Train Whistles

I hear the train whistles
long before I can hear
the sound of the heavy wheels
and high speed clacking
of the real train,
the sound of romance, old days, civilization.

Without the train,
my country would have settled
much more slowly.

In my thoughts
I see tracks over wide spaces,
mountains, rivers, forests.

I hear my Dad telling me
that when the train came to Lubbock
that is when the town began to grow.

I hear my Mother telling me
the story of her family coming
to West Texas by train in 1920,
when she was a cute little blonde,
only four years old,
to begin a new life.

These are the moments that
grew a country.

I hear all that as the train passes through
on this crisp, cold morning in Canyon, Texas.

© Elaine Wood-LaneFebruary 26, 2005

Workers lay down railroad ties in preparation for the first railway to come to Lubbock in 1909. The city reached an agreement earlier that year with Santa Fe Railway to bring train service to Lubbock which laid the groundwork for the future Hub of the Plains. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Centennial Edition 2009)

Happiness Tools

Over the years I’ve had many people who were suffering from worry and depression how to get out of their hole.  They would say things like, “You never seem to let things get you down. How do you do it? Is it just an act?”  Well, the truth of the matter is I’ve had very down days too.  I’ve had periods of down days so intense that I’ve sought help and taken antidepressants for the really hard times. In the past admitting this to people was risky. I remember the first time I was diagnosed with “major chronic depression.”  I was stunned!  Me?  Major chronic depression?  They had to be joking or had put someone else’s diagnosis on my chart. They weren’t joking and it was no mistake. It runs in my family on both sides, paternal and maternal. Fortunately for me, I was born an optimist who always believes “the sun will come out tomorrow,” so I’ve only once felt like totally giving up. That one time, many years ago now seems almost like a bad dream. I had spiraled down from, “what is wrong with me?” to “no one will ever love me or understand the true me” to “I can never make it! I’m completely incapable of dealing with all these challenges in my life right now” to “I wish I could just lay down, go to sleep and never wake up.”  Hello!! That last thought was a warning sign in my brain.  It was as if a dozen bells of alarm went off inside my head and all of them were LOUD!!  This was about 3:00 AM one night when I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t write, couldn’t do anything. I was spiraling down too fast.  Just as all those warning bells went off, one of my small sons stumbled into the bathroom and then into my bedroom.  “Mama, what are you doing up so late? Why are you crying?”  As I hugged his little body close to mine, I suddenly realized that I had so many blessings and so much love in my life and couldn’t afford to do anything stupid like give up. I told my son, “Sometimes grownups get sad too, but it will be ok. Mama is going to get some help. Now give me a kiss and go back to bed.”

The next morning, I called in sick and as soon as the Psychiatry Clinic opened at the Medical School where I worked, I called them and begged for an appointment. I saw a psychiatry resident that day.  He prescribed an antidepressant and asked me about my coping skills. (He’s the guy who diagnosed me with major chronic depression.)  Coping skills?  At first I was at a loss about how to respond.  He then said, “What do you do when you’re feeling down?  What do you do to perk yourself up?”   Oh!  Well, I had many things I did for that and usually they worked quite well. My problem this time around was a little more serious because I was going through a divorce, my mother was very sick, and I was trying to work, take care of my little sons and take care of my parents. Anyway, I told him what I usually did and although they sound funny, they work nine times out of ten!  I call them my happiness tools and I’ve added more as the years have passed and I’ve gone through more of life’s challenges.  I thought I would share a few of my tools to perhaps give you some inspiration for finding your own happiness tools so here goes!

