Monday, December 25, 2006

Gift Giving

This has been a particularly good Christmas though it had its mishaps. Allison found some of her presents that were hidden in my closet and I inadvertently found Ryan's gift to me. I was cleaning and discovered a vase of roses tucked under his bathroom sink. I puzzled over it for awhile before deciding they were a gift to him from his girl friend and he must have hidden them away for some reason. Maybe he had friends over and was afraid of getting teased? Well since they were so pretty I set them out on the vanity. Later in the afternoon he came to me complaining that I found his gift to me, what a snoop I was, and how he had planned to set them on my nightstand before Christmas morning. Whoops.

We had Christmas dinner at Sara's where the adults got a little silly on wine and everybody started the "I love you guys, you're so great" gushing. I'm almost always the one three glasses behind everyone else so the love-fest was pretty amusing to behold. Everybody was too busy hugging and chattering away to notice the fire in the dining room. As Beau tells it, he saw flames erupt on the buffet where candles had set the garland afire. He hollered to cousin Joe to get a fire extinguisher before he saw me begin to put out the fire with my bare hands like an idiot. No, I had dinner napkins I'd grabbed off the table and started snuffing out the fire burning my fingers rather than wait for the extinguisher because the flames might by then be out of control. And who really knows how to operate a fire extinguisher? Tiona's husband, Troy joined in with douses of water from glasses on the table. Joe came on next with the extinguisher which put a complete end to any flaming and covered the desserts in a fine white dust.

Beau thought it funny to make fun of my napkin fire-snuffing attempt up against the sure-fire results of the extinguisher which I took offense to with, Jeeze, what about my unconscious bravery, my quick-thinking reaction? I guess the vision of me using puny napkins to put out a fire followed by Joe's welding the fire-extinguisher was akin to the Crocodile Dundee, "Ya think that's a knife mate? Here's a knife!"

What's it take to be a hero to my kid? It takes quite a lot to impress Beau, I guess. I wanted to be mad at him, but this is the same kid who yesterday spent four hours at my request to help Sara unbox, move, and assemble his cousin, Lucy's, new bedroom furniture. He and Ryan along with Robert,
Allison, me, and Sara worked hard to give Lucy and extreme makeover bedroom. I was proud of them. And he is the same kid who presented me with an expensive gift card for a spa visit where I can get a much-needed massage. And the kid who frequently steals up behind me to give me a hug, and always ends his phone calls with, "I love you, Mom." I love all my men, but they really do enjoy giving me a hard time. They all claim it's just too easy to get a rise out of me.
Speaking of presenting gifts, Robert accomplished a great fake-out where my gift was concerned. It was obvious the biggest box under the tree was my Apple monitor, ("Let's be practical." Remember?) but I didn't count on another, much smaller box containing huge diamond stud earrings. I have been gifted very generously this year by my men. And I'm not talking about presents.

My Big Brother

I snapped these photos tonight at our family Christmas get-together at Sara's. The younger set is Beau and Allison, and of course that is Robert with his sister, Sara. I can't help thinking about how lucky a girl is to have a big brother.

Assembly required

21 years and counting of late-night pre-Christmas assembly. Robert is our hero.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Folly of the Perfect Gift

Countdown to Christmas. Allison's hamster is on hold at aunt Sandy's pet store. Everything else is either wrapped, shipped, stuffed in my closet or behind the laundry hamper (God forbid anyone look there!) or hidden behind twelve years of bankers boxes full of bank stubs in the basement. (Pardon the alliteration.) I may have hidden things other places, which I'll find at Easter time.

As usual Robert and I have waited till the last minute to shop for each other. We always play the "Oh, let's not buy anything big for each other" game where he always cheats and surprises me with something wonderful. Funny I never catch on. Nice for me that Robert suffered in his youth a humiliation so profound that it would forever cement his gift giving protocol with women. You see, when Robert was twelve he made the unforgivable mistake of presenting his mother with a mop as her Christmas gift. It was the Miracle Mop and he truly believed he was giving her something she'd appreciate. When she broke down crying, "This is what you think of me?" he was so mortified with shame that I get things like furs and jewelry every year when what I really want is appliances and tableware. Our early married years were frugal. Everything we had was second hand and I know this sounds unbelievable, but we didn't possess a microwave oven for a least four years. I actually heated milk and baby food on the stove like in ancient times, but I had two fur coats I didn't want, a small diamond necklace and plenty of perfume.

So a couple decades later I can't even think of anything else to cram into this house. We have it all. But Christmas demands you think of something to want. And besides world peace I'm really stretching. Okay, maybe a bigger Apple monitor. I'd like to buy Robert his very own personal computer, but I hesitate because he keeps warning me, "nothing expensive." Then this morning as he made breakfast it hit me what I would do.

Ever since Robert has returned from Steve's palatial Florida home he has been telling me about all Steve's neat stuff. Steve has done extremely well for himself and only outfits his home in the very best. On the third or fourth night there Robert phoned me and before hello he asked:
"What is the thread count on our sheets?"
"What?,"I said, stunned at hearing Robert utter a phrase I believed was unknown to him before his trip. "Um, three hundred, I think."
"Only three hundred? Are you sure it's not a thousand, because that's what Steve's are and I swore ours were too and he said he doubted that. Okay, thanks, bye."

It became a running joke with them to compare and contrast their stuff. We being the "low" design and Steve being "high." Mercedes trumps Chevy Tahoe. Sub-Zero trumps Kenmore. Armani trumps Old Navy. They are best friends from college so this was fun and amusing to them. Robert loves Steve like a brother and rejoices in his fortune. I know that's true because Robert is very unmaterialistic and satisfied. It's me and the kids that eat up our resources. Still, when Robert returned home he was full of wonder for Steve's neat stuff which he related to me in detail because it was fun to do so. But he was quick to tell me he's perfectly happy with our station in life and our cozy home. Up until that moment I was believing we were living pretty well, but that was before being reminded of those driven ones who raise the bell curve and make the rest of us feel like underachievers. Normally they're not in my orbit so I don't notice our lack and I live contentedly.

