December began and was frequently filled with many holiday gatherings. Friends, neighbors, family, framily, it seemed like every spare space had a gathering to it.
Part of those gatherings were in Ohio. I went to help my sister prepare and have a baby shower for my nephew and his wife who were expecting their first offspring. Also on the agenda, was a retirement party for my sister in law. Unfortunately, my sister in law and brother were sick and so that party was cancelled. I had a great time visiting several friends and spending more time with my sis since we avoided the farm this time due to whatever crud they were dealing with. We even had a last minute visit over in Pennsylvania with my Aunt and cousin. Luckily they knew the owners of the cafe we ate in, as otherwise we might have been kicked out for the level of laughter we generated in our getting caught up on each others lives.
I arrived back home in Colorado and my nephew Ian followed me out the next day so that we could all go ski/snow boarding together. Galen, Devin, Ian, Molly and I met up at Arapahoe Basin once again and had a super fun day playing on the slopes. This was the first time I had skied with both of my boys in decades, so it was really nice to be up there all together.
Not just settling for skiing, there were hikes, walks and parties every night as everyone wanted to spend some time with Ian.
I finished off December with a low key Christmas, some beautiful snowy hikes in the woods below us and a meet up with my friends.
Fun fact: In the last photo are the two reasons that this blog was ever started in the first place. Anita – to my right = was Wilma in the earliest blogs. She is my friend who had moved to Australia and was doing a mud obstacle race. Jane – to my left – was the team captain of our obstacle team. Lucky for me, Anita moved back to Evergreen, and Jane was here visiting over the holidays. It was another good night of fun.
2023 was an intimate year with so many extra special times for connection, reflection, joy and heartache. But then, that is life, isn’t it.
November began with a great visit from one of my sets of Albuquerque peeps. Erin and Kenny came up for the Queen concert and their daughter Lena and I got to hang out alone for that evening, but really spent a few great days doing puzzles, playing Uno and crazy 8’s (Uno was definitely the game choice for elementary kids in my life and between Amara and Lena, I played more Uno in 2023 than in all of my other years combined). We colored together, made cookies, and did some bird watching too. So fun. Oh, and I got some awesome time in with her parents as well. They crack me up tremendously and are a riot to be around. I was so glad to have them here.
My North Carolina Peeps came in next and although they stayed with family in town and not with me, we did get to spend some time together and get in an early season ski day at Arapahoe Basin Ski area. It had been several years – maybe decades? – since I had skied there and I had forgotten just how gorgeous and special it is. Super fun ski pals.
Sometime mid month, I came home one day to Birdie (the 15 year old cat we had inherited when our previous neighbor Barbara passed away) laying on the floor under a chair.
This was odd as this cat never slept on the floor. He prefers a chair, or lap if someone is around, and will crawl up under a comforter on a bed if he just wants to be alone, so to come home to find him on the floor was alarming. I bent down to pet him and he was breathing fine but did not move. Thinking he might feel stuck under the chair, I moved that away from him and still no movement. I lifted him up and carried him to the sofa to sit with me for a bit and realized he still was not moving and would not or could not even lift his head. I messaged Devin at work (the cat is very attached to Devin and stays with him every night and when he is home – otherwise he will find me). The dog had recently had an episode of temporary partial paralysis and recovered after a few hours, so I was hoping this might be the case here as well – albeit a near total paralysis for Birdie. When Devin got home, we decided that taking Birdie to the vet was likely only going to cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in tests and MRI’s or X-rays and at 16 (been a year since we inherited), they would likely then just charge even more to put our kitty to sleep. We cried and held the poor feline and prayed that he could somehow regain his strength and mobility. He did not seem to be in pain and would still eat if we held his head up in order to do so. We kept protective coverings under him wherever he was placed and decided to give him time and see if he would begin to recover on his own or not. It was as if we were now running a convalescent 24 hour care center. I was lucky that I was home and was available to take on the care when Devin was at work. I cannot tell you how heart breaking this was for both Dev and I. It was quickly apparent that this cat had become our grief therapy pet, and the thought of loosing it was more that either of us could manage. Tears flowed often from the both of us as we knew that even though after a week with small measures of regaining the tiniest bits of movement, that this was not sustainable and not a way for Birdie to live. He did start to let us know when he was uncomfortable and so he would use the litter box if someone held him up in order to do so, but this too was not sustainable. He was beginning to move his head and his legs would twitch, so we felt that there was function possibility, but how long could we go on with carrying him everywhere and doing everything for him? We finally set a date for when we would say goodbye and set out to love on the guy as much as possible for the last few days. I think we were feeling not just this immediate grief, but it brought in all of our losses and heaped them into this one situation that just ripped our hearts out in a new and different way. It was as if we had been transferring all of our grief into this purr puff over the past year or so and now that we were tasked with saying goodbye to him, we were going to be required to take that grief back and carry it ourselves once more. You just don’t know how much you’ve onloaded onto someone or something else until you see that the load might again be yours. (yes, it could also be an opportunity to release all the grief and let it go along with the cat, but it was hard to see that at the time)
The morning of the date set for euthanizing, Devin brought Birdie over to me to show me how he now was holding his head a bit better and the sparkle was back in Birdies eyes. Well, it was only our time and we giving in this rehab trial, so we decided to give it another few days to see if it was a trend or if this was as good as he could get. The days turned into weeks and over that span, he seemed to get a bit stronger every day. He soon could stand in the litter box as long as someone supported his wobbling side to side. He then progressed to tying to walk, but his head was just off of the floor as he made his attempts and he could easily just summersault over and not get up. This trajectory of recuperation maintained it’s steady rise to where he is now. He plateaued to where his front legs are fully functional and his back legs work as a waddle, but he doesn’t bend them to be able to jump. He still gets up onto Devin’s bed much like an ice climber would a frozen water falls. Unfortunately, he either has to wait for someone to get him back down, or he does his own version of a dead man’s fall onto padding we have on the floor for him. He waddles all through the house and can manage the two steps up into the kitchen addition just fine now. We feel like he’s had a pretty miraculous recovery.
