Saturday, May 4, 2013

Back in the Mountains Again

This winter has been a hard one for me. I have been without my mountain fix.  For many years, I was able to get away from it all and come up to this corner of heaven to regroup. But this year, the mountain house was rented to a wonderful group of friends who were using it as a writer's getaway.  This is the first weekend that it is available again.

As we drive up, there is a question of being able to get there. This last week we had a surprise May Day snow storm that dumped a ton of white stuff everywhere. Now we are just 15 minutes away and we have had smooth sailing, no snow is left on the roads.

The girls, Susie and Sarah have always known that there is magic in the dirt road.  At the sign warning us of the impending end of asphalt and civilization, we begin to count down, 5, 4, 3, 2 and ONE! We know that we are so close when we hit that bumpy, beautiful, uncomfortable dirt road. We have passed through a portal not unlike those found in a science fiction story.

As we leave the pavement behind, we take one right turn and one left turn off of the main road. We pass familiar sights: the A-frame cabin, the odd round house and what is left of a very old one room log school cabin. As we get to the apex of the driveway we all look over the dash board to view its condition. "Is is clear? Will be able to make it down? Do we need to get out and shovel?" "Yes, yes and no."  We all breathe a sigh at the knowledge that we will not have to get cold and wet before we can get in; the drive way is clear of snow!

I can't describe the feeling that I get every time I look at the house from the top of the driveway. I can see everything. I can see the red canoe that sits waiting to be taken down to the lake or out to a river. I can see the wood pile that represents many hours of chopping. I can see the log splitter that looks like a steam punk version of a torture device.

I remember the last time that I saw my dad bent over it, oblivious of my car, he was surrounded by the noise and smoke of the gas engine and the smell of freshly split logs.

When he finally noticed me, he stood straight and waived with his gloved hands and went back to work. Eager to finish the job.

I don't think that my dad is
naturally industrious. I believe that like most human beings he would rather be sitting in his comfy leather chair doing a sudoku puzzle. Yet, he has managed to accomplish so very much. While working full time as a teacher, he built the house we lived in and then in retirement, he decided to do it again. He is a tool chest full of information and is quite naturally a problem solver. I wish I was more like him.

From the top of the driveway, I can see the deep front porch with Cameron's tin sculpture, the old bench swing and the green painted screen door. In my memory I can hear it swing open and slam shut and the booming bark from big beautiful Jasper as he comes running out to greet me. He would run at me in a lope to beat me out of the car. Jasper would try to get as close to me as possible, as if pressing his body along side mine was his way of hugging me. The mountains are not the same without him. Although, I generally keep it to myself, I miss him terribly.

From the vantage point of the top of the drive way I can see the corner of the back porch. That corner is one of the nicest places to sit all year round. There is usually no wind and the southern sun keeps is warm and cheerful. It is also Nana's favorite place to toss unsalted peanuts to the critters. First it was just the pair of chipmunks that she saved, but soon she began to feed the rabbits and especially the bossy blue jays. Personally, I would have tried to push them away, but not Nana. She loves all the critters and finds joy in each one. From the top, you can also see Nana's flower garden. Despite the harshness of life at 8300 feet, she has been able to plant a lovely mix of native plants and some of her favorites. Today it is covered with snow, but there are signs of spring if you look. A tree has fuzzy pussy willow blossoms on its tips and I can also see green pieces of the poppy plant coming up.

This house is truly my home. It is where I feel loved and appreciated. It has welcomed me when all around me seemed so dark and grey.  It is where I can just be me and not have to worry about career choices, the tests at school,  nor the worries that the evening news brings. It is a place where I can peacefully await the first sighting of spring's blue bird.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Red Fox Meadows

Today was another exceptional day in the mile high state! The beautiful Colorado blue skies, clear paths and warm weather called us out of the house and onto a trail.
As part of our 2013 Passport to the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Tour we decided to go to Red Fox Meadows.

This is pretty close to our house. Up until recently, we didn't know it was here. A few years ago, we had seen the city tear up the corner of Prospect and Taft Hill and re-plane everything for flood control. We had no idea that this little corner went way back behind the houses and that there was a little bit of nature plopped right in the middle.

At the trailhead there are bathrooms, maps and areas set aside for educational purposes. Straight out of the "gates" Sarah pointed out two young bucks walking across our path. I wasn't fast enough with my reflexes to get a better picture.

There are several trails through this meadow. They were for the most part dry, flat and well maintained. What I found a little strange is that some of the paths just went no where. I would have liked a clear path where I could create a plan of action. We started on the north side and wandered around towards the east and the Heather Ridge Apartments. There we followed a jogger around the pond where the trail petered out to wild grasses. So we walked across an area where I'm sure we were not supposed to walk to get onto the south trail that follows a water ditch. There was another area in the middle that had stairs and a bridge leading a trail through a little wood. It was just beautiful. This little trail just faded away too. It led us to the bottom of a hill where others had trail blazed a path that was clearly causing erosion.

