Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Ski Day!

We took the boys skiing yesterday at Monarch. It was the first time for both of them. My parents were awesome and bought them a package for Christmas that included lessons, lift tickets, and gear rental. Of course, I still had to buy $200 worth of clothing earlier in the month to get them ready for this - but I'm glad I did, as temps were in the 20's! Luckily the sun was shining!

Early morning breakfast. We stayed with my brother and his girlfriend outside of Salida, so the suggested arrival time of 8am was doable.

 Both boys were so excited. We were some of the first people there, so there was a lot of time between gearing up and the start of lessons. They couldn't wait to get on their skiis!

The moon was still up!

Benjamin had been asking to learn to ski for a couple months, so he was ready for his lessons. Josiah was very hesitant. He didn't like the idea of us leaving him alone with a bunch of people he didn't know. But when I checked on him at lunchtime, he was having a blast and was fine. We caught a glimpse of him on the "magic carpet" once as we were going up a lift, and he just zoomed right down the bunny slope! When we picked him up, his instructor said he needed to work on turning, because he just wanted to go straight down the hill (just like my brother when he was little!). 


Selfie on top of the Continental Divide.

SO pretty up there!

Ariel had not skied in about 11 years, and for me it was over 20. Thankfully, it all came back to me, and I didn't fall once. I can't say the same for my handsome man, though!

At 2:30 we picked up the boys from their lessons and had time for about three runs with them down the slopes. With them being a little steeper than the bunny slope, Josiah was forced to learn to turn a bit. He certainly didn't like the chairlift the first time, and clung onto it for dear life. All three times he got off, he fell, but only lost a ski the first time.

Selfie on the chairlift with Benjamin.

Everyone had a blast - we'll definitely be going back again soon!

Teen Room Makeover

One of Benjamin's gifts this year was a room makeover. Everything in his room was so mismatched, and I thought it was time for that to change, and for his room to have a bit more personality.

He had purchased this chair at a thrift store a few months ago. It was the ugly mauve color you see still on the seat. I bought a few bottles of dye and spent a day dying it - which involved scrubbing the dye into all the cracks and crevices, which is not easy on a chair like this. I liken it to trying to dye a shar pei puppy!

Another thing I did was paint this bookcase, which had been red and orange for probably a decade, to a royal blue.

This is a "before" of the room - although we were already in the process of painting, so it's a mess.

Here's the "after."

We painted the top portion of his walls gray, with a thin black border underneath.

The chair and bookcase, done.

Christmas 2015

Just a few glimpses into our Christmas. 

Our tree.

 Tess and her boyfriend.

 Christmas dinner at Mom and Dad's.

Our family. Even Tess smiled!

Me and my brother.

 It took three people to wrangle all the dogs 
(some of whom don't like each other too much) for this picture.

 A gorgeous Christmas bouquet from one of my students.

How lucky I feel when I get to see my best friend from high school! She lives in Canada, so it's always a treat when she's here! 

We took the boys to see the Colorado Springs Youth Ballet and Symphony perform the Nutcracker. It was the first time Benjamin had seen the ballet since he was four, and Josiah had never seen it. I learned afterward, that it had been Ariel's first ballet as well!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Some dreams take time.
Decades, perhaps.
Sometimes we wait, hoping the opportunity will present itself.

And then, sometimes, you realize you need to make the opportunity show up.
I learned this over the past year. 
I also learned there is no time like now.
Sometimes now is the time to say, "It's time." Now is the time to start heading toward your dream. Now is the time to make a plan to make it happen. Now is the time to start pulling it toward you.

Like a bucket on the end of a string that you raise from a well.
A well of full.
A bucket of overflowing.

At some point
You have to get to the point
Where the time for saying "someday" is over.
Someday may never come knocking on your door calling, "It's time! I'm here!"
I've learned that Someday doesn't like stopping by without an invitation.
So when you do finally get around to inviting her (or him) over, have her in for tea - a sip of something warm - and some good conversation. Conversation that might go like this:

"I've always wanted to..."
"What have you been waiting for?"
"Well, umm, I've been waiting for you."
"What took you so long to ask me? Let's get started."

And you'll realize, like I did, that it was up to you all along.

And then, as things start to fall into place, you'll wonder if it's always been that easy. And before you know it, you will have no words to describe everything. Because it's almost impossible to describe how it feels when a dream comes true.

Where do you even start?
Do you start with how long you've had the dream? Or why? Or all the things that have led up to it coming true? Or how the last month (while you waited for the final product) passed like molasses?