We spent Thanksgiving with our peeps eating a delicious bacon wrapped turkey, playing games and feeling so very grateful. So Yummy, so fun, so lucky to have so many great folks in our lives.
San Francisco was a delight. I was staying inside Presidio Park- Lara’s apt.-, walking distance to many great spots -so many that I just didn’t have the time to explore all of them. I walked over to great friends of Yols and A that I have also gotten to be friends with. They live where there are so many beautiful old houses that you see in pics of the city. After a beautiful and delicious home-cooked meal, Lara (who had joined us a bit later) and I took a driverless Uber home to her place. Buckled into the backseat with no one in the front driving was a bit of a surreal experience. One day, I did a little walking venture and went to the tunnel tops – a spot with beautiful gardens that also gives great views of the bridge (when Karl the fog is not around), views of Alcatraz and you could see my next destination – The Palace of Fine Arts. It was all beautiful. Later in the evening, Lara took me to Golden Gate Park to see their Dahlia gardens among the other beautiful fauna. A short but great stay in SF.
Lara kept the items packed up for future use for when her parents were to come for visits and I took the now emptier car and headed east. My thoughts were to keep checking out National Parks as they presented along the way with the first stop being Yosemite. Their site relayed the information that no campsites were available, but I’ve been to too many parks where nothing is shown, but with last minute cancellations, or sites held and released, there is usually something that can be had. I was wrong. There were several campgrounds already closed and the ones that were open, were full and the sites were “ass to elbow” close in proximity to one another. I did get to see most of the major features and views as I was able to easily drive all around the park despite the lack of campsites. It was gorgeous from all of the avenues leading into and out of the park.
Having no cell service inside the park, I was unsure where I might be staying for the night. I decided not to lollygag too much inside the haven of granite, which is the park, to give myself some time and daylight and see if I could find a safe spot to park on the outskirts. I emerged on the east side of the park on 102 and into cell service and a plethora of messages. Stopping for a few minutes to digest the new messages, I decided I should forgo further park-hopping and just make my way home. It was made clear that I was being missed and I should head back. I had about a 1/3 tank of gas and the price at the town on the east exit was over $7.50 per gallon, so I declined to head that direction and instead jogged down the highway to where 102 took off east once more as a three-season road not open in winter months. There was a tiny town of Benton on the other end of the road which Google said had a gas station, so I decided on that route. As I got onto the new section of 102 I became aware of why it was not open in the winter. There was no one along this road for them to need to plow it in winter. I saw not one power pole, housing, or even barn structure along the miles and miles of road. Again away from any cell service, I said a little prayer that nothing should break down or happen while on this stretch as I wasn’t sure when anyone would find me. I made it to Benton only to find out that the gas station was closed. I don’t know if they only have daylight hours or what, but closed they were. The map showed a dot on the map of an even smaller town up the road and then about 80 miles away was a bigger town of Tonopah. At this juncture, I decided that it might make good sense to let someone know where I was in case something unexpected happened. The mileage gauge said that I should make it to Tonopah if worse came to worse and I had to trust that it was correct. I called and left messages with both sons before I again lost cellular service. The dot representing Coaldale on the map turned out to be an intersection with an abandoned building and nothing more. In one section of the road with service, I googled where the next rest area was. There was one called Millers rest area just ten miles or so before Tonopah that also allowed camping for the night, so I headed to that. I don’t mind sleeping at a rest area as they are generally full of truckers and I feel that most are good people and will watch over me if needed. I was none too happy driving into Millers rest area to find a sign saying no truckers allowed. A chain link fence surrounded the area of the dilapidated but working restrooms. Galen called just then and I asked him to google the next two rest areas that I would encounter should I decide to bypass this one for being on the sketchy side of my low standards. He looked them up and said that they were worse than the one I was at as they were just pull-offs in a field without even a bathroom. Being the only car in the place, I moved away from the bathroom building and under a security light toward the entrance. I figured anyone coming in would have to pass me and I would be left to be by myself and could keep an eye on any activity around the bathrooms if there was any. I slept somewhat fitfully for the first few hours waking up each time someone drove in. This only happened twice in that timeframe and each time, the folks stayed in their vehicle for a few minutes before getting out. In my mind, they were sizing up the safety of the place just as I had done. I had bear spray in the car and kept the keys with the alarm button at ready should I need it, but the place was kind of creeping me out. I decided that maybe I should just check to see about a hotel instead of car camping where I was weirding out a bit. A quick search brought up the Clown Motel – billed as the scariest Motel in the USA. It was adjacent to an old cemetery. I like cemeteries, but the idea of the clown motel creepiness was enough to convince me that I was just fine where I was. I then fell back asleep and slept soundly until around 5 am when a white van pulled into a spot a bit too close for my comfort and I was certain it was time to get to town, get gas, and be on my way once more.
