Home, Estes, Home . . .

Four years, 7 months and 21 days ago I loaded up the Buick, scooped up the Yorkie and headed west toward Colorado.

images-6I visibly remember the anticipation and excitement I felt when coasting into town, passing the Estes Park welcome sign, making the curve, and experiencing those mountains wrapping me in a massive hug.

In the few years earlier, I had vacationed in Estes 3 or 4 times and remembered visiting a few shops, snapping pictures of the sauntering elk and  sipping a few samples of wine.  It was in making this my home that I actually became intimately acquainted with this village that is alive with all things possible.

To be fair and truthful, I came to Estes only because my daughter, and then son-in-law, visited, felt the mountain tug, and relocated to nearby Pinewood Springs.  I was perfectly content in visiting a couple of times a year and returning to my life, career and routine in Illinois, until my daughter announced a baby was coming, and my lifelong dream became my call of duty.  Now, I cannot imagine being anywhere else.

Estes Park is a mountain community where the finest, the fittest, the nicest and the most giving people live.  This sounds unrealistically flowery, but it is the truth.  Everyone is a neighbor eager to make me feel like I am the missing ray of the sun. We are a happy people.

A small amount of people live here, and a massive amount of people visit here.  In that first summer, I did not know what to think of the “Invaders” who landed here to take over for 5 or 6 months, but over time, as I have fallen in love with Estes Park, it is flattering that guests from all over the world feel that our quaint village is a destination worth visiting.  It is enjoyable to answer their many questions and take the opportunity to boast about home.

The weather in Estes is what the weather is.  When hearing of snow coming, we hope in feet instead of inches, and when spring arrives, we disconnect the cable TV, grab the sunscreen and head outdoors.  It is true that it gets a bit breezy up here at 7,522 feet, but I have come to appreciate it and hang on to my hat!  The meteorologist never upsets us because we know whatever is heading our way, we will not only deal with it, but will enjoy it!

You only need to read the two Estes Park publications, The Estes Park News, Inc., and The Trail Gazette, to know that you are safe here.  In my nearly five years living here, I’ve heard of 3 minor burglaries.  We do jay walk and sometimes speed, and may keep a library book past its due date, but, fortunately, this never makes the newspapers.  We offer a safe haven.

Estes is a magnet that draws the quirky, the settled, the adventurer, the reclusive, the talented, the entertained. Remembering the hundreds of people I’ve met, many of whom I now call friends, the unspoken user agreement is that anyone who is honest and kind and respectful of their surroundings, is alright.  We are an accepting bunch.

You will, when visiting Estes Park, always see fun and interesting things, like Santa Claus in June on vacation, or hundreds of rubber ducks bobbing along The Big Thompson River, scurries of ghosts and goblins, dancers and pirates at the city-wide trick-or-treat party, rodeo parades, magicians, Bob Denver look-a-like singing Rocky Mountain High, men marching in traditional Scottish kilts, or, like today, an old man doing push-ups in the middle of Barlow Plaza.  We are a comfortable place.

This is the town where the mayor spends a morning reading Green Eggs and Ham to a handful of preschoolers and a police officer holds the hand of a little boy crossing a busy street.  I know the names of the children of the woman where I pay my electric bill, and at my bank, the teller saves his DQ coupons for Zia.  The clerk at the pharmacy wears a sign around her neck offering free hugs, and she means it!  My favorite breakfast stop has my tea ready before I hit the booth, and the theatre sells me popcorn when I have no plans to see a movie.

The way I see it, when I moved here, and had an address, I was a resident.  When I adopted the community and its people, I became a citizen.

Since arriving on July 7, 2008, I have experienced several triumphs and many tragedies.  Estes Park is a peaceful place, and the only stress is what you imagine.   No matter what is happening, the mountains reach out, the solitude whispers, the river soothes, and the people care.  With the triumphs, I am free to dream the bigger dream, and in my tragedies, I found strength to move on toward another day.

The mountains, the village, the citizens share with me an idyllic setting I call home – a wonderful, fun, perfect-for-me home.

Deciding that I have no words worthy to describe the beauty that surrounds me every day, I am choosing instead to let my friend, Dick Orleans’s breathtaking photography convey to you where words are lacking.  All photographs except the opening image of the Estes sign, which is a stock photo, and the photo of the River Walk, which I took, belong to Dick, and I am sharing them with his gracious permission.