No. You just smile really big and try not to jump out of your skin.

My dream has been to publish.
And now I have.
I will no longer say, "Someday I will write a book," or "I've always wanted to..."
I AM a writer (FYI, having my own ISBN number is pretty much the ultimate high).
A published author.
Now and forevermore.

If you want a copy, please email me ( They're 14.95 + tax + however much it costs me to ship it to you. Around $20 total.

What's your dream?
Don't wait too long.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Some People Part II

Back in September of 2013 I wrote a post about a couple people in my life that were a bit kray-kray.

But the person I'm going to tell you about today makes them look like lambs. Kitties. Butterflies.

Oddly enough, this person is not someone I know. But she is in my life just the same - in a phantom-y sort of way.

She is my fiancee's ex.

She is one of the ugliest people I don't know. She is full of hate, spite, and an insatiable need to make his life miserable.

*She is threatening (Her 7yo daughter (at the time) lied to her and said I pinched her. She threatened to report me to CPS).
*She is manipulative (saying things to him like "we do not and will not owe each other any monies (zero, zero, and zero)," Not being specific about what those zeros mean (and thinking he is stupid and won't know) hoping to "trick" him into agreeing to give up what the federal government has given him by right (she meant child support, spousal maintenance, and retirement). 
*She is selfish (always taking him to back to court to better her financial situation by benefiting from him. She claims she wants to "move on with life" but she obviously doesn't know how to take care of herself. To top that off, she continues to say he's the one that's money-hungry).
*She is greedy (last week she collected money from him for the daughter's unaccompanied-minor plane ticket, then flew out here and back with her, so basically he paid for her vacation).
*She has taught people close to her to lie and cover up for her (the younger daughter has started to say, "I'm not supposed to share personal information" when she and dad are just exchanging casual conversation, but she's worried about remembering exactly what mom told her was or was not OK to share. The older daughter also lied continuously throughout the week including, but not limited to, driving back from Denver in a snowstorm with the younger girl, thus making Dad worry, when Mom was actually with them; telling him he had to meet her somewhere other than her house because, "I have things to pick up anyway," but then when mom is not back with her car in time, she says, "OK, come to the house. I can't meet you where we'd planned because 'my friend Angie' is borrowing my car." It is quite sad that the trade-off is worth it to her: encouraging lying daughters just so she can go on thinking she's in control.
*She is vindictive (wasting the court's time with shallow accusations. Thankfully judges have often seen through her bullshit).
*She is hypocritical and highly misled about religion (she goes to church and ends her emails with "God bless," but do we need any more than the above examples to prove that it must somehow make her feel better to think she's got God on her side? She is quite mistaken about who God is and what her relationship with Him is supposed to look like).

Well, we may not need any more examples, but I'm going to give you a few more anyway.

 * The first actual proven case he has of her cheating on him was with the babysitter. The female babysitter. Yep, it's on video.
*She took him to get a vasectomy one afternoon, then left him that night.
*She complains to everyone (including the courts) about the "poverty" she is living in, but she's doing anything she can to get as much money from him as possible. This is including, but not limited to, building a new house, enrolling the daughter in a school that costs her $541/month, not finding a job for the past five months, and owning a house that months ago she kicked the main renters out of and is renting one of her smaller units at a loss.

The sad thing about a woman like this is that her ugliness shows. She thinks she is hiding it. She thinks people can't see it. But I, who have never even met her, can see it. I can see it on her face in photos, I can see it in her every action, I can see it in the way she allows herself to respond to him, and I can see her influence in the daughters she's raised/is raising.

The other sad thing (although I'm sure there are many more) is that she thinks she's making him unhappy. I'm sure that in her puny peanut brain she probably spends/wastes much time running scenarios of how miserable we are, and what else she can do to make us so. In reality, she is a blip on our radar. Neither he nor I have ever been so happy. We are so rich (in every sense but the literal one) that we don't have time for these things she places so much importance on. In fact, the most recent thing she did to him to "get him," although it sucked to go through, brought about some Aha moments that I would not trade. All her anger and animosity is self-poison. I do hope she likes drinking it, because there's so much of it she'll never sober up.

While we just get stronger.

Bottoms up, Queen of Crazy. I refuse to drink with you.

Friday, July 17, 2015

What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

There's been some rain around here this spring/summer.
Some as in, my class of fifth graders went outside for recess  three times in the month of May.
In the last month of school.
Believe me, it was awful.
The teachers were all crying...
But seriously, the last week of school is when the students make up in extra recess for all the time that's been taken from them the rest of the year.

