My Ghost Story

I was startled by a loud crash. My grandfather and I ran into the room where the noise had come from. My grandmother was shaken and told us that she had slammed the window to prevent “it” from coming in.  She told us she had been following a light that seemed to be a smoker walking down the street. But, when the light came through our front gate and towards the window where she stood, she knew it was something otherworldly. It was then that I found out that my grandmother could see ghosts. She never talked about it, but I understood then why she slept with dozens of saints around her bed. My mom has shared a few stories about how my grandmother was tormented by visions and messages from beyond.

So, when I started seeing and feeling things that didn’t make sense, my mom called my grandmother to ask for advice. My first ghost was by far the clearest most detailed apparition. I woke up out of a deep sleep and was drawn to look at a corner in the room. There stood a young man, about 16 or 17. He was very pale, but was very well dressed and his hair was combed perfectly. What I remember clearly was his mustache. He had the type of mustache that young boys like to groom and touch, even though the hair is still too thin and sparse to groom. I looked at him and purposely shut and opened my eyes, hoping that I was seeing a shadow. But, the apparition did not disappear. Terrified, I put the covers over my head and began to pray the Lord’s Prayer. I remember feeling very scared and sweating under the covers for a long time. The next morning, I told my mother what I had seen. She said it was just my imagination playing a trick on me. A couple nights later, I was awakened again from a deep sleep, to see something like a man’s head. That same day, a vice principal from my school passed away. On another occasion, I saw the reflection of a young woman in a night gown. A couple of days later we found out that friend’s daughter had passed away. The visions were never as clear as the first, but we began to associate my visions as harbingers of sad news.

Then this happened. I was on Christmas break but I wanted to get ahead on my term paper. I had the bad habit of staying up late to study, lie down on the sofa for a 5-minute nap, then fall asleep for hours with all the lights on. That night, my mom made me promise that I would go to bed at a reasonable hour and not fall asleep on the sofa. My paper was going very well and, not wanting to stop the momentum, I decided to just lie down on the sofa for two minutes. As soon as I closed my eyes, I heard my mother enter the room. I was devastated. I had promised her that I wouldn’t sleep on the sofa, and here I had just put my head down and she had walked in. I thought, if I pretend to be asleep, maybe she won’t be as angry and just send me to bed as usual. I kept my eyes closed as I heard her come up to me. Then, she did the strangest thing. She touched my eyes. And just like that, she was gone. I never heard her walk away. After a few minutes, I opened my eyes. I thought, she must be really angry for her not to wake me up and turn off the lights. Our sliding glass door was open and a breeze blew the curtains wildly into the room, so strongly that they were almost parallel to the floor. I closed the glass door, put my books away and peeked into my parent’s bedroom. My mom and dad were sound asleep. The events were so strange that I went to bed.

The next morning I apologized to my mom and told her that I wasn’t really asleep when she checked on me on the couch. She had no idea what I was talking about. She told me she had not gotten up, not once.  My mom and I were scared. We knew that this was more personal. For me, it was terrifying to think that something/someone had touched me. What would I have seen if I had opened my eyes? A few days later we received a letter that my grandmother had passed away. I knew that it had been my grandmother who had visited me. But, I also knew that I would never see visions or apparitions again. I felt that when she touched my eyes, she was closing a window to the visions that she had seen all her life.  And to this day, I have not seen another ghost.

This is my ghost story. Do you have one? Happy Halloween!

 Much Love

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A Call For Mentors

As the emcee of a gala, you have to be ready for anything. I was not ready for this. As I was crossing the ballroom to get backstage, I was stopped by one of our guests who was sitting with one of the Hispanic College Fund Scholarship winners. “Show her,” he said to the young woman. She took out her wallet and showed me a picture of her mom. Her mom’s face looked familiar. “You look a lot like her,” she said. In the darkened room, I tried looking closer and could see that we had a similarly-shaped face and long hair. “My mom died of cancer,” she said. “I’m so sorry,” I said, “your mom must have been very proud of you.”  In that moment I felt her strength and vulnerability.

 

Just one day before I was working on the script and interviewing a young man who was going to perform at the gala. I wanted to know about his awards and why he had chosen to learn to play the clarinet. In that conversation he shared with me that he buried his mom in August of this year. His dad had died of cancer. I could not contain my tears. He said, “It’s okay.” Every fiber of me wanted to shout, “it’s not okay!!” It’s not okay that someone so young has lived through such grief and crisis in such a short time. But I composed myself and listened and encouraged him.

 

Yesterday, I received an email from a young woman who has been working in a restaurant for a year in order to afford college. She wrote to tell me that she had withdrawn from school. Her dad has been diagnosed with lung cancer. My heart sank. How can this be happening? Only a month ago she excitedly told me that with her savings from her job and scholarships, she had been able to enroll at a local university and she could not wait to start classes. Now, everything is on hold and the future is uncertain.

