A New Sunrise in Southern Colorado! So much to be grateful for…

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The clouds and sun had a special surprise for us this morning. Today we saw the brightest yellows and oranges at sunrise that I have seen so far! The sky was bursting with bright colors…

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.. begging us to come outside to enjoy everything it had to offer us on this glorious new day!

IMGP6935The Wahatoyas or Spanish Peaks were lit up like only nature can achieve, and we knew we had moved to the right place…

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Feeling Daily Gratitude Changes Everything!

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Observing the Sangre de Cristos from our new home

I wonder what percent of Americans ever stop and think about their lives on Thankgiving, or as far as that goes, any day. What a crazy, busy group we are! I’m retired so I have more time for contemplation and meditation, but I have also found a way to improve every aspect of my life. It may sound too simple to really work, but it truly does, and it only takes five minutes a day!

Go here and stop, look and listen…

At first it may feel silly or even uncomfortable, but give it some time. At first you may feel too busy or distracted, but keep trying to let go, breathe and take these few words into your heart and mind. No, I am not selling you anything, I’m trying to help you appreciate and enjoy your life more completely.

I started watching this video everyday about ten years ago. I now have it almost memorized, and yet I still need those five minutes of guided meditation to remember exactly how wonderful my life is. And the best part is my life has gotten so much better with this simple gratitude practice! Appreciation of all the amazing people, pets, your surroundings, and your life leads naturally to improving your life.

Trust in the universe leads to ever better quality of life for you and your family.

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“It is enough to be grateful for the next breath.” ~ Br. David Steindl-Rast

I wish you all a glorious THANKSGIVING! Let’s give thanks for so many amazing blessings!

A message from Gratitude.org: “On Thanksgiving, I pledge to overcome the illusion of ENTITLEMENT by reminding myself that everything is a gift and, thus, to live GRATEFULLY.”

Finding home…

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Northern Thailand around age 19

When the full moon woke me up in the middle of the night this past weekend, I started thinking about all of the places I have lived and visited. Actually it all began with trying to remember exactly which years I lived in Colorado Springs. This may seem strange, but when I started writing down all the places I have lived or stayed at least a week or two, it added up to six U.S. states and ten plus foreign countries. I lived in four different towns before first grade. No wonder at the ripe old age of 60 I was ready to settle down and stay somewhere for a while.

Dad Laura Diane and John small January 1961My Dad was a college professor and back in the 1950s that meant moving somewhere new every few years. I guess that got in my blood, because I never stopped throughout adulthood. My Mom used to complain that she had erased my address so many times the paper was wearing thin. She knew even back then to write my address in pencil. I have lived in eight different places in Colorado alone, and moved numerous times within each of these towns and cities.

This didn’t start out as a life plan for me. Things just worked out this way. Wherever I went I would stay a couple of years and slowly the urge would arise to move on. I remember when I got my first professional librarian position at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the director ask me not to stay forever in my first job. He needn’t have worried. I was out of there in exactly three years.

I used to kid with myself about “Moving on to greater failures…” Of course it helped that I didn’t marry until much later, and never had kids. I simply had no interest in all that. I wanted to see the world, exploring both the world outside my door, and the more interesting one inside my own mind.

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Sitting with Mica & Calla in 1996

I also picked up a few college and graduate degrees along the way. For quite a while I wanted to teach Chinese history at the college level. Then, after learning Chinese and getting an M.A. in Chinese history, I decided I was sick of China and university teaching was too limiting in its depth and scope. Since Naropa University was located right down the hill from University of Colorado in Boulder, I walked down there to find a whole new perspective on life and psychology, transpersonal psychology. This was my spiritual home, and I have been pursuing it ever since. This is something you can study anywhere and everywhere. Human and animal behavior is my thing…

Laura standing at build site before slab 2014

Creating a passive solar home from scratch!

But still in all of that moving from here to there, I never found a place I could truly call home. What does that mean? To me it means a place where you will die knowing that you truly belong. That place where you can see your ashes blowing in the wind, and know you are finally home.

I didn’t know how I would find that place or if it would find me, but it did. At first I did not recognize this Pinon-Juniper woodland looking up at the Sangre de Cristo mountains as my place. I only knew I was home after we built solar here and then got comfortable for a few years.

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The view from our front door

I know every morning when I go outside and marvel one more time at the perfect silence of the sunrises and sunsets here. I know when I work in my native plants garden, collecting interesting plants from around the region. I know when new birds stop by to feed and drink or when a stray Road Runner peeks in my window.

amazing sunrise on Comanche Drive

I know because every time I return home I think,  Wow! Do I really live here?

Buying a Home in Rural Southern Colorado

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I have always found real estate interesting. I suppose it’s a part of my natural nosiness. I like to see how others live and what they choose. Mike knows the construction trade inside and out. That’s why we went with a friend to look at a small property yesterday. She wanted to get our opinion on a darling little ranchette not too far away from us.

This property is relatively new, well-built, nicely detailed inside and landscaped, with great views of Greenhorn Mountain and the distant Sangre de Cristos.

Buying in rural markets is so different than cities. Be sure and check what the property’s access is to water, electricity, phone service, and what kind of heating and septic system it has. This cute little ranch on a few acres has a giant garage and studio space, fully fenced, but it does not have access to water on the property. Most city people can’t even imagine that! Water will have to be trucked in.

Sunflowers on a county road

The good news about properties down here? The cost is about one quarter of what they might cost up north, near any metro area. I can see this property being priced at $500,000 to $600,000 if it was anywhere near the Denver/Boulder metro area. Access to jobs is everything in real estate.