The big lesson for travelling between California and Colorado for me was that you should always get gas when you see a station as there is more uninhabited space in this section of the U.S. than you realize.
I made it through Nevada and Utah and home to Colorado without any other major events but with lovely scenery.
The day after I got home, I broke my pinky toe. Nothing to be done about that, so guess I’d just take it easy for a bit.
I went to an orthopedic Dr to get my knee checked out before ski season since it still hurts from time to time – he was not interested in looking at my toe. The joints on the knees look good, so just need to strengthen the muscles around the knee.
We got our first good snowstorm and it was warm enough the next day for me to meet Mollie at Golden Mills for an outdoor beer to share how our trips back from the Pacific Northwest had gone.
Fun fact. The Golden mill is just recently an up coming food and beer hall. It originally was a mill and feed store and is the first place that I ever purchased chicks for starting my own coop.
And that my friends is finally the end of October.
My return trip home driving their Honda instead of taking the plane trip back was still up in the air when I left Seattle. All I really knew for sure when I took off from Seattle was that I was heading to the Oregon coast to Cannon Beach. In the past week or so, Mollie (one of Ted’s ICU nurses) had texted me that she had purchased her desired car -4 Runner – from a dealership in Portland, Or and was flying out and picking it up the day I was leaving. Being too coincidental to be so close in proximity, we knew we needed to meet up. In our texts of possible options and directions to head after meeting up, we settled upon meeting at Cannon Beach.
I drove south on I5 and crossed the Columbia River where there was the largest logging port yard I had ever layed eyes on. I wondered where all of the logs could have even come from. That question was answered as I ended following a different road than previously intended and going through major logging areas instead of following the river as I had thought I would do. I was not upset about the mistep in directions as the foresting, deforesting and afforesting was fascinating. I made it to the coast and since I was ahead of Mollie, I first went up to Seaside and checked out their beaches first.
Mollie arrived shortly after I had traversed down to Cannon Beach and we spent the next several hours walking the beach and catching up on what had been happening with both of us since we had last seen one another. We then walked to a nearby brewery where we enjoyed their fares as well as a few more hours of chit chat. She relayed her timetable for needing to get back to Denver, and I divulged the overwhelming feeling that now that I had made it to the Oregon coast, I absolutely wanted to drive the length of it and would go all the way to San Francisco before heading home. We decided we would look for a spot to camp in our respective cars for the night and part ways in the morning. She called an RV park that was nearby and said she had spoken to the guy and he had spots for us. My Seattle peeps were wanting to know where I was and what was decided. We exchanged the following text.
We headed back to the beach for the sunset and there on the beach was something I would never have guessed we would see there. It was a herd of elk on the beach. Besides, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, I had not seen elk in any other spot, let alone on the sand at a beach!
We then headed to the RV park where we parked along their entrance road – by the river and next a picnic table – and headed off to find the man named Peggy – in the third RV to the left. It was a wooded area to one side and the river to the other and a dark night, so there were stories brewing between us about what we would find at Peggy’s trailer. Turns out that Peggy was not a pudgy old man chewing tobacco and sitting on his porch with torn cut off sweats and his one legged dog, but a kindly older woman who had maybe smoked enough Marlboro’s back in her day to fill up enough Marlboro rewards books to furnish her RV and giver her the raspy voice of a retired cowboy. We signed in, got the pass code to obtain entrance to the bathroom and showers and I knew we were in the right spot. The 4 digit code to get in was one that Ted always used. It figured correctly that he would be watching and laughing at us on this current adventure.
The next morning, I got up to a beautiful sunrise and started the pot for either Turkish coffee or tea. According to Devin and one of the gals he works with who makes her coffee this way, turkish coffee is when you put the grounds into the cup/mug/yeti and then add the boiling water. When the coffee grounds sink to the bottom of the vessel, the coffee is ready. I will attest to the accuracy of the method. As long as you don’t swoosh things around, you get a good cup of coffee and no grounds in your mouth – until the very end if you are not careful. I had the coffee, Mols had tea and we hugged hard as we said our goodbyes as we drove off with her heading east as I ventured south.
