Saturday, December 18, 2021

Christmas Magic

It was just a few weeks until Christmas and I could hardly wait.

We had moved into our beautiful new house, and I had my very own bedroom.  No more sharing with my annoying younger brother.

Mom was busy decorating and getting ready for the holiday.  I’m not sure I had ever seen her so happy.  She finally met someone who treated her well and even liked us kids too. 

Buzz was a kind man, quiet and gentle with a warm smile.  Walking in with his dusty work boots, exhausted from work, he was never too tired to pick me up and give me a huge bear hug.

We were living a life I could never have imagined.  There was so much food in the house we had to put another refrigerator on the back porch.  We didn’t have to worry about moving in the middle of the night because we couldn’t pay the rent.  Life was very good.

“You are not going to start another project this close to Christmas” I heard my mom telling Buzz.

He was always working on something.  He built a new patio with a rock garden for mom in the summer and a mini playhouse for me and my brother.

Despite her protests, he began working.  

It was unusual for him to be doing it inside, but it was winter, so I didn’t think much of it. 

Mom was beside herself with the mess.  She had worked so hard to clean and decorate the house.  He had even pushed the Christmas tree off into the corner.

I was surprised and confused when I came home from school and saw that he was actually tearing down the living room wall. 

He and mom almost never argued but this was different.  There were pieces of wood and sheet rock everywhere.  I was happy I had a room to go to where I could stay away from it all.

As the days passed, mom accepted that this was going to happen whether she liked it or not. 

Just a couple of days until Christmas now and I was more excited than ever.  This was our first Christmas in the new house.

Behind the canvas tarps, Buzz worked away, he looked like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.

He even enlisted my brother to help with his “secret project”.
I was a little jealous that I wasn’t included but I kept myself busy playing with my dolls and reading in my room.

Finally, it was Christmas eve.  I knew this year would be special, but I had no idea how much. 

After dinner, mom sent me and my brother to our rooms.  “We have something to do before Santa comes, so you have to stay there until we tell you to come out” she instructed “and no peeking” she nodded to my brother.

Presents, it must be our presents we both thought. 

When she opened the door, she told me to close my eyes.  Gently guiding me, we walked into the front room. 

What I saw when I opened my eyes was the most beautiful fireplace I had ever seen.  

That is what Buzz had been working on.  Whoever had lived there before had covered up the fireplace with a wall.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale – the fire was glowing with twinkles of light reflecting on the hearth.

Under the tree were two boxes, one for me and one for my brother. 

We didn’t usually get to open any gifts before Christmas morning, so this was another unexpected surprise. 

My box was not wrapped, so it was easy to just open the top.  As I did, up popped the most beautiful little gray kitten in the world.  I immediately began to cry, as I carefully lifted her out of the box.

“Is she really for me?” I asked in disbelief, petting her gently. "I think I'll call her Thumbelina because she's so tiny" I said.

My brother grinned at me and began opening his package.  It was a toolbox with real tools to build things, he was thrilled.

Mom smiled and watched quietly as we laughed and played.

Buzz reached down from his rocking chair and lifted me, still holding the kitten, into his lap.

It was truly a magical Christmas.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Stanley Hotel - A Ghost Story

 It was a beautiful day in Colorado and my friend was coming for a visit.  We decided to go to Estes Park for the weekend.  We talked as we drove up the mountain; he asked if that was where the hotel that Stephen King wrote about in "The Shining” was.  Yes, I answered and drove on, thinking nothing more of it.  What a glorious day - blue sky, beautiful scenery, a perfect way to begin our trip. 

As we approached the overlook we saw Rocky Mountain National Park rising up in the background, what a spectacular sight.  We drove toward town and noticed a striking white building on the hill.  Neither of us knew what it was so we decided to investigate.  As we drove closer we marveled at the perfectly manicured grounds and then saw the sign “The Stanley Hotel”.  We agreed that we had to see it but were sure it must be out of our price range.

