Things that go bump in the night

As a child, I’d dream things that would become reality the next day. They weren’t earth shattering revelations, exactly. I dreamed my parents’ station wagon had a flat tire on the right rear tire. The next day, it did. I had a dream that one of our tropical fish jumped out of the aquarium and died – a little black shark with a red tail. The next day, I was watching television when I noticed that very fish lying on the floor beneath the fish tank. I also had a strong sense of deja vu, often knowing what someone was going to say next because I’d heard the conversation before.

When I was in college, our house director knew a psychic who had become famous for helping to solve the case of a kidnapped child. He agreed to give a demonstration to the residents of my dorm. He requested a small table with four chairs. There was a folding card table in our room, so I carried it down and set it up in the lounge. We placed four folding chairs around it. He invited me and two others to sit around the table with him. After some short instruction, including how to touch the table only on the top, using just the lightest touch of our fingertips, we levitated the table. With ease. All four legs were off the floor and we had to stand to keep our fingertips on the surface. After his performance, he told me that he had selected me to sit across the table because of my psychic ability, which he sensed immediately. I was flattered. And a little terrified. 

About ten years later, I signed up for a three-session seminar on developing your psychic ability. On the first evening, we paired up with a complete stranger and exchanged a personal item. I gave the woman opposite me a ring I’d been wearing. She handed me her pen. Closing my eyes, I opened my mind. I saw a school with tall windows. There was a front, corner office that contained a computer system and several desks. I described what I saw in my mind’s eye, as it appeared to me. The woman was incredulous. She was a middle school guidance counselor who had been moved out of her office earlier that day while computers were being installed. (This was in the early 1980s, before computers were a household thing).

I’ve always felt the presence of people unseen, which lent itself to an interest in ghosts. When I retired from my first career in 2012, I celebrated by going to Rose Island with a team of professional paranormal investigators. Most of the other attendees were in pairs or small groups of friends. There were two others who were by themselves, so we joined together to explore the reportedly haunted island. It was perfect night: Pitch dark and so foggy that the boat captain had trouble finding the dock. We toured the historic lighthouse before heading out to the old barracks that had housed sick and dying Rhode Islanders during a 19th century illness outbreak. There’s no electricity on the island, so we had only the flashlights we carried to find our way. One of my new friends had some ghost hunting toys and gadgets. We chose a barrack near the end of the large, concrete structure. We closed the door and went to work setting up an EMF meter and laser grid. We sat patiently, chatting quietly in between asking an occasional question of any spirits that might be present. Suddenly, there was distinct movement in the laser grid and the lights on the EMF started blinking like crazy. Simultaneously, I felt an electrical-like charge move thru my body. It’s difficult to explain, but it was like having the chills, but I wasn’t really cold. It lasted only a couple of seconds and I didn’t say anything about it. But each of my investigating partners started to describe the same, exact phenomenon. I was stunned. Nobody admitted to being uneasy, but we silently packed up the equipment and headed back toward the lighthouse, where the others were gathered. 

There’s much more – vivid dreams, uncanny coincidences, psychic readings and even a Ouija Board experience. I’ll save them for next time. Do I believe in ghosts? You bet. They don’t scare me, though. Real, living, breathing people are far more frightening, especially some days…. But that’s a blog for another day.

Happy Halloween!

New Directions

Change is good. Even when it’s difficult. That’s just one of the many life lessons we have shared here. No matter what, things do change. They don’t always turn out the way we planned. 

Without your support, comments and encouragement, it would never have come so far. Many of you stuck by me during the lean months, when there was little being published here and I thank you.

Going forward, my blog is taking a new direction. The one thing I have learned about this craft is that your best bet is to write what you know. Well, my adventures have been unforeseen and I feel compelled to use those experiences now. My writing has been a source of comfort to me. It has also been thought provoking and, when I needed it most, humorous. It has been a journey in self discovery. Happily, I have reached a point where I am ready to share more of that writing in the hope that others might find those things here, too.

