Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In The Zone...

The past week or so seems to have been a blur.  Part of the family was here for a few days, so we were very busy doing family activities.  I love having the family "home" with me even if it is just for a few days, and even if some of the family could not be here. I will update you with some of our activities as soon as I get photos downloaded.

As has most of the country, we've been dealing with heat.  In this part of the country, we don't have to deal with humidity along with the heat, but we are in the middle of a drought.  I've commented that it is so hot that the only things growing are the weeds.  Anyway, that is how it seemed whenever I looked out at my yard and garden while the kids and grandkids were here.  The weeds had to just keep growing, because this grandma was not going to pull weeds when she had grandchildren around to enjoy.
Family Time
Manitou, Colorado
At the Penny Arcade

Being surrounded by family has a way of making me feel happy and complete.  In fact, I am never quite as happy as I am when I am surrounded by my children and grandchildren.  I think the visits from the past week came at just the right time.  I was ready for some fun times, some joy, some laughter, and some activity around the house.

I know the visit was difficult for my children in many ways.  Julie was not here to join in the fun.  I am sure "the presence of her absence" seemed to be there, just below the surface, for us all at times.  Hopefully the time was also healing, restorative, and memorable for those who could be here at "home."  New memories were made.  New photos were taken.  Many great bonding opportunities  between cousins occurred.  We missed the ones who were not here due to work and busy schedules.

It was terribly hot while everyone was here, but we survived with the help of the A/C and fans throughout the house.

Now, they've all gone home.  I spent Monday washing many loads of sheets and towels.  Today, I tackled the weeds.  One flower bed is looking much better.

We also had the A/C people here today working on an update to the system.  Our multi-level home has never had a heating/cooling system that adequately heated or cooled the upstairs where all the bedrooms are.  When we were working, I don't think it bothered us as much because we weren't home.  Now, my husband and I each have a study on the second floor.  Our bedroom is on the same level.  We have been miserable in our studies on a cold day and on a hot day.  Finally this summer, I decided I had had enough.  It was time to make some changes in our system.

After the bids came in, I got real.  To retrofit the system with an additional heating/cooling system was complicated and expensive.  It would be cheaper to move to a single level home than to add a unit.  Then, one company suggested setting the house up on temperature zones.  Today, they came in and did some work on the duct work, set up three zones in the house, and cool air started pumping upstairs.

I am sitting in my study, and I am cool.  It is 77.9 degrees in our bedroom at 4:15 p.m.  It is 95 degrees outside.  It is never this cool up here in the late afternoon.   I am looking forward to not seeing 80 degrees register on the thermostat when I go to bed tonight!

Today, after enjoying coffee and breakfast with my hubby on the back deck, followed by working in the garden and enjoying a nice lunch my hubby cooked for me (hot dogs from the microwave), I said to my husband, "It is good to be readjusting to retirement again."  He agreed.  It is going to be even better now with our update to the heating/cooling system.

I'm in the zone.  I'm cool.  I'm pain free (for a few days anyway).  After a lecture from my doctor, my therapist, my husband, and my dear sweet daughter Amy, I am also trying to manage my stress better.  Thanks, Amy.  You always seem to have just the right word at just the right time for me.  It is good to be in the zone.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Lately, I've been feeling like I have been living in Tornado Alley.  Thankfully, I'm not really living in such a place.  I'm just experiencing storms in my life that seem to feel like tornadoes.  In other words, I've felt as if I, and others I love,  keep getting picked up off the ground, spun around, tossed about, and deposited in a spot that is different from where we were before or where we wish to be.

Actually, I have experienced one real live tornado within the past few weeks.  Perhaps that is where I came up with the analogy for my life of late.  My husband and I decided to get out of town on a Sunday afternoon by heading up to a favorite spot in the mountains near our home.  We envisioned a nice dinner and a walk around the lake.  As we made our way down the highway, the wind started to blow.  The wind always blows in Southern Colorado, so that didn't seem to be a big problem.  Then the wind picked up.  Soon, a large "dust devil" was heading toward the highway.  It crossed the highway as we drove through it.  "I can barely keep the car on the road.  We are in a tornado" my husband said.  I responded with, "Oh, it is just a dirt devil.  It isn't a tornado."  "It felt like a tornado to me," he said.

Sure enough, he was right.  That night on the news we saw a report that three small tornadoes, called down spouts had been spotted in the exact spot where we had been at the same time we had been there.  In fact, someone had a video of the tornadoes they sent to the news station.  I said, "That looks like our car driving through that thing."  He said, "I told you it was a tornado."  Of course the video and news story caused me to feel that perhaps I should not have dismissed the funnel that we saw and called it a little dirt devil.