I rejoined the 101 coastal highway and jumped off whenever the fancy struck me. I was in love with the Oregon coast. The ruggedness of much of the shorelines, the huge rocks jutting out through waves close and far from shore, the power of the waves. It all made me wonder how any ship had once landed safely upon these shores. I stopped at an overlook just past a town that heavily advertised it’s whale watching adventures. I was thankful that I had remembered to pack my binoculars for the trip and pulled them out now to see if I could locate any of the huge beasts. I could see a few of the charted boats cruising around looking for whales, but no one was excitedly pointing and they seemed to be just scouting around. I began to wonder if I would even recognize a whale from my cliff side perch. Just after having the thought, two large masses rose out of the ocean. I could see them even without the binoculars, so, it was fantastic with them. I soon learned to scan for the blowing of air that was proceeding each rise through the waves. I kinda felt sorry for the paid customers on the boats, as the whales were never quite where they were and here I was enjoying them all without spending a dime. I am a lucky gal. Not one or two stops away from the whales, I pulled over at a turn off and was thrilled to see sea lions playing in the surf. Then, I noticed the brown rocks below me were not just rocks, there were hundreds of Sea Lions hanging out and resting on the rocks. Soon after, I passed where you could take an elevator down to where Sea Lions hang out, but again, I was feeling like my free tour likely showed more that could be stashed away in the caves. I stopped at many spots such as Thors Well and a lighthouse view and others I cannot even recall names of on my way to the Redwood National Park which was my destination for the night. I was burning daylight and hoping to get to a camp spot at the lower end of the park before dark, so while I very much enjoyed the drive, I did not stop much in the park until the campground. My camp spot was just a few hundred feet from the cliffs edge and path down to the beach. A beautiful spot, even if it was starting to rain.
I awoke to a beautiful morning, made my coffee and took a walk along the beach. I had it much to myself until surfers began to arrive to catch the morning waves. I had hit the Redwood National Park at dusk, and dawn had not long passed when I left, but light was not needed to feel the majesty of the place. I set out next for the Avenue of the Giants. There were large trees in the Redwood National Park, but the trees set before me as I drove into this scenic byway were even more massive. I’ve been through Europe and checked out every cathedral I came across and while so many of those were far above anything I could imagine, these trees with the sun shining through their canopy that brought to mind those stained glass windows, were more holy and breathtaking than any of those structures. I was loving the decision to go down the coast. Between the redwoods and San Fran, I got to enjoy some pretty spectacular wine country. The skies were clear all day and I was looking forward to seeing San Francisco, but true to it’s reputation, the golden gate bridge was blanketed in fog even while all around it was clear.
This post is getting a bit long, so I guess I’ll try to finish up on a part 3.
October was a weave of so many unexpected threads.
I neglected to explain in September’s post how shocking it was to have any negative health news about Gus to begin with. He had always been a healthy, athletic, vibrant, soulful individual, so to have anything slow him down by any degree was dismaying. Since getting back to their own team of doctors and new oncologists, it was determined that they would begin with chemo for 8 sessions -checking for changes around half way mark- and then likely do surgery and then evaluate the situation once more after the completion of the rounds. Chemo was an overnight admittance to the hospital for the administration of the drugs and this pattern would commence every other week.
Meanwhile, we soldiered on with the kids activities, playing Uno with Amara all throughout each day – as it was her new obsession. Her strategy and card awareness increased by leaps and bounds over the next weeks of playing – that occurred during any pause in other activities. There was also trips to the playgrounds to swing, practice the monkey bars – something Amara also excels at, slide and just release the kind of energy that all kids store up to be released in fun ways.
The first week without Nana, Baba and Mom felt delicate as we were also suddenly dealing with additional life and death events. We received news that one of Lara’s housemate’s and dear friends younger brother had just died from a motorcycle accident. The tenuous structure of life as we were also packing and dealing with the ever changes in existence was an elixir that left us unsteady at times. I will say that the energy in the house, while sometimes fragile, was also strong with the support and reliance that Adrian, Lara and I were developing and drawing upon. It was a very intimate time of being a part of this group and in working through all that was a part of each day. We had all started this with a great bond, but the intricate weave of all that we were navigating through was a beautiful web stronger than could be measured.
Then, as if we weren’t having enough to steer through, Galen called to say he was going to see a Dr. about a lump he had on his leg. This was on a Friday and his report after the appointment was not alarming, so he was just to await the report from his consultation. On the following Monday, he called me while I was out running errands and told me he had received his report and that he had lymphoma! My head began to spin at the implications. He said that they wanted a follow up procedure, but didn’t know when it would be scheduled yet. I questioned if there had been a biopsy? What exactly had they done at the appointment? What the heck? I also told him to pressure them for the next follow up appointment as this cannot be taken lightly. He said I need not come immediately home since they did not yet know more. We spoke for a while and I then relayed that I needed to get back to their house and needed a moment to process this new information. He said he understood the need as he had been processing it for around three hours prior to calling me. I told him to send the report to me and I would call him once back at the house. I was incredulous at the amount of really hard crap we were all dealing with. While driving back to their place, I contemplated if I could even tell everyone this new bit of awful news.
I stopped the car nearby the house and pulled up the email that Galen had texted to confirm he had sent. Taking in some deep breaths, I read the medical terms and analysis. Shaking my head with incredulity, I began to process the information under a new lens. My son was not suffering from a cancer of his lymph system, he was instead sporting a fatty lump beneath his skin and apparently, a deficiency in reading comprehension. I immediately texted him to re-read the info and gave him a link to what a “lipoma” is so that he could stop going down the road of terrible news. Lymphoma, Lipoma – close? Not really. When I later told Devin this story, (to which he thought was hilarious), his response was, “it’s the extra letters that will kill you”. Easy to laugh about it later. To finish this thread, he did have an ultrasound to confirm the lipoma diagnosis and was told it will likely go away on it’s own.