As we entered the property, the massive white gates opened to a large patio.  The lobby was beautifully decorated; leather chairs surrounded stone fireplaces, antique tables with fresh flowers brightened every corner, it was warm and inviting.  We inquired about the rates and were surprised they had a special price for the night, so we decided to stay.  After checking in, the desk clerk informed us that the hotel was haunted and that they had ghost tours in the basement after dark.  We thought it was amusing and a good tourist attraction but declined. 

As we climbed the stairs we noticed the air changing, it became heavy and dense.  The brightness of the lobby faded as we walked toward our room.  We opened the door and immediately were struck with the closeness of the space.  Not only was it very small but there seemed to be no air circulating.  We decided immediately that this would not be comfortable and asked to change rooms.  They moved us to a large, beautifully appointed suite with a great view of the mountains. 

We enjoyed a luxurious meal at the restaurant and continued to marvel at the wonderful surroundings.  We planned on going into town later and do some sightseeing but never left the hotel.  Throughout the evening, several people approached me saying I looked like someone they knew.  When I went downstairs to the ladies room, I felt a chill in the air.  The entire time I was there I felt as though I was being watched, it made me very uneasy and I hurried back to our table.  My friend laughed when I told him and reminded me about the ghost tours, it was funny and I quickly put it aside.   

It was getting late so we decided to go back up to the room.  As we talked I felt a draft of cold air and looked to see where it was coming from.  I saw an apparition of a man step through one of the doorways and disappear.  Just then, my friend asked if someone was behind him.  Standing over his shoulder I could see the faint outline of a young girl.  We both were stunned, not sure what was happening.  Slowly we began to speak, this felt like a child’s spirit nothing malevolent or frightening.  Suddenly, the energy changed dramatically, the room filled with cold air and a bright light flashed across the room and splashed on the bureau mirror.  It felt as though dozens of very angry people were trying to get into the room. 

It was 2:00 a.m. and seemed strange to check out in the middle of the night but we could not stay.  We were relieved to see a friendly night clerk at the desk. She informed us that this was a regular occurrence and that she had seen some extraordinary things herself. We talked to her for sometime and then she told me I looked very much like a woman who passed away many years ago.  We drove back down the mountain in silence; years later I still think about what we encountered in that strange and dark place.  I have never returned to the Stanley or to Estes Park.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Fantasy Travel - The Ultimate Staycation

As someone who loves to travel, I was very surprised that I didn’t go stir crazy during the pandemic.  I have been traveling for work and pleasure for so many years that I didn’t think I would be comfortable staying in one place for any length of time.

I was very pleased to discover the many benefits it offered and it has given me a new appreciation for being at home. 

As travel restrictions are loosening, I thought about where my next adventure will take me.  Where do I want to go, what do I want to do, all of the questions I normally ask myself when I start to plan a new trip. 

What used to be a very easy and fun process has changed significantly for me.  Now, there are so many new considerations that have to be taken into account, especially if I am leaving the country.

What I love most about traveling is that it is a total departure from my real life.  I actually feel like a different person when I am away.  Getting out of my normal routine and disconnecting from the world is pure bliss.

Even in the best of times, travel can be a challenge.  Unexpected things happen and you need to be flexible enough to adjust.  Right now, I’m not really looking for that kind of experience but I do want to have the enjoyment of getting away from it all.

Find the Inspiration

Recently, I had an appointment across town and stopped by a food truck for lunch.  It was a large dirt lot that had a variety of trucks offering Mexican food.  It was mid-week, so most of the trucks were closed.  I drove toward the rear and found one that was open. 

As I sat outside, waiting for my order, I felt transported to Mexico.  Sitting in the shade on a hot summer day, music playing in the background, tattered flags blowing in the breeze, I was no longer home, I was in a tiny Mexican village.

I realized then that I didn’t have to get on a plane to go somewhere, I could do it right here at home. 

I began by making a list of some of the things that I enjoy about travel – I really like the planning, staying at a hotel, not having to cook or clean, trying the local cuisine and meeting new people.   

I also thought about what I don’t care for while traveling - crowds, flight delays, strict time schedules, noisy neighbors, access to food and services, getting help if I’m ill or injured.

Those are just some of the things that can happen when traveling but now may be even more unpredictable and difficult to manage.  My preferences have changed over the years and now I’m more interested in ease and comfort than action and adventure.