Anyway, back to this morning and the idea of the Christmas gift. As Robert pushed the toaster knob down he blurted, "Steve has this toaster, I think it's called Viking, and it makes toast perfect--every inch of the bread gets toasted perfectly." I stared at him for a minute, at his goofy excited expression. Wow, that's really nice, I said, but I was really thinking, Something by Viking I think I can afford. Alright buster, you're getting a toaster for Christmas.

So I headed to the Plaza to the kitchen specialty stores where I discovered none carried the magnificent 300 dollar Viking toaster. I actually heard myself saying, "Well then, give me your most expensive toaster." That's right, You heard me right. Nothing but the best for him. I'm thinking I'll put together a kitchen package. A few chef knives, a griddle, an apron and a big spoon and then I'm going to say, "Get in that kitchen, man, and cook me something!"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

An Chlann

Where do I start? So much happening. Robert returned from his trip down the the east coast by boat and then five days visiting his old friend in Naples, Florida. Although he had a great time he claims to be cured of the the desire to buy his own boat. I'm actually happy to hear that. I don't particularly like boats, open water, or the idea of a boat payment. I like mountains. Maybe we can divert that imaginary money to my dream cabin in the Rockies. Meanwhile, we have plenty of possessions and matters begging to be taken care of, like our leaky roof and Ryan's exorbitant dental expenses (8 cavities, 4 wisdom teeth.)

I finally finished the video project for my friend, Carol, that I have been working on for two months. It combined interviews, photos (old and new), animated text, music, and hundreds of transitions. I built it in Final Cut Pro. The process was similar to making a piece of art: assembling the materials and arranging them in a creative fashion. It gave me a lot of pleasure to create the movie and more to hand it over. Carol was genuinely moved by it. I hope it's a testament to my creativity in editing, but the subject matter had a great hand in her perception of the piece since it's all about her family's heritage. The story it told was of a family's roots and character. It condensed into 42 minutes the journey of several generations. We learn of two members fleeing the potato famine in Ireland to suffer the strenuous passage over the Atlantic, to start anew in America, to struggle to make lives, to raise children, to become Americans, to cut a path for future generations.

That subject matter ensures a movie with strong emotional impact. That is why I loved making it. To take hundreds of individual lives and compress that into essentially a "statement" elevates the emotional impact. It's what storytelling does, organize and make sense of the past and offer a theme. For this family the theme was courage, perseverance and love--three elements sure to bring out the tears. Carol and I both wept through its making. All I know is that I'm hooked and want to continue creating this very product for other families. I call it a product, but it's really like making a lovely family portrait.

The other things that are keeping me busy I'll save to explain for another day. I'll close with this Irish blessing:

Dear Lord,
Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am
Keep ever burning before my vagrant steps
the kindly light of hope
And though I come not within sight
of the castle of my dreams,
teach me to be thankful for life
and for time's olden memories
that are good and sweet
And may the evening's twilight
find me gentle still

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I am not Old

Where have I been? Here, but preoccupied. I'm working diligently on wrapping up my friend, Carol's, video project. She cries every time she views it, so I guess it's going well. It takes a lot more time than anybody could imagine. To work on it is to enter an alternate universe, a deep void that I must jump into at the expense of my "real life." I spent so much time in the chair that I wrenched my lower back and that hurt for days. Actually, the wrench probably occurred when I decided to clean out the garage and basement thus throwing my sedentary body into shock.

I had to take a break from all that to catch things up at work (I've only made a dent since I only go in twice a week.) There were months worth of materials and tasks waiting for me. So more sitting. While my travels have come to an end Robert is still away on his boat trip. He and the crew made it down the east coast from Chesapeake Bay to Florida. He phones me daily with reports. When they landed in Titusville they unexpectedly saw the space shuttle launch. I can't imagine a better position to have viewed it. When they reached Palm Beach or (Miami?) he left for his friend's house in Naples where he'll visit for a few days before returning Friday. Besides fun, they are talking business. Hopefully, Steve's Midas touch will rub off on Robert and we'll become multi-millionares and have a yacht of our very own. Or not.

I've been sick the past two days with what I believe is food poisoning (I'm blaming McDonalds.) I feel crummy from the inside out. Nobody much knows because I'm not one of those people who wants to tell you all about my health problems. No sir. Because that would mean I've passed into that middle-aged stage where health issues begin to dominate conversation. I'm also not going to talk about beauty and cosmetic procedures because that would also signal I'm getting old and besides I believe in the power of mystery. Does she or doesn't she?

I've decided to be sick is to be old. And to be old is to be ugly and I'm having none of that. Used to be I barely minded being occasionally ill, but now when dull-headedness and achiness and weariness set in I start thinking, "what if this never went away? What if this is what old is?" Normally, I never give this subject much thought but things around me seem to beg the question. Robert's dad is in and out of the hospital fighting one ailment after another where the matter of going to the bathroom becomes fodder for public discussion ( Can he or can't he?) My own friends are beginning to do that thing we swore we'd never do: freely discuss health problems ( bad knees, arthritis, unexplained pain.)

Sara lent me a book by Nora Ephron she says is a good read, It's titled: I Feel Bad About My Neck" It's an old lady's lament of
growing old and ugly. Although it was essentially depressing observations veiled in humor, I read it as a book intended for "others," those post-menopausal women I certainly cannot imagine relating to. My wicked delight came in the thought that I have at least 20 good years before reaching their sad pinnacle. And then I ran to schedule my Botox appointment.

Yesterday I threw away what I thought was a mistakenly addressed piece of mail to Robert. It was from the AARP. I was unaware that at 50 he qualifies. I'm only four years away myself. Jeeze. It seems like the world is conspiring to make me feel old.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Hawk's View

We had a big snowstorm that kept me from walking a couple of days. When it did get warmer again I trekked out on my usual path on the golf course though now it was covered in about eight inches of snow. I struggled along the path thinking how snow shoes might be interesting to try, or even my cross-country skis, but already the snow was getting sticky. That's the thing about our winters, the snow rarely stays long.