 

I am overwhelmed by the amount of grief and pain our young people are carrying. And, I know that we will continue to meet students who are losing their parents way too early or facing some sort of crisis. It’s time like these when I wish I were ultra wealthy so that I could pay for their education and secure their futures. But, I know that having the money to go to school, though it would be a huge relief, would not come close to filling what they really need – a loving adult who will be there to listen, to encourage, to guide, to wipe tears and celebrate triumphs. This week I’ve heard the message that our young people need mentors. They need adults in their lives who can be their coaches and champions as they navigate through crisis and strive to stay on track to go to college and become adults.  

 

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I felt my life needed to be rebalanced. My rebalanced life will definitely include being in the lives of these young people as a mentor they can count on. I pray that you will be open to mentoring one or two young people in your life. They need us right now.

 

Much Love

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Ceviche

Ceviche is one of my comfort foods

I’m so glad it’s Sunday! This was a very hectic week. Between the rainy weather, the bad traffic, things breaking down at the house, my father-in-law’s passing, and a lot of uncertainty at work – for both my husband and me – I felt that somehow the stars had missed their alignment and ended facing the wrong direction. Was Mars in retrograde? I don’t even know what that means, but I’ve heard people say this when there is a succession of things going wrong.

 

On Wednesday morning I set out to have a very positive day. Even though it was a rainy, grey day, inside I was feeling like bright sunshine. Subconsciously, I chose to wear red – my favorite color – which helps me stay positive and confident. Instead of turning on the news, I listened to CDs and turned up the volume on my favorite dance songs. Oh yes, I was determined to be upbeat. To beat the traffic, I decided to park at the metro and ride in to downtown. In my head I was humming, “don’t worry, be happy, doo, do-do, doo…”

 

At the metro parking garage I circled all 5 levels at least three times with no luck. Forty minutes later, I parked in a reserved spot and waited in the car another twenty minutes until the reserved spaces became open and my car was safe from being towed. My positivity had taken a bit of a blow. Inside, it was getting partly cloudy. All the time that I had hoped to gain by taking metro had been lost – and then some. I had so many things to carry, plus the umbrella to keep half of me dry. I reminded myself of my intent to remain cheerful and was thankful to be in the warm and dry train which had already been waiting for me. Twenty minutes later a voice crackled through the intercom informing us that due to delays in another station, we would sit there for another ten minutes! Now, I wanted to scream. Why wasn’t the rest of the world willing to cooperate with me!

 

To vent, I emailed my husband. I wanted to share my misery thinking that it would make me feel better. The train continued to be delayed at a couple more stops so I just closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. I began to relax again and just accepted that I would get there whenever it was time for me to get there. The mindful attention to staying relaxed and positive helped. When I finally arrived, I pledged that I would not let the morning’s events affect the rest of my day. And, just to challenge me, the rest of day brought with it a mix of good news and not-so-good news. Yet I continued to stay positive and cheerful by being present and mindful to my reactions to the things that were happening around me. Staying in tune to how we react to situations can help us manage our mood. It’s our choice to have a good day or a bad day.

 

It was raining when I left the office for a get-together with friends. The train was crowded with damp coats and bags dripping on my shoes. I was already prepared for the two block walk to my friend’s house when she offered to pick me up at the station. Her heart and hospitality were a wonderful end to a challenging day. She made Ecuadorian-style ceviche and it was amazingly delicious. And, as I laughed with my friends, and savored the variety of flavors marinated in the lemon juice, I couldn’t help but smile to myself for how my determination to make the most of the day’s lemons rewarded me with a very good day, and very good ceviche 😉

 

Much Love,

Taking Time To Rebalance

woman balancing a basket of fruitWhen I finally sat down in my meditation space earlier this week I immediately felt something was off. My meditation space is a small area where I keep things that help connect me to my spiritual self. Candles, photos, crystals, incense, all have a spot on the tabletop just as I have placed them. Yet somehow, even though I had not moved anything, there seemed to be an imbalance. As I began to melt into the serenity of the space, I received the message that it is time to rebalance. I moved things around until it felt right. And, after my meditation, I looked to rebalance the rest of my life.