It has continued to rain since then, sometimes our normal 20 minute afternoon showers, and sometimes not. Naturally, this has affected rock climbing. We have to stay off wet sandstone in the neighborhood, and my favorite climbing area, 45 minutes away, has been closed at times due to flooding of the river in the canyon. So we've been trying to get used to a local granite canyon, one of our only close options after a storm. We've been there twice now, weren't thrilled with the place the first time, but the second time was sure a doozy:

We got to the wall, and there was no one else climbing there.
That should have been our first clue.
Especially because in the guidebook most of the climbs were listed as 5.7s and 5.8s - perfectly climbable for most people.
The author did say in the guidebook that, in his opinion, most of the climbs were sandbags.
I didn't know what that meant.

Until later.

So I roped up for the first climb, listed as a 5.8 in the book. I'm going to spare you most of the details. Let's just say I didn't really climb that route. I did manage to get to the top, but it was mostly by "cheating" - i.e. using the quick draws to pull myself up and the bolts to step on for most of the way. I can definitely say it was the hardest climb I've ever completed, and no fun on top of that. My man wanted to lead it once I was done, but I convinced him not to, and boy was he glad I did. There was literally nothing to hang onto on that rock.

Needless to say, we got home and I immediately went to the computer to look up what the term "sandbag" meant. It means that a route is given a rating much lower than it actually is. Lovely.

When my favorite canyon opened again, we were back up there as soon as possible, which was last weekend. However, many other climbers had the same idea, so we didn't have our choice of routes. Some guy pointed us to a couple routes that weren't in the guidebook, one which he said he thought was about a 5.8. We located it, and realized we'd climbed half of it about a year ago. We had had to bail off it because of weather. This time it was time to finish it. We both led it easily, and then Ariel wanted to do the route to the left of it, also not in the guidebook. The guy next to us had not attempted it because he said it looked more difficult, but Ariel really wanted to try. He headed up and got the first two bolts clipped, but after trying and trying, just couldn't climb any higher. While I was watching him struggle, the only thing I kept thinking was, "After climbing the "sandbag" route, I think I can do pretty much anything.  So he came down and I headed up. At first commentary, I want to say I got up the route with no problem, but that's not true. I climbed that route just like I climb most of them - with my legs shaking and scared and worried I'm going to fall and out of breath... But what constitutes a "no problem" route vs. a problem one is that if it's a route that gives me problems, I seriously don't know that I'm not going to take a bad fall, be unable to finish, or think imna die. I never felt like I didn't have control on that climb. Hence, no problem. I finished it, he top-roped it, and we headed home.

Once again I got on the computer as soon as we walked in the door to look up the routes on Mountain Project. Sure enough, the one was listed as a 5.8+. The other? A solid 5.10. Now, I'm pretty sure I've led a .10 or two before, but they have been few and far between. I was amazed that this had been a .10, and I'd climbed it relatively easily (and my ego's been doing pretty well since then).

I've been thinking lately about how physical activity - climbing, especially - and age relate. Maybe this is a generalization, but I think people get more cautious with age. For instance, I am absolutely terrified of falling on ice. Not while ice skating, mind you, but while walking. In my driveway, across a parking lot... So I move very cautiously when it's icy.

Anyway... I've climbed with people in their 70s who are still leading fairly difficult routes. For me, although (and last weekend is proof) I can still physically climb well, I've noticed the mental part of climbing is getting to me more than it used to. And believe me, if you've never climbed, the mental part is well over half of what determines how well and what you climb. I've sometimes wondered how much longer I'll be able to do it, because as I get older I get more afraid, and fear is debilitating. I don't want to start climbing like I walk across ice.

So I needed last weekend. I needed that 5.10. I guess I even needed the sandbag route. I needed to know that I can still climb hard. I'm not happy with the lack of information I had either time. I'm not sure I'll tackle a route again when it's described with a word I don't know the meaning of.  I'm not sure how often I'll tackle a route again that I don't know the rating of. Climbing is dangerous enough even with all the information you need. What you don't know can seriously hurt you. But in both these cases, what I didn't know didn't hurt me at all - it showed me that my fear is perhaps quite needless and, like most things mental, just needs to be looked at from a different perspective. Preferably a higher one. :-) 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Puerto Rico

Occasionally when I publish a blog post, I end with a lesson I learned. It's something I started doing after my divorce, partly because it helped me focus on the positive, but mostly because there's so much growth going on after something like that that it's impossible not to be learning things all the time. It's interesting how many things you can learn from a hike or a climb or an interview or, in this case, a trip.

