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.

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.

Detroit

 I Love Detroit

Life throws many curve balls, and most times, out of instinct, you reach up to catch it and not let it drop and roll away. Such was Detroit, Michigan.

While living/working in Detroit, the television station I managed, WDWO TV-18, sat on a frontage road where it nearly took up the length of an entire city block. When snow came, there was an ordinance whereby we had to keep sidewalks cleared and passable. Late one Friday afternoon, the snow began to fall, and plans were to clear the walks before going home.  But, before that could be done, a shiny new Cadillac pulled up, a spiffy-looking gentleman stepped out, introduced himself as a city commissioner, and told us we needed to clear the walks. When explaining that we were getting to this before leaving, he told us that for $100 cash, he could see to it that we didn’t have to worry about shoveling.

Well, in my momentary brilliance, I knew he wasn’t offering to shovel the walks for me. He was making me an offer he hoped I would not refuse.  Needless to say, I played dumb, which I can do so well, and politely refused. This story flashes through my memory when something happens that reminds me of the city’s decline.

This brings me to Kwame Kilpatrick, who, at the age of 37, plummeted himself to disgrace with a sex scandal, and now faces many years in prison for racketeering, extortion, bribery and tax evasion. When I met Mayor Kwame in 2004, he presented himself as humble, caring and determined to lead the city into a new era, a sense of pride and to overcoming. I believed him.

Kwame KilpatrickAmong other aaccusations from the case, federal prosecutors have said that Kilpatrick operated a fund for the needy called the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, with the aim of helping Detroiters in need. Instead, they said, the former mayor used the money for yoga classes, golf clubs and vacations.  Huffington Post

Although Detroit is battered by the likes of Kilpatrick and greed and violence, let there be no doubt that The Motor City continues to breathe because of those who know no other home, because of the many whose hearts beat loudly with hope, because of the resolve to keep putting all they have into the fire of promise.

As I talked and worked with hundreds of “Detroiters”, it was clear that they know pain, heartache, defeat, second, third, fourth chances.  Coming from my little southern Illinois town, I had not been exposed to the tragedies such as those that prowl Detroit.  My heart would break as I listened in disbelief to the stories of sweet people maimed by drive-by shootings, young mothers widowed because their husbands were pumping gas on the wrong side of town, good people frozen by homelessness, families displaced with massive evictions . . .

But!  There was joy in every voice I heard!  There was hope in every discussion of tomorrow.  There was resolve that a better day was coming!

One of the highlights of my experience in Detroit television was producing Mykelti Williamson in a live program.  The name may not mean anything to you as he is best known as Bubba, Forrest Gump’s friend.

Mykel Williamson WDWO

Mykelti and his wife are passionate for Detroit so they talked of hope and faith and overcoming adversities.  They are only one of so many who see a better day for Detroit.  Meet David Gough, President, International Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame (IGMHF.org), who is purchasing river front property for a state of the art facility honoring our history in Gospel Music.  Visit the Pastors, Apostles, Bishops and street preachers who never grow weary in sharing a message of hope, cheer for the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions and Red Wings. buy your car American made, and always pray.  Detroiters believe in prayer, because more often than not, that is all they have had.

There are those who will not allow Detroit to become a forgotten city, but again, life has declared that every man out for himself does not build a great city, nor does it bring leadership to a worthy population. I hope Detroit can find redemption within and for its beautiful people because they kept a part of me.  I no longer have dreams of returning, but Detroit, Michigan left an indelible mark on my soul.

Love the Umpteenth Time Around . . .

Remember the song, “When I Fall in Love, it will be forever . . .”? That is exactly what I thought when I fell in love for the very first time. I remember it well. It was 5th grade, South Side School, Miss Davis, who, incidentally, delighted in thumping me on the head with a ruler. His name was Joe. It was serious. Joe gave me his necklace with a silver basketball. I wore it 8 days. That was my first clue that love is fleeting.

In 6th grade, the teacher caught me passing a note to my new heart-throb, although I forget his name. It was mortification time, and I was certain I would never recover, but I did.

As the school girl crushes came and went, I remember high school and my football hero, Dan. This was the real thing! I was 16, all grown up and knew I had found “The One”!! He wasn’t, but the memory is sweet as he was my first “car” date, and the first “young man” I took to meet my dad.

One boy kept asking me out, but I only had eyes for Dan. This other boy, whom I will call Xavier for the sake of anonymity, would not give up! (if his name had been Xavier, I may have dated him!) He knew where I lived. He visited my mother. Xavier became the topic of dinner conversations. Mom would tell me I should date him. I would tell mom I shouldn’t. Mom and Xavier would cook up these drop by times so Xavier would just happen to catch me at home. The more he insisted that we get together, the faster I ran away. He settled for friendship, and for many years we remained friends, although I have heard that his flame for me took several years to extinguish. Seeing the man he became, and his ambition in life, I have never regretted not dating him, and it was fun, years later, to tell Mom she was wrong!

I met “Husband” when I was 20. He truly did take my breath away. We both worked at Norge, a factory manufacturing washers and dryers. We would spend lunch hours together, then started dating in June, and married in September. I will not keep you awake with the ugly details. The marriage lasted 36 years, 3 months and 3 days, but who is counting? This was probably 30 years longer than it should have lasted, but times were very different then. Love can be blind and deaf and dumb.

Today, I am interested in a special guy. He caused my heart to beat again because of his honesty, his integrity, his work ethic, and he’s very cute and tall and strong. Do I love him? Ask me in 6 months, a year, a lifetime . . .

Has he made me cry? Yes. Have I vowed to walk away and never look his way again? Yes. Have I felt like caring was way too hard? Certainly. For the many of us who open ourselves up to love, the second time around, we find issues and baggage and fears and aches and lack of trust and independence and freedom and many insecurities blocking our view. Simply put, to love is to preservere.

The first time our heart thumps, we dance in the sunshine, skip through the buttercups, and throw caution to the wind, but later in life, we step through the sticker bushes, creep through the clouds, and find caution too heavy to throw.

Life Lesson – I have learned more about what love isn’t that what it is. Regardless of the number of hit and misses, love lives in that part of your heart where you are more concerned about the other person than you are for yourself. Until you will give up the last slice of apple pie, or be willing to sit up all night nursing their fever after working all day, or will let him go first at the DMV, you can call it many names, but it’s not love.

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