Yearly Archives: 2019


Contemplations on the effects of the Super Blood Wolf Moon 8

It’s been a while since I’ve written in my blog or my book, but today I  forced myself back into the chair. For the first time in three months I decided to declare that the move was behind me and that life must go on. Way back in August, once we had set upon this new plan for our lives, to make the move to to be closer to all our children and grandbabies, we found ourselves having to manage a lot of moving parts. At first it felt very amorphous, like a distant goal without much of a timeline.  But with the coming of the new year, the pieces all began to rapidly fall into place. I could no longer ignore that my time in Sedona was quickly running down. As February snows fell, I began a bittersweet countdown of goodbyes to all the things I loved about my 8 and a half years in the desert.

 

I think the Super, Blood, Wolf Moon had something to do with the timing of things. That rare and beautiful celestial event occurred in January right around Mark’s 60th birthday. We were in Florida, surrounded by all the kids and babies, as we watched the eclipsed moon turn red. When I first discovered Mark’s birthday was being ushered in by an eclipse with such a powerful name,I did some research. Mark gets a poem from me every year on his birthday. As soon as I heard about the Super Blood Wolf Moon I knew what the topic of this year’s poem would be. I soon learned though that this this moon was a whole lot more than just a topic for a poem. It’s presence in the sky seemed to have a particular relevance for what was happening within my family.

 

Any eclipse you see in the sky carries the meaning of beginnings, endings, culminations and clean slates. Eclipses are necessary times that book end the period you’ve been living in. It signifies that your current story is over but a new one is about to begin. You are entering a period where you will be encouraged to push out of your comfort zone. Whether you succeed or fail matters not to the moon. What matters is that you will learn and grow. One of the articles I read took the uncanny relevance of this moon to a whole new level. It stated that Super Blood Wolf Moons set patterns in motion that run in eight year cycles. It then went on to say that the pull of this particular celestial event was beginning to influence us as far back as this past July. Well, that caught my attention. Eight years ago, at the end of July, Mark, and I, along with David, Natalie, Jamie, two cats and our little five month old puppy, Lucy, made the big move to Sedona. Just a little over eight years later, in early August of this past year, Jeremy, Julie and Jamie made their pitch for all of us to live closer together again here on the east coast.

All full moons demand that you face your deepest, darkest emotions, but a full moon of this rarity is even more insistent. It will yank at what’s hidden within until you bring it to the light and allow it to be set free. Certainly in my family it became clear that we had reached a time of major shifts, of letting go, and of moving on.

 

After we left Florida things began happening at a dizzying pace. David and Natalie found and bought a house in Connecticut, just two miles down the road from the one we had bought back in October. Their house in Flagstaff sold before it was even on the market. Then began the arduous task of packing up our homes and the poignant task of saying goodbye to people and places we loved.

 

Mark and I had one other task that we had set for ourselves. Our eight years in Sedona had been ones of real growth for us as a couple, but growth isn’t often the easiest of processes, and the pathways forward are not always so clear to see. Last August we not only made a decision to bring our family closer together, but we also decided to see if we could find a better way to handle issues in our relationship that we had been struggling with since we were first wed.  We signed up for four days of Marriage Boot Camp in Dallas in early March. At the time, it seemed like we had already set so many things in motion that March would be the best time to go. We didn’t know it then, but it turned out to be the very last thing we did as a couple before leaving Sedona for good.

 

I remember sitting with Mark in our hot tub the night before we were to leave town for the Bootcamp. I was looking up at the multitude of stars in the Sedona night sky, trying to memorize how beautiful it was. A part of me realized that something of such infinite beauty, while it can be seen and felt, is just too large to truly hold in our minds. There was no sufficient way to say goodbye to such a sight, so instead I moved onto something much smaller in scope, but equally intangible at that moment. What would Marriage Bootcamp be like? Would it work? Could four days really change nearly 40 years of ingrained patterns? It turns out that the answer to all those questions is yes. I think part of why it worked so well for us is that Mark and I were really ready to make that change, but we needed someone to show us a different lens for how to see ourselves and each other. Marriage Bootcamp was able to help us do that. What was revealed to both of us was just how much we really do love each other and value the life we have built together. I think one of the most powerful moments of Bootcamp for me was when I was encouraged to forgive Mark. If you had asked me before Bootcamp if I had forgiven him for past hurts, I would have said of course. But what I realized at this workshop was that while we had spoken of all the hurts before, I had never completely vocalized to him the extent of the pain I had felt and was still feeling. In this bootcamp setting, I held nothing back, and he took it all in with such love and compassion in his eyes. There was no doubt that he’d heard my words, felt my pain and wanted something different for me. The other moment that really rang true inside me was when we were asked to forgive ourselves. They had us visualize ourselves as babies, small children, and to hold those children in our arms as if they were our own babies. And then they asked us if the things we said to ourselves everyday were the things we wanted to say to this child in our arms. It shocked me to realize just how unkind I have been to that inner child. I would never treat one of my children in the way I have treated myself.