Small storms can pack a lot of power.  They can catch you off guard.  When they strike, they are not selective in the damage they may cause.  My husband said it was very scary to feel as if the car was going to be lifted off the road and have no power to stop what was happening.

We had our small and large storms this summer as a family.  We are getting tossed about pretty heavily.  These storms are not ones I can share at the moment, but we are ready for them to end.  I'm ready for  outside forces to stop the willful blowing of storms that catch others up in the fall-out of their pernicious behaviors.  It is time for all of us to have some smooth sailing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spending Time With #1 Son

This summer, I've been able to spend some time with my #1 son.  I hesitate to call my oldest child and oldest son by the title of #1 Son because some may think that the title denotes favortism.  I assure you it does not.  For some reason, I've just referred to my eldest child as #1 over the years.

My oldest son lives in Utah, so that means we must travel in order to spend time together.  He is a banker who works very long hours during the workweek and commutes an hour each way to work every day.  Needless to say, he is very busy and does not get a lot of time off work.  I try to spend at least a week in Utah every summer and try to make at least one additional trip a year to spend time with him and his family and my daughter and her daughter.  

Ryan at Julie's Service
This year, Ryan made two trips to Colorado to visit.  This was a rare treat for me.  He was here for a few days at Christmas, and then he was here for a few days over the Memorial Day Weekend.  Ryan has been such a strength to me throughout the entire process of settling Julie's estate when it came to taking care of all the financial matters that occur after a death.  I don't know what I would have done without his financial wisdom and knowledge.   I've always valued his financial knowledge when I've turned to him for advice, but his fair and impartial ability to sort through many issues was truly priceless when I needed it in settling a difficult situation.

Ryan is a fun guy to be around.  He has a great sense of humor.  I love his take on life, people, and situations.  He has top notch social skills.  He makes friends easily and keeps them for a lifetime.  He likes to make people laugh and have a good time.

He also loves to cook.  On Sunday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, he got up and fixed breakfast for my husband and me.  Here he is in my apron.  I have others that aren't quite so feminine, but he grabbed the first one he saw before he began to fry up some bacon. 

Later that weekend, after he and I drove to Northern Colorado to stay with my daughters and a friend from Utah who would all be running the Boulder Boulder the next day, he made us some panzanella.  I was quite impressed and thought it was quite yummy, but then, I'm his mom.  

Ryan says cooking helps him relax after a hard day at the bank  Actually, he has always loved cooking.  I remember when he took cooking in junior high, he came home with all kinds of new recipes to try out on the family.

So, when I was in Utah in June, I had the opportunity to enjoy some more of his cooking.

Father's Day Barbecue

Ryan and Stephanie
Father's Day 2011
Ryan checks his email on his phone while others are serving themselves some scrumptious barbecued food he had prepared for a Father's Day celebration.  


We had grilled veggies and wonderful spare ribs that had been prepared using Ryan's special sauce.

Cousins, Regan and Gillian initially came to the celebration dressed as Dracula and bride.

Then, they changed outfits and came as bat woman and another wacky bride.  Regan has a belt made from her pajama bottoms and hat made from a cheering pom pom.  Note the make up they applied for this photo.  Don't you just love the RED lipstick?

They are being silly, but I think they will both be beauties someday.  Of course, I'm the grandmother, so I am a bit biased.  Actually, they are already quite beautiful in my eyes.

A shot of them being silly in the back yard.

Bridger has just made me the perfect smore in this photo.

Four of my grandchildren roast marshmallows around the fire pit on Ryan's wonderful back patio.

Summer Solstice Party

My oldest grandson, had a bunch of buddies over for a summer solstice party while I was in Utah.  After the party, he drove me back to my daughter's house a few miles away.  It seems very odd to think that my oldest grandchild will soon have his driver's license.  I was impressed with his driving ability while I was being chauffeured around.

While the kids ate hamburgers and fix-in's out on the patio, Ryan fixed me a perfect hamburger, just the way I like it.

While I was visiting with Ryan and his family, I had the opportunity to go shopping for a few supplies for an upcoming scout trip that he and Parker were taking later that week to the Moab area.  It was a biking, rafting, rock climbing excursion.  Ryan, who earned his Eagle Scout Badge as a young teenager, took some time off work to lead this trip for Parker's scout trip.  It was so great to see his excitement as he prepared for the trip.  It took me back to his days as a scout.  It brought back many happy memories and proud moments when I saw him inducted into the Order of the Arrow during a harrowing lightening, thunderstorm in the mountains of Idaho over 25 years ago.  I've always been proud of his achievement of reaching the rank of Eagle Scout.  It is great to see him now giving back to scouting as he takes his own son and others on scouting trips.  He is following in the footsteps of his paternal grandfather, another Eagle Scout, when he does this.

