What My Basket Holds – 2013

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It has been a year since I started my blog, Simply Life Lessons, and lately, I have been so busy learning life lessons that I have not taken the time to stop and tell you about them.

My 5 1/2 years in Colorado have been “Smack in the Face” hard and the most memorable and enjoyable that I know.  There is no way to sugarcoat the trials nor the lessons that have come my way, but, if we all handed in our basket of troubles to exchange, I would take mine back, and if there ever was a place to surround yourself with kind, giving, caring, loving friends and healing strength and peace, it is Estes Park, Colorado.

A glimpse into my  year . . .

I laughed, cried, cursed, questioned, promised, succeeded, failed, and learned.

  • Stephanie got married. Beautiful wedding. Happy couple. Good life ahead.
  • Zia started kindergarten.
  • I left one great job and started another great job.
  • The flood. It happened. Anything that can be said, has been.
  • Changed addresses.
  • The word “Divorce” became easier to say.
  • Dating became interesting and unpredictable, to say the least
  • Experienced hospitalization and two surgeries.
  • Mother passed away.
  • Traveled a bit.
  • Started a weight loss journey.
  • Missed my dad.
  • Made new friends.

There was nothing simple about most of my Life Lessons this year. I don’t know why. Is God trying to make a better person of me? Karma? (Am surely hoping not!). Stuff happens? It’s my turn? I don’t have answers and have quit asking questions.

Mother died in January. No matter how prepared you are, you are never ready.  I spent the next day after she died learning to knit. She would respect that. In May, the family gathered in Illinois to bury both of our parents. Closure doesn’t truly ever come when you’re suddenly an orphan, (Daddy died in August, 2011(, but I can say I learned much about the grieving process, and there is eventually a place of peace. Memories become more precious, and understanding more sure.

My man who swept me off my feet last year? Bumpy ride. Sad ride. I doubted. He failed. Second chances. I learned that relationships at 50+ are far different from being 18 when it’s all goofy and mushy and carving hearts in trees. Life goes on. Regardless of the outcome, this was a necessary journey than I am thankful for. Very recently I met him again for the first time, so we talk, and I am trying to learn to trust. Does my heart need as much protection as I try to give it?

Zia started school in August, and in Week 2 was chosen as Student of the Week and voted as having the Nicest Smile.  Proud? You bet! She loves the classroom, her friends, being obedient and making the grade. It was a difficult transition to go from caring for her everyday to seeing her a couple hours a week, but she is busy and happy and becoming an amazing young lady. Grammie is thankful to have her as my granddaughter.

It was during this time that Zia started school that I took a self-imposed hiatus from my day-to-day routine and some days did nothing but breathe. Life lessons during this time came easy. I understood where I was and how I got there, and every bit of it was on my map, showing detours and solid paths to take. I rested, reflected, and prepared to happily continue the journey into the rest of my life.

Today? I am living in a temporary mess as I unpack and settle in my new home that rests on a mountainside, perfect for the next leg of my journey, which includes a wonderful job I started early November. Day by day I unpack more, down-size, discover new challenges at work, and contentedly find my way.

Out of the hospital two weeks, I continue to recuperate from two foot surgeries. Lessons learned? How to walk with a cane, and not everyone is kind to the afflicted. On the next level, I can only say, “Oh, my!”  Can I count the lessons learned? With my doctors’ insistence, I am now more committed to taking better care of myself. Nothing should come before my health. I am not invincible. I am not immune. I get it now, but may need reminded. Finding that I don’t have the power to make just about anything alright has been eye-opening and rather difficult for me, because I kinda think I’ve done that for a long time.

Other lessons were tougher and surely not simple. I am learning to let others help me. This has been my major life lesson of 2013. There are givers and there are takers, and I always want to be a giver.  I am learning that being complete demands a balance because givers needs those to give to.  Vulnerable once was a foreign word, but not anymore. Friends and family willingly and without thinking twice, took over my life the 10 days I was in the hospital. They packed up my belongings, moved my stuff, visited and cheered me on. They ran errands, sent flowers and cards and called. They looked out for me and worried and cared. Believe me when I say that it would have been easier to lose another toe than to have to ask or accept help in any way, but I had to acknowledge that I am loved, and I know good people who desire to do good things, even for me. It is also very true that when you are down, you learn who your real friends are, but that is another post, another day.

When people ask me how I stay positive and upbeat, I think there are 2 lessons learned long ago. My faith is a source of comfort and hope, and I know that everything in life comes down to perspective. I realize that there are so many people who are traveling unimaginable paths, and I am forever thankful that I am not.

Please know that we are not about what happens to us, but about how we develop through those happenings, and developing positively will prove to be helpful to another soul that you meet along the way. Don’t waste your lessons. Share them.

As this year comes to a close, I am excited about 2014. I have plans to experience more beauty, to be unselfish with my giving, to right all of the wrongs I can, and to embrace the joy of simply being.

Happy New Year to you, and may all of your life lessons be simple.

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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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