Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Promise of a New Day

(Above: Carriage House Antiques is offering super values on their inventory in its final days. Behind the discounts and the fabulous finds, a story that shows how we all can face adversity in life's most challenging moments.)

Greetings, Blog Friends.

In my travels around the beautiful Western Maine area, I was shocked to see a home boarded up last Winter. Behind the new boards that covered its windows and doors, I could see the charred activity that only fire can bring. The sight took my breathe away for a moment and my eyes started to well up with tears.

The home belonged to Myat and Steve. Their store Carriage House Antiques is, and was, a landmark in Naples for many years. I had only visited the store a couple of times, as my style of decor is more "classic" than "global." The store located a stone's throw away from their home was untouched by the fire and, thankfully, Myat & Steve, were living in Arizona (their winter retreat & gift to themselves for a year of hard work of serving the summer and fall crowds that descend on the Lakes Region).

One thing that I always admired about Myat, who is originally from the country of Burma (no folks---that is not in the central part of Alabama---like I recently informed one friend), is how diligent she kept her store and business grounds. I'd see her open on dismal rainy days when the chance visit by any tourists seemed dismally improbable. She would sweep her front stoop with pride and water her beautiful plants so that her shoppers would be delighted before even entering her store front.

I made a point to stop by a couple of months ago to "pay my respects" to them both. While I believe that insurance is a form of safeguard during times like these, I had all I could to hold back tears as I expressed to them how sorry I was for the loss of their home. My emotion came from knowing the love, sweat, and tears one puts into building a home on top of running a busy business. As an innkeeper, I offered my rooms to them gladly. It could never replace the hole in their hearts but it was one way that I could let them know they had friends nearby to give some comfort during this distress. They thanked me kindly and I went back to the inn with a re-newed gratitude for my own business.

A few weeks later, Myat was at the inn's front door. She looked a little tired but let me know that the volunteer fire department here in Naples was to burn the remains of her home down to clear the lot. She asked me  if I wanted any of the flowers around the property for the grounds here at the inn. Imagine...her home gone and yet she had the generosity to include my business and all my future guests of the inn in her thoughts as she healed from her loss. It opened my heart so to see this demonstration of kindness.

You know, many times in life we luck out. We can sense where our next step is to be. We have the luxury of tidying up the present and moving forward with a strategic plan for our "new life ahead." When you are the victim of fire, the time to consider & weigh your options is gone. The decision must be made then and there. You are forced to move forward and if you don't have a plan in place, grasping into the void of the your desired life choices is like a Yankee Swap during the holidays. Here trust and knowing your heart are two tools that are indispensable.

This is the state we exist in when life changes in the span of a minute. If you have ever experienced that type of shake-up in your own life, you must give yourself a pat on the back at every chance. You had a choice in its aftermath to "lay down and die" or "stand tall" and be valiant. If you are reading this, you have survived and no matter how many lessons you learned, and still learn, from the upheaval, you should be proud. I have no question in my mind that Myat and Steve will be greater than ever in their days ahead. With Myat's eye for merchandising such intriguing & delicious finds (I only now appreciate how amazing her store is!) and Steve's support and "laid back" West Coast approach to "just being happy no matter what," this couple will be surely missed when they leave Naples.

If you are in the Naples area in the new couple of weeks, please make it a point to stop by and see Carriage House Antiques (a few doors down from Lake Region High School). Myat has everything on sale--and in the array of merchandise, you will find many things that will bring a smile to your heart. As one customer I spoke to best said last week: "I come in here all the time. ..Not the same old stuff you'd find at WalMart, huh?" I nodded. And, like the store's owners with their resolve to move forward despite the tragedy they recently experienced, I must whole-heartedly agree.

Carriage House Antiques, Route 302, Naples, Maine Tel: 207-693-4844. Saturday & Sunday 10am-4pm. RARE FINDS FROM AFAR!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Simplicity Starts with a Single Step

(While Sebastian the Dog sniffs the shoreline in nearby Brownfield, I snap a photo of this amazing mountain in the distance. Speaking metaphorically, it represents a place where all your aspirations come to be.  Take one step closer....I dare you....)
Greetings, Blog Friends.

After an April of the usual gray days of rain, May is ushered in with the brilliant sunshine this morning. The waters of Long Lake sparkle and bask in its warmth; so, too, do the residents of this Western Maine town.

I have kept quite busy over the Winter months tending to the inn and my personal life. The Inn at Long Lake re-opens on May 6th and the year ahead is considered (even after almost 10 years of being here) a "year that dreams may come to be." The time has been fraught with challenges, for sure. At one point I had no water for almost 5 days due to a plumbing mishap. At another, I had no heat for 2 days. While these situations would never have happened when the inn had guests, it prompted a certain type of simple living that many have experienced during a power outage.

During the water situation I was resourceful enough (after moaning about the dirty dishes piling in the sink) to find water late one evening when all the local stores were closed. Spying mountains of pristine snow outside, I filled up many large pans with snow from my backyard, heated them on the gas stove) and washed my dishes as in a simpler time of yesteryear. The switch down to this survivalist perspective was an interesting exercise. It met stopping to calm down the emotional content of what was happening and to transform my thoughts into a "how to" productivity.

Back in New Orleans, I was one of the 40,000 individuals that auditioned for the wonderful show "Survivor." They were accepting their "cast" for the 2nd Season (in Australia). Beyond the fame and experience that can come with being on a reality TV show (still a concept fairly new in the year 2000), I had to pay some thought to intentionally placing myself in a scenario of "no frills" living. After all, I am a creature of habit like many of us are. It makes you really think about how priveleged we are by sheer comparison. Things like a refrigerator nearby to get snacks, or a CD player within arms reach to hear your favorite song, or not having a cell phone close to you to share a conversation with a friend only begins to touch upon that survival experience.

I never did make the cut for "Survivor: Australia" but was able to have my own television series later in my life. As if intention prompted a cosmic reaction from the Universe itself, I was able to live to see the temporary depletion of many of life's usual comforts. These were experiences that ended up being gifts in hindsight. They inspired me to travel around the Western Maine area as if to push away the conveniences on which I depend and to get down to "brass tacks and buttons" of a daily thought in my mind. Nature is a great gift and for the careful watcher and listener, many of the answers to questions in our own lives can be seen or heard in simply being with it. Nature does not make you feel "smaller." Personally, being with it, it makes me feel "part of." To access that pool of experience is, indeed, something that many overlook in the completion of the their own well-being.

Today is another day and with endless places to explore outside my door, I am excited about what today's "class" will bring. It is a choice to "be still." It is another to "listen and accept." I hope that your day, wherever you might be, you will the choice to do these a a place that inspires clarity, too.

Keith A. Neubert
Innkeeper, The Inn at Long Lake