The next day I walked again. This time I carried my camera hoping to catch a shot of a large hawk I'd seen out the window. I headed out on my path, but there were lots of icy patches from the melt. I found myself concentrating so hard of my footing that I rarely looked up to find the bird. I also found my footprints from the previous day. It seemed smart to try to use them again so with every step I tried to place my feet into the pre-cast footpath thus avoiding snow up my pantlegs. This seemed to work fair enough for awhile until I realized the flaws in this plan. Apparently, the day before, I walked with a lot more gusto; my strides were greater, probably due to my delight at finally getting outside. And now, the concentration and effort to match every footprint was becoming tedious. Wait, was that the left foot or right?

So I'm forging ahead, eyes honing in on the next step, the next step, never developing my own rhythm because I'm following my own footsteps of yesterday. I try to perfect my stride, to aim for perfect touch-down into each footprint mold thinking I'll catch the rhythm. But the aim for accuracy reduces speed making each next step a harder reach, and I'm getting tired and even a little dizzy, but I keep on, now in a determined trans-fixed state. Step, next step, oops, missed that one, where's the next? I'm pinning my camera against my body with one arm, so there goes my balance.

Somewhere halfway around I finally become aware that this is all very unpleasant. Not just the effort, because I secretly welcome physical effort, but the sensation I'm now aware of: the sensation of the unnatural. I'm intensely focusing on footprints made by me, by the me who walked here yesterday. I'm struggling to follow the footsteps of my ghost. I've walked this path a dozen years and the sameness never bothered me. A person may drive the same path to work, walk the same hall year after year, but never so precisely the same as what I was attempting to do--walk my exact footsteps. There was something unnerving in that. It made me feel like I was an echo of yesterday's self, following my yesterday self down this path. Which one is more real?

It gave me plenty to think about the rest of the way back, after I abandoned my old steps and crunched in the new. In the end I reduced it to this: If you could go back in time you wouldn't like it because of the creepiness factor of looking ahead at your old self. Better that all your steps are fresh.

Here's the hawk.

Please don't phone me

We are having a phone problem--as in can't find one in the whole house that works. I'm finding myself running across the house to answer the only reliable one left--the old rotary pay phone. The previous owners left it as it was, installed on the family room wall. (It was a collector's piece; our house isn't that old.)

In the meantime our cell phones die, our answering machines go glitchy and the handheld phones get lost or thrown in anger. I get so tired of keeping up with the gadgets and the batteries. But, I may get more tired of the up and down of running to answer the one or two phones that work.

I searched the house for any working phones to bring into the
central area of the house, the kitchen. One bedroom has an attached wall phone. Another has a (what's the part called that you hold in your hand? I'm sure the term escapes me because it is on it's way to becoming extinct and everyone justs hands it to you and says, "here's the phone", so I forget what you call it-- the handset?) that lets you hear but not speak. The kitchen phone is DOA and things are loose and tumbling around in the (handset thing again), slammed down one time too many. I dug up an old novelty from the boy's room's upstairs--a little red sports car.
It works best of all of them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Night and Day

Here's something I rarely see: A sunrise. I caught it this morning as I returned from dropping Robert off at the airport. We had to leave at 4:00am to get there for his 6:00am flight. Knowing I would be rising in the middle of the night I decided to stay up. Funny, I'm not tired--yet. I might as well keep awake; I can make Beau breakfast before he goes to work. That would be a first. I've never been known as the breakfast lady. Poor family. I never liked to eat in the morning--why should anyone else? Unless it's a donut, then I'm there. Now if you want a late-night snack, fresh-baked brownies at 11:00, I'm your girl. I taught Robert how to make biscuits and gravy. Over the years he mastered great gravy and with constant praise and positive reinforcement he was lured into wearing the breakfast hat forevermore. (By the way, I made the best french onion/steak soup last night.)

Robert is headed to the Chesapeake Bay for a little ride on his sister's boat. They are taking it to Miami. I'd say lucky him, but I imagine it will be a mighty cold ride. They estimate the trip to take 10 days. I imagine all but one, the last one where they reach southern Florida, will be awfully cold. He is so excited though; it will be great fun for him.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Drop in the Bucket

Our nice fall weather turned nasty today; Rain turned to icy pellets which the evil wind then threw into your face after it blew your umbrella inside out. Well, at least it makes coming home to a warm, cozy house that much more inviting. After fighting the elements trying to get groceries in, Allison and I both sighed and exclaimed to the kitchen: "Oh thank you, warm house." As I was straightening up she went into the family room to play. Moments later she came scrambling into the kitchen saying something about something jumping under the coffee table. I went to have a look and discovered a puzzling white mush. What? It took a few moments for me to comprehend that it was wet ceiling texture. I looked up to see a soggy spot of ceiling near the skylight. Oh lovely. It's really a lot worse this year, maybe so bad that we have to do something besides put a bucket under the leak. And in the next thirty seconds I was renting ladders scraping the popcorn texture from the 20 foot ceiling (we always hated that stuff--is now the opportunity to get rid of it?) Would I use a big putty knife or is there a special tool for that, and I'd need to wear a hat because it will get all in my hair, in fact, wouldn't I have to remove all the furniture first and lay down a tarp, and is there asbestos in that?

All Robert's framed golf flags will have to come off the walls so I can paint since now would be a good time, but then why not refinish the woodwork around the windows though there are quite a lot of them and they are all about 16 feet high, so again, the ladders. But first I 'd need to pull down the old peeling wallpaper (always hated that too); isn't there a special tool for that? I scooped up the white mush and eyed the soggy spot again. Maybe nobody will notice.

While Robert spent his day at his office, Allison and I paid Beau a visit at his business today with the intention of helping somehow. Where to start? While he worked the tire machine, Allie and I got out the industrial mop and bucket and went to work. I tidied up his counter. That was about it. I couldn't muster up the focus and energy required to really do some good, mainly because the job requires pure dirty labor. I need work clothes, boots, gloves, disinfectant, commercial grade cleaning appliances, paint, and hours and hours of time. I'd have to get a running start and not look back. I just finished a run like that through my own house where I could have used a holster to pack my vacuum attachments. In fact, this morning I ridded of the boxes and bags of toys and clothes I had organized and packed on my cleaning spree earlier this week. I helped the driver (for the charity) haul the stuff to his truck. I threw in the toddler bed which I helped him carry up from our basement, plus some other large items. I guess when I got to Beau's I wasn't in the mood for more work.