Balance seems to be an elusive state of being. We all seem to be seeking the perfect combination of time and energy spent on the things that matter…family and relationships, health and well-being, purpose, spirituality and work. I know that we carry a lot of guilt around the fact that work seems to take up a majority of our time and energy, leaving little to no time for the other things we have or wish to have. I recently met with a group of working moms who shared with me their challenges. Teacher/parent meetings, afterschool activities, or a child suddenly becoming ill at school causes a great deal of stress to any parent, but especially to those that have to coordinate between the school and the workplace. To top it off, there appears to be a cultural divide between moms that work outside the home and moms that don’t, which these moms said, was palpable whenever there is a school function.  These women shared that they had learned to deal with it by accepting it for what it was and making the best of it. What a great attitude!

This week’s meditation message made me wonder – are we meant to have a balanced life? I mean, how can we possibly have enough time and energy for everything? Is it healthy to strive to be SuperWoman? Perhaps we have to look at balance in a different way. I picture the women I saw in my country who balanced enormous baskets of fruit or tortillas on their heads as they walked down the street. I think that that’s what we are trying to do – carry it all in one basket atop of our heads. But, that is not the only way. We can achieve a sense of balance by accepting that we can only put three to four things in our basket at a time. On a daily basis, we have a menu of things that need our attention, but we must choose which combination of things to take on. Whatever does not fit in our basket should be delegated or set aside, without guilt, until we rebalance. A rebalance can be temporary or permanent. Right now I feel that life is challenging me to rebalance. How do I know this? I am heeding the signs, like the one I received at my meditation space. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read my blog on reading the signs. But, in rebalancing there is one thing I know for sure: one of the things in my basket must always be me.

If you are struggling with guilt for not achieving balance in your life, perhaps you’re trying to balance too many things at once. Are you making time for yourself? Making time to recharge is essential to feeling balanced. Release the guilt and accept that the combination of things that are most important to you right now is what you will devote your time and energy to. Commit to yourself that you will rebalance and devote yourself to a different combination of things as soon as you are able to.

Balance does not have to be elusive if we accept to take on only the things that are most important to us right now. Accept that achieving balance means taking on less and rebalancing when needed. I pray that this evening finds you at peace with your decision to rebalance and making time for yourself.

Much Love,

What Will Get You Through The Cold Months?

A lot of pumpkinsI love October! I don’t know why the tenth month of the year gives me such joy. Perhaps, it’s the change of the leaves, the brisk air in the evenings, the sightings of pumpkins, the change in wardrobe, or the anticipation of lighting the first fire of the season. If we think about it, October is the last sane month of the year! One interesting factoid about October is that in the Roman calendar it used to be the eighth month – hence the name – OCTober. Another interesting factoid is that in the Farmer’s Almanac it is the month to store provisions for the winter months ahead. Since there are less than three months left in the year, I wonder if that piece of advice in that ol’ Farmer’s Almanac doesn’t apply to us non-farmers as well.

The upcoming months – November through February – can be very challenging. These are the months that drain us of energy and money and, the added stress plus the reduced sunlight can negatively impact our health and mindset. So, how can we “store” more of our energy to get us through the tough months ahead? I have some ideas and am sharing them here but would love to hear your ideas as well!

 
1. Winterize your activities – If you enjoy going walking or running outside, begin to wear layers and allow your body to adapt to the conditions. I am not a cold-weather person – at all! – but to keep me motivated this season I plan to go out with my camera to capture the change in leaf colors, fresh snow on the ground, and other things that I miss because I’m stuck indoors. Getting fresh air, even if it’s a bit cold, can be a real boost to our energy levels.

 

2. Colorize your wardrobe. – To me, the worst part of Winter are the grey dark days that seem to seep into the way we dress. There is so much black, grey and beige in our coats, boots, umbrellas…ugh, it’s so depressing. So, to cheer us up let’s find scarves, gloves, hats, umbrellas in our favorite colors!

 

3. Budgetize 🙂 – Yup, t’is the season to be tempted to overspend. I admit to spending more than my limit when I am Christmas shopping. October is the perfect month to look at our financial goals to see if we are paying down debt and saving at the rate we wanted. Knowing our financial picture for the next few months and setting spending limits for the holidays will make January a much better month, financially.

 

4. Eat well. – Do you eat more during the cold months? I definitely do. I eat many more fats and carbs. I think I eat more to compensate for my body constantly feeling cold. But, it’s also because those foods are much more accessible and permissible because, after all – I rationalize – it’s the holiday season. My plan this year is to keep small bags of healthy snacks with me at all times so that when the cravings strike, I will indulge much less. I also plan to cook more soups and stews with lots of vegetables and spices which will help my body feel warm.

 

5. Plan for Fun. – Having something to look forward to can get me through the tough days. How about planning a spa day with your girlfriends in November? A weekend away with your honey in January? A Vegas getaway in February? Or, you can sign up for hot yoga every Thursday, or have a game night with your friends every Wednesday. Just some ideas to keep our spirits up.

 

What will get you through the cold months?

 

Much Love