Despite the oddness of the trails, we had a great time. Susie saw a huge Red Tail Hawk. We watched the geese and ducks as they played in the melted pond.

We logged a slow 1.46 miles wandering around. (The red spots are where we stopped to wait for Sarah to catch up. She was having too much fun looking around.) We will definitely be back to see how things change through the seasons.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Couch to 5K Beginnings

The family and I have been walking quite a bit. We do walks/hikes several times each week ranging from 1-5 miles. (Check out my blogs regarding the Fort Collins Natural Area Passport) We average 23 minutes per mile. That is not very fast, but at least we are out doing stuff. Right?

  I've been wanting to do a Couch to 5k for a very long time but was not really brave enough. I was worried about my asthma. I was worried about my knees. I was worried about my feet. Iwas worried about what I'd wear. I was worried that people would laugh at the fat lady bobbing down the road.

Today, I just said, "What the heck-let's go!"

Now, some of you might be wondering what is a Couch to 5K? It is a philosophy/training routine that helps you slowly get off of the couch and running a 5K race. How do you do that? The same way you eat an elephant, one bite at a time.  Maybe you might want to start walking around the block or a few times around the track. Last year, I was not able to walk 3 miles without getting pretty winded. Now it is not a problem if my asthma is under control.

There are several websites that have different training programs. Most of them consist of a nine week program that pieces out a walk/run schedule that gets you in shape to run the 5K or 3.1 miles. I first heard of it from one of my favorite homeschool bloggers, Heather Sanders. A fairly easy to understand program is on the Cool Running web site.

Of course there's an iphone app! There's an app for everything. Check out 5K runner by Blu Sky Apps.  This is the one I have. I was able to download a two week version for free.  There are probably 20 more on itunes. They even have one that has zombies on it. They usually are not expensive. I think the highest is around $2.99. (I spend more than that at TCBY yogurt.)

Well, today the girls were bouncy and I just didn't feel like investing an entire hour to walking somewhere. I thought today is the day. We laced up our shoes and headed for the middle school track behind our house. All my fears slipped away after the first ten minutes. My asthma was fine. So we're my knees and feet. Nobody was around to see us and it wasn't that hard.

We did a five minute brisk walk followed by 6 sets of 60 seconds jogging and 90 seconds walking. Then another 5 minute cool down. The girls were breathing heavy at first but half way through Sarah was leaping and dancing during the walking (aka catching my breath) part. We had some fun tunes playing and before we knew it, we were done.

I promised the girls that we would buy a new song for our playlist everytime we practiced our 5K. They are ready to go again tomorrow! I think we'll wait for Wednesday.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Two Creeks

This past month, my family has been walking. Not just around the block but hikes that are 2-5 miles long.  The city of Fort Collins, has some wonderful natural areas and we decided to try and vist all 39 spots during the 2013 year. The city has put together a nice "Passport" that you can pick up at some of the trails or download one here.

Today, was a typical gorgeous January day in Colorado - short sleeves! We decided to hit a south end trail - Two Creeeks  We drove down 287 just south of Harmony and parked in the Discount Tire Parking lot. There is only private parking in this area. Here is a map from my iphone. Pay no attention to the speed of the walk... we stopped at the park for a long time.  Usually we do an 18 minute mile, not too fast, not too slow.

One of the odd things about this walk is that we passed by one of the only "private parks" that I have seen in Fort Collins. A good portion of the creek is planked by a private homeowner's association playground. The funny thing was that even on this incredible day it was empty.

Our hike was just a 2.68 mile loop around the lake at Fossil Creek Park. The trail was busy and people were enjoying the nice weather. Along the south side of the lake there is a spot where you can ice skate and picnic. There are also some nice art pieces that are incorporated into the environment that also teach about fossils.

Because the weather was so nice, there were some awesome kite flyers. One guy was doing some pretty incredible aerobics while flying his kite. Don't you just adore Colorado's blue skies?

We had a great time watching the birds, kites, boarders, walkers, tennis players, hockey guys and even some softball. This park is a busy place. Below, Sarah got to climb a wooly mammoth.

Sarah would like to go back on a colder day to try ice skating and we will certainly be back to enjoy the many facilities that this park has to offer.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Poser Alert

                    Lately I've been doing a lot of posing.  This year alone, I've pretended to be
a fire fighter with the local volunteer fire department, 
a certified nursing assistant at a local nursing home, 
and even a snow plow driver.

                    This weekend, I've been able to pretend to be a chef at a real restaurant.

