Today was Fetcha Day for our new furry baby. After spending the night in Vernal, Utah, we drove into Duchesne and met the breeder at 9 am. She was wonderful, and Loki (whose full AKC name shall be Happy Go Loki Seven) was perfect from the get go. He played with a kitten, ran around the grass, and then settled into our arms like he had always belonged with us.
The drive from Duchesne to our house is approximately seven hours, and with a new pup we wanted to get home as quickly as possible. Along the way, we stopped several times at parks to let Loki use the grassy facilities and stretch his three-inch long corgi legs. By the time we hit Interstate 70, a point where we should have been a little over three hours from home, traffic came to a dead stop and then proceeded at a snail’s pace. That was about 1:30 pm. We got home at 7:30 pm. You do the math. At least it was a gorgeous Colorado fall day with plenty of color on the mountains to make the sluggish day bearable.
Loki could not have been a better travel companion, all five pounds of him. He did all his dirty business on the stops we made and never in the car. He missed his dinner time, but never whined about it. He entered his new kennel on his own and took several naps in there unprompted. And he tolerated ten hours in a car like a seasoned pro. He is a puppy to be sure, all sharpy teeth and nails, but he loves people and could not have a sweeter disposition. I can tell he is going to give us a run for our money, though, because he is smart. He has already proven he learns quickly. We are going to have to be careful because he is sure to pick up bad habits as quickly as good ones if we are not.
When we got home, we had a plan to slowly and respectfully introduce Ruby to the new brother she did not request. We had Luke walk her before we came home to get her in a calmer mental space. We let Loki run around the yard as soon as we arrived and then we put him in his small kennel, carried him in, and set him where Ruby could see him. She came close to investigate, clearly was not thrilled, but walked away without a snarl or as much attitude as I had expected. Then we left the puppy with Luke and took her for another walk. We are going to work to keep them separate by keeping Loki in his pen or crate when he is around her and not allowing him to play around her until Ruby is ready to accept her new roommate. It might take a couple weeks, but I think our slow approach will work. Fingers crossed.
We are all exhausted now after a long day, so it’s time to settle in for the night. So far so good with the puppy, the doggy introduction, and an only mildly sassy Ruby. Life is better with a furry dog friend or two.
We spent the better part of our day heading west towards the small Utah town where tomorrow we will fetch (pun intended) our newest family member, Loki puppy. The thing about Colorado is it is big, bigger than you might imagine. It’s the eighth largest state, which isn’t clearly apparent when you look at a map of the US. However, it is only 20th in terms of population. This means there is a great deal of open space here. The traffic in the cities is a nightmare, but outside the cities there are areas of the state where you really are ostensibly out in the middle of nowhere. We passed through some of those nowhere areas today.
When I was a child, Colorado was a red state. As the population has increased and the cities have grown, it has become a blue state. Let’s call it light blue. Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Pueblo, and many of the mountain towns are blue. Colorado Springs, along with the rural towns in the west and east, are red. You can travel through Denver and see LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter signs along with American flags, but once you hit the rural areas you will begin to see Don’t Tread on Me and Blue Lives Matter flags, along with Trump flags and even Confederate flags (don’t get me started on that). This division of our state’s population along political lines has never been as apparent to me as it is now. It’s enough to make little liberal me feel uncomfortable when we pass through Rifle, where US Representative Lauren Boebert owns a restaurant aptly called Shooter’s Grill, where servers wait on tables with loaded guns holstered at their sides. As we left the Denver metro area and headed west and then northwest, we entered some of the lower populated areas that are solidly red, including Rifle.
Outside of Rifle, heading north towards Meeker today, I saw something I have never in my 53 years as an American citizen seen. There was a small ranch off the road on my side of the car. As we drove past, I noticed they had two flags attached to the wooden entry gate, one American flag and one variant of a Blue Lives Matter flag. This did not surprise me. What caught my attention was that both flags were flying upside down, waving in the fall breeze.
I turned to Steve and remarked about it. According to the US flag code, “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” From what I could glean from the appearance of the ranch, there were no instances of extreme danger to life or property, which could only mean that the union down on their flag poles was meant to signify that our country is in dire distress. I told Steve that I too agree that our country is in dire distress, but I imagine I probably disagree with the person who hoisted those flags as to why that is.