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It’s About Time!

A Face Off with TIme

In 1966, there was an awesome TV show, “It’s About Time” that starred Imogene Coca. The program lasted only one season (which tells you how awesome it truly was), but I have never forgotten it, I think because of the theme song that gets stuck in my head and never leaves. Here. Let me sing it for you . .

🎼 It’s about 🎶 time, it’s about 🎶 space,
About 🎶 two men 🎶 in the strangest 🎶 place.
It’s 🎶 about time, it’s about 🎶 flight.
Traveling 🎶 faster 🎶 than the speed of light.🎶

Everything around us screams out the time with the alarm blaring, it is time to work, lunch time, time to go home, appointments, TV shows, reservations, deadlines, and, never forget call waiting.  Life truly is all about time, how we use it, when we abuse it and how to appreciate the value of a moment.

You see, for the last 5 years, I have become very routine in wasting time, and I do it extremely well.

I think we are all duped into thinking, while slumping through mindless activity, that time is standing still. No, no, no. This is NOT true!! You are being misled by the gray matter in your brain. Time never, ever stands still, even when someone amazing takes your breath away, you will certainly faint, but time will still go on long after you wake up and realize it was all a bad dream.

I owe my soul . . . .

I owe my soul . . .

In 2008 when my granddaughter was born, I became a caregiver to her Monday through Friday, from 7-ish to 5-ish. I was no longer working in a structured environment, and every day she and I did exactly what we wanted to.  The time of day was pretty irrelevant, and unless one of us was taking medicine, we never looked at the clock.   During this time, I worked part-time jobs in the evening and on weekends which necessitated my having to punch a time clock for the first time in over 35 years. Answering to a time clock does nothing for helping me recognize the benefit of time unless I were to break down my wages by how much I earn per minute. This causes depression. Don’t do it.

In my earlier life, managing a television station, managing programming traffic, coordinating many satellites, and managing a highly technical on-air master-control room, the demands kept me busy, focused and with little time to spare. Taking a few minutes to have idle chatter was a luxury I enjoyed rather infrequently. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) requires television and radio stations to create daily programming logs to schedule what is on air every second of every minute of every hour of every day. Being constantly aware that the seconds were ticking off the clock, there was always something to do, and I accomplished impressively much. Because of the respect demanded by the clock, I never worried about wasting the day because even time spent in rest and relaxation was well-earned and appreciated.

Sadly, today, I can no longer make these claims. I am abusing my time like it was an overused paper towel.

I can almost hear you telling me that being too busy is not good, and I agree, but not being busy and wasting time are completely different. I can clasp my idle hands and explain to Zia where butterflies come from, or, sit idly by listening to a friend struggling with depression.  This is not time wasted.  Never, when giving to someone else, are you wasting time.

A Mess of Minutes

A Mess of Minutes

Please make a mental note.  MindFULLness cannot be confused with MindLESSness.  Being mindfully engaged in the moment, and feeling fully aware of all that is around you trumps spending hours playing BeJeweled on the laptop. I would like to blame Steve Jobs for bringing about the incessant need to constantly be fidgeting with the iPhone, iPad, laptop, but I really liked him, and it would not be fair.

I am the solo pilot of my time.

In a few brief months, my life will, yet again, undergo a major change.  My granddaughter will start kindergarten in another county, and I will become a “weekend” grammie.  This will open up literally hours in my day.  What will I do with all of this extra time?  I know that I cannot waste it.  I must hold myself accountable to doing good things, helpful things and fun things. (Playing computer games is not fun.  It never makes me laugh, and the amount of time it fritters away?  It scares me).

Besides adding a few more hours to my work week, I have started giving this transition a lot of thought (while playing Candy Crush Saga on my iPad), and have come up with a few ideas.  Having once been a crafty person, I have started organizing my craft closet and have a few creative ideas that may end up under your Christmas tree.  I do not know how to do macrame, so do not worry.

Volunteering has long played an important part in my life.  I loved being a Big Sister, and starting the church library, and raising money for good causes.  I will volunteer at something, and am evaluating where my talents can be used.  Currently, I sit on the Board of Directors of The Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies, and I enjoy this very much.  We are in the planning stages of  new fundraising projects, and, you may even see me on stage in local theater one day.

When you boil an egg or wait for a download, what else are you doing?  Studies say you can file your nails, do chair yoga, organize the junk drawer or eat a brownie, but the point is, you will not be wasting time.