     I've been managing a restaurant up in the northwestern part of the Colorado Rocky Mountains for about 3 years now.  I love my job.  I get to chat with folks, serve good food and watch the deer, moose and bob cats outside the big windows.  But lately, we've been a bit short in the chef department.  My last chef left us to go be a rough neck for the oil wells of Wyoming. It is not easy to find a qualified person who is willing to live in the middle of nowhere for a very moderate income. This conundrum has allowed me to realized that I know just enough about restaurant chef-ism to keep the restaurant open and not kill anybody.  I've also learned that although I am able to do this job, I do not do it gracefully and I do not want to do it every day.  It is hard work! Luckily for me I have a great staff who help me when things get tough.
     Tonight, I surprised myself with a yummy special.  I made a chicken parmesan served over a bed of noodles with a garlic-tomato sauce.  I wish I had taken a picture or saved some for you to try, but you will just have to believe me- it was just like a real chef's special.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


     This weekend at the restaurant, I was on a break and playing a solitaire game called 13.  A wonderful lady named Char was sitting at a nearby table.  I think she has a thing for cards.  She came over and wanted to learn how to play.  It was pretty easy so I taught her and she went back to eating her dinner. 
     After she finished she taught me how to play a game called 31.  We closed the restaurant and together with her husband Don and my friend Shirla, we had a blast!
     Today, I taught my daughters how to play.  Sarah has really been having a hard time practicing her addition facts.  She is pretty good at math concepts, but memorization is not her thing.  Well, we had so much fun that she didn't even know that she was doing "math". 
     Thirty one is a simple draw and discard game for 2-9 players.  If they can add to 31, they can play. Each player tries to collect cards of a single suit that get as close to 31 points as possible.  Aces are worth 11, face cards are worth 10 and all other cards are worth their face value.  Deal 3 cards to each player and the next card is placed face up as a discard pile. Only the top card can be used on each turn.  Player one looks at the discard pile and decides if he/she can use the top card.  If not, then she draws and again determines if it is a card she would like to keep.  She then needs to decide which card to discard.  You can only have three cards at any one time.
    When you believe that your hand has a greater value than your playmates you can choose to "knock" instead of drawing a card.  The other players have one last chance to get their hands up to snuff.  When the turn comes back to the "knocked" player all must display their hand.  Whoever has the lowest score must place a marker (each player starts with 4 - penny, bead or any other token) in the center.  
     Then the cards are reshuffled and it all starts again and continues until all players but one have lost their tokens.
     Some players call it sitting on the bus, 4 tokens and you're sitting in the back, 3 tokens and you're sitting in the middle, 2 tokens you are sitting in the front, 1 token you're on the steps getting off and zero tokens takes you off the bus and out of the game.


heartK-heart8-heart5: value 23 (sum of all 3 cards)
spadeQ-diamond9-diamond8: value 17 (9 + 8)
clubA-spade6-spade4: value 11 (the ace is worth more than the spades)
clubJ-heart7-spade4: value 10 (the jack)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Long Distance Romance

Harry and I met online way back when nobody even knew what that meant. Back then only 14% of Americans had any internet access. (Now days over 85% have access) In 1996, he was working for Apple Computers in Santa Clara and I was in the mountains of Colorado working for Apple's online community called: 
eWorld logo

I was also finishing up my divorce and feeling very alone when the children were at their dad's house.  It was so very nice to be far away in the mountains but connected by the web to somebody as nice as Harry.
He had told me that he was an artist.  I told him that I had written a children's book and would love an illustrator. We decided that we would work together.  What happened instead was the beginning of a great friendship.  We would spend hours and hours talking on the phone or through IM's online.  Every morning, I would wake up to a sweet email from him.  It was so nice to get to know him before I really ever met him.

Harry says that he knew almost right away that we would get married.  I think, because of my recent divorce, it took me a bit longer.  I'm glad he hung around until I was ready.

Fifteen years later we are once again in a long distance relationship... well sorta.   I manage a small restaurant up in the mountains. I usually leave home Thursday afternoons and come home way past bed time on Sunday night (or if it snows, early Monday morning). It is hard to be away from family life and my little ones, 8 and 10 years old.  For survival, I make myself NOT think about what I’m missing. I put in 14 hour days and call usually once a day. I work and then sleep- then go back to work.  I do nothing else.

What makes this even close to tolerable is that I home-school Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The girls are with me the entire time. I don’t have to share them with a teacher or babysitter. I get to see the “a-ha!” moments when they finally understand a math concept. I get to be there when they want to cuddle.

I do miss the days when we could afford for me to be a stay-at-home mom. I miss eating every dinner together, doing home improvement projects and going to the zoo with the family.  What we do is not perfect, but it works for us.