The realtor informed us that sellers here usually have to accept contingencies on sales. Their average time on the market is about one year. We see many come down here, buy a house on impulse, and then need to sell a year or two later. Yes it is amazingly beautiful here in the spring, summer and fall, but the winters are so WINDY and can seem very long with most city distractions (restaurants, shopping, etc.) at least an hour away.

The truth is, most have no idea how or if they will adjust to rural life. My advice? Make sure you like spending a lot of time alone or are on the same page completely with your life partner. You need to get along very well in these circumstances. Make sure you enjoy nature, things like bird watching, plants, hiking, biking and lots of silence. If you have little appreciation for clean air, morning silence, amazing sunrises and sunsets and a pristine natural setting, don’t buy a rural home, especially if you crave any sort of human-based distractions.

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Our house being built in 2014 -2015

memoir of retirement 2016Mike and I left suburbia in 2014, after living in cities for most of our lives.      We wanted to try out solar living with spectacular views of Sangre de Cristo mountains. We moved here to live close to nature, to try out passive solar living, and to build the kind of home we chose to live in for the rest of our lives. We came in search of a far more quiet, peaceful, healthy and inexpensive lifestyle than cities could offer us. We have received so much more…            Would you like to know how we ended up here? The ups and downs of our year-long building process? My fears in our first year here? Why we love it so much now?

Please send me an e-mail to order your own copy — Laura Lee:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

I’m beginning to dread a lot about Christmas…

halloweenHere we are, barely past Halloween, and here comes an onslaught of  “holiday” commercials! Yippee! Yes, they can be subtle at first, but they are there. Look closely. They creep on to our TV screens like ghosts and goblins sent to disturb our mellow post-Halloween days. Panic sets in.

It must be my age. Each year I face the “holidays” with increasing dismay instead of the previous joy. The “holidays” make me tense and uncomfortable. Instead of childhood visions of sugar plums from my ancient past, I now feel dread, pure and simple.

The advertising is ugly. It does me in… Is it the good old American hard-sell or the nauseatingly sweet, happy families advertising anything you need RIGHT NOW? We all know this is pure fiction!

Christmas dreadWhy do the Hallmark ads bring a wee tear to our eye? Because we know they aren’t real. They try to capture a life we wish we had instead of the one we live now. And don’t get me started with those male fantasy commercials, where he buys her that one special piece of jewelry so she’ll fall into his arms for a night of amazing sex, suggesting not too subtly she’s nice for a price.

I admit, when Mike and I first met, we had a lot of fun going out to buy our first tree together. We were so happy to have someone to share ANY holiday with. But now it all feels so crass to me. The “holidays” have turned into a gigantic embarrassment. This tradition has soured.

I swear if Jesus came back and saw what’s being done in his name, he would slit his wrists. It has really turned UGLY. Pushy people fighting over parking places at the mall, really? 

We decided to opt out years ago. Enough is enough!

Postscript: I first published this piece in 2009. It has only gotten worse since then!

The psychology of illness

Since before my counseling internship at a hospital back in the early 1990s, I have been fascinated with how we feel about ourselves when we become very ill. How do we explain illness to ourselves?

The traditional American view was everywhere when I sat with patients back then. Elderly patients always said something like, “What did I do to deserve this?” Christian guilt and shame runs rampant in environments like these:

“I must have done something wrong or I wouldn’t feel so bad.”

c. difficile bacteriaIt seems we always search for some plausible explanation even though we know we all have to die of something, sometime. I have had a number of health challenges in the past year, many more than my previous 60+ years on this planet, and they are all permanent disabilities, not temporary setbacks. Lately I have acquired a serious bacterial infection that does not normally occur in healthy adults, so of course my mind turns to the “why” questions again.

How did I get this? Why now?

I suppose we think this way because we feel certain that there must be some justice in all of this. That is our problem, trying to find meaning in a world that is certain to kill all of us eventually is an absurdity. If that bacteria doesn’t get you, something else will. But it seems so human to rage against this mentality.

This is what interests me about illness and the ways we humans think about it.

Psychoactive Chemicals and YOU

psychoactive brainI, like probably millions of others all over this globe, have an interest in psychoactive chemicals. What can they do to and for us? For humans, examples of psychoactive chemicals include caffeine, alcohol, cocaine, LSD, and cannabis. Can certain of these compounds benefit us, leading to higher levels of consciousness? Can they open our minds to new and different kinds of creativity, or simply make our lives more pleasurable? I was surprised to find new information on this topic on the National Geographic Wild channel yesterday.

The “Happy Hour” episode of the show “World’s Wierdest” explores how psychoactive chemicals have affected animal behavior throughout evolution, sometimes assisting them in being more effective hunters. One fascinating research project looked at how spiders weave very different types of webs on different compounds, for example cocaine versus THC. They also look at primitive tribes who have used these substances in their rituals for centuries.

Here’s a brief summary of this episode:

“Nat Geo WILD explores nature as it gets rolling drunk and spaces out, and delves into the importance, or lack thereof, of intoxication in the animal kingdom. Meet monkeys that binge drink and throw frat parties, elephants that go on drunken rampages through villages and lemurs that get high off millipedes. And when a jaguar’s hunting skills may have been enhanced by chewing on psychedelics, scientists question whether or not there are evolutionary benefits to psychoactive compounds.” 

psychotherapyAnother piece of human behavior I find fascinating is why some of us are open to learning more on this topic, even experimenting with a few new substances, while others fear even the smallest alteration to their present state of mind.  Could it be that old fear of “losing your mind” on some level, or going some place you’ve never been before? My favorite joke on this topic: unemployment is much more of a gateway drug to serious drug use than marijuana, but LOVE is the best drug of all! Trust me, I know.