My 4th of July Trip Down Memory Lane

I lived in Fort Collins and Loveland Colorado from 1995 until Mike and I moved south in 2014. I moved to Fort Collins with one husband and left with another. The divorce in 2001 was brutal for me, not because I lost a love, but because I felt like a loser afterwards for a few years. Of course, it did not help that I lost over 75% of my income, but loneliness was my major issue.

I felt certain that I would spend the rest of my life alone.

horsetooth in summer

We went up to Fort Collins this past holiday to visit old friends. I got up early my first day there and visited some of the places where I lived, like Horsetooth Reservoir.

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My first husband and I purchased a log home overlooking Horsetooth Reservoir, Lory State Park and the Bellvue Dome in 1995. Early in the morning the air is so cool up there, and the reservoir looks fantastic! I was surprised to see how the hillside leading up to our log home has been transformed into a bevy of large, luxury homes. When we lived there most of the houses were old and rundown.

Old Town in summer with flowersEveryone says home prices in Fort Collins are through the roof now, and I can see why. It really is beautiful…for a city. It felt a lot like Boulder did decades ago with all the hip, outdoor-types moving in. I enjoyed how green it was with flowers everywhere.

The next day I drove down to Loveland to see a friend, and had a look at our past home on Morning Drive. I’m sure glad we didn’t stay there long! It looked so crowded in, and it’s only a block or so from a major highway leading up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Overall, I enjoyed visiting my old haunts. I felt somehow stuck in my past for a day or two. Then I returned to our fantastic new home in the foothills of southern Colorado, and knew I was home.         The cool, quiet of nature suits me just fine!

My theme song now!

memoir of retirement 2016Hello and welcome to my world. I’m new to southern Colorado, and recently compiled a book about the ups and downs of moving from Fort Collins Colorado to west of Walsenburg to build a passive solar retirement home:           A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.     Please contact me directly to order your own signed copies of any of my other books…   Cheers, Laura Lee  (email: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

 

Three Ways of Confronting Suicide

Since 2010, photographer Dese’Rae Stage has taken snapshots of Americans to highlight an issue that most choose to ignore.

Dese'Rae Stage“You hear that word suicide and you think, ‘I don’t want to go there’ but this project is not about death. This project is about life. My work is about life.” Ms. Stage has chosen to tell the stories of suicide survivors through her photos and words. All the people in Ms. Stage’s exhibit — almost 200 of them — survived at least one suicide attempt. They agreed to let Stage use their names, tell their stories, and take a portrait for a project called Live Through This.

“When I woke up after I was in a coma for three days, I realized that ‘OK, God, the universe, did not see fit for me to, leave here like I wanted to,'” said Nancy Nettles, 50, who tried to overdose with pills.

Ms. Stage feels her project gives people permission to talk about a topic which I have found to be mostly taboo in our world today. As controversy swirls around videos like “13 Reasons Why” available on Netflix, and opioid deaths continue to rise, do we choose to confront this issue publicly, or pretend that if we ignore it, it will certainly go away?

opioid deaths in 2015

“Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015.”   One of my cousins died of a heroin overdose a few years ago, and last week I heard of two other suicides from individuals I had just met. How long can we ignore this national crisis?

Do we simply not care about Americans who choose to kill themselves? I believe the first step is for all of us who have ever considered suicide to fess up. If everyone of us who have ever felt that miserable and desperate for our lives to get better, would say so, suicide could become a topic to be discussed and awareness would improve dramatically.

I considered suicide a few times, and I am so glad I didn’t do it. I had no idea what I would have missed in this wild experience called life. Suicide is such a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It may seem like the easy way out, but you will miss so much if you are tempted by this ‘easy’ solution.

Laura and Rasta Feb 2013 focusedLooking back over 62 years of life, I would have missed finally finding love at age 49 with the best person I have ever met, and the amazing experience of relating totally to one other human being with no disappointments. I would have missed finally finding ‘home’ in a new part of Colorado with breath-taking views, surrounded by the beauty and silence of nature. I would have missed finally attaining my dream of writing professionally and publishing my own books. I would have missed enjoying my parents in their elder years. In short, I would have missed out on most of my amazing life.

What a waste that would have been. Life is a continuous unfolding… Anything can happen!

How do you work with fear?

“I’ve experienced many terrible things in my life, a few of which actually happened.” – Mark Twain

make the world with our thoughts BuddhaI have only recently challenged myself to choose my worries and thoughts, instead of letting my mind choose them. If I find myself focusing on thoughts I don’t enjoy or choose, I change my mind. I turn to more compassionate and positive thoughts. I was never taught that this is possible, but it is.

