May 2017

May was lovely with so many little adventures and projects, and, of course, the arrival of light and warmth and freedom from work for the next two months. Here are a few of our adventures:

Adventure #1

We started out for a hike up Red Mountain in Manitou Springs in early May. As the day looked warm and sunny without any chance of rain, we didn’t even bother to bring sweatshirts.

There were lilacs blooming everywhere in Manitou!

This was our goal—Red Mountain.

Okay, so something very strange happened. The storm clouds started moving in. With them looking serious, we decided to pass by the trail up the mountain and instead headed down Intemann Trail towards Ruxton Avenue. As we hit Ruxton, the farthest point from our car, the rains began. We had to run from awning to awning down Ruxton and Manitou Avenue, sometimes stopping in shops to dry off a bit. But two magical things happened: 1. We discovered the coolest market with organic food and Colorado-made products, Lu Style Local Goods. We had smoothies while trying to wait out the rain. The rain never let up. 2. We stopped in a shop with Latin American imports and found an Amate Bark painting for super cheap that we fell in love with. So now the challenge became getting not only us, but our painting, back to the car in one piece.

We stopped for a while at the arcade to wait out the storm. The rain never let up, so we dashed several blocks back to the car, running harder than we had run in a long time, stopping under awnings and trees here and there to catch our breath. The painting arrived safe. We arrived safe. As soon as we drove out of Manitou, the rain stopped. It was still sunny in Colorado Springs.

Adventure #2

(There should be mountains out there but it was so dusty that you couldn’t see them.)

We set out for the Great Sand Dunes the day that my summer vacation started. Worried about the wind, I checked my weather app, and it told me that the wind was blowing at 10mph. We arrived to find a dust storm. Knowing that the Sand Dunes can be horrible with just the slightest amount of wind, we decided to play in other parts of the Sand Luis Valley, like the UFO Watchtower.

And Colorado Gators!

I also held the alligator after Billy did. But there is no picture to prove it.

Some of our friends at the alligator farm.

Then we stopped in La Veta on the way home where we bought pie and batiks and had insightful conversations with the super friendly locals.

Adventure #3

Gardening. The adventure continues on into June.

We are replacing the vegetable gardens with flowers, mulch with rock, lawn with rock, rotting logs with large rocks that we are gathering from the hill behind my family home. It is expensive and time-consuming and tiring, but well on its way to looking super nice!

Adventure #4

Building Castle Boogers. We built a tower for our cat, Boogers from Styrofoam insulation, carpet remnants, vinyl adhesive floors, and linoleum floor sample tiles. So far, she absolutely loves it! She sleeps on the top level and looks out the window. She sleeps and sulks like a melancholy teenager on the ground floor in the dark. She emerges from her castle to eat and to rub against our dog Emma.

It took us 12 hours and cost three times the amount we thought it would, but we love our creation.

Adventure #5

Alexander Calder and floral lovelies at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

More random photos from May.

Our snowball bush was gorgeous this year!

A puppy in our neighborhood named Belle. She looks so much like our dear, sweet Winnie that we always stop and pet her when we see her.

Good old Emma is just about 13 years old.

 

April 2017

April was wracked with grief for me because of the recent loss of my dog Winnie. Also work was stressful and busy with preparations for a big event that is now, thankfully, over. Precious and few were the moments that I had to myself. But at least it was starting to look and feel more like spring.

We took a hike in memory of Winnie and left flowers for her at the top of Mount Muscoco. She never took that hike but would have loved in when she was in her hiking prime. I’m so happy that it’s starting to be hiking season again.

I’m grateful for my two surviving pets, Emma and Boogers.

Boogers suffers in the spring and summer. We just had an allergy test done on her and are waiting for the results. I may have to give her allergy injections soon. Fun!

Doña Emma is nearly 13 years old now.

My dad and my mom both celebrated birthdays this month. Yes, I have two headstrong Aries parents.

And then there were the flowers (and the year’s first ladybug sighting) . . .

Happy spring!

March 2017

Just two days before she left us.

I have put off posting pictures about March because it has been too painful. On March 28th, we lost our Winnie. She was sick and old, but we loved her like our child. We had her for nearly twelve years, ever since she was little more than a puppy. I’m not able to write much about her, about the experience, but her loss has left such a big hole in our lives and our hearts. Losing her has caused a marked shift in my life that I still cannot comprehend. I don’t know what is going to happen, but everything seems dark, and it feels like there is little left to lose. Here are a couple of the last pictures I have of her:

That came at the end of the month, the rest of the month brought walks and hikes and bike rides and flowers. Here are a few highlights:

We rode our bikes around the Deaf and Blind School. Although I have driven by it probably thousands of times, I had never set foot on campus before. Such beautiful, old buildings.

