Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking for the Gift


Last week, I searched and searched for a hotel with a water park in Orange County. I knew what I wanted to find, and I was sure there was one in the OC because of all the attractions for families. I finally found one I wanted to book. And they had absolutely no reservations available. I tried to book online, I tried to call, and I even called back to check for cancellations. No luck.

So I booked another very nice hotel. Yes, it's the one my husband had wanted to book all along. It has a nice pool and Jacuzzi, but nothing special about it, except that it's across the street from the beach. Okay, that's pretty special, but in this June Gloom weather, the beach is pretty darn chilly and the ocean water is still very cold. The nice part about this particular beach is that there are fire rings, and we had a lovely bonfire there Saturday night.

Fast forward three days. We're back home, reading the mail. I find an ad for that very hotel. Imagine my shock when I read that this hotel now has a water park for kids! Quickly scanning for an opening date, it says the water park has been open for two months now. Unbelievable. It is a large sprawling hotel, but how on earth did we miss an entire water park?

We had covered a lot of the expansive property during our short stay. Our room was in the main courtyard with the swimming pool, and it was some distance from the lobby. We'd been to the next courtyard over for the spa grotto and the courtyard in the other direction to park our bikes and eat lunch. I couldn't fathom where the new water park might be.

I rummaged through my purse and found I still had the hotel map with our room location marked on it. Right there on the map, in tiny print (for my old eyes, anway), just beyond the south end of the hotel, was a little blue patch marked "Slyders water park." Ask and ye shall receive. But only if you're paying attention.

The Universe was giving me some pretty clear signals here. Hotel One is booked. "You are looking in the wrong place." Hotel Two is available. "This is what you want." I just didn't trust that I was being given what I truly wanted.
So what else have I missed? Let this be a lesson to me to find the gift in every experience that seems to be pointing me in the wrong direction. Easier said that done, true, but it's like looking for that last gift hidden way back under the Christmas tree. I might have to crawl on the floor and risk some pine needle pokes, but it's worth the effort.

As luck would have it, my husband's business is taking us back to the OC, and we'll have a second shot at finding that elusive water park.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

She Did it Again


My mother's Red Hat friend, Edie, said it best, "Shirley would often leave suddenly, usually without telling anybody. We'd just look up and say, 'where did Shirley go?' She did it again." She would do that at my parties, too. She never liked to wait around for anything. When she was done with something, she wanted to move on, and that included parties.

So we really should not have been surprised when my mother left this lifetime rather suddenly, without saying good-bye to anyone. She had known for nine months that she had small cell lung cancer, but she steadfastly believed that, with positive intentions for healing, she would recover. She had survived breast cancer, and she would survive this. She refused to participate in any conversation that even suggested she would not live until a ripe old age, as had her mother who lived to be ninety-five.

She didn't wax nostalgic about times she would miss with her children or grandchildren. She didn't make plans for disposition of her things, other than the will she had created years ago. She didn't try to make amends with any old adversaries, if she had any. She didn't even want to see her closest friends "until I feel better." I am glad now that I made sure that she spent time with them in her final months, even those that lived miles away. But she sure didn't say good-bye to any of them or to any of her family either. Her mantra was simply, "I will, when I am feeling better, " and she was convinced that she one day would.

As much as I got frustrated with her unwillingness to talk to her about her 'final wishes,' I had to admire her courage and determination. I firmly believe that our thoughts shape our reality, and I try to choose my thoughts carefully. It's a relatively new habit I'm trying to develop. I spent most of my life playing the 'blame, complain, and justify' game. I still go there, but at least I recognize it now, and sometimes I am even able re-frame what's happening. It is still hard work.

My mother and I were growing along parallel paths, in many ways, and I know she was working to improve her ways of thinking as well. Still I am amazed that, in the face of an aggressive terminal illness, she was able to set her mental compass toward the positive with such resolve. Perhaps she had moments of doubt in the still of the night, but she was back on top when the sun rose in the morning. I have learned from her example.
In the end, she needed more than courage and determination to overcome her destiny to move on at the not-so-ripe old age of 68. As much as I miss her, I like to think she had learned what she came here to learn -- and teach what she came here to teach -- and in a shorter time than many of us do. She always was a quick learner and eager to share with others what she had learned. I am glad she hung out with all of us, her poor students, as long as she did.

After all, my mother was right. I know she is still with us, and she is feeling much better now.