We live in an area that is currently being developed southwest of Denver. It’s a part of town that up until now has been characterized by small, family-owned ranches. Little by little, though, the landowners here have been cashing out as Denver has expanded and housing costs have skyrocketed. We moved out to this new development from Denver last year because we wanted to have a little more open space and a little less traffic congestion and street noise around us. We were thrilled to buy a house that backs to a natural ravine, which is characterized as open space as we have no one living directly behind us. In the past year, we have seen deer and coyotes in this open space. One day there was even a moose spotted further up the ravine. Today, though, we were fortunate enough to witness something different.
The people who own the development put on a cattle drive through our neighborhood. Since Denver was originally a “cow town,” it was fitting today to get to experience a little of that history. The cattle were driven up the open space behind our house to a pasture behind the neighborhood where they will graze for the winter. The beauty of this is that we were literally able to stand in our yard and on our deck to see this spectacle. While many of our fellow neighbors who turned out for the event had to find a spot along a street from which to watch, our yard was within feet of the ranchers on horseback who were herding the cattle up the ravine. Even our three-month-old corgi puppy enjoyed the experience, barking at the cattle he felt compelled by nature to herd as they jogged on by.
It’s a privilege to live in Colorado every single day, even if driving here can be a nightmare. On this particular Sunday, though, it was epic that there was no Broncos game so the only traffic we had to deal with was the four-legged kind moving briefly behind our home on the way to better pastures.
Our sweet puppy, Loki, is not-quite-so-little-anymore. He’s 11 weeks old now and has gained almost four pounds since his Fetcha Day four weeks ago. His front paws seem huge, his eyes are darker, and his markings are becoming more pronounced, He has met our neighbor dogs to the south, a golden retriever named Sawyer and his buddy Teddy, a yellow lab. He has zero fear of these dogs who are about 75 pounds heavier than he is. He stands at the fence on his hind legs with his nose to his new friends. He can’t wait to play with them. The neighbor dogs to our north, a Wheaton terrier named Finn and a chocolate-colored schnauzer named Chewie, Loki is not so sure about. They scared him the other day by sneaking up to the fence and barking at him while he was peeing. Loki stopped mid-stream and tore off towards our front door, not looking back but barking complaints the entire way.
Today was Loki’s first opportunity for play time with other dogs. We’d been waiting to take him until we were certain his vaccinations were on track. At his first visit to his new vet on Thursday, he got the necessary shots so we enrolled him in an hour long Playful Pup socialization class in Denver. When we arrived, there was already one dog there, a much larger mixed breed named Vaquita. Not long after we entered, a cattle dog mix named Pablo arrived. There were just three dogs in class today, and six nervous parents hoping their fur babies would play nice. The other dogs dwarfed Loki, but it was obvious from the start that Loki was the least fearful.
The dog trainer allowed the two larger, more fearful dogs to meet and figure out their dynamics first, while Loki watched from a safe distance behind a wire gate. Pablo and Vaquita were tense around each other. Their hackles were slightly raised and there was some doggy trash talking and flashing of pearly whites. Steve and I stood there wondering what the hell we had gotten our little guy into. After a while, Pablo and Vaquita began taking breaks from their interactions. The trainer had assessed that Pablo would be a better first meet-up for Loki, so Pablo was allowed into the gated area with Loki. Loki was eager to see what this bigger dog was all about, and Pablo was eager to prove he was the bigger dog. The early doggy tussles had Pablo in the lead, but as the minutes wore on we began to see Loki figuring out how to use his diminutive size to his advantage in play. Pablo and Loki played amicably but vigorously for about 10 minutes until both of them were dog tired. When Vaquita was reintroduced into the mixture, Pablo became protective of Loki. He clearly liked his new playmate and was not keen to share. Loki, for his part, seemed like he could use a nap. Vaquita got a bit aggressive with our tired pup, and Loki did something we hadn’t seen him do before. He scrunched up his puppy nose and bared those piranha teeth to let Vaquita know he was D-O-N-E. The trainer told us Loki had done a great job at his first play date and had earned some rest. So, we said our goodbyes and took our baby home.