So I offered the support that comes from just showing up. And even better, a hot meal when he got home. I got a big hug. Allison wants five bucks for her part in mopping.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Beau is making progress getting his business ready to open. I went down to check on him and get the tour since I've been away since September. I think it is very impressive. He has painted giant checkers on the warehouse and had a chain link fence installed around the grounds. The road and parking lot have been re-asphalted and the scraggly brush has been torn away from the front of the building though a few bunches of lettuce have popped up where Kenny, our live-in sign painter had his try at a garden. An office has been constructed inside with new cabinetry that Beau tried to stain himself. I said I'd help straighten that up.

His computer terminal and phone are up (921-TIRES) as well as the obligatory hot rod poster, this one personally signed by the scantily-dressed girl who straddles the car, something like, "You're hot!," a souvenir from the Las Vegas SEMA (stuff for cars) convention. The warehouse is filling with tires and wheels and new equipment like a wheel balancer . He's named his wheel and tire business, ROBO'S, a combination of letters from his name and his father's. It was actually the idea of Taylor, my little 16 year old friend, and the symbol or mascot, I guess, is a robot of sorts that Ryan's friend Jake created. A community effort.
I think it works.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Thanksgiving Homecoming

We are back home. This month marks a year since we began our extended vacation. I'm a little tired to write much more than it feels good to be home--that is, after I made it my home again. I couldn't rest until I was comfortable and that meant getting my house into shape. I felt compelled to reintroduce myself to practically every object in my house by giving it a good dusting and clean-up. Hello grimy salt shaker. Glad everyone was too busy to notice me acting like a merry maid-on-speed because I'm sure I looked obsessive with my swifter and the vacuum attachment..

Robert thinks my laying hands on everything is some way of reclaiming my house again. I think he may be right. I also think there is some little magic going on--some transference of energy, as if every thing I handle becomes a little bit alive and connected to me. Every object tells me its history until one by one a whole story is retold. Then I feel secure and real. Then I can rest.

Well, not entirely--Thanksgiving is at my house, tomorrow. I've got my tables set, my stuffing in the refrigerator, and the turkey brining in one half of the kitchen sink. I'm thoroughly enjoying myself in the preparations although, again, I'm glad people don't witness the meticulousness behind my methods. It would translate as obsessive how I spend hours creating tablescapes, arranging branches and pinecones and little acorns. But the results! Today I loved every moment of it. I loved working in my kitchen while enjoying the view outside. Today was an incredible sunny warm day. Allison and her cousin, Lucy, explored the grounds around the house. Golfers were out like gluttons amazed to be catching such a lucky break. They moved in an energized pace like they were rushing to steal the day. I watched them buzz by on their carts grinning and high-spirited while I stood equally exuberant at my sink polishing silver wearing Robert's old golf glove (because that's all I could find.) Each one of us, no doubt, was feeling equally content and lucky to be here.

And while all this goes on Robert's father is in the hospital fighting a failing kidney. He won't make it to Thanksgiving dinner, but the prognosis today was encouraging. Dialysis is now in his future. He always seems to pull through whatever is out to get him. Meanwhile, many miles away my brother just welcomed his fourth child. I kid him that about his little Mormon family ( they are not) with their children named Kaleb, Adlai, Rebecca, and now, Josiah.

I am remembering the people we have lost through the years and sorry they aren't here to share in the holiday, my favorite holiday, but I am happy, so happy for all the little comforts, big and little, I have.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Witnessing the Moose Crossing

I was in Frisco today and struck up a conversation with a girl who turns out happens to live just a street below me in Wildernest. For some reason the subject of wildlife on the mountain came up and I shared with her that I have rarely seen much of it. She exclaimed that she sees moose almost every day on the same road that I travel. These three moose always barrel across Twenty Grand Road when she returns from work. They prefer to come out at dusk or in heavy snow she said. She told me a story about how a friend who was walking his dogs got chased by a moose all the way to a neighbor's door where he pounded on the door to be let in to safety. His dogs scattered. Then, unbelievably, the moose started butting at the door still in pursuit of the man.

It happened that it was late afternoon when Allie and I made our grocery run at the Frisco Safeway. We lingered there at the in-store Starbucks since I was in no rush to return home. I've been a little homebound these past few days--a combination of intense work editing my friend's video project and a major snow drop with furious winds that have caused a white-out. Drinking a chai tea latte while Allison dipped into a cup of whipped cream seemed pretty entertaining after my long days in the condo.

Anyway, as we heading for home up Buffalo Mountain Road and turned onto Twenty Grand, incredibly, we saw the three moose. They did just like my new friend said, they charged across the road in front of my car and down into the lower woods. We were astonished.
I did not take this photo.

Warning: Bright Sunshine Ahead

Besides its natural beauty, the best thing I like about the Colorado Rockies is its attitude. It's like a gentle giant. Maybe it's the sunshine, so much of it, almost all the time. You find yourself smiling a lot. Last week I was driving the Interstate down the mountains toward Denver, smiling, passing old mining towns with cute names like: Silver Plume, Downieville, Idaho Springs, when I came across an unusual (to me) message on a huge LED sign. The streaming text read:
Bright Sunshine Ahead.

I know it's a warning, but it gave me a chuckle. I couldn't snap a photo of it so here's an example of the type of sign I'm talking about. Usually it throws out an air of dead serious importance. Amber Alert. Nuclear Holocaust Ahead. Not, Don your sunglasses it's a little bright today. Another sign warns:
Truckers. Don't be fooled. Steep grade next 6 miles.
A little cheeky for DOT standards I think. It it makes you wonder about the seriousness of other signage. Like the one that reads:
Retract Your Sunroofs. Falling Rocks Ahead.
No, that's me joshing you.
But since the conformance to standards seems to be getting more casual by the day it should seem no surprise that whomever is programming these LED messages feels free to take a little creative license. The next image I found online is a joke...or maybe not. It's probably sited on a street corner in San Francisco.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Taken on the same day

It's been unseasonably warm the past few days. I think a record was set yesterday. I even opened up the windows to air out the house. This is how Buffalo Mountain looked in the early afternoon as I drove over Swan Mountain Road over Lake Dillon.