 

There were many other moments, and many people, that touched me deeply during Bootcamp. It’s not called Bootcamp for nothing. It’s a lot like that Super Blood Wolf Moon, forcing you to look at your deepest fears and darkest emotions. It yanks them  out into the cold light of day so you can really see them, and in so doing, those fears and emotions lose their power over you. It becomes possible to let go, to finally be free.I don’t think either Mark or I will ever forget what it felt like to look into each other’s eyes and see all the love each of us truly has in our hearts for one another. It was all just waiting there for us to notice and let in. It will be there for us whenever we next find ourselves in conflict, and it will help us find our way through.

 

The glow of that incredible experience stayed with us as we watched all our belongings get loaded up and sent on their way to our new home in Connecticut. That loving connectedness was there as we settled Lucy into our camper van and headed out of town. We had one last breakfast with the kids in Flagstaff before we officially hit the road. Then the final moment was upon us. We hugged the kids and our grandbaby, told them we’d see them soon (they were leaving two weeks after us, and would be moving in with us for a couple of months while they did renovations on their new home). When all the words had been said and a few more tears shed, we climbed up into the captain’s chairs of our RV, and with Lucy staring out the window we began what was now a familiar journey to us, through the wide open  spaces of the Navajo and Hopi reservations, through the New Mexican Pueblos, finally stopping that first night in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Day two, after a breakfast at a diner on route 66, we left the southwest behind, driving through the Texas Panhandle and into Oklahoma. We spent our second night at an RV camp ground beside a serene lake. Day three we drove through Missouri, where the highway took us up close to the St. Louis Gateway Arch. We then cut through the lower part of Illinois and into Indiana, where we finally got around to having some BBQ that was good enough to make up for the fact that we missed it in Texas. We spent the night just east of Indianapolis at a truck stop. Day four we traveled through Ohio, then crossed the Mississippi River for a quick pass through West Virginia and into Pennsylvania. We spent the night with family just outside of Philadelphia where Lucy had a chance to meet her new best friend, a doggie cousin named Moose, who is also a golden retriever. Julie’s parents made us a lovely, home-cooked dinner that night. The last day of our journey began with Julie and Jordan stopping in for breakfast and a quick visit with us before we headed off through New Jersey, New York and finally into Connecticut.

 

 

 

Before we ever arrived at our house, we made a stop at the train station where we picked up Jamie and two of her friends from her master’s program at Tisch. They all accompanied us on those last steps of our long journey in the RV. We not only had lots of help unloading the camper, but then we  got to spend a delightful evening catching up with our daughter, hearing all three women laughing and telling all kinds of stories of life at Tisch and in the music theater world of NYC.

 

One week, and hundreds of unpacked boxes later, Mark flew back to Phoenix to help David, Natalie, Avery and their two kitties make the journey, this time by air. Little Avery, who had found packing an interesting game in the beginning, found the last days of the move very stressful as literally his entire world began disappearing into boxes. By the time he was on the plane, he was not only stressed out, he was getting sick. Jamie, in a continuation of her role as official greeter, met up with Mark and the kids at the train station on their way home that night. The next day, Friday, was Jeremy’s birthday and he arrived with Julie, Jordan and his dog Bowser in tow to christen the new house with its first birthday celebration. It was wonderful having the whole family here, but Avery’s condition continued to worsen and he developed a high fever. For a little boy whose natural state  is always laughing and running, his silent stillness in his mother’s arms became alarming.