The sight of these flags flown upside down, combined with the events of January 6th at the US Capitol, are deeply concerning. And after reading an opinion piece in The Washington Post yesterday written by neoconservative scholar Robert Kagan, entitled Our Constitutional Crisis Is Already Here, I’m getting increasingly worried about where we are headed. When you see conservative pundits on mainstream media saying they expect there to be violence, it’s time to expect violence. We are in an ugly, scary place. We don’t have a roadmap for where we are heading. I know it doesn’t help my mindset that I am a huge fan of the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. I keep telling Steve as I see the battle to overturn Roe v. Wade play out that I won’t end up like June Osborne, unable to escape a country that has fallen under authoritarian rule while she kept thinking, “This can’t really be happening.” It’s not hyperbole to say that we are in dangerous territory, and I’m not talking about Rifle or Lauren Boebert’s Shooter’s Grill.
“Liberals and Democrats in particular need to distinguish between their ongoing battle with Republican policies and the challenge posed by Trump and his followers. One can be fought through the processes of the constitutional system; the other is an assault on the Constitution itself.” ~ Robert Kagan
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” ~John Muir
Thing 1 heads back to college next week. In between packing and getting in last-minute visits with high school friends, he’s been trying to fit in as much time in the great Colorado outdoors as possible. This summer he climbed three 14ers, rode his bike over Vail Pass (10k feet), and this past weekend he and his father rode from our house to downtown Denver and back again (56 miles). He and I had discussed going out to climb another 14er today, but decided to sleep in and hike a little closer to home. So this morning we went to Roxborough State Park. It’s one of our favorites and it’s ten minutes from our front door. We’ve been hiking in the summer and snowshoeing in the winter at this park since the boys (I can’t get used to calling them men) were young.
Since the original goal was to climb a 14er, we decided to hike Carpenter Peak, the park’s longest and most strenuous hike. During the past few weeks, Denver has been inundated with smoke from the fires in California; today the skies were crystal clear by comparison. We started hiking around 8, but it was already quite warm. We found ourselves lingering longer in the shady spots than we might normally. Joe was patient, waiting for me when I had to stop to catch my breath. But finally I was spurred on by the rising heat to push for the summit as quickly as possible, and we started making good time. When we finally made it to the top, we were rewarded by being the only ones there and having the clearest views we’ve seen in a while. And when the hike was finished we’d logged over 7 miles and climbed about 123 flights. It was a nice morning workout.
I will miss having Joe around to kick my butt into gear, but maybe I will be able to use today as a springboard. Then when he comes home for Thanksgiving, we can do this hike again and I can show him the progress I’ve made.
After racking up about a thousand miles driving around Colorado this weekend, we arrived home late this afternoon. We’re filthy, the camper still needs to be cleaned out and put back together, and we had to order in pizza because the fridge was empty, but we’re home. Funny how walking into your home after time away feels heavenly. Nothing has changed. It’s the same place you left not that long ago. But somehow it’s renewed. Maybe it’s just because I spent the past four days living in a tin can on wheels, but our home felt like a palace when I walked in. It seems huge. I’m feeling pretty spoiled.
The walls might start to close in on me a little tomorrow when I have to catch up on laundry, go grocery shopping, and fall back into my normal housekeeping job, but for tonight this house is the Four Seasons with a luxurious king bed and top-of-the-line bath products. Now all I need is a decent night’s rest and a long, hot shower that turns me into a Disney princess.
They say home is where you hang your hat. Tonight I am grateful that my hat rack is no longer on wheels.
“Happiness hit her like a train on a track.” ~ Florence Welch
I spent today on the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. If you haven’t been, add it to your bucket list. The trip takes you a little over 45 miles one way through the heart of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado from Durango to Silverton. This was my second trip on the train, the first time with our sons. The only way to see this stretch of Colorado is via this train. I spent my entire day feeling grateful that this is where I have spent most of my life. Colorado is stunning. It’s a privilege to live here.