In the few minutes it took me to return from Dillon to pick up Allie at school the mountains became shrouded in clouds and by the time I pulled into the garage this is what it looked like.

Windows are now closed, gas fireplace full-on. We'll probably wake up to a foot of snow.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good intentions

I'm normally not a bad cook, but something about the high altitude has done me in. The final straw--my attempt to bake a cake from scratch. All that trouble for this pathetic mess. At least the batter was delicious.

I have to get back in practice since I'm hosting Thanksgiving back home. We'll be returning to home for good. (Or at least Allison and I since Robert has hardly been here.) I'll be driving back two days before Thanksgiving so I'll have barely time to prepare.

I have been putting a lot of thought into my tablescape. I have an idea to suspend decorated aspen branches over the table in a kind of alpine theme. Today I set out to steal a few branches from somewhere inconspicuous. My first thought was the Gore Forest behind my condo, but I couldn't imagine hauling my harvest down the mountain, not to mention it is probably a criminal offense; and it certainly would have been super premeditated since I purchased the saw this morning after dropping Allie off at school. Then, as I was coming down Buffalo Mountain Drive, I noticed a pile of newly-cut trees on a house construction site. Who could object to my sawing off a few branches?

Aspen is by far the softest wood I have ever sawed into. And lightweight too. I hauled away four branches about six or seven feet long. Hopefully, I'll make it home with them and my little decorating dream will be realized. I've been known to think too big when it comes to projects. One summer trip here I had a carpenter friend construct forms to make concrete stepping stones. When we got here I gathered everyone to go down to Blue River to collect river stones. Then we went to the hardware store for concrete. Everyone laid out their stone mosaics on the driveway and waited as I hand-mixed the concrete in a five gallon bucket. I added water and stirred, added more water and stirred. This went on for over an hour as I never got the consistency right. Dusk approached and one by one everyone retreated to the house leaving me and my bucket until finally, I too, gave up. The next morning the bucket of concrete had solidified around my stirring stick turning my whole project into a giant concrete Popsicle.

Besides the cake, my day wasn't a waste. I took a long walk, a pilgrimage really, through Keystone to the playground on the Snake River, a place we have taken our boys through the years. I had someone's birthday to remember. That little someone sat on this very slide so many years ago.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Men, again

Robert, Beau, and his friend, Luke, flew in for the weekend. They stopped over on their return from a convention in Las Vegas. Robert is helping Beau set up his business and Luke (who is actually Ryan's best friend) is basically apprenticing with us. The visit was short, but sweet. They all enjoyed sleeping-in and watching football. We miss having men around, although, they eat a lot and mess up the place.

BTW, Beau is actually 6 ft tall. It's Luke that is the giant!

Thursday, November 02, 2006


I am convinced the worst way to wake up is when you are in the middle of a dream in which you are either being humiliated, caught, or revealed for your true faulted and failing character before you have time in the dream to defend or redeem yourself. The ugly dread follows you out of bed to the kitchen where you hope the ritual of brewing coffee will dissolve the dark aura. But it hangs with you in the shower where you recite the stupid things you've said to someone when you were thirteen or thirty. It shines florescent in the mirror reflecting back a defective form, one that is all your fault. If only I were different, better, braver.
Oh well. You get dressed. You tie your shoes.

It was on this bleak current that I left the house to take my daughter to school. Then I went on a long walk to shake off the rotten mantra of I'm-such-a-loser. Long walks are my salvation. I am not alone in this sentiment. I read somewhere that walking in natural surroundings is healing because it connects us with nature. And more, the rhythms of the brain respond to the limbs in motion as a form of mobile meditation. Serious walkers, those of us who walk for our psychological survival, know this. The magic occurs as the negative mantra falls mute to the stimulus of the outdoors--to God's creation.

But today I was hardened and troubled and inattentive. The walk was just an exercise in discipline. And it made me feel more alone--until I went to school; Allison's school, to read with the second graders on my Thursday. I walked the long hall wearing my good-mother smile when I beheld the new exhibit on the bulletin board outside her classroom. Poems framed in colored paper. Little expressions from little people praising dogs and sunshine and playing and friends written with the exquisite simplicity of second graders living in a time when you pretty much love yourself and everybody unconditionally. A time when the meaning of life is bound up with interpersonal relationships. Maybe that's my problem--I'm too voluntarily isolated. Failure to integrate.

Then I found my own daughter's composition. At first I thought, Oh no, she's a philosopher. Oh doom. But as I stared at her words, her little crayon landscape, I was softened with pride and protectiveness. How does a little person know so much? And if she is part of me, part of the continuance of my essence, how do I negate her predisposition to this soulful view of life, of our world? My responsibility to her is to embrace her proclivity for soulfulness and forgive myself for belittling mine.

by Allison ______

I sleep beneath the clouds
I wonder beneath the stars
I am at peace
I think to myself what a wonderful world I could be in today

Monday, October 30, 2006

Trick-or-Treat Rocky Mountain Style

A big snow storm in the middle of the week dropped enough snow to cause school closings for the first time in five years. We had a four day weekend as a result. Today it was sunny and warm with highs near 50 degrees. While Allison was in Sunday School I took a walk around Frisco and saw people everywhere out enjoying the weather: A bike rider in shorts, people strolling Frisco's main street, people sunning on their porches. The oddest sight was a shirtless fellow in dred-locks videotaping himself petting his hairless cat on his front porch. (I tried not to stare.)

Good thing the weather was mild because tonight was the night Silverthorne celebrates Halloween by trick-or-treating the outlet stores. It's a tradition that evolved here and is nothing like the Halloween I remember growing up in the suburbs where we took a pillowcase, joined up with other neighborhood kids and disappeared into the night. Of course, here, they have the snow and cold and terrain to contend with and since less than 4000 people live in Silverthorne and something like 60% of the homes are frequently vacant vacation homes, the outlet stores make a safe setting.