Golden Kingdom film BurmaI just saw a new film: “Golden Kingdom” by Brian Perkins. This is the first feature film made in Myanmar since its recent opening to the outside world. Here we are offered a simple, quiet film about four young, orphan monks living in a Buddhist monastery in a remote part of Northeast Burma. The head monk departs on a long journey from which he may never return, leaving the boys alone in the middle of the a forest filled with unknown dangers.

Once the boys are on their own, strange, magical occurrences begin to occur. Orphan Witazara, the eldest, realizes he needs to protect the three younger boys throughout a series of bizarre events, all of which threaten to unravel the fabric of the young monks’ reality.

More specifically, this is a study of traditional Buddhist practice. Blending documentary-style observation with some embellished storytelling, this picturesque portrait of four child monks, forced to fend for themselves in the absence of their mentor, adds a bracing spiritual dimension to an otherwise universal boys-to-men arc.

golden kingdom in the grasses Burma

In one of the most powerful scenes for me, Orphan Witazara confronts an unseen evil in the woods. His response is to repeat over and over again one of his primary teachings:

If I look at what frightens me, it will go away.

When I thought about that teaching for a while, I found it to be much like something I have learned in my exploration of counseling psychology. When we try to ignore our fears, they can become larger and more scary in our minds. But if we have the courage to confront what we fear and gain awareness of where that fear may come from, if we free ourselves to explore where that fear comes from inside of us, it may gradually lose its power over us.

Awareness is the first step towards freedom from fear.

death and taxes signBegin with the awareness that we alone can free ourselves of our own fears. So many worries can be solved with a new attitude of “Who cares?” Even working with what most of us fear most, death, is workable. If we confront the reality that every single person you have ever known and will ever meet, must die, somehow makes death more approachable. We’re all in this together as living human beings, leading to gratitude for each new day.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear…

Mindfulness: Relax and Let Go…

The ABC News just found in a new survey that the thing most would prefer to do on vacation this year is NOTHING. Most would like to disconnect from the world and simply, fully relax. We have become specialists in this, since moving to the country.

Tension and relaxationFor many the greatest challenge is to let go of any thoughts we have of getting things done. I have had extra assistance with this problem as my brain injuries and shortness of breath from COPD often demand that I relax regularly during the day. After we completed our new home and moved in August 1st of 2015, we found it almost too easy to simply stare at the mountains and be here now. This is the LIFE!

Field of Wild Iris near Stonewall

Living in a quiet, peaceful setting creates new awareness and lowers stress levels tremendously.

But if you should need help in pure relaxation, try this meditation on letting go from Stephen Levine, one of my spiritual teachers since discovering his books in the 80s. Here’s a short excerpt:

Once and for all, completely relinquish control. Let go of fear and doubt. Let each thing float in its own nature.

Dissolve into the vast spaciousness of awareness. No body. No mind. Just thought. Just feelings. Just sensations. Bubbles. Floating in vast space. An instant of thought. Of hearing. Of remembering. Of fearing. Like waves, rising for an instant and dissolving back into the ocean of being. Into the vastness of your true nature.

No one to be. Nothing to do. Let each instant unfold as it will.
No resistance anywhere. Let the wind blow right through you.

No one to be, just this much. This instant is enough.
Nowhere to go, just now. Just here.
Nothing to do, just be.
Holding nowhere, we are everywhere at once.

Stephen, who spent his life working with those full of grief, died last year. A quote from him:

Don't let the world make you hard...“Our ordinary, everyday grief accumulates as a response to the burdens of disappointments and disillusionment, the loss of trust and confidence that follows the increasingly less satisfactory arch of our lives. In order to avoid feeling this grief we armor our hearts, which leads to a gradual deadening of our experience of the world. When a loved one dies, or indeed when our own death approaches, the intensity of the loss often renders our defenses ineffective and we are swept up by a deluge of griefs, both old and new.”                                                                            Stephen’s books are all wonderful. I cried my way through “Healing into Life and Death” many years ago, and recently found his “Unattended Sorrow” quite healing…  His books are all about finding compassion for yourself and your own suffering so you can love the world again.                                                                                                                              Stephen always said “soften the belly.”

Three Years Later in Rural Colorado…

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Today we celebrate three years of living in this magnificent part of Colorado. Granted, this was not all a pleasant experience. In fact the first year and a half, from the time we decided to leave suburbia in Fort Collins until our home was completed here, were grueling. Some synonyms for grueling that describe my experience best: backbreaking, challenging, demanding, formidable, and sometimes hellacious. Building in rural areas is not for the meek, and building in mid-winter has its own challenges, but we lived through it and now we are happy as clams!

(Exactly how happy are clams anyway?)

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We moved here for a number of reasons. To live close to nature, to try passive solar living, to build the kind of home we chose to live in for the rest of our lives, and to find a far more peaceful, healthy and less expensive lifestyle than cities can offer us. We received so much more!