It’s not for everyone. Some of you may no longer relate to my topics. There will be some gut wrenching sadness, some dark humor and some outrageous and brutal truths. It will be deeply personal. Most of all, my wish is that it will be courageous and hopeful. 

I am compelled to share because I believe that my work has literary value and is worth reading. I think that the need to overcome challenges and loss are such common experiences that others might benefit from any exchanges that result. I don’t have to look very far to find others whose stories are far more devastating than mine. We all suffer, to varying degrees. We can lessen the pain and discover hope by inspiring one another. Every individual journey is different. No one walks their path alone, although it often feels that way.

No harm done if it’s not your cup of tea. I welcome all of my readers and hope to attract some new followers. We all deal with change. It is my hope that you will find some common threads with which you identify. Please share the blog whenever you find something that might appeal to a friend or colleague.

Now, fasten your seatbelt. Welcome to my fabulous life…..

Autumn

October is my favorite month of the year. Mother Nature is chaotic, like I often feel. She undergoes dramatic change. She transforms. The first days of October cling to summer’s remnants. But Autumn soon has her way. The lush green turns to bold hues of red, orange and gold. Tropical storms blow the winds of change thru the air. There are warm, sunny days. Nights are cold and so clear that the stars dance above our widened eyes. It’s not unusual to see the season’s first snowflakes. Or to have a final beach day. It’s all so amazingly unpredictable.

By the middle of the month, if you live in New England, the colors are spectacular. If we’re lucky, we still scramble for the last tomatoes and corn of the year. We seek comfort in sweaters, scarves and boots. Night falls early and evenings are perfect for campfires. At the close of the month, we light our walkways with carved pumpkins – their orange-yellow glow often the only bright color that remains…. Their warm, soft candlelight a sign of things to come.

The irony is that all the beauty happens because things are dying. Or, preparing for a long, deep sleep, in many cases. Nature tests our faith. We bemoan the cold, bleak darkness. But we know Spring will come around, her warmth forcing buds on the barren trees, bulbs from the frozen ground. 

It can be unsettling, this metamorphosis. We reluctantly give up our control. Some days, we complain. Some days, we embrace it. Either way, it happens all around us. It’s unpredictably predictable…. And it’s always beautiful. 

That which we seek

Sometimes, the very thing you’re looking for is right in front of you.

We are curious creatures: Some, more than others. We are seekers – of information, entertainment, stimulation. We look for bargains. We pursue the truth. We look for love. We search for happiness. There are times, I believe, that the hunt becomes more important than the goal. We get so wrapped up in the process that we lose sight of that which we seek.

Recently, at work, my partner and I worked a case where we had few leads. We are charged with finding extended family members of children who have been placed in foster care. We spent hours utilizing our fancy (and expensive) search engines and databases. Our oversized monitors displayed lots of dead ends. Family members we reached out to by phone were not helpful and calls went unreturned.

In desperation, we decided to take a road trip and check out an address that kept surfacing for an aunt. She was home and agreed, reluctantly, to speak with us. We attempted to impress her with our fancy, computer generated genogram (diagram of the family tree), despite many empty spaces where contact information should have been. 

She asked if we had looked in the phone book. My partner and I successfully resisted the urge to roll our eyes. She then produced the whitepages – from 2014. Yup – an actual made-from-trees, paper book. It was like looking at a dinosaur. Much to our professional horror, she then proceeded to read aloud the addresses and telephone numbers of several extended family members in the area.

Duh. She schooled us, right there on her front porch. We were humbled, to say the least. Neither of us had thought to use the oldest and most reliable resource of all. We retreated to our office, grateful for the information, but with our tails tucked firmly between our legs.

The lesson is this: If you are a seeker, start close to home. Look first at what has worked for you in the past. If it’s happiness you crave, look within yourself. If it’s love you desire, take a good look at the people already in front of you. If you need a job, go back to what you know. Follow your instincts. Follow your heart. Work outward, from there.

Don’t neglect the obvious. That which you seek might be within you. Or, it may be right in front of you.