By Monday Natalie decided to take him to the doctor. She and David came back an hour later having been turned away from three different doctor’s offices. Needless to say, it was a most upsetting, unwelcoming beginning. As I held my distraught daughter, and heard her tearfully tell me that no one would help her baby,  I had a very up close and personal look at how very broken our healthcare system has become. Fortunately, Avery started to turn a corner that night, and Mark had found an office in Stamford that took the kids’ insurance and who were able to see Avery Tuesday morning. So now the baby is registered with a practice we all feel very good about, and he is running around the house fever free, laughing, and playing, and talking up a storm.

 

 

We did have one other unwelcoming event. After searching for some place to go hiking with Lucy, we finally found some really nice trails that run along the Mianus River, just a couple of miles from our home.  As we walked, we saw other hikers with their dogs off leash, so I let Lucy off too. I had heard there were some trails along the river that did allow dogs off leash, and for a brief moment I thought we might have found that place. I allowed myself to relax a little and enjoy the natural surroundings. It was so different from my desert, but equally as lovely with sun dappled trees, granite outcroppings, ponds, and many stretches running along the river. On the way into the park, Mark and I had even had our first sighting of a wild turkey. I found myself imagining that this could be my place, where Lucy and I walked free and communed with nature. But that vision was quickly shattered when we crested a hill and found at the bottom of the trail a policeman, gun holstered, violations book out. Apparently, we had crossed over to the Stamford side of the park where off leash dogs were not only unwelcome, but the offense came with a $100.00 ticket. I’d been trying for several days to just be patient and accept that finding my place in this new community, this new life-style, was going to take some time, but now I found myself fighting back tears. At least I managed not to cry in front of the policeman, but I no longer tried to stop myself from unashamedly yearning for my red rocks and open trails. When we got home that night, Avery was playing with a bowl of red rocks I had taken with me when we’d moved. We’d been assembling this collection of  stones ever since we started walking the miles of desert paths behind our Sedona home. Many had come from my favorite meditation spots. As Avery played, he started taking the stones from the bowl and putting them in a wooden bird cage. I couldn’t help thinking it was a very apropos metaphor.

Now don’t go feeling too bad for me. If this is a cage, it is an incredibly beautiful one, one that allows me entertain Jamie and her NYC friends, celebrate Jeremy’s birthday, and live just around the corner from David, Natalie and Avery. I just need to be mindful that the Super Blood Wolf Moon doesn’t care if I succeed or fail. The moon’s only demand is that I change. I think I can safely say I’ve made some major changes. Hopefully, that big, old moon is satisfied.


A Christmas to Remember 10

There are moments in your life that you know will last you until the end of your days. The holiday season this year was such a time for me. As 2018 drew to an end, Mark and I traveled to Santa Fe to meet up with some of my family; my dad and step mom, Judy, my brother, Dan, my sister, Ann, her husband, Roger, and their ten-year-old son, Xavier. It was one of those trips that had a lot of uncertainty about how it would play out. My dad, at 87 years old, is very frail of health. No trip is planned at this point in his life without the caveat that at the last minute he might not be able to make it. We also had the challenge that Judy had recently broken bones in both her feet. At six weeks into the healing process, she had gotten a green light from her doctor to travel, and to officially start weaning herself off of the boot. She was determined not to let health challenges get in the way of this family holiday, and I think my dad was as well.

 

Assuming the best case scenario for this family reunion, I’d made a bunch of soups, and had baked lots of bread and cookies. After some conversations with Ann about our dad’s current state of health, I’d concluded it would be prudent to have plenty of food on hand in the condo we’d rented in case going out for meals proved to be too difficult. On the Friday before Christmas, Mark and I loaded up the car. This included our grandson, Avery, who we needed to drop off at his parent’s house on our way out of town. He is now (just barely) old enough to have occasional sleep overs with us, and this is something which all three of us absolutely love. One of the sweetest times of the day is when he wakes up. We bring him into bed with us. As we all snuggle under the covers, we sing songs together to greet the day, never fully emerging from that warm cocoon until the stars wink out in the sky. Once Avery is fully up, he runs everywhere wanting to see everything; the dog, the fountains, the cuckoo clock,but most fascinating of all for him is the great outdoors, and in particular the red dirt that is everywhere here in Sedona. If we could have taken him with us to Santa Fe we would have, but his parents had too much work to do to take a holiday break, and none of them are ready for more than one night apart. So, we said our goodbyes to our kids and our grandson and then headed east on Highway 40, through the Navajo reservation, past the Hopi Mesas, through Gallup, New Mexico and Albuquerque, and past numerous New Mexican pueblos, until at last we arrived in Santa Fe.

