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.

grateful living

“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.”

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Marijuana as Medicine in Southern Colorado

DEA versus 12 year oldI have to admire Alexis Bortell, a 12-year-old girl who is spearheading a campaign to legalize medical marijuana across our country. She and her family had no choice but to move from Texas to Colorado to find adequate treatment for her severe epilepsy. Now, her family and a handful of others are suing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), demanding “cannabis for the treatment of their illnesses, diseases and medical conditions.” Ever since Alexis began her cannabis treatment, she has been seizure-free for 974 days.

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Living west of Walsenburg Colorado, 50 miles from the New Mexico border for over three years now, I have met a number of parents who have found it necessary to move here just to get adequate treatment for their children. These people had to leave behind good jobs and perhaps even their health insurance to find ways to keep their children alive and healthy.

It has been interesting to observe the combination of citizens here who support the availability of cannabis for medical purposes, versus those whom we now call “CAVES”: “Citizens Against Virtually Everything.”

The most exciting development for Huerfano County, our “orphan” county with around 6,000 souls, has been in the tiny town of La Veta Colorado.  WEED, Inc. announced in July, that it recently acquired Sangre AT, LLC (dba “Sangre AgroTech”), with plans to open a Sangre Bioscience Center, investing over $1,000,000 in Colorado Medicinal Cannabis Industry.

Sangre AgroTech then chose La Veta for their new research facility whose mission is:   “To create a genomics-based Cannabis breeding program that will produce new, genetically-enhanced strains of Cannabis which express the desired plant characteristics for the treatment of disease…”

“At Sangre AgroTech, we are focused on the development and application of cannabis-derived compounds for the treatment of human disease. Targeting cannabis-derived molecules which stimulate the endocannabinoid system, we are developing the required scientifically-valid and evidence-based cannabis strains for the production of disease-specific medicines. Yes, medicines.” 

Picture this. A town of less than a thousand people, nestled right next to the Spanish Peaks of southern Colorado, just attracted millions of dollars worth of research money, and all for the good of mankind. Why? Because the head of this new company, Dr. Patrick E. Williams thought this area is the perfect place to live! He got that right!  We are so excited about this new local development! They plan is hire at least half of their employees locally, keeping jobs down here, which is great, considering we have the highest unemployment rate in the state.

 

What High School Reunions Can Bring Up

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My high school mascot: A Thunderbird

I just received a reminder that my 45th high school reunion is coming up soon. My first response is I simply cannot believe that I graduated from high school 45 years ago. How did that happen? So I turned to my yearbooks to remember a bit about high school.

wasson highI went to high school in Colorado Springs from 1970 to 1973. I was not active in clubs or any other extra curricular activities. The way I remember it, I was horribly shy. I had very low self-esteem so I kept my head down, hoping that nobody would notice me. And in fact, most people don’t remember me at all.

I hated everything about high school. I hated my home life, and I hated how I felt at school. The best way to describe me looking back from my 45-years-later perspective is flat affect. I just kept wondering if my life would ever get better. I remember at high school graduation singing that German song from Cabaret: “Tomorrow belongs to me…” over and over in my head.

So glad I hung in there, because everything got better with college. I went to Colorado College, the one where my father taught. As soon as I got there I felt like I fit in much better. For the first time I was constantly around fellow eggheads, finally completely academically challenged. Slowly through the past four decades I have become more at home in my own body and freer to become my true self.

The hardest battle you will face in life is to be no one but yourself, in a world which is trying its hardest to make you like everybody else!

Now I see this maturation process as peeling the onion of my soul. At first I only felt safe taking off the most outer layers, exposing my true self very slowly and carefully, so afraid of what others might think or say. When I finally got some counseling in my early thirties, my therapist noted how often I said, “People think this…” And she would challenge me with, “Who are these people?” It was not easy, but I have finally found my true self in the midst of too much feedback from others, and a generous number of rules in my own mind.

Sunflowers on a county road

My commute home from La Veta Colorado…

I have never attended a high school reunion, but I am seriously considering it this time. We live only a couple hours southwest of Colorado Springs now, and I am quite curious. Perhaps I should go find out who I went to high school with, because I suspect none of us are anything like we were in high school.

How did we all turn out? For a REALLY FUNNY take on high school reunions, go here!

Laura & Rasta Xmas-2012-CROPPEDLaura Lee Carter is a professional photographer, writer and psychotherapist. Her midlife crisis included a divorce and the loss of her career as an academic librarian, misfortunes she now finds supremely fortuitous, as everything wonderful flowed from these midlife challenges. Laura now sees midlife difficulties as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for personal liberation. Laura Lee has produced five books on midlife change. Don’t miss: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

 

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.

Laura and the dogs 1997

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.