I don't believe there is a retail development in a more beautiful setting than this. We meander on paths along the Blue River with mountains in every direction. We cross wooden bridges lit with white twinkle lights over the babbling river to collect candy from all the storekeepers. Then everyone meets up at the community Pavilion for hot chocolate and a performance from the community symphony dressed in ghoulie garb. All too charming.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The fox out-foxed

This red fox had a no luck digging out lunch, but we felt we'd hit the jackpot just being ringside to the show.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


A super sunny day melts the icicles away.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Now I know why we haven't seen a bear since we've been here: We aren't leaving our garage door open at night. I learned from the second graders during reading time today (I volunteer on Thursdays) that the best hope for seeing a bear is to leave your trash cans accessible because that's what brings the illusive bear to the open. You learn a lot from second graders, sometimes more than you need.

Once when we were living at my aunt's house because we didn't have anywhere to live because my parents were getting divorced, a bear got into the trash...

I told them we saw a fox this morning on our way to school. He was trying to snatch some little creature out of a hole in the snow.

I saw a fox once at my mom's boyfriend's house...

Let's just get back to the book, shall we?, I say.

School chums

I'm posting this photo of Allison with her school friends. They remind me of little Southpark kids with their winter woolies.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Moose alert

It may be a challenge to hike Lily Pad Trail today as it's snowing and 22 degrees this morning. Yesterday we woke up to snow that melted completely away by 2:00 p.m. followed by bright sunshine for about two hours before another snowstorm came through this time dropping big wet flakes that melted on contact with the ground. So this morning the wet ground had turned to ice making travel down the mountain a little slippery. I think autumn has passed and we are into winter.

Wait...I just saw three moose outside my window in the meadow below. I tried to get a few snapshots before they wandered away. There is a watering hole down there and occasionally you will see moose, or is it meece? These big creatures were nibbling from the tops of whatever shrubs are in the meadow. Now they've lumbered off back into the woods.

I wish sometimes that instead of experiencing wilderness through the comfortable home base of our condo we could instead be living more intimately with the natural world. It is almost embarrassing to make statements like, "We saw a red fox in the parking lot of the outlet mall in Silverthorne." How I wish I could get closer, not only to observe these creatures, but to feel them, their presence. I think that is why I like hiking. It is the closest I come to being part of the natural world. But again, I feel mildly frustrated and disappointed for being on a touristy trail that animals have long since avoided. I guess I'm taking baby steps, getting familiar with my surroundings until I feel confident to cut a wider swath.

All of us can envy the individuals who opt out of the rat race to live authentic lives in nature. It's just difficult to be a Thoreau when you have others depending on you. And even the naturalist writer, David Peterson, who for over 25 years has lived an almost monastic life in an isolated cabin in Colorado, admits to worrying about finances as he grows older and less physically capable. Maybe he wishes he'd earned a little money before he thumbed his nose at society. He may need health care and expensive meds in the years to come.

The key is balance. Maybe this temporary mountain vacation retreat away from my "real life" is as close as someone like me can get to living what Thoreau called a "border life," living as an intelligent balance as possible between the material and spiritual, nature and culture. From the comfort of my condo window I watch wildlife and imagine the world in the pines. Only on my hikes do I feel less a spectator and more a participant. Every time I walk my trail I grow more familiar with the landmarks. I meander through the boulder field, cross over two log bridges, pass the first beaver pond, ascend the flat ridge before the second lake, pass the resting spot where the Steller Jays have learned to scout for picnickers' crumbs, and when I see the crooked pine that Allison says looks like a chair in the middle of the path I grin because I feel we know each other now that I've named it.

I can only snatch little dreamlike insights into that world. What would it feel like to build your own home with your own hands with materials you scrounged from the woods? What would it feel like to retreat from the world and make a life among what in some ways is the true world? Like David Peterson, I inherently believe that the natural world is the only valid place for spirituality. But creature of the modern world that I am, I don't know if I could give up enough of the comforts of my world to be true to my true self.

I'll always romanticize the idea of living on the edge of civilization. Why some of us are drawn to the idea I could hypothesize endlessly. Why for some children do books like, My Side of the Mountain, and Gary Paulson's, Hachet make deep lasting impressions? For years after reading My Side of the Mountain, I dreamed about finding a hollowed out tree for which to hide out. Of course I would collect and make things to adorn my hideaway because I am a nester and decorator at heart. I'd have calico curtains, and a feather bed and carved pine table and soon I'd be venturing back to society to collect little improvements for my den and eventually I'd ruin the whole purpose of my retreat. Such is the allure of material things to a modern woman like me.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Getting to know you

America today reached the 300 mark. The 300 million mark in population, that is. Okay, that's plenty. Let's now try to concentrate on keeping what resources we have plentiful for the lucky ones that are here. That bias revealed, I return to my observations on the subject of what being an American means.

Having lived in the homogeneous white American suburbs all my life it's no surprise I am fascinated when I encounter people speaking other languages. Truthfully, I am often uneasy. Most commonly it is Spanish, but here in the ski resort community of Summit County you are likely to hear languages you can't recognize. At the supermarket there are many employees of North Africa who speak Pulaar. They are very dark-skinned and I guessed, in my ignorance, that they were Nigerian. I have since learned they are North Africans who fled their country of Mauritania due to political unrest. There are probably 100 or so here. Although they are Muslim, they are in conflict with the Arabs who for centuries have been pushing the indigenous black Africans out of their homeland--just like every other conflict in the history of man. They have found refuge in Silverthorne working in the service industry alongside the Hispanics.

A couple of years ago, in post 9/11 heightened attention to foreign-born Muslims, authorities raided the Africans' newly-formed mosque looking for two specific illegals. Three individuals were detained. The others were here legally, having been granted political asylum. Some complained to the press of being treated harshly and suspected that their humble mosque (in a rented apartment) provoked the investigation. One one hand, America is trying to take proactive measures against security threats; one the other, innocent individuals get harassed. And although I am sorry for anyone's "harassment," I do believe we have a right to be proactive about security. Foreigners need not get outraged at this. Too bad. Consider any inconvenience or misunderstanding as a right of initiation and be happy to help us root out the bad guys.