Yol’s decided to stay a bit longer in India to be there for the first chemo and make sure all of the help that they had set up was working out as desired. Back on our end, one of her oldest friends from childhood who resides with her hubby and two kids in Chicago, had planned to come out to see them all before the move to Korea. She was bringing the family with her and had been warned that by the time they arrived, there would be very little furniture left as the movers would already have come and taken away most of the household. Luckily for the rest of us, they had been able to push the movers out a week, so that most of our time there was still in a well stocked and furnished home -albeit a bit disheveled from all the sorting. Malika and family were not as lucky as us.
I had wondered about the wisdom of Malika and family still coming with all that was happening, but in the end, it was really nice for all of us. Yes, there was some sleeping on the floors, but I for one, got the chance to hear stories of childhood in India that I had not heard prior and while I have gotten to know many of their friends over the years, it was really good to go deeper into the well of friends and get another sip of the long history. We hung out in a cavernous house, where it actually gave the kids tons of room to just run and do anything. We also went to the beach and shared in good times together.
Lara flew back to San Francisco to complete necessary tasks and work out the logistics with her job for her to get to India as quickly as possible. The plan between the girls was that they would do all that they could to make sure one of them was in India for support as much as possible. As Lara was no longer going to be in San Fran as much for the foreseeable future, I floated the idea that I should just take the extra car to Colorado until it was needed for longer term in California. Everyone agreed that the idea made sense, and now it was just a matter of deciding if I would still take it first to SF to unload the boxes that had been set aside as belongings to be available for future visits or just take the car and contents to CO.
I had purchased a cold weather sleeping bag and a single burner stove figuring that any route I chose to take home would likely be a multi-day excursion and I could simply camp in the car no matter the route taken.
Yols returned to a near empty house, a list of last minute duties to be completed before they left the country and children overjoyed to have their Mom back in their space. I packed up the items to be stored either in the car or in SF and my things and left the following morning.
Read about the next part of the journey in part 2.
The month began with another quick trip to the cabin for what would be the last “chillin” around the Colorado river for the year. I hadn’t planned for it, but when the peeps call and say they are going, then I surely try to join them.
I ran back from the cabin and loaded up the camp stuff and joined the camp crew for the last camping and tubing of the year. The mornings and evenings were chillier, but we still managed to soak in enough sun and warmth in the day time to float and savor the last of the season. We also explored a canyon that we all hadn’t checked out in many years.
While there, I was also getting information and possible changes on a trip later in the month to my Seattle squad.
As the month progressed, I was striving to get as much done as possible as my planned trip to Seattle toward the end of the month was beginning to look like it might be open ended until some logistics were worked out. The pieces of the puzzle that were not yet fitting was was that Yol’s and A were packing up the house and moving to Seoul, South Korea and her parents were headed to India for the winter. The house needed organized and readied for the movers which they were trying to schedule for the beginning of October. Also in the equation was that Yolekha’s dad Gus was having some health issues and they had not yet had enough tests to solve where the leading cause of his symptoms were coming from. Additional consideration was being given to which of their autos would go to San Francisco to be with her sister Lara and so would also be available to the parents when they came to the States to visit. I had offered to help with sorting the house (there was to be an air shipment of things they would need right away and an ocean shipment of the rest of the home that was going the slower route) and to help drive the car – either with one of them or alone – from Seattle to San Fran and then fly home from California instead of from Seattle. I booked a round trip flight knowing full well that I may not be using the return portion, but it was there in case they did send me home.
I arrived just as the results of some diagnostics came through for Gus and it had been determined that he had – at minimum – stage 3 stomach cancer. With a new shuffle of the deck, it was decided that Yols would accompany her parents back to India where their doctors were already scheduling follow up appointments and readying for treatment. She would navigate the details for assisting them in setting up the network of help, doctors and treatment timetables and I would stay along with her sister Lara and Adrian and help with the kids and the house sorting (the movers would actually pack everything) ferrying the kids to and from school and daycare and afterschool activities as needed.
I drove Yolekha, Gus and Maranna to the airport and sent them all across the world with hugs and hopes of seeing each one of them again sooner than later.
Our last day of September and the first weekend without Nana, Baba and Mama was spent at Remlinger Farms Pumpkin and amusement park with their community of friends. It was a fun outing for all.
We finished September, with lots of love, joy, and a decent share of anxiety and worry.
August began with a few house projects that had creeped up while I was out galivanting all through July. The thistles in parts of our yard and in the field below us had gone bonkers this year. Devin and I spent a few weeks topping the flowers off of the plants and pulling the stalks in hopes of making a dent in what would come back next year. Gutters all of a sudden were needing put back together and sealed. Flowerbeds needed weeding. Stuff needed done, and with ten days in a row at home, I set to it.
The middle ten days of the month were spent in Yellowstone National Park where we got to see Grizzly Bears in fields, on dead buffalo, in streams. We watched a coyote limp through a field crisscrossing it with a badger always close behind. We speculated if the badger was stalking the limping coyote, or if they were pals that each just needed a little space between themselves. We later looked it up and found out that they are often companion hunters. Very interesting and cool to watch. We went to our favorite waterfalls, our favorite lookouts, did artsy projects at any moment, created our own post cards and had the best of times. You can read about other portions of the trip on a previous post: https://www.thelaughyouknow.com/words-and-wonders/
Ok, so that wasn’t the coyote and badger that we saw, but it was just like that.