I made a reference in my last post – “What’s Age Got to do with it?”, that I do not have a great amount of time left.  If I think about it, and make the effort, there is always good reason to throw the clock away and enrich my life. I can read another book, write a letter, call a friend, take a walk, give a hug, meet a stranger, bake a pie, go to the gym, sew on a button, listen to new music, plant flowers, paint a room, take beautiful pictures, watch a documentary, soak through a bubble bath, catch a fish, dance to the beat, or simply watch the sunset.

There are many priceless memories from the past 5 years, but I could have used my time more wisely.  Don’t let your minutes escape you for they can never be recaptured, and what is lost, is lost forever.

Shadows of Time

It’s the oldest story in the world.
One day you’re seventeen and
planning for someday, and, then
quietly, without you ever really
noticing, someday is today, and that
someday is yesterday, and this is your life   
                                                                  – Nathan Scott

What’s Age Got to do With It . . . ?

I am about to enter my last year before sashaying into the Sensational Sixties. In preparation, I have pondered what knowledge I have accumulated through this decade, and thought about all I hope to discover in the years ahead.

Learning Lessons

Learning Lessons

When we are small, our grownups are constantly teaching and reminding us how to behave. Our parents work to instill impressive manners, the Golden Rule, and how to live among the many. As we grow older, we test those lessons, then make decisions to toss or to keep. Most often, we toss such teachings only to retrieve later when we are mature enough to know that the lessons are worth keeping and/or when it comes time to teach the same lessons to our children.

I believe it is in the fifties that we come full circle to reach a balance between what we were instructed and what we have experienced. All of a sudden, what others think matters less, and what we think of ourselves matters much more.

Speaking my mind is easier, and in most cases, respectfully accepted. I put much thought into my words, usually, so when I do find the words to fit my honest thoughts, I do not sound cutting or condescending. I do not always succeed, but I would not be my father’s daughter if I didn’t bite with my words from time to time.

Mostly, hurtful words are the result of impatience. I expect you to immediately know what I am talking about, and, if you don’t, I may not want to use the energy to repeat myself or, worse yet, explain what I am talking about. Once someone told me “If at first one doesn’t get it, then never try again.” Of course, they were joking, but I do not like to repeat myself, although I do, all the time.  Sometimes I repeat myself because I am unsure that you are listening or that you have fully appreciated what I have just said, as though what I just spoke will change the world in this instant.  Hypocritically, I need others to often repeat themselves so I can hear clearly and understand. Maybe age brings about a sense of entitlement.  Don’t you, my peers, just want to sometimes say, “Deal with it!!”, and walk away?  Yep, me, too.

Through a gradual process of which I was unaware, I discovered that I have more patience for some folks, and less patience for others. Children can get on my nerves longer now than when I was a young mother dealing with children. Grandchildren bring about this change. Unkind people wear me out, and my fuse runs very short with negative comments, and people who judge can send me into a rant. I guess you can say my tolerance level has higher highs and lower lows.

Contrary to who I was twenty or thirty years ago, I no longer judge others simply because I have no need to compare myself to anyone else. It is a fact that when you judge and compare, you will either see yourself as above others or beneath them, and neither is true. Life stresses this truth so when we arrive at an older age we will have no need to waste time on useless endeavors. We can love everybody, even if some more than others.

Having always boasted that I am not afraid of dying and growing old is all in my mind, let it go on record that I am still certain that I am not afraid to die, but growing old is spilling out from my mind to consume my body, too. My stamina, although strong, is not like it was 30 years ago. I move slower and forget faster. I depend on a routine and must follow it or I find keys locked in the car or the Vodka on the cleaning supply shelf. I think longer before I speak because when responding too quickly, insane sentences find their way out of my mouth, and the Vodka is not always to blame.

If I wear a red hat and purple, may I join you in laughing at me?

Stunning

When I grow old . . .

In my late teens, I worked evening shift in a factory that made washers and dryers. After work, I would party all night, sleep a few hours as the sun came up, go back to work and repeat the fun. Today, I can party a little before dinner, but I cannot dare be late with my bedtime, and when I party? Tea with ginger snaps, and a little brandy to warm my brittle bones suits me just fine.