Listen up..

I spend a lot of time around people who are good listeners. Maybe that’s because of the nature of my work. People in the helping professions are trained listeners and interviewers – social workers, therapists, group facilitators. In my personal life, however, good listeners are not so abundant. It’s just not something that is taught, unless your course of study includes a vocation that require a good ear.

Being a good listener comes in handy, even if you don’t do it professionally. We all have family and friends with whom we interact. Even if you’re just describing your day to your significant other, you want to be heard. If you’re confiding about something that hurt you or scared you, you want to feel understood and supported. If you’re angry, you want to feel validated.  

Hopefully, we want to do the same for our friends who rely on us to be a fair sounding board. It’s not always easy. I once learned a technique called “reflective listening.” It included reframing the storyteller’s words and responding in kind, also identifying their emotion. However, this can and has been overused, often at nauseum. It might sound something like this:

    
       Friend: “I cannot believe that idiot promised to call me and I haven’t heard from him in a week.”

       Listener: “So, you haven’t heard from him in seven days.”

       Friend: “Just wait until I see him again. I’m going to give him a piece of my mind!”

       Listener: “Sounds like you’re angry.”

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Another mistake we often make is to reply by sharing about the time the same thing happened to us. While it can be helpful to demonstrate to someone that we know how they feel, we risk taking the attention away from a friend who really needs to share more of their story. Resist the temptation to make it about you, at least until your friend is finished.

There are many non-verbal cues we can use to encourage someone to keep talking. Sometimes, not saying anything at all allows time for the talker to gather their thoughts and continue. You can nod reassuringly, to let them know that you are, in fact, listening. You can raise your eyebrows as a signal that they should tell you more.

When you do respond, choose your words and tone carefully. Nobody wants to feel like they’re on the witness stand in an episode of Law & Order. Be gentle. Ask questions that will encourage more sharing, perhaps at a deeper level. If you’re not sure you comprehend exactly what is being said, ask for clarification.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what to say or how to react. The important thing is that we are sincerely and genuinely interested and concerned. “I’m so sorry that happened to you” conveys empathy. “What can I do to help you get beyond this?” Let’s them know they are not alone. “What do you wish had happened, instead?” Helps them identify exactly where their feelings originated.

Don’t be afraid to touch a friend on the arm, offer a tissue or even a hug, if appropriate. Be the kind of listener that you would want, if you were in their shoes. Someday, you will be.

Who’s in your tribe?

In the coming weeks, we’ll all be bombarded by media bites about mothers. But that is just one of the roles most women have played. And, while it is perhaps the most important one, it defines only a portion of who we are. The second Sunday in May can be painful for those who have lost a mother, have lost a child or who never became a mother. Instead, I prefer to celebrate women for all of their complicated layers – for their infinite worth and immeasurable value.






Girl power. Female fortitude. Women sticking together. Call it what you want. It’s a unique phenomenon, foreign to those who have not been fortunate enough to witness or experience it. 

I’m not much of a feminist. But I know a good thing when I see one. All my life, I have been stronger because of the women in my life. As a young child, my mother and my grandmothers were my role models. Their options in life were much more limited than mine are. But their convictions were not. 

My Nana, Florence, arrived at Ellis Island at the age of 22 with her husband and a baby. She worked hard and bought a house. She had three more babies before losing her husband when her youngest, my mother, was only nine-years-old. She remained in that house until her death at the age of 92. She still wore her wedding rings and slept in the same bed she had shared with my grandfather, refusing to replace it. And she never traded in her citizenship of England. She was loyal and fiercely independent. 

My paternal grandmother, Grace, worked outside the home and bought herself a Ford Mustang convertible in her later years. She was outspoken and you always knew where you stood with her. She had her own style. And she didn’t care who liked it or who didn’t.