  1. Have an attitude of gratitude!  Even on the worst days, if you’ll give yourself a few moments at the end of the day to reflect and think on it, you can usually find at least one thing to be grateful for during that day. Usually, once you get started, you can find many things to be thankful and happy about. As an example, one day, during a huge rain storm on the way to work, my car flooded out in the middle of the busiest road in town. My car died in the middle lane of this road and cars were bumper to bumper. Why my car bit the dust, I was completely at a loss! This was before cell phones so I couldn’t just call someone to come help me. My car wasn’t big, but I didn’t want to get out in a foot of water and try to push it to the side by myself. Fortunately, I lived in Texas, where people help one another and suddenly a cowboy (I swear to God, a real cowboy), knocked on my window and said, “Ma’am, do you need some help? I can push you over to the side with my truck if you put your car in neutral and steer!” I was never so happy to see anyone in my life! I put my car in neutral, he positioned his truck behind my little white car and within minutes my car was safely on the parking lot at the side of the road. He didn’t stop there, however! He asked if I needed a ride to work and gave it to me! He wouldn’t let me pay him anything for helping me. He just gave me a big ol’ cowboy smile and said, “Maybe someday you can help someone similarly and we’ll be even!”  With that he drove off and I went to work.  Point of this story?  Yes, it was awful that my car bit the dust in a rainstorm, but I was very grateful for the young man’s help AND the reminder that there are many good people in the world doing good things just because.
  2. Journal. I’ve journaled for years and years and I can tell you right now that it is some of the best therapy you can undergo for the cost of one journal and a pen or pencil. Often I’ve started journaling, feeling lost and overwhelmed, having no idea what I was going to write, and by the time I finished, I had expressed all my emotions, sorted out in my head exactly what was bothering me, and how to overcome it!  At the very least, getting all those negative thoughts and emotions out of your head onto paper tends to remove them from their neverending cycle in your head and helps you feel better.  I’m a Christian, so often I end my journal entries in gratitude prayers, thanking God for helping me see things more clearly and objectively. I also thank Him for always being there with me to give me strength.
  3. Rearrange your furniture!  Ok, maybe rearranging your furniture isn’t your cup of tea, but when I would get really stressed out, I’d start deep cleaning my house or apartment and figuring out an entirely new furniture arranagement and moving furniture. I can’t tell you how much better I always felt afterwards. It was like a new beginning. What really was at work here, however, was physical movement and exercise. You can’t sit in the same place, grousing over your misfortunes, and expect to feel any better. You’ve got to get up, move, exercise, and get those feel good endorphins going that come about as the result of that.  Sweat, get your heart rate up, and it’s amazing how much better you’ll feel! Many people swear by taking walks (I’ve done that too), jogging, yoga, weight training, or crossfit. For me, now at my age, I tend to take walks and do yoga or dance!  I jump up out of that comfy chair, turn on Pandora to some happy, jazzy dance music, grab up my dog and dance my heart out! My dog thinks I’m crazy, but we have a blast and I always feel better afterwards!  I don’t move much furniture any longer, but vacuuming and housecleaning offers good therapeutic effects too.
  4. Color or cut my hair. I’m a woman. It’s what we do. Hahaha! In all seriousness, if you’re feeling negatively about your appearance, do something positive to change it. Sometimes we all need a little beauty maintenance and/or cleaning up. Hair was my personal obsession, but for others it might be as simple as going for a mani/pedi, shaving one’s legs or beard (depending on gender), or taking a long warm bubble bath. Perhaps it means buying some new clothes that fit your body and style better. A change in your personal hygiene and appearance can work wonders for your self-esteem and mood.
  5. Use essential lavender or vanilla oils or scents. It has been proven that both of these scents improve mood and overall feelings of well-being.  Lavender oil is also good for migraines and other aches and pains. Google it for all the therapeutic uses it can provide. Perhaps you don’t have lavender oil, but you can find lavender scented candles, perfumes, air deodorants, and a dozen other products that have lavender in them. If all else fails, sniffing vanilla extract or baking something with vanilla in it works wonders too!
  6. Talk! Talk to a friend, a counselor, life coach, clergyman, or stranger at the grocery store! It is essential that we communicate with others how we are feeling and get feedback on that. To be honest, sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger at the grocery store than someone we know because we know the likelihood of ever seeing them again is slim and therefore anything we say is truly “safe.”  Friends we trust, counselors, life coaches and clergymen are also excellent choices too! As a transitional life coach, I feel the primary core of my job is to listen and then pray for my clients. Most of the time people know what their goals are and how to achieve them, but need to talk to someone about them and get validation that they are on the right track.
  7. Pray, talk to God, meditate and b-r-e-a-t-h-e. As a person of faith, I have learned that if I will pray and ask for strength, courage and wisdom on handling problems or situations, God provides those things in spades, often before I’ve even finished praying. God wants to hear from us and have an intimate relationship with us. He’s like the anxious father, just wishing and waiting that his child will ask for help and include him in their problems. Jesus said, “I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” John 16:24b-25  I don’t think Jesus was talking about asking for a million dollars and getting it here. I think He is saying that if you ask for help, you will receive it. I’ve had these kinds of prayers answered in a thousand different unexpected ways. God has always provided what I needed.  He hasn’t provided everything I wanted, but my and my family’s needs have always been met.  Honestly, this happiness tool should be at the top of the list rather than at the bottom because I believe it is the most important. Meditation and deep breathing are other tools that are very effective too. If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, hide out in the bathroom for five minutes, get very quiet, let your mind slow down and empty itself of all stresses, and take 4 or 5 deep cleansing breaths. Breathe in hope, life and joy. Breathe out stress, anxiety, and fears.