I used to enjoy long haul flights to Europe but now the thought of being on a plane with hundreds of strangers for 12 hours is not at all appealing. 

I decided to create a trip right here in the comfort of my own home.  A fantastic journey with all of the benefits and none of the issues.

Make it Realistic

In order for this to feel real you have to do everything as if you are actually leaving.  

It reminds me of playing fort at home with my brother when we were young.  It didn’t matter that we were sitting on the living room floor with blankets, we played make believe that we were far away and it was so much fun

One of my favorite places to visit is Mexico.  I love the slower pace where I can sit under a palapa, read a good book and drink a cold cerveza. I wanted to see how close I could come to replicating the feeling of those wonderful trips, so I went all in. 

A few days before “leaving”, I had my hair and nails done and told my family that I would be away for a few days.  How much you share with them is up to you.  I find that if I say too much, they will discount my idea and it takes the fun out of it.

Pack a suitcase - nothing says vacation like packing my bags.  I like to travel light but now I have no stress about forgetting something I may need.

As soon as I decided to try this, the excitement began to build.  Just as it does for a “real” trip.  The more believable you can make this the better. 

Time to Relax and Enjoy

Turn off your phone or put it in airplane mode.  Disconnecting is something I love about being away and I rarely do at home. 

I used my guest room as my mock hotel suite for the trip.  Unpacking and using only what I had in my suitcase.

Thanks to YouTube I was able to have a gorgeous beach view with the sound of waves gently washing ashore.

I gave myself permission to do everything I like to do on vacation – take a nap, have a drink with lunch, explore the local shops as a tourist, speak the language, order room service (delivery), book a massage, dress up for dinner, anything goes.

So Many Advantages

The benefits of this type of fantasy travel are tremendous.  You have total control and flexibility of how much or how little you do.  If something urgent should come up you don’t have to worry about how to get home to take care of things.

Minimal expense, no passport, no flight schedules, no jet lag, no dirty crowded airports, no check-out time, no stress – just the pleasure of having what you want most from your getaway.

I’m enjoying this trip so much, I may just extend my stay!

Published on - Sixty and Me

Is this something you would try?  Where would you go?  What are your favorite travel memories you would like to recreate?  Share your stories and join the conversation!

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Post Pandemic Travel - Getting Back to Basics

Post pandemic travel is a new and interesting experience.  So many people, myself included, are ready to explore the world again.  The question is, just how do we do that now?

Destinations are beginning to open to visitors but there are still many aspects that have changed and need to be considered before embarking on your next adventure.  Especially for women traveling alone.

Solo travel has always been a unique experience

It required special planning to make sure that it was safe and enjoyable.  Not so different than how it is today.

Thinking about how to do this reminds me of when I first began to travel.  Deciding where to go, how to get there, where to stay were just some of the decisions that I needed to make.  Everything about the process was a little scary but very exciting. 

I’m feeling that way again and it is making this process even more enjoyable.

Jump back in or take it slow

For some, this will be going full speed ahead, trying to regain their normal routine.  For others, it will be a little slower and more deliberate.  I probably fall somewhere in the middle.  I want to go fast but also be mindful of real and relevant factors all over the world.

Pre-pandemic I was travelling full-time, most of it internationally.  Just the month before lock-down in the US I was in 3 different countries and planning the next. 

Now that seems unrealistic and even careless in some cases.  I had to remind myself that things have changed and if I want to continue to travel, I need to do somethings differently.

Back to basics

As much as I love the experience of going somewhere far away, I don’t feel quite ready for that.  What I am ready for is that feeling of wonder and joy that being anywhere new brings.

I began thinking of things to do and places to go a little closer to home.  Places that would give me that sense of being away without having to go too far.

When I first started to travel alone, I would pick a nearby location and plan from there.  What I found was that it didn’t matter where it was, it always felt like I was worlds away.

Start small

Something I love to do when I am in a new place is to take public transportation, especially buses and trains.  That is something I almost never do at home. 

I started by checking stations and schedules near where I live and began to see all of the locations I can access without driving.  What I didn’t expect is that it was as much fun, if not more, than researching flights, at a fraction of the cost.