Mark and I were the first to arrive in Santa Fe, rolling into town late Friday afternoon. Everyone else was scheduled to arrive on Saturday, so I held my breath Saturday morning until the texts starting coming in confirming that we had a Christmas miracle of our own in progress. Everyone was actually on road. It was a very happy reunion, and that first night my Dad even had the energy to try out a little pub Mark and I had discovered called Fire and Hops. The food there was incredibly good. It was fortunate that it was very close to the condo because when we came out of the restaurant, we found that the night had turned bitter cold. It sucked the breath right out of our lungs. We all huddled around my Dad to keep him warm and hurry him home. Xavier’s concern for my dad was particularly touching. He spends a lot of time with his grandpa, often keeping him company when Judy needs to run errands. The connection between the two of them is very apparent. Xavier watches out for his grandpa, and that night he wanted to be right at my dad’s side lending him a hand as we walked.

 

One of the highlights of the visit was our one and only outing with my dad. We went to Meow Wolf. For those of you who haven’t heard of this amazing place, I will do my best to describe it. Inside an abandoned bowling alley just on the outskirts of town, a group of artists came together to create an entirely new experience in storytelling. With the financial help of George R. R. Martin they built an entire victorian home inside the hollowed out bowling alley. They call this house and adventure in non-linear storytelling The House of Eternal Return. From the moment you enter the house, you are transported into a mystery. A family has gone missing, a family with unusual talents that are both magical and mystical. Some kind of accident has left the home pockmarked with portals into different manifestations of the multiverse. You might open the fridge and find a passage into another world, or tumble down the dryer to find yourself standing beside the tree of life. Immersed in numerous art mediums you travel in and out of our current reality, each room offering up more clues as to what happened, but also raising more questions.

 

It is easy to lose your party in this place. The best of intentions to stay together are soon sundered with too many intriguing discoveries and pathways luring you ever on. I lost and found family at multiple junctures. At one point, I ran into my brother. Suddenly, the experience took on a whole new dimension. For a short while, it felt like we’d passed through a portal not in space but in time. Dan and I are just barely a year apart. I turned 60 this past spring, and with the coming spring he will also turn 60. But in that house, the years just melted away. It was us again, two carefree kids excited by an adventure. Together we read the TechnoMage manifesto hanging on the wall in one of the children’s rooms; a document so mind blowing,TImothy Leary would have been proud. We traveled through disjointed pathways that eventually led us into the parents’ room where we found some kind of harmonic invention; potentially a part of what caused the rupture of the universe all around the house. As Dan was sitting at the desk, keying up various tones on the device, the closet door in front of us opened and a man stepped out. I couldn’t resist and said, “Look, he literally just came out of the closet.” Dan could hardly believe I’d said that out loud, and he laughed, but he was also quick to note the man did not seem pleased at all with my observation. On our way back from humiliating our fellow adventurer, we ran into Ann and Xavier and ended up plucking the ethereal strings of a huge laser harp together.Then,upon learning Xavier had yet to see the TechnoMage manifesto, I carted him back through a few alternate realities into the child’s bedroom so he could read it for himself.

You might wonder where my dad was in all this. Despite our inability to stay together, we did have a plan. We had discovered a comfy sofa inside of the base of the tree of life, which was located in a very central part of all these colliding realities. We all took turns returning to this center of the universe, sitting there with him on the sofa, directly underneath some kind of plasma brain. My dad was on that sofa for a couple of hours, long enough that people began to assume he was part of the immersive experience and started asking him questions. Perhaps they believed they’d found an ancient wise one within the heart of the tree. As far as I’m concerned, they weren’t too far wrong. He’s most certainly at the heart and center of my universe.

I could go on and on about Meow Wolf and this immersive story within the house, but instead I think I’ll just tell you to put this on your list of things to experience. You can find all kinds of information about it online. Also, there will be two more of these Meow Wolf projects opening up in the near future, one in Denver and the other in Las Vegas. East Coast friends, I’m sorry, you’ll have to travel west to partake of this adventure. I have no idea if these new projects will be new stories or a continuation of this one. I am so intrigued with this one, I hope it is the latter. I could see endless possibilities and plot lines for this story.