I believe the Mauritanian refugees of the City Market are decent people. The gentle Africans who scan and bag my groceries are working hard to make lives of security and peace in America. Seeing them every other day as I pick up milk or bread, I grow more familiar with them. They smile at me and Allison, speak English to us wishing us a good day. At the laundromat where I go to wash an oversized comforter I say hello to two friendly gentlemen busy sorting their laundry. One comments on the snow and I think, Oh, Russian. But I could be wrong. He could be Ukrainian, or Lithuanian, or from Belarus. A mother watching her two small children while folding flannel pajamas and blankets must be Mexican as well as the dark-haired guy washing his work clothes. We are all just people attending to common tasks. Whether we are eating a sandwich next door at the Blue Moon Bakery, or pumping gas, or picking our kids up from school--we're just people. It is really about becoming more familiar. The more we see and understand of each other the less apprehension we have towards one another.

I am sure the refugees from Mauritania are not plotting to overthrow Silverthorne. I'm fairly certain the Mexicans making the beds at the resort hotels aren't trying to bilk the government, and I think the Ukrainian clerks at the gift stores in Breckenridge are here only for the skiing. We all know we have a good thing here in America. Granted, in some places there are pockets of ill-meaning folks like the La Raza groups who want to "reconquer" America for Mexico and we do have a serious illegal immigration issue, but for the most part the immigrants I see are working hard at their jobs adapting well to the American way. They give themselves away by their native languages, but in most other ways they fit in. Nobody here is out waving the flags of their homeland. The only flag-waving I see is that of the Stars and Stripes. New town banners just went up on the major roads through Dillon sporting the single image of the American flag. And the ever faithful Brother Nathaniel, a Jew for Jesus who daily from the intersection of Highway 9 and Wildernest Road blesses the traffic with a crucifix in one hand, occasionally includes a giant American flag in the other. So from my perspective, at least from this little county, it appears that everyone is busy being or becoming an American.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What's the answer?

Once a week, on Thursdays, I volunteer to help with Allison's second grade class. The teacher sends them out in groups for with their chapter books and I listen to them read. What's interesting is to hear the Hispanic children navigate the English. It is obvious from their pronunciation that some learned to read in Spanish first. How difficult it must be to have to think in two languages. But I don't feel sorry for them, I recognize the advantage they have--to be bilingual and to have it be encouraged. There is no longer the stigma to being a second language learner, at least not at Silverthorne Elementary where half the students are Hispanic.

Every notice from the school that comes home is printed in English and Spanish. There is also a Spanish translator at the school to deal with the Hispanic parents. All this is especially interesting to me after spending our time in Mexico with a first grader in Mexican school. We were so lost. There was absolutely no help for her, but we didn't expect any either. Allison really had to integrate break-speed. What I came away with was the experience of being an outsider, a foreigner.

I haven't formed an opinion about any of this. I'm just studying it and wondering which way is best to promote assimilation into American culture. On one hand I think it is kind to make things easier for the Hispanic schoolchildren. Their self esteem and comfort is put foremost. One the other, it takes a lot of money and resources to accommodate them. What I am wondering is if this consideration best serves the nation as a whole, because it doesn't stop with elementary school, it seems to be continuing into common culture. Everywhere there are signs of Spanish taking a front seat next to English. I'm not the first to pay attention to this development, but just a witness to the process of early accommodation in primary grades. But how could we do otherwise? When you have half the student body whose first language is Spanish, how do you ignore their needs?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


The grizzly bear has all but disappeared from Colorado, but there are plenty of black bears, although we've yet to spot one yet--alive. Allison and I spent some time in Frisco today going through historical cabins and the original one-room schoolhouse that serves as a museum for artifacts from the mid 1800's when the town was founded. There is a cute exhibit of the town in miniature along with stuffed specimens of animals indigenous to the region like bears, beavers, eagles, elk, etc.

There is also some nice bronze art like this giant bear with an indian girl.
I think Frisco is my favorite of the towns in Summit County. It seems the most authentic. Plus it has my favorite spot to eat (The Butterhorn) and one of the quaintest main streets of anywhere I've been.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lessons from the forest

"And the fox said, Do not shoot me for I will give you good counsel...."

By far, the most sighted wildlife here has been the red fox. At least every other day we see one in the "neighborhood." They trot around like domestic dogs, quite familiar with man. I imagine they are accustomed to scavenging through our trash. They are beautiful creatures. I can see why they were so hunted at one time. I don't know if it's legal to hunt them now, but I did recently see a red fox pelt in an antique store in Frisco that was priced at $110 dollars.

Mostly what we see are black crows big as cats and very menacing-looking. Stellar Jays are common, but the hummingbirds have migrated south I suppose.I hear there are bears that get into the trash (thus the locks on the community bin) but I've yet to see one.

I've been videotaping the fall scenery and putting together a short video to music. That, and working on Carol's genealogy video project. I spend a lot of time alone which can be very helpful to creativity. That's my strong suit, which is good since I don't have any friends here. Actually, I've always preferred to be alone. I think I'm a much more interesting and nicer person when it's just me! Today was quiet but very satisfying. I walked Lily Pad trail and collected a back pack full of pine cones thinking Allie and I could make something with them. It was kind of eerie with the overcast skies and the wind making the pines moan. I became so obsessed with finding the perfect unweathered pine cones that I became a little disoriented and when the sky suddenly grew dark I got a little spooked. I felt like a Little Red Riding Hood oblivious to what lurked beyond. So that's where the stories began. Now I had an intuitive understanding of the origins of old German fairy tales with the witches, goblins, and wolves. I could see how the world of the forest could draw a mind to frightful imaginations: The tall pines creaking, the wind whistling, the burnt tree stubs looking like black bears, the sky darkening, the sun disappearing, the mist suddenly filling the voids. Eeeeeeeooooh.