This has turned into a long piece and I truly didn’t intend for it to do so. I feel it is so important to have some tools in our toolbelt to deal with depression and self-doubt and find happiness and equilibrium. Sometimes we need professional help, as mentioned above. Sometimes we can use these tools and they help us achieve our goal of happiness as well.

“Happy is a man who finds wisdom and who acquires understanding, for she (wisdom) is more profitable than silver, and her revenue is better than gold. She is more precious than jewels; nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left, riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant, and all her paths, peaceful. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who hold on to her are happy.”  Proverbs 3:13-18

I pray that your day will be blessed with wisdom and happiness!

Cutting Back Our Front Yard Rainforest

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado where the average precipitation per year is roughly 11 inches. This year, I’m not certain how many inches we’ve received, but I know we’re well over double that amount if not nearing triple that amount. El nino is definitely affecting our weather pattern to say the least. As a result, plants that usually grow to be maybe 5 feet each year and then bloom beautifully in late August, early September have grown to about, well, I’m not a good judge but at least 7 feet tall! Wild sprouts off of the roots of our elm trees have grown very tall and fast too. Okay, everything has just about burst right out of the stratosphere to tell the truth and our front flowerbeds were literally looking like rainforests! Even our mint plants were about 5 feet long/tall.

So, yesterday we had the biggest storm yet here at my house. At one point we were getting hail and rain from every direction and it was all hitting HARD! My cat tried to use me as a tree to escape the noise. I don’t know where she thought she was going, but apparently my body was her escape route! My dog just froze in the living room floor, not moving throughout the entire storm. It was quite fun! It looked like this in the middle of it all:

Rain storm 8.10.15

We ended up with 2.25″ of rain in about half an hour yesterday when all was said and done. Flash floods were the fear of the day in many areas of town. Thankfully, we live on the top of a hill, so we rarely have flooding problems here at home. This morning, while it was nice and cool, I decided to attack our rainforest and see what kind of good I could do. I worked on it all for about an hour and this is all I accomplished in that amount of time:

I realize it doesn’t look like I’ve accomplished much, but you must realize that before I started, you couldn’t see any of the red sidewalk in these areas and I think I disturbed a new small ecosystem of squirrels, a crazy cat, and many, many spiders and creepy crawlies in my efforts thus far. Our neighbor came over for a few minutes, after which I gave myself time for a midmorning tea break. Now it’s back to the rainforest for more chopping and hewing. Hopefully by the time my husband comes home this afternoon or at least before it starts raining again, I will be finished! I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, peace and love, always,


Middle Aged World Travelers, Chapter 5, Walking in Dublin

On our last day in Ireland, which was Thursday, May 21, we were feeling muchmore confident about getting around in Dublin and so made quite a day of walking and seeing as much as we could see in a rather casual, haphazard way. We crossed the street from our hotel to the little mall that was over there. We had crossed the street before and it was quite the nightmare with crosswalks telling you when you could go and not go and mums with prams and babies, teens and others all trying to cross at the same time. You see, in front of the mall was where you caught the bus to downtown Dublin. On this particular adventure as we zig-zagged across the intersection to the mall, we met a Polish mum with a cute little toddler jabbering away. They were going to the grocery store at the mall and she was quite pleasant to speak with. Many Polish people have immigrated to Ireland and Scotland over the last several years, seeking jobs and wanting to start over in a better economy. This young mum said she had just been home for a week to visit her family in Poland and it was a bittersweet visit. She loved seeing her family, but it was so hard to go back to Ireland where the only family she had was her husband and baby son.

After we all finally managed to get across to the mall, we went our separate ways as we were just stepping into the mall out of curiosity and she had groceries to buy. This was the most unusual mall I’ve ever been in, ever. On the first floor was a sort of hair salon that looked more like a barber shop, a candy store, and then the grocery store. You could then ride up an escalator to the second level where there was another part of the same store (I wish I could recall the name of the place, they were quite common in Ireland) and the second floor sold clothes, women’s accessories, children’s clothing, toys, and all the things you’d see in a Walmart or Target, but more along the lines in design of a K-Mart. I looked at women’s clothing out of curiosity and some things were ridiculously expensive and some things were ridiculously inexpensive. I could make no sense of their pricing strategies at all. I found a pair of jeans for €12 and tried them on, but their sizings didn’t make sense either. They were so large, two of me could have easily worn the jeans so at that point, I gave up on my clothing browsing and went to find Alan. We browsed a little more and then left the mall to catch the bus to downtown Dublin.