My mother, Barbara, was a nurturer. She, among other talents, was an extraordinary homemaker. She made sure I knew how to act in public (some might say she was remiss!) and she was responsible for my religious and spiritual growth. In a time when a woman’s role was well defined, she embraced every aspect of it. She was first and foremost a wife and a mother. She was selfless and tenacious in her womanhood.

There were others along the way who influenced me: Aunts, neighbors, teachers, coworkers. My best friend’s mother, growing up, Eileen, was an amazing woman. In a time when single parents were rare, she was raising seven children, by herself. Their small house never felt so. Despite the number of inhabitants, it was always calm and orderly. She was gentle and soft spoken but she had a firm, non-negotiable bottom line. She raised each of her seven children to become responsible, kind, successful adults. Show me a family that can make that same claim today. 

Nowadays, the strong women who surround me are mostly friends. We have reached a place in our lives when it’s likely that we’ve known one another for several decades. We have supported each other thru the births, and in some cases, the deaths, of our children. There have been long, happy marriages and divorces; serious illnesses, loss of parents and spouses, new homes, new careers, and countless celebrations. 

In my life, I have had many good friends who were not women. I cherish them and benefit enormously from the different perspective they provide. I am not – and never will be – a man hater. That’s not what this is about. It’s just that women give each other something that they cannot get elsewhere. Perhaps it comes from knowing what it’s like to walk a mile in each other’s heels, or Nikes, or Birkenstocks. Maybe it’s because we share a similar history of another generation of women who molded us. 

All I know for sure is that the women in my life are there when I need them. No question. No hesitation. They are never too busy. They are there like nobody else. They are there with a vengeance. They are strong, loyal, nurturing and selfless. They are braver than anyone I know. They love unconditionally.

Recently, I spent a few days traveling and training with five amazing new women in my life. We quickly bonded and shared the beautiful differences as well as the commonalitiebetween us. I love knowing that, no matter how full my life becomes, there is always room for my circle to grow.

For Florence, Grace, Barbara, Eileen and all of the women in my world: Thank you. You continue to influence me as I evolve into the woman I am. For my current friends and colleagues, ministers and writers, fiddlers and choir mates, I salute you. You are my all sisters and I am eternally grateful. I celebrate each of you, every day. I couldn’t do it without you.

Moving forward

Faithful readers,
Thank you for your incredible patience these past several months while I neglected my writing here. It’s not that I wasn’t writing at all. Rather, my writing took on a different direction and purpose – One I did not deem suitable for the blog.

Life is unpredictable and our plans sometimes get derailed without warning. Moving forward, there have been so many bright spots – That is where I will resume our shared experiences here. 

When I began this blog, little did I know that many of the topics I explored and shared with you here were actually previews of the strengths that would see me through the coming year. I often preach that the universe gives us what we need – All it takes is faith and an open heart and mind. Do what is right, not what is easy. Be true to yourself. Empty your bucket but know when and where to refill. Be a fountain, not a drain. Love is all there is.

All of these lessons, and more, have come full circle for me. I’ve had to live by my own words – a sometimes daunting and often humbling experience. Without them, I might have floundered helplessly. Instead, I am living my life intentionally.
I was temporarily knocked out of the driver’s seat. But I’m back at the wheel and going places. Without the give and take of mutual understandings here, I’m not sure that I would have navigated the storm so well. Your support means more to me than you’ll ever know.

Now that the dust is settling around me, I am writing again. It feels great! I’m not exactly certain what direction the blog might take, as my experiences will surely have an impact. By my goal is to return to writing something on a weekly basis.

One thing I have learned is that you don’t necessarily need to see the top of the ladder to take the first steps. I was climbing blind these past months but felt the hands of my angels at my back. Things have fallen into place with remarkable synchronicity. The gifts that have been delivered to me have arrived with amazing timing. There are few coincidences in this life. I am truly blessed.

Wherever life is taking you, believe that you are right where you should be. Know that you will land on your feet. If you can’t feel it in your heart, recognize it with your mind. Trust the journey. Above all, never stop learning, growing and evolving into the best you can be. Some of the best days of your life lie ahead of you, still.