It was full of opportunities to learn lessons as, I suppose, many trips are. (I'm thinking back now to how a crazy lady kicked my son and I out of her house in Spain. It ended up being one of my favorite things that happened on that trip, because it taught my son a lot of lessons - that you can still take care of yourself in a strange country even when you can't speak the language, for one). Full of many opportunities, but, in a nutshell, one lesson emerged: Just deal. Things will still turn out just fine.

This time the lessons started even before my man and I left, when we had a mix-up with our tickets that took way more money to correct than I wanted to spend. (But I'm trying to put that memory behind me, so don't ask). Then, our plane left at 1:30am. While that meant we didn't have to spend an entire day traveling (we got to the island at noon), it certainly meant we also didn't get a night's sleep. I slept poorly on both legs of the flight, my man slept not at all. A sign that I've matured over the years: I was not crabby due to lack of sleep. In my younger days, that was certainly not the case.

Of course, the beautiful views we flew over helped:

A friend once told me about an article she'd read about three things husbands and wives can't do together if they have a poor working relationship. I don't remember two of them. The third was paddle a canoe. I remember that so well because it was very true of my ex and I. I've spent as much time on the water as he's spent not on the water, and paddling a canoe is a simple thing for me. Not only did he not know what he was doing in a canoe, but he couldn't take direction from me. My aunt was there one day he and I tried to take the canoe out, and she still talks about how horribly he treated me. So when my man and I booked a kayaking excursion for our first night in PR, I was excited, because I knew he and I would not have any issues paddling in sync.

It was recommended (wisely) that we not bring cameras on the kayak. So the top two photos (below) were taken by a tour guide. The bottom two I stole off the internet, so credit to whoever it's due. The bottom left picture shows the mangrove channel we paddled through. It took about half an hour, and was amazing to be so surrounded by all those trees. At the end, we dumped out into a huge bay (bottom right). There we waited for the sky to get dark. When it was pitch black, we put our hands in the water and watched them glow. The bay is full of dinoflagellates that, when stirred up, glow. Our hands looked like they had white shimmery powder coming off them. I'd wanted to see these since I first read about them in college. Sometimes it takes 20-some years for dreams to come true, but the wait is worth it.

The kayaking company recommended coming in a swimsuit, because you get wet. I took that very literally, and showed up in my bikini. Hey, it's a tropical island, right? However, I was the only one on the entire tour so dressed. Everyone else either had on normal clothes, or had normal clothes on over a swimsuit you couldn't see. Not only that, but we were in a park teeming with many water-fun companies and picnickers. I hate it when stuff like this happens. Again, in my younger days I would have been horrified and either stayed in the car or gone shopping. I did have a skirt on, but that was not something I could kayak in. I also had a long-sleeved top along, which I did wear. Not that it mattered in the end. I was in a kayak in the dark. Big deal.

After the kayaking, we drove down to our first hotel, which really was more like small bungalows on the beach. My man's step mom, who's been to the island many times with his dad, recommended this place (and their sangrias - which we started on with breakfast the next morning and just continued throughout the day. Fortunately the sun burns off alcohol) :-).

It was gorgeous, obviously. We spent the entire day on the beach that day. For some reason, although the place was hopping with people, almost all of them stayed in the pool. I was extremely OK with that. For me, fewer people = more happy. We took a couple-hour walk to a lighthouse down the beach, and it was on that walk that I finally lost the lens cap to my camera after many years of miraculously finding it on other various occasions it's come off (my lens is a bit bent from some past mishap, so the cap never fit quite right). Oh well.

The second day there, our rental car got a flat. Fortunately, due to the laying-in-the-sun-all-day mentality that overtakes me when I'm near water, we didn't need the car till we drove to a not-so-nearby-town (there was really nothing nearby this place) for dinner that evening. Also fortunately, my man can change a tire in literally five minutes. That kind of thing would have been a full-day tragedy if it had been up to me to take care of. 

Below, the bottom and top right photos are from where we stayed in Maunabo. The top left photo is from Isabela, the next place we went. It took quite a few hours to drive there, as we went to basically the complete opposite end of the island (from southeast to northwest). It also took a while because we had to stop and exchange the car, as the spare was also going flat.

We had laid on the beach that morning, but after leaving around noon, exchanging the car, checking into our hotel room, then moving rooms because the A/C in ours wasn't working, it was too late for anything more than a walk on the beach and dinner. We spent the next two nights we would be in Isabela, a place where Kristen, a friend of mine from my Peace Corps days, recommended.