By this time we were feeling quite confident in downtown Dublin and when we were dropped off in front of Trinity College, we knew we wanted to see St. Stephens Green, which is a lovely, huge park in the middle of everything. We went through Grafton Street to get to the Green. Grafton Street was alive and hopping on this particular Thursday. It was the day before the national election to vote on same sex marriage in Ireland and there were all kinds of bands playing along the street, families walking through, young college age students handing out flyers, and overall a happy feeling rather like going to a fair here in the States. I loved it all and even taped part of a band playing where a little girl kept walking up closer and closer to them as they played. She was adorable!
(I tried to upload the video I made here, but it won’t let me do it.)

We thought St. Stephens Green was just a block or two farther on, but it was several blocks farther on. Grafton Street is where you go to shop for just about anything and/or go to pubs to drink just about anything! Amongst the typically Irish shops and pubs, there were American businesses like McDonalds, Burger King, and even a Starbucks or two as well.

Finally we arrived at St. Stephens Green, and honestly, it did not disappoint! It was quite one of the loveliest parks I’ve never seen! There were random ponds scattered throughout, hedges, flowers, and winding trails and it truly is very green! There were families, lovers, ducks, doves and sea gulls, a few of which decided we were friends as they kept hovering. (Ducks, doves and sea gulls, I mean.) They became quite our little entourage until we stopped at a fountain to sit and rest a moment. I was talking to our entourage of birds and they were all talking back to me. I kept assuring them I had no bread or food of any kind for them, but they just kept conversing with me. Finally Alan said we were drawing attention from people around us and to send the motley crew of birds away. So I told them once again I had nothing to feed them, I had enjoyed my visit with them and sent them on their way. I actually said “Goodbye, goodbye, it’s been lovely speaking with you!” and they went along their way! Here is one of the bird friends we made. Mr. Seagull was quite friendly. I had never seen one just follow people around on foot before! I suppose that living in St. Stephens Green, they are quite accustomed to people and their livelihood is found by begging food off of people and small children. It was fun!

After the birds left, we walked on through the park. We kept thinking we had seen everything, and then we’d walk around another hedge and see another fountain, with even more park beyond! There was a a petting zoo, monuments, and yet another pond! The hills began to feel like mountains to our tired legs and aching feet, and we felt we had enjoyed all we could of St. Stephens Green! Finally, we found the exit from the park on the complete opposite corner of where we had started and when we walked out of the park, we discovered we were in the Georgian area of Dublin! I oohed and I aahed over all the pretty houses and the lovely doors with the famous fanlight window design over them. Most of them are now part of schools and little colleges rather than private residences. I loved this one the best because, well, look, it’s a lovely colored door! Most were shiny black and very stately, but this one had some personality!

By the way, see those little motor bikes there all in a row for hire? If we hda been smart, we would have rented a couple of those for the rest of our Dublin trekking, but didn’t even think of it. At the end of this block, we found more shops and stopped and had coffee with a fabulous dessert. I had one of the best cheesecakes there I’ve ever had in my life. I never wanted it to end and almost needed some privacy as it was so heavenly tasting.

I’m sorry to say that by the time I noticed this placard on the table, my cheesecake was long gone or I would have been happy to post a photo of it on Instagram! This place was so busy, I could have sat there and people watched for hours. Sitting immediately to my right, about two feet from me, was even an actor who was meeting a play director/producer, quite smoothly, for a part in her latest, smash hit. (I don’t think she was convinced, as she hedged politely for a bit, took his card, and then left.) This was the view from the window outside our cafe table and I found it particularly inspiring because of the election to take place the next day. Both sides of the issue were politely represented and that was the way the entire election seemed to be anticipated. A very polite, happy voting campaign from both sides. It was also here, that I realized there were cameras everywhere on the streets. I mean, look at the top of this pole. There were two different cameras right there, both pointed toward St. Stephens Green!