In my twenties, the more, the merrier, and the only prerequisite to spending time with me was that you wanted to have fun and not worry about tomorrow.  In the midst of consciously aging, it is now important for me to know that you have depth and live your life with some honorable intention or hope to change our corner of the world. I do enjoy a few minutes of idle chatter about the sale at Nordstrom’s, but please hurry and get to your thoughts on health care, preserving endangered species, or how we can help our friend dying of cancer. Substance.  At my age, I need substance.  After living decades through the climates of change, substance is expected, don’t you think?

I find that these days I love with a new intensity.  I hold the memory of  kisses longer before I let them flee. When I hug, it’s the bear kind that means business, because a hug says “You’re not alone.” “I am happy to be with you.” The past few years have taught me to touch – a warm pat on the back, a meaningful hand shake, a touch on the arm. When we are younger, we are too inhibited and fearful of what others may think. I am aware that people comment that I am weird, but I don’t care.

Can you see a pattern forming?

Trust. Such a simply complicated concept. When younger, I trusted without reserve, which, of course, is very unwise and causes great pain and suffering, so through the years, I stopped trusting anyone except my most beloved pets, Miss Prissywhich is why it was so painful to lose them. Today, I trust some, and some, I trust. I feel blessed to have a few people in my life whom I trust unconditionally never to hurt me and to always have my best interests at heart.   There are a few people I trust to always do what is right, and a few, still, that have earned my trust to simply understand.  I even have in my circle those that are trusted to laugh and act silly with me, while, still, I know those who can never be trusted for anything, much less taking up space in my heart or head.  Trusting is multifaceted.  I may not tell you a secret, but I will trust you mail a letter.

A few months ago, it got back to me that someone I admired said I was “too intense”. This bothered me for so long. I guess it still does, but it is true.  I am intense.  I take life and most of what I do seriously.  This is probably temporary after recovering from going through a difficult divorce and losing both parents in the past three years, and I will try to lighten up, but, there comes a point when acceptance plays its hand, and I must say, “This is me, good or bad.”  (**Except when it comes to losing weight, which is another post on another day when I have not eaten chocolate.)  Trying to always perfect oneself is extremely taxing when I have grown tired of paying the taxes.

As sad as it is to dwell on, time is running out for do-overs, so I have to get it right whether I am making a new friend or sharing with a loved one. Truth becomes more important the older we get. Illusions fade as the years pass, and reality settles in. Hopes can stay, but they are now logical and short-term obtainable.

There are many past actions of mine that I am not proud of, but the redemption is in the learning and not repeating. It is alright to make mistakes as long as they are new ones. Regrets, there are many. I will arrive at a place where I fully accept that everything in my life – even the regrets – served to deliver me to the place where I am. I take solace in that whatever my regrets are, they have been useful tools in burying the past and gaining wisdom.

My Flowers

One morning, recently, I woke up and knew it was time for “the talk” with my daughter. You know the one – “When I die, take me here, bury me there, and don’t you dare get rid of that cracked vase from Great Aunt Beulah!” This discussion is more somber but no less dreadful than stuttering out the awkward tale of  the “birds and bees”.  I am becoming more comfortable with the conversation because, by living, I am preparing to die – we all are – and I certainly want  this last act to be worthy of a standing ovation.  It is a fact that I may reach my 80’s and change my mind about everything and give my riches to some stranger who happens by to admire my plastic flowers in the window box.

Now that I am reaching the autumn of my life, I have many experiences to draw from, and by now, have learned that I have some control over the battles I choose, and the front line no longer holds my pride. The false pride has long been exposed, and my scars, tears, heartaches and bumps in the road have painted the path that I now skip along.  These things do not define me, but they have shaped me.

Admittedly, it will be nice to reach that “age” where I can wear slippers all day and nap without worry, when soup every day is appetizing, and only the sweet memories, albeit enhanced, remain on my mind. These sunny days are coming if I am permitted the privilege of reaching the Winter of my life, but until then, I will continue learning those pesky life lessons, and as Jenny Joseph writes in her poem, “Warning” –

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

 

Older.  Wiser.So, on I go celebrating birthdays, making new memories, adding to the foundation of what my life stands for, for it is true that all we need to do, we must do while we are here.  I certainly will laugh every chance I get, give love at every turn and hold no grudges. Grudges will mar my sweetest memories when I need them the most.

The sensational, sexy, simple, satisfying, sassy 60’s are on their way, and I will not miss one minute of the ride.

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