From our walk on the beach:
Some of these (below) are also from our walk that evening. Others are from the next morning when we took a horseback ride on the beach. After the ride, we rented snorkeling gear and drove to a small reef off a place called Crash Boat beach. Another bummer part of the trip - and this is probably way too much TMI, but I'm gonna keep it real - is I now had a woman issue to deal with. This is NOT something one wants to deal with when one wants to spend the entire week in a bikini. We went snorkeling anyway. I just hoped the whole time no sharks were within a quarter-mile. We saw a lot of beautiful fish, sea fans, and coral, and, fortunately, avoided a shark attack. 

High above Isabela is a bluff overlooking the hamlet and ocean. On this bluff are quite a few very large homes. One of these houses had tons of windows in the front - and I love me some windows in a home! After one failed attempt to find it, we came upon the back of the house. I snapped a quick picture, and then the owners, who were in the driveway, came up to the car. Within moments D and J had invited us into the yard to take in the view and, a few minutes later, take in some sangria as well. We stayed about an hour, then headed back down the hill for dinner of - for the first time - "American" food. We'd been eating mofongo and/or seafood for most meals up till then.

The next morning, after another walk on the beach, we headed to San Juan for the evening. We were extremely glad to get away from the hotel in Isabela if for no other reason that the bed was horrible. I don't know how we even slept on that thing. San Juan was the only place we'd not made hotel reservations, but there are so many hotels there we knew it wouldn't take much to find one. Fortunately, that was correct, because I realized that when I get to a new place (especially one I only have a few hours in) I want to see as much as possible as soon as possible. Hotel hunting was suddenly not what I wanted to spend my time doing. We ended up here, dumped our stuff, and immediately headed into Old San Juan, which is where all these next photos are from. Fortunately we were rolling in over the cobblestone streets about the same time all the cruise ships were rolling out on the waves (remember, less people = more happy). 

We walked around, touring the old fort and town. I bought a pair of earrings of larimar stone, which has an interesting story, having been sort of "discovered" by a Peace Corps volunteer. We finished the evening with a delicious dinner of cevice and fish tacos - and bacon doughnuts for dessert. 

 It's a bit windy near the coast. Sometimes that makes pictures difficult...

The next day was our last, and we didn't even have a full day - our plane was scheduled to leave at 3pm. The only day of vacation we set our alarm, we were up at 6am so we could drive about an hour to the rainforest. I have been to somewhere around 20 countries, and have been to many various ecosystems, but this was my first time in a rainforest. The first thing I really noticed was how my camera kept wanting to turn the flash on - all those trees blocked so much sun!
I fully intended to get into the water at the bottom of that waterfall, but the water was certainly not ocean-warm, and I had a plane to get on in a few hours...

Check out the much-bigger-than-me palm tree frond! Also check out that amazing body next to me... Never mind if you don't want to - I'll check it out for you. Whew!

After the rain forest, we returned the rental car only to be told we owed $400 for the flat tire/damage to the car. We did not end up having to pay it due to an error made by the guys at the location where we traded cars. Fortunately we'd left enough time to get to the airport, because that took a while. Again, everything turned out fine.

Final thoughts: It was interesting to be in a place where iguanas run around in the wild, termites built huge mounds in trees, and a lizard running across the road can be mistaken for a squirrel. Yes, it was that big. 

It was also interesting to be in a territory of the United States. Of all the places I've been, this was also a first, and honestly, I didn't really know how to process it. I "didn't have a hook to hang it on," as a friend said to me once.  I'm used to going somewhere new and having pretty much every single thing being very specific to that culture. Of course, in most places I've been, especially in the larger cities (Cairo, Budapest), you run across a McDonald's or Pizza Hut occasionally. But it was VERY strange for me to be in a place that was obviously not "American" in many respects (the language, the local food), but very "American" in others  - road signs and rules, for one. But mostly the McDonald's chains next to the Pizza Huts next to the Church's Chickens next to the Walgreens stores next to the Home Depots next to the Chili's restaurants next to the Walmarts - on seemingly every corner in most towns of any mentionable size. I didn't have a point of reference for this, and it bothered me the entire trip. Even now, I don't know how to verbally distinguish between something Puerto Rican and something "American" (hence the quotation marks, because Puerto Ricans ARE American).

No matter, I guess. The important things were clear:
Just deal, and everything will be fine. 
The sun, water, and sangrias make issues much easier to deal with.
My man and I can paddle together.

Life is good.