And when you have given it your all and have nothing left, you look like the photo below. 🤣 We were all both replenished and spent by our ten days in the park.
The rest of the month was more house and garden work.
This T-shirt I recently saw at the Denver Stock Show would likely best represent a good summation of July. In case it is hard to read, it says, “She’s Sunshine mixed with a Little Hurricane”
As was referenced in the June page, July began again this year at the family farm in Ohio. We were minus two of our Colorado Framily as their flight was cancelled and couldn’t be rescheduled in time. To say that they were unhappy about missing a second year of fourth of July activities at the pond would be a massive understatement. What they missed this year was breaking in the newly added porch at the cabin at the pond: Amazing food where every meal is consumed in the camaraderie of the various friends, family or neighbors who happen to show up for any particular meal. Float time. Play time – washers, cards, cornhole, and this year, Shelby brought a badminton set and we found ourselves playing like a bunch of twelve year old’s (until my knee reminded me that I had torqued it with that whole safe escapade and was forced to retire from that activity). They missed the home made ice cream that was cranked out by Duke and Shana’s contraption of an antique John Deere hit and miss motor (actual terminology according to my brother) with a belt and pully system to a 5 gallon Ice Cream maker. So yummy and fun to watch. There was Big Uncle John taking his dad’s tractor for a spin and Devin taking one of the antique tractors to and from pond as well. The fireworks were stunning once again. Sunset cruises on the party barge (daytime ones too, but sunset ones feel extra special) And of coarse there is the 24/7 fire with chimney logs to keep our attention until the wee hours of the morning. Great times.
We flew home the night of the fourth and it was fun to see the fireworks going off all around Lake Erie as we left at dusk.
I was home long enough to swap travel bags and head to Ft. Collins to where Galen’s best friend was getting married. I think all weddings end up having one main memory or talking point about them and I will always remember this one for it’s punctuality. Dustin is a planner and it held true to his form. It was lovely and the quick stay also afforded Judy and I a brief meet up with the kids old youth pastor to reacquaint ourselves to the paths everyone’s life had taken.
Wedding festivities over, I once again came home, did laundry and packed up for a trip to Albuquerque to stay with Jas and play with Kai while Rohan was out of town on business. Cooing, smiling, almost rolling over and lots of floor time made for a beautiful stay.
I made it back from ALB and got busy getting everything ready for a camp trip with my peeps to Silverjack reservoir, a beautiful, remote lake located in the Uncompahgre National Forest. We left a few days later, but not without another incident with the truck – fuel pump had been replaced after Ian’s trip here but now it would seem the starter had failed as now you could only start it with the drop of the clutch. There was also an unidentified incident between Galen and Ciara that neither was talking about except to acknowledge that something went down. Knowing I couldn’t fix either situation, off to camping we went.
This camp spot is easily one of the most remote spots that we frequent. It is 40-50 minutes to the main highway where a pie shop resides as part of a gas and super small convenient store. Over the years we have tried all of their pies and couldn’t say a bad word about any of them. Cell service is farther away than the pie shop most days and in the other directions from the camp spot, you can rise up over your choice of passes and descend the other side and that too is over an hour to obtain cell reception. With statuesque mountains all around, a lake in the middle, it jaw dropping gorgeous on any given day. We took the kayaks and got to explore the lake a couple of the days we were there. We used the Paton’s jeep to explore the various passes and up a road to an ever so elusive waterfalls that we always struggle to find, yet somehow manage to locate sooner or later. One morning, we heard some cracking of wood and each of us gals wondered which of the guys was up and splitting or breaking wood for later fires. Traci was venturing over to the bathroom and on her way, checking out where the sound was coming from. Turns out, a good sized brown bear was cracking open logs and looking for grubs. The bear was only about 50 feet from where Martha was still waking up in her tent. She opened the window on that side, saw the bear and decided to exit the tent and join us watching at a slightly farther distance. I have to say it was really refreshing to see a bear in the campground but doing what bears are meant to do and not going through someone’s left out cooler or food bin.
As we left the campsites and ventured back into civilization, and started to receive cellular service, my phone erupted with urgent messages from everyone to contact Galen. It would seem that whatever the previous issue was had taken another turn and they had now split and Galen was beside himself. I’ll likely never know the entire story, but we rallied some friends to go down and help move his things out of their condo and back in our home. It was heartbreaking to watch and to experience another loss.
We finished the move just in time to have Shelby and Cole come up for a visit. We were lucky to host them for a few days in which we did a little Evergreen brewery hop through several of our local brew pubs plus a stop at the infamous Little Bear Saloon. The next day we took the Mount Evans (now Mt. Blue Sky) drive to the top parking lot and hiked the final few hundred yards to the peak. Having Cole and Shelby was a very good distraction from the most recent event and likely kept me from the non-stop questions that circled my mind.
After Shelby and Cole left, I got a call from Lucia to come up to the cabin for a few days. Knowing I had better give Galen some space to settle in a bit more, I loaded the kayaks back up and joined her. We explored different lakes on different days and she was my sounding board as we paddled and talked and talked and paddled. Nature and friends and family were the keys to a good month.