I have to hand it to the trainer. She had her hands full today with two larger, more fearful puppies and one tiny, scrappy guy who had been itching for a play opportunity. She didn’t just carefully monitor the puppy language; she also watched the anxious parents who were simultaneously fearful for their babies and fearful their babies might hurt someone else’s baby. She took care of all nine of us without blinking an eye. And I left Loki’s first puppy class feeling both proud of Loki for being a typical, assertive Corgi despite his size and proud of Steve and I for not freaking out when the bigger dogs got a little riled up around our 9 pound boy.
All in all, the day was a great success. We’d started Loki on the path to being a good dog citizen and we’d learned to relax a little about dog interactions ourselves. It’s hard for people who are conflict averse to watch discord, even puppy discord, without feeling uncomfortable. I think we learned as much today as Loki did. And we’re ready to sign him up for another socialization session, which means all three of us grew today and will grow more soon.
“I woke up this morning and I said, you know, instead of waiting on a good day, waiting around through ups and downs, waiting on something to happen, we’re gonna have a good day.” ~Nappy Roots
I love a fall Saturday filled with activities with my favorite people. To make the day even sunnier, we brought the puppers along for a full day of adventure and socialization. He loves the peoples, and the peoples love him.
We started the day with a cross-country meet at 9 am. It was a perfect morning for a run. Well, it was a perfect morning for someone to run, just not me. I don’t do that yet. Still, it was just 60 degrees, so Luke knocked 1:16 off his previous race time. After the race we hurried home by 10, and were off again at 11 a.m. so Luke could go to his first college interview of the day downtown at noon.
While he was interviewing with Whitman College, we got some tasty coffee at Blue Sparrow in the RiNo (River North) section of Denver.
Joe, who was in town for just three days, got to spend some quality time with our new little friend. He is threatening to take him back to Washington. I think not. Still, it was a beautiful day for relaxing on a green space while waiting for Luke.
When Luke finished, we ordered sandwiches from Snarf’s and headed towards his second college interview of the day in Englewood. Luke spent time chatting with a representative from St. Olaf while his immature mother snapped this photo because she is, in all actuality, a 12 year old boy.
Loki got interested in a water feature, until he realized water is wet. He then moved on to being Chief Leaf Inspector, which he preferred greatly. He inspects them with his mouth because that is how puppies operate without the aid of opposable thumbs.
We finally headed for home around 3 p.m. We had invited some of our favorite people on earth to dinner (Joe’s best friend and his parents, who are some of our favorite friends as well), so we had to get cooking. Literally. I set a casual, fall-themed table for 8. It’s nice to be able to hang out with people indoors again.
While Steve and I finished preparing the brisket and baked potatoes, the boys played corn hole. This was quite generous of Luke because he does not like this as much as Joe does. But he acquiesced because he won’t see his sibling again until Thanksgiving.
And so we had a pleasant meal with our friends, putting a perfect exclamation point at the end of a long, but fun day. The puppy was worn out, our older dog relished the attention of our guests, the boys cracked each other up, and dinner turned out great.
Sometimes, it’s worth getting up at 6:45 on a Saturday. Life’s what you make of it.
“You’ve got only one life to live. You can either make it chickenshit or chicken salad.” ~Cousins (1989)
I drive my son to and from school, thirty-five minutes one way. Yes. He is 18. He has had his learner’s permit for three years now, but hasn’t shown much interest in acquiring his driver’s license. I suspect this is mainly because the drivers in Denver are terrifying. We saw three near collisions this morning. People here speed and weave in and out of highway traffic like they’re Lightning McQueen. If you struggled with anxiety and saw multiple traffic accidents a day, you might prefer a chauffeur as well.
At any rate, I have noticed recently that as the week progresses, my preparedness for our morning commute diminishes. Allow me to elucidate:
Monday: After a weekend of rest and minimal driving, I am up and at ’em at 6:30. I will be dressed in actual clothes, have make up on, have prepared my own coffee and a smoothie, unloaded the dishwasher, and be ready to depart five minutes before our scheduled exit at 7:10. I rock!
Tuesday: I might have switched to casual jogger pants, rather than denim or decent shorts, but otherwise I am still fairly prepared for the day and presentable as a human being. We’ve got this.