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The greatest gift for me is a sense of freedom and natural silence that I have never come close to in my previous life. I now live in the present, choosing each hour how I want to spend my day. I awaken to the birds singing with the sun pouring in, and go out to work in my fledgling garden of mostly native plants, most of which will be sunflowers blooming very soon!

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Then, if I feel like visiting friends, I drive into La Veta on county roads with wildflowers popping up everywhere. Yes, the dining choices are slim here, just one of the “conveniences” you have to give up to live in the country. Luckily I’m a great cook and prefer to eat at home most of the time.

The hardest part for me was taking the original risk. Letting go of our nice home in suburbia was not easy, especially after seeing the one hundred year old miner’s house we would have to move into in Walsenburg for over a year.

decking Comanche home with mountains in backgroun

Then there were the challenges of working with the local contractors and our builder here. Just getting them to come to work was often the biggest challenge! Here’s where we were one year into the build. But somehow it all came together and everything works today, so we have no complaints.

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I know we will face many more difficulties and much stormy weather up here, but at least we finally know where home is. For now, this is certainly where we belong…

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)Would you like to read the whole story of how we ended up here enjoying country living? Check it out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado.

It’s not where you start, it’s how you finish…

That is how I like to see my life now. Growing up with a strong German emphasis, I learned to measure myself by my daily productivity. What had I produced today? Being a good girl back then meant never feeling adequate, always trying harder to achieve some illusive sense of “good enough.”

“What’s this? One B along with all of these nice A’s?”

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As strange as it may seem, it was only through a number of difficult crises in my late forties that I found ways to transform myself and my life. Bad marriage, divorce, job and then career loss, you get the picture. I spent some serious time living on severance and unemployment, changing my whole perspective on me. “Good girl” hadn’t worked out. What’s next?

things left unsaidI began a full out rebellion at age 49! I became a writer at age 50, after 25 years of not saying what I needed to and not getting what I wanted as a good girl/ mild-mannered librarian. I stopped saying all the right things while agreeing with everybody. Mostly I stopped apologizing for being me.

good girl gone blog

In other words, I started a blog!

I learned to take care of my needs first, with no guilt or shame, and create what I wanted for me. My life has been so much better since I made that decision, and it just keeps getting BETTER!

Today I follow my passions with color, creativity, and nature. We moved to rural Colorado three years ago with no rules about what we have to do today. I live with a man who accepts me exactly the way I am, without conditions, and I find it almost impossible to take crap from just about anybody anymore.

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And people say aging isn’t liberating…

Bicycle injuries rising among older riders

She was just going out for a short bike ride around her neighborhood. It didn’t seem necessary to carry an ID, or even wear a helmet. Ten minutes later she was found lying on the ground unconscious near a bike path. The bystander who found her, called 911 and an ambulance arrived soon afterwards. Then a kind Emergency Medical Technician whisked her off to the emergency room with her mind constantly weaving in and out of consciousness. After numerous X-rays and cat scans she ended up in the neuro unit of the hospital for observation.

This is a true story.  It happened to me back in 2008 in Fort Collins. My own tumble over the handle bars and into a nasty bike accident, led to fractured ribs, an injured wrist and thigh, and a traumatic brain injury.

This is my warning to you who think riding a bike is still as easy as climbing back on again. 

Injuries among older riders have jumped dramatically in recent years. Between 1998 and 2013, bike injuries among all adults over the age of 18 increased 28 percent, while hospital admissions jumped 120 percent. Head traumas went from 10 percent to 16 percent of all injuries in the same period.

Older bicyclists fueled much of that increase in injuries, especially ones that required an emergency room visit. Injuries among those 45+ jumped 81 percent and hospital admissions increased 66 percent, from 39 percent to 65 percent of total injuries. While death rates for cyclists younger than 15 fell by 92 percent between 1975 and 2012, death rates for cyclists between the ages of 35 and 74 showed a large increase, according to CDC data.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bicycle-injuries-rise-especially-for-older-riders/

kids on bikes

SO much FUN when you’re YOUNG!

While I do not want to discourage you from healthy exercise as you age, be careful out there! I feel the effects of my brain injury everyday, especially when I write or speak with others. My memory is definitely not the same and it also completely depends on what area of the brain you injure.  I find I tire quickly in social situations, and the first sign that I am getting overwhelmed is when I cannot think of the proper word for something, a difficult feeling for one who has always been proud of her ability with words.

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On the flip side, my brain injuries (yes I suffered a second concussion after we moved in here!) have taught me to slow down, meditate more, and enjoy each moment as it arrives.

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Besides now living in a quiet and contemplative part of Colorado, I have learned some wonderful relaxation techniques that are quite FUN regardless of your brain injury status.

Take care of that old personal computer up there! You only get one.