I am writing this from a campground in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango, Colorado. We have been here since Thursday afternoon with our sons and our friends. Steve and I have been camping together since 1994. We bought our first pop-up camper in 2004 when our sons were 3 and 1. Our inaugural camper trip was to Maroon Bells near Aspen. I’ll never forget it because Luke, then about 14 months, got cranky around midnight and started wailing in our tiny, silent-but-completely-filled campground. We spent the next hour driving up and down the moonlit road to Maroon Lake until he fell asleep and we could return to our camper. Now the boys sleep in their own tent. Steve and I have upgraded to a small, hard-sided camper. Along with our adventure gear, we have grown and changed, but camping is the same.
I have a love/hate relationship with camping. On the one hand, there is the adventure of traveling somewhere new and exploring our stunning state. On the other hand, I prefer not to be cold and/or wet, ever. On the one hand, there is nature, the scent of pine trees, the joy of seeing a clear, starry sky not lost to light pollution. On the other hand, hotel beds are so much nicer than a three-inch camper mattress. On the one hand, it’s kind of fun sitting around a fire with a drink while the kids burn marshmallows and wolf down S’mores. On the other hand, I hate it when my hair smells like campfire smoke and I have to live for days without a proper shower while my leg hair grows and I begin to resemble Sasquatch. On the one hand, camping is the best way to unplug. On the other hand, some of my favorite things have plugs. It’s a conundrum.
Still, I have so many stories because of camping. I slept in a car at the foot of Long’s Peak in February once, freezing all night, just to get away with a then boyfriend. Before we were married, Steve and I drove sixteen miles up a 4-wheel-drive-only dirt road near Crown King, Arizona, only to arrive at our campsite, put up our tent, and discover we had one flat tire and one almost flat tire and needed to pack back up and leave. Once my family and I had to abandon our camper and drive to a hotel after a bear showed up in our campground and spooked some fellow campers. They began hollering and banging pots and honking horns trying to scare the poor, furry thing off. We decided we had enough as soon as someone began shooting a gun into the air to spook it. I have a lifetime of memories tied to this crazy notion that you should leave your comfortable home, pack up your clothes, put your food on ice, and change your perspective for a few days by being slightly uncomfortable, dirty, and inconvenienced.
Full disclosure: My husband advised me against writing this post. He did this because he is embarrassed for me by what I am about to disclose. He suggested I might not want to share this particular story. Second full disclosure: Listening well has never been in my wheelhouse. So I am going to tell my story anyway.
Steve and I started road cycling in 2009. When we brought my new bike home, a shiny, blue-and-silver $1300 aluminum frame contraption with mid-level components, Steve had to explain to me how the dang thing worked. I could ride a bike, but this was the most high-tech cycle I had ever owned. Steve began by telling me about the brakes and reminded me squeezing the front brake too hard too quickly would cause me to somersault head-over-heels off the bike. That seemed like an important point, so I memorized that. He showed me how to take the wheels off in case of a flat. I sort of paid attention to that detail. Then he continued explaining how to make the bike work for me. About two seconds after he mentioned mechanical advantage, I checked out. Mechanical advantage sounded a lot like physics. Yawn.
I am a bottom line person. Where some people like the fine details and want to understand the minutiae of a topic, I want to know only what I need to know. Call it impatience. Call it short sighted. Call it crazy. I call it being married to a man who tosses me a 300-page camera manual and tells me to read it when all I want to know is which button on the auto-focus monster snaps the photos.
So as he was describing how the gears up front work in conjunction with the gears in the back to help you increase your speed or climb hills or whatever (like I said, physics), I interrupted him to posit when we might get to that ever important bottom line.
“Which gear do I want to be in to make it easier?” I asked.
He started in again about mechanical advantage, yadda yadda yadda, and I went on another mental vacation. I vaguely heard something about “big gear,” “small gear,” “front,” and “back.” I would figure it out. How hard could it be? It was a bicycle. All I needed to know was how to get going and how to stop. I could do that already.