Wednesday: I am moving a little more slowly. I am likely wearing sweatpants, a sweatshirt, and little, if any, make up. I will just put sunglasses over the bags under my eyes and use them to disguise the obvious lack of mascara on my sparse, blonde eyelashes. Hubby, noticing that the struggle is real, hands me a latte to which I have just enough time to add some creamer. I will get through today.
Thursday: I am so dog tired. My attention to self-care has eroded to meh at best. I maybe put a bra on under my pajama top, throw on some leggings, pull my dirty hair into a disheveled ponytail, and call it good. I drag my sorry butt out to my car three minutes later than usual, but at least I have the latte hubby made me. I just have to make it home.
Friday: I am still in bed whining about having to get up twenty minutes after the alarm I set for ten minutes later than the day before has gone off. My audible Friday lament rings through the house: “I’m not getting up. You can’t make me.” I eventually drag myself out of bed with five minutes to go. I have just enough time for the bare minimum. I am wearing my pajama top with flannel pants on my bottom half, hard-soled slippers on my feet, and a baseball hat on my head. As I brush my teeth, I’ve got black silicone pads under my eyes working to reduce the 50-pound baggage there. I rip those off at 7:10, grab the coffee my husband long-since left on the counter for me before heading to his downstairs (no longer downtown) office. I stagger out to the car, back out of the garage, and then realize I’ve left my phone somewhere inside. I trudge back inside and look around until I find it under the covers on the bed, and we depart after 7:15 and pray there will not be much traffic. On the way there, I realize with chagrin I forgot to sweeten my coffee. Jesus help us all.
My prayer each week is that if one of the Richard Petty wannabes in Denver hits me on I-25, they will do so on Monday or Tuesday. If it’s on Wednesday, that will be okay too. But, I pity the fool who hits me on Thursday or Friday and has to deal with the exhausted, only semi-functioning swamp thing into which I have devolved.
This morning, however, as I slogged through traffic yawning the whole way, I had a glorious thought. This is my last year as chauffeur. Next year at this time, both sons will be off at college, and I will be free to start my day whenever it suits me. Preferably after a long shower and a leisurely, perfectly sweetened latte.
I was driving on the highway today, going about 10 miles per hour over the speed limit in the fast lane, when a shiny, brand new, bright blue Audi S4 came buzzing up behind me way too fast. I quickly moved out of his way, shaking my head at the driver, because there was traffic in front of me. I wasn’t sure exactly where he thought he was going once he got me out of the way because there were plenty of cars ahead of me, but I let him zip around. As he did, I noticed he was on his cell phone texting. I rolled my eyes. I’d like to say that drivers like this dude are a rarity in Denver traffic, but they’re not. On any normal commute, I will encounter at least two accidents slowing traffic because some people haven’t figured out that when you are going 80, weaving in and out and zooming around people like you’re in Mario Kart, you’re creating dangerous situations.
Anyway, I got out of his way because I didn’t want to be in an accident, much less in an accident with a dope like that. A few minutes later, though, continuing along at my same, steady speed, I passed him because he had pulled into the slow lane and was going 65. I looked over and saw he was still texting, though. I assume he thought 65 was a safer speed for that illegal behavior. I shook my head again, merged onto the northbound highway, and was in the process of expunging him from my mind, when I saw him flying up behind me again. Holy hell. I was in the right lane now, and he sped around me on the left going at least 20 miles an hour faster than I was, and then pulled back into the lane in front of me so I could enjoy the tail view of his shiny car once more. Sigh.
Then it happened. Traffic came to a standstill. The blue Audi was suddenly stopped directly in front of me. All five lanes were loaded with cars at full stop. I slowed down, pulled up directly behind him, and smiled. I love it when shit like this happens. It makes me happy. I call it “divine intervention.” Some outside force leveled the playing field. Despite all his speeding, zipping, zooming, and buzzing in his quick little Audi, we were in the same spot. He hadn’t gotten any further than I had. Tee hee.
