love; I am nervous, upset, sick…..”, then affirm, “I deeply and completely love and approve of myself.” The next several rounds of tapping involve positive affirmations. You can even toggle back and forth between positive and negative emotions.

As I tapped along with the different presenters, I immediately felt relaxed and relief in just several minutes time. The pain in my shoulder faded. My life is in a good transition of change, where I am having more time for myself in my retirement. Though it is a positive life experience, the tension that I hold in my back/shoulder, which I call my luggage, is no fun. Trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life is a serious matter. At least that is how I approach it. Hence, my new found hobbies and tap, tap, tapping. Maybe I will give dance lessons a try!