All the way home I recalled the tales I read from the Brothers Grimm and wondered how environment truly inspires folklore. My parents weren't German, never read dark bedtime tales to me, but I realize now that the gift of the Brothers Grimm from my aunt when I was 10 made more of an impression than I realized. I read it front to back and remember it being full of scary stories, not like the usual ghost stories around the campfire, but tales based in deeper, psychological themes like abandonment and abuse. These were stories told and read to children through the ages, but even then, as a kid reading then to myself, I thought they were terrifying. What were those Germans trying to impress on their kids? Look out for evil, I suppose. In the peace-loving 70's I couldn't imagine what evil lurked riding my bicycle through our suburban neighborhood till dusk called me home for dinner. Still, those fairy tales worked their way into my subconscious.

I've learned since that modern psychologists have theorized that those stories are myths that represent our emotional angst and Freudian hang-ups. They believe the tales speak to us about our struggles to become fully human. So when I was ten reading about Hansel and Gretel almost becoming a witch's dinner, I believed it was their due for their greed and gullibility. How was I supposed to know it was a study in object relations and maternal cannibalism? I just thought those stories were warnings to children about the dangers of wandering away from home and talking to strangers. That much is easy to understand--especially if you've been in the deep dark forest.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Call me a worrier, but....

I am in a anxious state of mind, tempted to say, "What is happening to America?" Is it in a true demise? Am I a witness to the decline of our culture once thought to be so noble, so endowed, so promising; now so hated by the world? Yes, we are hated and it takes my breath away and rocks my core belief system. Bad enough that outsiders hate us, but when we are producing such an epidemic of self-haters that turn the gun on others before annihilating themselves--well you have to wonder.

This week: More school shootings, massacres even, as in the case of an Amish town in Pennsylvania. Along with the usual pervert scandals in government (Congressman sends lurid e-mails to young male pages) the world seems like it's going to hell in a hand-basket.

Is there any place left untouched by human perversity? The Amish in Nickel Mines, Virginia probably thought they were safe in their isolated world--their backs turned away from modernity. A one room schoolhouse, girls dressed in smocks and bonnets; boys in suspenders and straw hats. A people suspended in time, living simply, peaceably, on record as the happiest, most contented people in America. I feel deeply sorry for them as if corruption and evil stumbled into their haven in the form of a crazed milkman, a copy-cat criminal looking for his posthumous 15 minutes of fame. The vampires from cable news, the Nancy Graces and the Greta Van Susterans haven't uncovered and broadcasted his true motive yet, but I know flat-out what drove his heinous act was the promise of notoriety. We all know his name now--first, middle, and last, and we will soon know what he liked to eat for breakfast and what videos he checked out at Blockbuster.

Somehow I feel vaguely responsible as a member of the secular world that some crazed individual influenced and poisoned from my camp stole into theirs and shattered it. I feel like we've let them down. I think we all looked at the Amish as quaint, innocent people, and in our affection for their innocence let them live in peace. How sweet. And secretly, how interesting--to watch them flourish under the glass, a benign social experiment, a laboratory of alternate culture, the docile kind, not the kind that protests and complains and aggressively demands center stage, attention, rights.

From video broadcast from insatiable news crews in helicopters I watched as the Amish village became filled with strangers polluting their pastoral Winslow Homer landscape. Cars and cameras, and reams of yellow police tape strung in the waving grasses around barn-raised community buildings and painted white fences. What shock these people are feeling. And what profound disappointment the rest of us feel, that no one, no where in America is safe from the new breed of criminal--the one incubated and cultivated in the cesspool of popular culture where the biggest achievement one can wish for is fame.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Reading, writing, and terror

I watch my beautiful daughter enter her school every morning eager to find her friends, eager to learn and perform and play. In a school just miles away in Colorado parents do the same only to find out their children have entered a terror zone. Bailey, Colorado, a small sleepy town in the middle of nowhere finds it's schoolchildren under attack from a crazed shooter who hand-picks several young girls to sexually assault before murdering one. Today in Wisconsin a kid pulls a gun on his principal shooting him three times before being restrained by the custodian and others. These aren't terrorist attacks from the outside--they are random, senseless acts made scarier because they originate from within and they seem to be growing. I don't know which to fear most, the militant Islamic fundamentalists or our own home-grown psychotics. I know the first group wants to kill us on philosophical grounds, the second just wants to harm others in an extension of harming themselves.

My prayers are with all the innocents involved and especially for the students whose innocence and security have been shattered. I wonder what this generation will grow up to think about the world they live in. They are aware that there are bad guys from other countries that want to hurt us, but they may be more worried and confused about the guy or kid next door who for no known reason decides to slaughter other kids. Maybe it is correct to say we live in a time of terror. Our kids probably think so.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Way up high

Across from Allie's school is this impressive eagle's nest perched high on a what I think used to be a electric pole. It must be 6 feet in diameter. I don't know is it's ever occupied, but it would be something to see eagles nesting there.

The snow is fast melting with temperatures over 60 degrees today. I saw people walking around in short sleeves so our winter interlude is over for now.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Surprises and Constants

I can't remember ever waking up to snow on September 21st. The county is blanketed in snow and more is falling; however I think it will melt away as the cold front moves out.

Neither rain or snow stops Brother Nathaniel from his parading for Jesus on the busy intersection of Highway 9. This eccentric "monk" is the former Milton Kapner from Pittsburgh and a former member of a rock group that opened for acts like Alice Cooper and Jethro Tull. He is on his corner every morning waving and high-fiving traffic. We look forward to seeing him on our way to drop Allie off at school. We admire his dedication to showing up every morning-though we're not sure exactly he's dedicated to. It's Jesus, we think, but it looks more like boogy-ing and waving hello that he's addicted to.

Long ago in our town there was Albert, the ancient WWI veteran who walked from dawn to dusk every day around town in his fatigues. Sara tells the story of "Orchestra Man", the odd fellow who strolled Ward Parkway every morning leading an imaginary orchestra with an imaginary wand. Every town needs its crazy guy. I think we envy a little the freedom from constraints that the crazy guy lives by. The rest of us are stuck behind the wheel, good citizens rushing to work. Being crazy looks appealing sometimes, and fun.