He noticed me pull up behind him. He adjusted his designed sunglasses in his side view mirror. At least now he could continue texting without potentially killing someone, I thought. I have to admit I was a little tempted to pull an Evelyn Couch from Fried Green Tomatoes, ram into his rear bumper (okay, okay, maybe just tap his bumper enough to scratch it) and tell the young fool, “Face it, dude. I’m older and I have more insurance.” Instead, I sat in my car feeling a little smug because all the speed of his fancy new car was rendered useless. He might have enjoyed passing the old lady in her 2015 Lexus SUV and feeling powerful, but now he was impotent like the rest of us. It almost made sitting for the extra twenty minutes behind him, waiting to get around another highway fender bender, worth it.
Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life. It was not my first political march. It won’t be my last. But this one, completed with my husband, sons, sister, brother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and mother all united in this cause with me, was life altering. As we stood in the sunny cold of Civic Center Park waiting for the march to begin, people near us sang. An impromptu band formed when trumpet and trombone players found the tubas in the middle of the park. Signs were ubiquitous and mostly filled with positivity and love. Some were a little cheeky. Some were outright funny. Some displayed beautiful imagery and artwork. My fellow marchers were courteous, peaceful, and patient. The mood was ebullient. As more and more people gathered and the crowd swelled to well over 100k people, we realized were weren’t just witnessing something incredible. We were part of it. We weren’t demonstrating. We were showing the world what democracy looks like.
I’m not sure what I thought the new administration would say about the marches, but I guess I thought they would say something. Anything. My eternally hopeful side kind of thought we’d provided the president with an ideal opportunity to prove what he had said at his inauguration. He wants to unite us and he is giving our country back to us. It was a perfect moment to say a simple, “I acknowledge you and I hear your concerns.” I expectantly turned on the national news and waited. After Sean Spicer spoke bitterly about the dishonest media representation of the numbers gathered for the inauguration the previous day and left the podium without mention about the millions of marchers who had assembled, reality set in. The Trump administration had sent its own message. The president didn’t care about the millions of us who showed up to share our collective concerns.
I read a lot of negative responses to the marches during the hours that followed the press briefing. Comments like:
This is a one-time thing. They got their attention. It’ll end here.
There is in-fighting among the Democrats. They’ll never come together enough to organize a real political movement.
What a waste of time.
What was that supposed to accomplish?
Comments like this might once have dampened my spirit, but now they have the opposite effect. Now that the march is over and we know haven’t been heard, now that I’ve had a chance to sort through some of the reactions to our organized actions, I understand how much easier it’s going to be for me to continue forward. I will engage in peaceful protest and political activism because mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh think it’s okay to belittle women, by referring to us as “broads” and by dismissing our efforts as “nothing but a golden shower.” Because Michael Flynn Jr., our new National Security Advisor’s son, tweeted “What victory? Women already have equal rights, and YES equal pay in this country. What MORE do you want? Free mani/pedis?” I plan to show up regularly at my conservative senator’s doorstep to check in. And I will use my liberal elite education, status, and dollars to affect change because of inane comments like this one too: “This public display should’ve been called the PMS PARADE instead, more spot on and pissed off liberals at their most stupid! Poor Trump lit their tampon strings. God Bless Trump and family!” And shit like this and this and, especially, this will keep me fired up and ready to go.
I know there are men and women in this country who found the marches silly, pointless, infantile, and unnecessary. And I respect their right to express those opinions. I just don’t happen to agree with them. So, I took to the streets yesterday with a husband who thinks I’m his equal partner and who treats me with respect and decency. And I brought our sons because there were lessons to learn there about the price and the privilege of being a United States citizen. But I also wanted them to experience firsthand what happens when you marginalize, ignore, threaten, dismiss, denigrate, and in every other conceivable way piss off women, especially liberal elite women, the kind of women they will encounter in higher education and the workplace someday, the kind of women to whom they are related, the kind of women I hope they marry.
If there’s one thing I know about these women, it’s that underestimating us solidifies our determination and ignoring us increases our volume. This was not the end of it. We are not going away. Mock, ridicule, doubt, and chuckle about us all you want because you’re adding kerosene to our fire. As one clever marcher’s sign succinctly put it yesterday…
If you didn’t like my feminism under Obama, wait until you see my feminism under Trump.