Steve and I participated in the Tour of the Moon ride into Colorado National Monument on Saturday. We first discussed this ride as we were coming off the high of completing the Bike MS ride in June. I registered us and then I forgot about it. Two months went by during which we got on our bikes only twice for short, easy rides. A couple days ago, we started considering our options for the weekend and chose to go ahead with the ride without training. We figured we might be sore afterward, but we could handle it. At the hotel the night before, I glanced for the first time at the ride’s elevation profile. Big mistake. In roughly 16 miles we would climb about 3500 feet. Did not sleep well with that knowledge.
The next morning as we approached the monument and the dreaded climb was looming, Steve asked me what gear I was in.
“I’m on the middle ring,” I told him, referring to my front gears.
The middle is where I most often stay when riding because, well, I don’t understand my gears because, well, I didn’t pay attention during my lesson. In the past, I have tried to switch gears on a hill, lost momentum, stalled out, and simply flopped over sideways still clipped into my bike pedals. I haven’t enjoyed that, so the middle gear has remained my crutch and faithful companion. It gets me where I am going, and I don’t fall over while switching gears. Win-win.
We pulled off into a church parking lot so Steve could investigate. He told me to switch into the easiest gear. I did.
“What gear is your chain on?”
“The big one,” I replied.
“The big one up front?” he asked.
“Yes. Granny gear.”
“Umm…that is not granny gear,” came the reply.
“Yes it is. You told me the big gear up front was granny gear.”
“You want the small gear up front and the big gear in the back,” he told me.
“This is how I have always done it,” I told him.
“Always? Not always,” he asked doubtfully.
“As long as I can remember,” I said.
“Then you have been climbing in the wrong gear,” he replied.
Well, shit. No wonder I’ve hated hills.
With my bike finally figured out (nine years later), we began our ascent. The new gear knowledge worked like a charm. The ride wasn’t exactly easy (rain, hail, and cold weather temps ensured that), but I had no problem riding. My legs weren’t tired. I pedaled up the hills slower than molasses in January, but I never felt like quitting. And you know why? Because for the past nine years I have been training for this one ride by cruising along in middle gear. And that is an oddly perfect metaphor for my life to this point. From the beginning, I’ve made things more difficult for myself than they needed to be. I checked out too soon or checked in too late or somehow managed to do both. There isn’t much to gain from an easy path, so I’ve grown through my hard (and occasionally not necessary) work.
Perhaps you now understand why Steve was reluctant about my relaying this story. It’s embarrassing. This blonde moment lasted nine years. It’s practically a blonde decade. And, at a point in my not too distant past, I would have been too mortified to share this information. But I am older now and working to accept my flaws and appreciate my gifts. I am learning to look on the bright side. I could take this whole bike-gear lunacy and go to a dark place about what a dolt I am and how naive I was not to figure out my bike properly in the first place. Instead, I’ve chosen to be positive. For something between the 3000-5000 miles I have ridden over the years, I have worked at my cycling. Every ride I undertook, I rode with more effort than I needed to give. All the times I felt weak because the hill climbs seemed much harder for me than for others, it was because they were most likely harder. And the times I passed other riders cruising up a hill in a harder gear than necessary, it was because I was strong, stronger than I had any idea I was. That is not embarrassing. It is an awesome discovery of my power and resiliency.
I’m not saying I will eschew the easiest gear going forward. That would be silly. Sometimes the path of least resistance is a good idea. I might, however, keep riding in middle gear a bit longer and see what else I can do.
We like to ski. Saturdays in January, we head to the slopes. As a rule, we try to be on the road by 6 a.m. Today? Well…today we missed that goal by about 20 minutes, and that 20 minutes left us sitting in traffic for three hours before we even hit the exit for Berthoud Pass, from which point we still faced another 45 minutes on the road before we would arrive at Winter Park. Yikes. Colorado is the second-fastest growing state, and it is obvious every time we get on a highway. There are days when I find myself looking for the ocean because we must be living in LA. It is insane. Everyone wants to live here. And everyone who moves here does so for the mountains. Great for Colorado’s economy, but miserable for those of us who have lived here most our lives and remember the good old days when only a blizzard would find you stuck in your car at a crawl for over two hours before making your ultimate ski destination.
