Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mishap or Miracle? It Could Just Be Perspective.

I love the way little vignettes in our everyday life can teach us the most powerful lessons. That’s what happened this past weekend when my brother Bill and I accompanied our sister Kathy on an overnight trip to Virginia Beach to celebrate her birthday.

We realized on the four hour drive down, this was the first time in decades that the three of us had been on a trip by ourselves without spouses, parents or children in tow. We reminisced about childhood vacations and reflected on our adult children and the life paths they’ve chosen. We shared secrets, insights and dreams for the future. We had a blast!

The past few years we’d been connected by the constant issues with our parent’s failing health. Now that those challenges were behind us, we deeply reconnected as siblings, and as friends who respect and love each other. It was a beautiful gift my sister gave us when she asked us to join her on this trip. I didn’t realize another gift was coming later in the day.

We met Bill’s son and his new bride at the Virginia Beach Aquarium (they live in the area) and had a beautiful day exploring the exhibits together. Although it was the end of March, the weather was cold and a bitter wind blew all day. The unusual temperatures couldn’t dampen our spirits, however, and we parted so we could check into our hotel then regroup with my nephew and his wife for dinner. That’s when my lesson arrived.

Bill, Kathy and I had been complaining all day about the unseasonable cold as we darted back and forth to the car. On the way to the restaurant in the late afternoon, Bill and Kathy were chatting in the front seat checking direction when I noticed something weird outside. It was snowing. It was very lightly snowing. IT WAS SNOWING ON MARCH 28TH IN VIRGINIA BEACH! Ok, it was flurries, but it was snow.

Quick to alert my siblings, I blurted out, “CRAP! It’s snowing! I can’t believe after the winter we’ve had we’re getting snow flurries here!” I might have sounded a tad dramatic, but I was weary from the months of snow we’d already endured this year.

“Oh…wow!” my sister gasped. “Snow on my birthday at the beach - it’s the perfect gift!”

Whaat? Was she nuts? How could Kathy think this was the perfect birthday gift? Then I got it.

My darling sister is much better than I am at embracing the unexpected. What I saw as a tragic mishap of nature, something I hadn’t expected on a spring beach trip, she saw as a miracle.

She saw magic in watching delicate flakes of snow dancing in the March wind against the backdrop of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. She celebrated the unexpected. She saw it as a gift, and delighted in it. She chose to see the snow as an “unexpected magical miracle.” As quickly as it began, the snow ended and Kathy enjoyed every minute of it.

“How much different would my life be if I choose to embrace the unexpected? If I look for the miracles in scenarios I can’t change?” I wondered to myself. “Wow,” I thought as I began to fully appreciate the ramifications of that slight change in perspective.

I was already grateful for this trip with my brother, sister and family on this special weekend. I hadn’t expected the gift of such an impactful life lesson.

Hmmm…just another one of the million things I thank my sister for.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Oprah, Deepak Chopra and Louise Hay are just a few of the many people who believe that what you think creates your reality. I certainly believe it! Chapter three of my book “How to Choose Love When You Just Want to Slap Somebody” is about just that. It’s entitled “You Are What You Think” and now I have a new story to prove it.

Twice in the last two weeks I’ve mentioned a magazine to people in casual conversation and, more specifically, a particular annual issue of that magazine. Both times I noted silently to myself that I’d like to see that issue when it comes out this spring. I felt strongly there was something I needed to see. Then I forgot all about it. That is until the specific issue of that specific magazine showed up in my mail box.

My husband brings the mail home from our post office in town. As I was going through the mail pile a couple days ago, I spotted it – the magazine! I don’t subscribe to it and was shocked to see in my hands not only the magazine I’d been talking about, but the exact annual issue I’d wanted to see.

“Whaaat?” I said out loud. “Where’d this come from?” I wondered. I noticed the magazine was addressed to someone whose post office box was directly underneath mine. “WOW! Just what I wanted!”

“OK, it’s a coincidence,” my husband said.

“The exact issue I was thinking about? I manifested this!” I countered.

I started flipping through the pages and asked silently, “Now what am I supposed to see here?” The magazine fell open to an article that answered a question I was having in my business. Yeah, a coincidence. Right. I can’t make this stuff up.

I copied the article and returned the magazine to the post office so it could be delivered to its owner. I’d already had the magazine delivered to me by the Universe.

At least that’s what I think.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

We Bought a Zoo

Daddy and I enjoy the Zoorama train - 1960

Funny how little life events can bring back a flood of memories. I was in my watercolor class this week, beginning a new painting of a zebra. For some reason, I was pretty excited about this new subject matter, and didn’t understand why. Then I remembered. Back in 1960, we bought a zoo.

Well, it was kind of a zoo. It was called Zoorama located in New Market, Virginia and I remember Mom told me Dad and some friends invested in the tourist attraction in early 1960. According to an article I found from the March 6, 1960 Philadelphia Inquirer, it was an 80 acre park housing over 67 species from 23 countries that included a petting zoo and small circus display. (See the article here: http://bit.ly/18JXHKt) I don’t remember that. I just remember the magical place I’d go with my parents and little sister. I remember the animals. And I remember the train we’d ride in that circled the park. Because I was only about three, the details are faint, but the feelings are still strong.

I remember being genuinely surprised by new creatures I’d never seen, the feeling of being safe in my dad’s arms as I reached out to pet a camel, and of experiencing the bliss that only a young child, free from daily worries, can enjoy. It was pure magic for me. Not so for my parents.

I was told, decades later, that Zoorama was on Route 11 in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley and attracted thousands of visitors from all over the east coast. That is until just a couple years after my parent’s invested, and the new interstate came through western Virginia. This forever changed the tourist traffic pattern which, according to my dad, “killed” the business. I recall we stopped going to visit the animals and Dad started spending a lot of time in meetings and on the phone. Mom told me later that he spent countless hours calling zoos and sanctuaries all over the country trying to find homes for the animals after the park closed to the public. Evidently, it was a huge financial mess for my parents. Only years later would Dad even talk about it.

When we were cleaning out my parent’s home after Dad moved to an assisted living facility, my brother, sister and I found a few Zoorama flyers and carefully packed them in a box and put it into storage with much of the rest of our childhood. No matter. Starting to paint this watercolor zebra brought the magic of this childhood memory back to me.

No, our family experience wasn’t like that of Matt Damon’s character in the 2011 movie We Bought a Zoo, but it was pretty cool.

Me at the Zoorama "petting zoo"