Monday night was Christmas Eve. I wanted to write that night, but I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and emotional. If I were F. Scott Fitzgerald, I probably would have had a bottle of gin and used my inner angst to compose a brilliant and yet widely under-appreciated (at least in its time) novel. Alas, F. Scott I am not. So instead, I helped unload the car, removing a plethora of freshly-unwrapped Christmas gifts, and finally collapsed around midnight. During the course of this week, though, I’ve not been able to shake the image I wanted to write about on Christmas Eve. After having taken most of the month of December off from writing this blog, I at last have something I want to write.
We spent Christmas Eve at my in-law’s home this year. For five months each year, they live in a loft in LoDo (lower downtown, for the uninitiated), a few blocks from everything amazing that Denver has to offer. Their place is the quintessential loft space, open, airy, filled with great light and exposed concrete. They have managed to make it feel cozy with warm wood furniture, textiles, and art. There’s nothing cold or industrial about their home. We love celebrating the holidays there, standing out on the deck with its 6th floor views and taking in the downtown atmosphere at Christmas. Monday night was especially festive because it was snowing. Denver has a white Christmas approximately 11% of the time (yes…I checked), so to be wrapped in the magic of a Christmas snow Monday night was fantastic. We had everything. A yummy dinner of Swiss raclette, the comfort of a loving family, good conversation and wine, every single gift any of us had asked for, and snow.
When we’d finished unwrapping and were preparing to make room in our cheese-filled bellies for dessert, Steve and I decided it might be a good idea to make a preemptive trip to our car with some of our newly acquired treasures. When the boys were young and the sheer number of toys they received seemed immeasurable, we would take several trips to load up our loot. Old habits die hard, I guess, because even as the boys’ gifts have dwindled in number while increasing in cost, we still feel the need to take down a load. That is what we were doing this snowy Christmas Eve when we were confronted with yet another reason for gratitude.
As Steve, Luke, and I walked out onto a snowy 15th Street, heavily laden with a giant duffel bag stuffed with clothes and several bags filled with large Lego sets, we noticed that between us and our car there was a homeless gentleman sitting on a bench. The snow was coming down hard now, and he was hunkered under a Colorado Rockies umbrella. Next to him on the bench in a clear plastic trash bag were his belongings, the sum total of his life’s possessions. I’m certain he wasn’t enjoying the Christmas snow the same way I was. My eyes welled up. I tried to keep it together. Steve and I exchanged a look. I could tell he felt the same way I did…heartbroken and somewhat guilty. We hastily loaded our things into the car and headed back into the dry building feeling unfairly fortunate.
On the way up in the elevator, I knew Steve and I were thinking the same thing. On the way out, in possession of our wallets, this time when we saw the man we would gift him the way we had been gifted. After all, we had everything already. We could certainly spare some of our Christmas cash for someone who not only had no one to celebrate with but who was spending his holiday in soaking clothes on a metal bench on a cold, wet night.
Twenty minutes later when we left the loft full of homemade apple crisp, we found he had moved on. He was no longer on the bench just ten feet from our car. We looked around for him, thinking we might have missed him by only a minute or two, but he was gone, hopefully to a dryer, more sheltered spot somewhere. The City of Denver, after all, has its “unauthorized camping” ban to enforce and there are no exceptions…even on Christmas, even if you’re not camping so much as living outside involuntarily.
I spent a lot of time this week thinking about that man under the Colorado Rockies umbrella. For the first couple days, I felt sad that he hadn’t been there when we emerged. I wondered if receiving a $100 bill on Christmas Eve would have felt like a small Christmas miracle to him. I was certain that it would have made me feel better to give it to him. Because he wasn’t there, though, I’ve come to consider that perhaps he gave me a gift with his disappearance — the opportunity to be uncomfortable with my status as a Have and not a Have Not. Seeing him on the bench downtown in the snow reminded me how arbitrarily, unreasonably lucky we are in this house. It gave Steve and I an excuse to talk with our kids about the homeless and about gratitude. As a result, I’ve been looking at things a bit differently after Christmas for the first time in years. Instead of noting what I didn’t receive, instead of thinking about what I can buy with my gift cards, I’ve been focused on how much more I have than what I need. That’s one hell of a gift.