After our intake of sugar and coffee, I was bound and determined to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral! Google Maps showed us the way, and after a 20 minute fast walking, high stepping trek through very old streets where I kept tripping over cobblestones or short curbs, we arrived, at the exact right time of day to hear the church’s carillon bells ringing, with clarity and skill. The sounds stirred our souls, and are in my memories still. There is a park where you can sit and listen to the bells play, see the church in full view in front of you and where along the side, we found literary memorials to Ireland’s famous poets and writers. I took pictures of as many of the memorials as I could, but it was as though all the famous writers and poets were all jailed, with decorative bars keeping people from getting too close so basically these pictures are awful. It was still fun to walk along and see each memorial and read about the artists of Ireland.

We spent some time listening and resting to the carillon bells until the sun started to fade. It was a very pleasant restful interlude.  (Again, I tried to insert a short video here of the church square and the carillon bells, but haven’t been able to do so yet.)

After consulting our Google maps again, we decided to find Dublin Castle because it was between the church and our bus stop on Dame Street. Dublin Castle is where England ruled for centuries, but now Ireland governs its own. Dublin Castle did not disappoint. Walking cobblestone streets so old and so worn, I felt spirits of the past, both glorious and spirit torn. We didn’t get to stay long, but I was so glad to see and experience that part of Ireland’s history.

We then hurried along Dame Street, past stores and full pubs, pushed along by the five o’clock people eager to get home. I pulled out of the traveling horde, needing a breather, you see, and leaned on a wall, panting a bit breathlessly. A very nice gentleman, dressed for business or law, stopped and asked kindly, “Ma’am are you alright? Do you need assistance?” Though my answer was still breathless, I answered, as Alan walked up, “Oh no, sir! My husband and I were just separated in the crowd, so I thought I would wait for a moment.” The man smiled cordially and then left, convincing me once more, the world has more kindness, than meanness by far.

We rounded a corner back to Dame Street and right there on that corner found an old stationer’s store and being an addiction of mine, we had to go in, to see what I could find. I sigh longingly over the journals and pads and bought two, one for me, and one for my lad. As we waited to pay for our purchases, I practically drooled at the sight of their fountain ink pens. They were gorgeous and perfect, but expensive as sin!

We then had to hurry to bus stop 22 and missed two buses going our way, so we had to wait longer, but oh it was great! We were in the heart of our Dublin town and I swear I heard it’s heart beat, in the footsteps of those hurrying by and in the people’s lilting voices lifting up to the sky.

There was an art school with a mural just over our shoulders, past the National Bank and it’s beautiful columns.

That shop across the street, The Pen Corner, was the old stationers store we visited.

We hopped on the bus to return to our hotel, this time riding on top so we could see Dublin as we rode. We passed bridges with banners for the election the next day, people handing out pins, it was really quite gay! As we packed our bags that night, we reflected on all we had seen, what we heard, and the fine people we met, and decided we loved Ireland. It’s beautiful in just about every way, as long as they don’t talk too fast, so we can understand what they say! LOL!

© Elaine Wood-Lane

I must admit, I got off-track with my travel logs from our trip to Europe in May. This has been a busy summer! This piece started out as a poem so if part of it sounds rhythmic in places like poetry, that’s because it was poetry at first with perhaps a Dr. Seuss quality to some of it. I would apologize for that, but the language of Ireland and the rhythm of Ireland brings out that poetic quality in everyone I think. The edges are softened and blurred somewhat with an upward cadence and lilt that sounds positive and hopeful, even if just discussing the weather. I loved Ireland and would go back there for another visit in a heartbeat! It’s nice to know that my ancestors came from a place that I came to love and easy to see why it was so hard to leave there and settle in west Texas of all places! From green, lush, and poetic to dry and flat, but fertile. What a transition!

Dear Lord, Why Is My Husband So Hyper In the Mornings

Dear Lord,

Why is my husband so hyper in the mornings?
I’m sitting here trying to keep my eyes open
as I sip coffee and watch the sun arise from
it’s slumber and in the amount of time
it takes for this to occur,
my husband has zipped back and forth
through the house four times,
eagerly working on his current project.

The sun, the sleepy squirrels and I,
all rather wish he’d slow down as he’s
making us a little dizzy with his outbursts
of energy.

A timid, quiet bird had made his appearance
at the bird feeder hanging off the eave
of the front porch, but one quick zip of
my husband through the house and off
the little bird flew!

So, I guess my question is, why is my
husband so hyper in the mornings?

Doesn’t he know mornings are for
quiet reflection and gentle musings,
poetry writing, scripture readings,
prayers and day dreams by the score?

I know it’s difficult to reset a person’s
internal clock, but if you could slow
my husband’s clock down a bit in the
mornings, that’d be completely great.

Love from your sleepy daughter,