We ended May with the corn hole tournament and then I was again sick for a few days. Meanwhile, as I kept to my bed and slept for the better part of two days, occasionally I would be alert enough to notice banging outside the house. I’ll tell you a secret. If you are lucky enough to have my sister and her hubby stay with you for more that a day or two, and you innocently leave a list of projects lying around, then, whether you are up and about or not, those projects have already begun to be crossed off as completed. They had helped prep for the cornhole tournament with some extra sprucing that I wasn’t sure about tackling on my own before the party, but now they were onto the meaty parts of what needed addressed. I had sections of soffits that Ted had removed for some reason or another that I hadn’t tackled the replacement of, as I just wanted the extra mental input along with the hands and muscle. The front porch had also been stripped of most of it’s siding and needed replaced to spruce up the front look a bit. We had another big party planned for my friends retirement party (my house, yard and parking availability lend itself to bigger parties than theirs), so we now had a deadline for the bigger projects. Hey, my peeps are use to our disheveled look, but we were hoping to put on a better face for the collection of guest to be coming to the retirement party. Siding was pulled from stashes in the yard (under tarp from salvage of when the neighbors removed same style cedar siding from their house) and from newer pieces purchased for some project in our garage. Lucky for me, TC and Roger had cleared out and organized the garage on their extended stay last year and it was easy to find – mostly.
We took a break one day to drive down to eastern Colorado to where my cousin John had moved to, as Tc and Roger had not seen the new Berger ranch. It wasn’t just John who moved out farther east of Denver then they once were. Victoria and her crew were within sight of Johns house and Valerie and her family were just five minutes away, so we headed down to see all the family. Even Luke came out with his two kids. It was a beautiful day and fun to see all of the Littles that are now a part of their crew (I think that they had 10 grandkids under 5 at the time). Watching the dynamics of all of those cousins together made me wonder if that is what the Hively clan cousins were like when we all got together for reunions. So fun to be around and even a better time to leave behind when everyone was ready to crash from play, sugar, excitement and a long visit. And that was as true for the seniors as it was for the littles.
The retirement party went off without a hitch despite the rain and cooler temps of the day. We must have done a decent job of it as one of the guests asked if she could host her family reunion at our house in the event that they had bad weather. I politely thanked her for the lovely complement and dropped the subject.
My nephew Ian arrived in the wee hours of the morning on the 17th and so we had a day together for everyone to catch up before TC and Roger left for Utah to see one of our cousins there and Ian and I headed to go camping with our standard camping crew plus Devin, Riley and Mollie for a few days. We floated, played games, ate, drank, laughed, hiked and on one Jeep trip with Jeff, the boys even got to see a bear. Oh, and we had a beaver den just on the other side of the river we were camped at and saw him several times and had an osprey perch in a nearby tree until he swooped down and caught a fish in the river and then showed it off by circling several times above us. Ian, Devin, Mollie, and Rich also fished, although, I think the osprey caught the biggest one.
Upon returning from the always fun camp trip, I had tasked Ian with finding me a gun safe to put into the house. To get a safe, we would need the truck and I had been having issues with the truck stalling under a load going uphill the last time I had hauled wood. I had since changed the air filter and it seemed to run ok now, but I hadn’t fully tested it. So, when he found a safe in Arvada (just down the hill a spell), we drove the truck to the gas station as a test. The truck never hesitated on our little test run, so we put in some gas and ventured onward to check out the safe. Ian haggled some, I paid, and we loaded it onto my dolly and next to the truck. I was to get inside the bed of the truck and direct it from above while Ian and the dude we purchased it from, lifted it onto the bed. I was fully unprepared for the speed and weight of the monster as they shoved it in my direction. I was knocked backwards and suddenly in the need of ninja moves so that the behemoth would not land fully upon me. I jumped a little and torqued my right knee so that the handle of the dolly landed between my legs and I was saved from any crushing blows. I got up, they pushed it the rest of the way in and I figured it was just another injury that I could walk off and be fine in no time.
Ian and I got into the truck and started our way back to the house and as soon as we hit the foothills, the truck bogged and stalled. We had just past the frontage road exit, so we were committed to trying to limp our way up to the next exit and evaluate our options. The gas filter was the next possible option for the symptoms were were having, so after 40 minutes of going in sections of a few hundred yards and then having to rest, we made it to the exit. Ian looked under the truck and decided that if we could get another fuel filter, he could replace it there. The auto part stores in Evergreen were already closed for the day, but we found the part in Golden, so I called Devin to come and fetch me so that we could swap out the filter. I also called Jeff and Traci to see if they could bring their truck if needed because I didn’t want to leave the safe in the back of the truck should we have to abandon it for the night. With just a handful of tools that we scrounged from the truck, Ian had the filter pulled and replaced in no time. Jeff and Traci came with the truck for backup in case anything else went awry and we headed up the frontage road. We were cruising along nicely and feeling great that all had been taken care of when just before the final rise to the buffalo exit, the truck once more bogged down. Once more limping our way to the top of the hill and just having mostly downhill stretches from there to home, we decided to forge onward. We made it all the way through Evergreen and around the lake and were headed the final two mile stretch when the truck died and would not restart. Our thoughts at that point were that we may as well tow it home and unload the safe and then the truck is home and we can decide what to do next. So, with Jeff and Traci in front with the tow rope and Devin following behind as a safe car, we made the final few miles home and coasted it backwards down the drive so that we could take the safe out closest to the entrance to the house. It wasn’t easy or simple, but everything was at the house.