There are two special memories of Ryan that I  carry with me in my heart.  In both memories, he has the same look of absolute pride and sense of accomplishment.  One was the day he emerged from the workshop in the basement of his childhood home with the first completed birdhouse for his Eagle Scout project. He had constructed it on his own using a power saw.  Pride was written all over his face.  

I saw that same look of pride, accomplishment, and amazement when he emerged from the delivery room carrying his first-born son and my first grandson.  His eyes said, "Mom, look what I've produced!"  These memories, and the ones we continue to make whenever possible, are treasures that become more valuable as each year goes by.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Celebrating Summer

Early in June,  a dear friend invited me to her home to celebrate the awarding of tenure to a mutual dear friend of ours.  It seemed so good to be there among some of the great people who teach in the education department at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) as we joined together to toast a friend and colleague whose hard work and dedication was rewarded with tenure.  In many ways, it was a simple coming together of people I admire greatly, but it also seemed to mark an occasion when I finally felt like I was again doing the things I had always done before my daughter's death last spring.  I even remarked to my dear friend who was hosting the party that I felt as if I were coming out of a long winter and finally walking into summer for the first time in over a year.

I'll never forget the feeling I had as I stood among these friends, serving myself a bit of food.  It was an impression of feeling like myself again.  I remember saying to myself, "This feels like summer.  This feels like the life I once knew."

Sometimes, we take for granted simple get-togethers where someone hosts a barbecue and others attend to share food, drinks, good conversation and friendship.  This year, I was struck by how I had just gone through the motions of attending social functions last year.  I had attended a few social events, but I had not really been free enough in my emotions to be there completely.  I appreciated being included.  I appreciated being remembered.  I just couldn't fully participate in a sustained conversation while I was at a social affair.  My usual sociable self was greatly muted.  My friend's tenure celebration party marked a new step for me in my journey toward healing.

Despite my feeling that I was ready to step into summer's activities, initially early this summer, I had wanted to be away from home for the 4th of July.  I just didn't want to be reminded that I was going to have to go through yet another holiday.  I didn't want to have to wait to see if we had an invitation to a party.  I didn't want to go sit at a fireworks display and remember that much of my way of viewing life had had been irrevocably altered by my daughter's death.  I just wanted to get away and go someplace that was new and different.

In the end, my husband and I did not make plans to get out of town for the 4th.  There just seemed to be too many complications on too many fronts to leave town for a few days and escape into the mountains of Colorado for solitude.  We stayed home and threw ourselves into working on the yard and getting things done at home.

Last week, I called my cousin and asked if she and her daughter who was in town from Arizona would like to celebrate the 4th with us.  There was a fireworks ban in Colorado Springs, so my cousin's grandchildren were not going to be able to see a display.  In fact, because it is so hot in Arizona, they had never seen a fireworks display except at a baseball game.  They were happy to come down and join us.

Jim and I got our game plan going and put together a meal for our guests.  We even fired up the old barbecue grill.  We realized it had been at least two years since we had turned on the grill.  We also realized we had not gone to a fireworks display for at least two years.  Jim had a hip replaced during the summer of 2009 and was recovering over the 4th.  Last year, we watch various displays in the distance from our back porch since I just wasn't up for being in a crowd watching fireworks.

Again, simple things have great meaning.  I made a big potato salad yesterday.  I cried as I cut up the potatoes because I remembered the last time I had made potato salad had been Easter of 2010.  Julie had come to my side, draped her arm on my shoulder and said, "Hi Momacita.  What do you want me to do to help?"   That weekend would be the last time I saw her alive.

Despite a few sad memories, it was good to prepare food for a gathering in my home again.  It was good to look forward to having my cousin and her daughter and grandchildren coming to join us in celebrating a holiday.  It was good to fire up the grill and cook some hamburgers and hot dogs again.

After eating way too much food, we headed out to Pueblo's Riverwalk to listen to the Pueblo Sympathy Orchestra play a mix of Broadway hits and patriotic music.  It was good to see the beautiful display of fireworks light up the sky.  It was good to be a part of celebrating summer and the simple things of life again.

My cousin and her daughter and grandchildren

My cousin and I
with her grandchildren