The other thing I love about traveling is staying at a nice hotel and taking myself out to dinner.  As much as I enjoy that, it is something I only do when I’m away. 

Just this small amount of planning helped me to see that I can have all of the pleasure of taking a trip with a lot less of the anxiety producing aspects that I don’t want.

There are so many options

Now, that I’ve decided that this is a good way for me to ease back into travel, I’ve realized just how many possibilities there are.  I don’t have to fly to another city to enjoy all of the things I can have right here. 

I’ve decided I will play tourist in my own city and state.  Each trip will involve something that I love – visiting local parks and gardens, going out to lunch or dinner alone, staying at a nice hotel for just a night or two or booking a luxurious spa treatment, anything I want. 

Not only will it be convenient but without having to pay airfare, it is much more affordable. 

Just thinking about this new way to travel has reignited my enthusiasm for something that has been such a wonderful part of my life. 

Wishing you safe and happy travels!   

 How do you feel about traveling again?  Are you comfortable with planning and preparing for post pandemic changes?  Have you ever been a tourist in your city?  Share your stories and join the conversation! 

Published on Sixty and Me













Sunday, May 9, 2021

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Finding Joy in Isolation

 When the pandemic first hit the U.S. in 2020, like so many others, I wondered how I would cope.  Would this be a devastating hardship or could it be an opportunity to look at life in a different way?

There were so many unknowns that business as usual didn’t seem realistic or even possible.  I started to think about ways that I could be comfortable and still stay safe with so much fear and confusion going on around me.

As I spoke with family and friends, I could see that everyone had a unique approach to this unprecedented situation.  Some were trying to work around the virus to maintain as much of their normal day to day lives as possible and others wanted to ignore that it was even happening. 

Very quickly, I realized that how I dealt with this was entirely up to me.  So, I went into planning mode.  I wanted to find a way to transition to a new normal and maybe even find some joy.

First, I needed to assess what I would require for extended periods of lockdown.  As I did my inventory, I realized that I had very little in the way of food on hand and an excessive amount of travel supplies.  After so much traveling, I had enough shampoo and toothpaste to last 6 months.

Since it was still winter in Colorado, I thought of it as getting ready for a big storm.  I didn’t want or need to hoard supplies but I did need to have food in the cupboard.

It reminded me of when I was a girl and mom could make a few pantry staples and one piece of meat stretch for several meals.  How well she managed really inspired me.  This was a great chance to get creative and do some things differently. 

 I never enjoyed grocery shopping, or any shopping to be honest, and now it was much worse.  I started checking into delivery options and found that I could get everything I needed delivered to my door, it felt like a real luxury.  That is something I will continue long after the crisis has passed.

Also, there was an unexpected surprise in having someone else doing my shopping.  As supplies fluctuated, I would sometimes get substitutions for items that I would not have tried otherwise. 

I started to appreciate how well I was able to navigate through this strange time.  Feeling very secure with my home and food supply my attention turned inward.  I began thinking of how I would spend my time. 

Previously, I would have been traveling all over the world for work and pleasure but that was not going to be possible, at least for the time being.  That was a big concern for me.  How would I adapt if I was confined to one place, not able to jump on a plane whenever I wanted? 

I began thinking of all of the wonderful trips I had taken and trying to remember details of each adventure.  I had moved so quickly from one place to another, now was a good time to reflect on those journeys and what they really meant to me.

Being in one place for an extended period of time was growing on me.  It was nice to wake up in my own bed every day and not have to worry about check-out time or flight schedules. 

I was cooking more and even started sourdough baking which is something I used to do when my children were young.  I discovered a lot of the simple pleasures that I didn’t have time for before the pandemic. 

For me, staying in was a relief, I didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything that I didn’t truly want or need to do.  I’ve never liked crowds, so not being able to attend events felt like pure freedom.  I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. 

Little by little I started experimenting with this new way of life and found so many hidden gems that I would never have thought would be possible.  I have loved slowing down and really taking time to look after myself.  What I discovered is that you can find joy even in isolation.

How have you coped during the pandemic?  Were there any unexpected benefits from a change in your lifestyle?  Share your story and join the conversation.

Published on Sixty and Me