The next day, I awoke to a knee that I could barely walk on. My neighbor provided a knee brace and with stabilization, I was good to go. Couple of days with that and all seemed fine.
We again met up with the camping crowd to celebrate Mol’s birthday and hang out one more time together at Prost Brewery in Denver. Then Devin, Ian and I went out east so that Ian could see cousin John and also check out one of the biggest John Deere collectors in the state. This guy has barns and barns of tractors each of which he can tell you the serial number of, where it was made and how he came to own it. It was very impressive. Then to top it off, he had an entire shop of miniatures that he has refurbished. Good tractor fun.
Ian left Colorado and by the end of the same week, he again had parts of the Colorado Camp crew again hanging out with him albeit this time at the pond with the Ohio crew.
I returned from Albuquerque and the weather started hinting more of spring. In 2022, I had a crew of friends, my sister, and my brother-in-law helping to clean the yard of what old man Winter had left behind. My sister and BIL were coming at the end of the month, but I was determined to get the needles and debris raked and bagged before their arrival. Every week, I maxed out the amount of extra yard bags the trash man would take at most of my neighbors.
Plants were purchased, flower boxes were planted and put into the greenhouse until safe to put outdoors (we can get snow into June, so it is tricky some years).
In my house, was a great deal of collectibles in the form of Swarovski crystals, Hand painted Limoges from France, dolls, elephants of all kinds and sizes, pewter figurines, Christmas Villages, and more – all from my previous neighbor who had passed away, and willed all to me. I had thought it would be fun to Ebay it all and make up little stories about each item, but upon returning from the Seattle trip, I knew that the last thing that I wanted to do was to perform my own customer service on all of these items. Dealing with packing and shipping, more questions back and forth on items people couldn’t see every nook and cranny of and hold for themselves, causes questions and concerns and back and forth with emails and more pics, and, and, and. I just needed a place to have it out to sell. The local antique mall came to mind and so in I went with the idea that I would pick a few of the locked cases that had similar items and ask the dealer if I could partner up with them. After noting the dealer numbers of a few that might work, I asked the gal at the dealer desk if I was able to get dealer info and relayed the why and what-for of my thoughts. She stopped me from going too far and said that I just needed to get my own case and work it myself. She included that if I was willing to be a “key dealer”, that the case could be paid for by coming in and working a 4-hour shift every other week. She had multiple cases, so she had a few steady shifts, but basically, the key dealers come in and when someone presses the buzzer that they need help with a locked case, one of the key dealers comes by and opens the case, shows the merchandise and puts it up front for the customer if they decide to purchase the item. The customer is given a numbered color coded card and is then free to keep shopping and each time they purchase another item, they just show the card and it is added to their stash behind the sales counter. Sounded easy enough for me and so, I filled out the dealer application and my name was to be put on the waiting list for a case. This was back in early March.
Since March, I had not heard from them to even say that they had my application or where I was on the list. I mean, I had been told that it was likely going to be a 6-9 month wait, but I thought that they likely should let people know that they were indeed on the list. Now that I was back in the vicinity, I stopped by one afternoon to ask for confirmation that they did indeed have my info and if the wait list was getting shorter. The gal behind the counter relayed that everything about the antique mall was antique and that included their communication structure. They were not in the habit of updating the waiting list, but when the time did come, a call would be made to me and I would have a few days to respond and get a case and that call was still likely 6-9 months in waiting. I said that I had been told about the “key dealership” program and asked if I could go ahead and start volunteering for shifts now and just have that cover the case when it became available. She replied that No, you cannot work if you don’t have a case, but if I was eager to work, then she would pass along the info to the scheduling manager and I could get bumped up nearer to the top of the waiting list as they were always looking for more key dealers. I provided my name and number and set to walking around the booths and stalls to see what kind of fun things I could spot. I hadn’t made it through 1/4 of the store before I received a call from a manager offering me a case. So much for the 6-9 month wait. I picked out a case and now we just had to fill it.
My case was to be available starting Mother’s Day, so my friend Traci and I set out to price, tag, and create a spreadsheet of internet prices for each item and the prices we would sell for. When I signed the dealer paperwork, I added Traci as my co-dealer so that she too could go into the case if needed and also get the dealer discounts when she wanted to purchase something from the store that might be from another dealer. And thus, “antique dealer” could be added to my short resume.
The last week of May was a flurry of activity. My sister and brother-in-law showed up to stay for a month, my cousin and daughter showed up with intent for daughter to stay with us while she looked to find a job in Colorado, and the annual Ted Memorial Cornhole tournament was held and again well attended. Congrats to Bob and Riley for winning this year.
The pretty tuxedo kitty in the pics was also one of the inherited items from the previous neighbor. Birdie was 15 when we got him and having never been an outdoor cat, he became quite curious about the flora and fauna of the yard. He also established himself as quite the therapy cat offering comfort in a most gentle manner. He really is the very best cat we could have ever asked for had we even thought of ever asking. Ted was allergic to cats, so it was never an option, but Birdie has become Devin’s cat and to see the two of them cuddling together always makes me happy.