Today we did something unprecedented in our ski history. We reached the turn off for Winter Park, looked at the traffic ahead of us and behind us, and uttered a collective NOPE. We drove up the exit ramp, made a sharp left, and merged back onto the highway headed east. We’d had enough of crawling. We’d been awake four hours and had nothing but lack-of-sleep hangovers to show for it. We didn’t have the energy left to stand in freezing lift lines for the equivalent of six minutes for every one minute we would get to dodge and weave our way down overcrowded slopes. We cut our losses. As we headed east we glanced at the vehicles standing still in three lanes of traffic heading west and knew we’d made the right choice. There will be other ski days. Skiing today would not have been worth any further effort. It took only 45 minutes to get home.
When Steve and I were new-ish parents, we forced situations. We stuck with our plans, even when what we planned no longer made sense. We were going to live our lives and barrel through unabated by trivial things like explosions of infant poop in carseats. And we suffered for our inability to take in the big picture, to default to Plan B, or to skip straight to a plan we hadn’t yet conceptualized. Maybe it’s our 15 years of parenting experience, maybe it’s a greater understanding about what matters when it comes to family time, or maybe we’ve practiced yoga for too long now but, whatever it is, we find ourselves much more flexible when life throws us a curve. I like to think that on days like this one we are modeling for our sons the value in thinking critically as situations evolve and re-evaluating plans for the best outcome. We’re living in the present and acknowledging that we can’t control everything that happens but we can control our actions.
Some days you stay and fight for what you want. You stand in a freezing lift line for the opportunity to schuss your way down a powdery slope. Other days it’s better to be Elsa and Let It Go.
This year, as part of my never-ending quest to grow, I decided to take a photo a day. The way I have it figured, it should help me accomplish two goals: 1) capture the year in photos and 2) find my photographer’s eye and improve my artistic skills. So today, as I was driving home after depositing my sons at school, I noticed that the morning light was damn near inspirational. God bless Colorado and its bluebird days after storms.
Knowing I had a photo to take and about five loads of laundry at home that would convince me not to venture out again, I stopped at the large park across from our ‘hood and trudged out into the 4-degree temps in my not-quite-pajamas-but-some-people-might-still-think-I-am-wearing-pajamas outfit and my snow boots and my long down coat with my steadfast iPhone. (Did I mention I am taking all 365 photos via iPhone?) While wandering through the park as quickly as my short legs could carry me, I collected myriad photos of evergreen trees tinted white, the crisp and glittering snowy ground, the frozen wire backstop on the baseball field, and a squirrel sporting a frosty beard a la Santa Claus. After I felt satisfied I must have something worth sharing and determined my right hand might be headed towards frostbite, I swung around to head back to the car. Then I saw it. The photo of the day. The sun was behind me, and there in front of me was the tallest me I have ever seen. In real life, I’m a measly 5’4″ tall. I’ve always wished I was taller. Both my sisters are. And I get tired of standing on counters to reach things on the top shelf in the cupboard. So when I saw my lean, lanky, and impossibly tall shadow cast before me, I had to immortalize the moment. I’ve never felt that big. Ever. I’ve never felt anything but small. The image spoke to me.
I spent part of my laundry day thinking about this new year and how I could bounce back after what was perhaps not my greatest year yet in 2016. I thought about where I was coming from and where I might want to point my feet next. I thought about the photo I had taken earlier, and it occurred to me that the photo is the embodiment of what I want for myself in 2017. What I need to do this year is stretch. I need to reach higher. I need to be the bigger person. I need to cast a long shadow. I need to realize that I am not limited by my 5’4″ frame. I need to believe I am larger than life.
I have been meaning to get back to writing over the past year but have been more adept at making excuses than recording thoughts. So I am going to continue to take photos as planned for the next 359 days. Then I am going to post them here with a few words or comments or reflections or lines of utter nonsense just to get myself back into the habit of writing every day, no matter how mundane my daily photos might be, no matter how prosaic my thoughts about them are. It’s about the process and the effort, the journey and not the destination. I have to start sometime. I lose a part of myself when I stop writing, and I miss me, dammit.
I have sold myself short for too long. I printed out this photo and put it on the wall next to my desk. Just like my shadow that photo, I am going to be huuuuuuge this year.