We hadn’t booked any restaurants before our visit, which is a must in Santa Fe at Christmas time; but because we couldn’t be sure of the size of our party we decided we’d make our own Christmas Eve dinner. Roger smoked pork on a grill outside the condo we had rented. The smell was so enticing that it had other guests in the development wishing our Christmas dinner could be theirs. The rest of us made our own contributions to dinner. I nearly abandoned plans to make latkes when I saw the flimsy hand held grater in the kitchen, but Mark, not willing to accept anything as boring as oven fries, took over the task of grating all the potatoes and the onion too! After a very yummy dinner, several of us went off to partake in a Santa Fe holiday tradition, the Farolito. It is a night time walk down Canyon Road, where lanterns and holiday lights light the way, art galleries stay open late, and hot chocolate and hot apple cider are liberally served up. It was cold, beautiful, and like everything in Santa Fe at Christmas time, very crowded. Judy walked around in wide-eyed wonder admiring the beautiful night, the galleries, the crowds. Between her still healing feet and the fact that we’d left Dad and Xavier holding down the fort, we didn’t walk too far into the canyon, but it was long enough to claim we’d been there and experienced one of the highlights of the Santa Fe holiday season.

It had been a perfect day except for one serious miscalculation. On one of our many runs to the grocery store, Ann and I decided to buy a 1 lb bar of Hershey’s with almonds for our dad — who has a long history with hershey’s chocolate; it was the first chocolate he’d ever tasted as a young boy. He’d been given a box of them for his birthday (if I remember the story right, I think it was his 5th). After getting a taste of it, he had immediately wandered off and finished the entire box in one sitting. From that point on, no chocolate, no matter how fine, could ever compare to Hershey’s. I think both Ann and I assumed that at 87 years old, Dad would not be inclined to eat a pound of chocolate too quickly. Turns out to have been an erroneous assumption. At one point during the day, I noticed it was nearly gone. I checked to see who might have been helping Dad out. Only two people admitted to eating a square or two. I wasn’t too alarmed at the time, but in the middle of the night, my Dad became violently ill. I have a feeling the chocolate bar on top of all the other holiday food that day probably tipped the scale in the wrong direction. Until that point, I’d never believed there was such a thing as too much chocolate, not in the Schlager family at least. After a horrible night, my dad spent Christmas day extremely weak and disoriented. It was pretty worrisome to see him so pale and fragile. We all hovered close by in case there was anything we could do for him. Xavier took his favorite fleece blanket and tucked it around Dad to keep him extra warm.

Dad was on all our minds, but he mostly needed to sleep, so, since it was Christmas morning, we did a little exchanging of gifts. Xavier made me a lovely pin, an art project from school. I felt very special because he has lots of women in his life he could have chosen to give it to, but somehow I was the lucky one. At one point while Dad was sleeping, Ann, Xavier and I walked into town for a little fresh air. We arrived at the Basilica just as the bells began peeling calling the parishioners to mass. Immediately, I smiled, realizing that I had just literally heard the bells on Christmas day. That is one of my favorite Christmas carols. By the time we got home, Dad was able to take some tea and a little toast. As I tucked him back into bed, he took my hand and told me I’d always been so good to him. It brought tears to my eyes because it felt a little like a good-bye, but by dinner time, Dad was feeling strong enough to join us for some Chinese food. The next morning, everyone headed home, leaving early to get ahead of an oncoming snow storm. Dad made the whole trip without any trouble. The Colorado gang managed to stay ahead of the snow all the way home. Dan wasn’t so lucky, heading south on the I-25, he had about an hour of blizzard conditions before finally breaking free.

As for Mark and me, in a suddenly very quiet condo, we watched a beautiful snowfall in Santa Fe, and felt warmed by our time with family. We were reminded how precious every moment is, and grateful for what we’d just had. Our original plan had been to stay until Friday, but David, Natalie and Avery had all been sick during the week. Avery was waking up early every day and feeling pretty cranky, so nobody was getting much sleep. They were hoping we’d take Avery for another sleepover so they could catch up on some much needed rest. So Thursday, we packed up our belongings and headed back to Arizona. The forecast was supposed to be mostly clear, but from Gallup to just past the Hopi Mesas snow was falling and Mark had to navigate through white-out conditions. Then, as suddenly as the weather had come upon us, the skies cleared illuminating the San Francisco peaks under a cloudy sky. We rolled safely into Flagstaff in time for dinner. We ended our holiday the way it had begun, singing “Good Morning Starshine” with Avery as the morning star rose in the sky.