A snowy hike in Mueller State Park

Mueller State Park

A friendly neighborhood turtle

A walk around my old alma mater

A walk near Cheyenne Canon

It got dreary and rainy at the very end of the month, much to match my mood.

I loved all the spring flowers in the rain. New beginnings yet still draped in the tears that come with the ending of chapters.

February 2017

February has been an interesting month—life-changing in many ways. It came in like a lion with this snowy, foggy day (in an otherwise dry, dry winter):

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Within a day or two, our temperatures climbed to unseasonably warm weather and stayed that way for most of the month. Here are some shots of our hike in Red Rock Canyon Open Space:l1170723 l1170739 l1170742 l1170750 l1170758

I had two life-changing weekends in Denver. One was a module for my 300-hour teacher training, during which I took these pictures during a lunch break in City Park. The other was a Level 1 Reiki Training. Just how they changed my life would not be interesting to anyone else, but I am entering March feeling more powerful, directed, conscious, and open and trusting to life.

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February was very much about family. I am so proud of my grandma for being named resident of the month at the retirement home where she lives!

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It has been hard to clear out the home where my grandparents lived for over sixty years, to let go of items that I have seen for my entire life. So many memories, so many emotions that I haven’t been able to begin to process. Especially hard since my grandpa built this house, every inch of it is him. But life is change, and all we can do is keep moving forward. Here are some shots I took in and around the house last weekend:

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And lastly, on this same day I took these pictures, we lost my uncle Doc. I wanted so much to be in Arizona for my family and for the funeral today, but I had too many work obligations to go out of state. I ache to be around my kin in their grief and to honor this incredible man.

January 2017

January has been a hard month. It has been a struggle every day to keep up faith and hope and not let myself drown in despair. I haven’t been taking a daily picture, but I thought this year I’d post some pictures from the highlights of the month. This month had few highlights. All work and no play. Then the cold and extreme wind. But it’s now February and things are starting to look up. This month, we are learning the hard way the true meaning of this quote:

“By your stumbling, the world is perfected.” -Sri Aurobindo

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We saw spurts of snow, extreme cold, and hurricane-speed winds this month.

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Winnie had a rough spot earlier this month but is on some new medication and is doing well.

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Boogers is still cute.

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Emma has been slowing down a lot (she is so pokey on our walks), but she still seems to feel pretty good.

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All of my babies at home on Billy’s birthday.

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Even though the dogs have slowed down, we still walk them most days. But we are starting to take ourselves on more walks because we need more exercise than our dog walks can provide.

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Foggy, cold.

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I’m proud to have participated in the historic Women’s March on January 21st. In Colorado Springs

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At the Women’s March, riding the powerful wave of energy and change.

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I finally sold my Saturn, my car of 15 years, this month. Working on letting go of many things and trusting the path forward.

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The last weekend of the month was warm, and the four of us enjoyed a long walk.

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I made a new hat.

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So excited to see a touch of green.

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Goodbye to January. I’m so anticipating spring’s arrival.

Happy 14th Anniversary to Billy!

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Me and Billy last week

I have spent the last two weeks honoring the people and animals in my life who have passed on. I haven’t done this to be a bummer or to dwell in sadness; rather I wanted to honor them, to celebrate them, to relive moments both happy and sad through memories and photos. Yes, it was also a way to deal with the grief I have over losing them, whether that grief is new or residual. I recently learned that grief never goes away, only our relationship to it changes. These people, these pets will always be in my heart, they will always guide me, but I want to be ready to step forward along my path without holding onto any unnecessary sadness, woe, grief, pain, or guilt.

I try not to dwell on the negative (I try, it doesn’t always work but it’s part of my practice) because in life we have both gains and losses—without the dark we cannot have light—all of it creating the beautiful tapestry of our lives. And so I welcome a new year, 365 days of new opportunities to live life to the fullest. Each day an opportunity for lessons. There is much that we cannot change and control. There is much that I fear in this new year; the future of humanity looks bleak. But the best I can do is live my life in the way I want to live it, without letting fear and doubt hold me back, and especially fear and doubt in which I have no control over the outcome. I have spent forty years as a worrier. I think that’s enough.

I do want to dwell on the positive a bit here. Sixteen years ago yesterday, I lost my beloved grandmother. I never thought I would look forward to a new year again. Two years later, I found my true love. It was only a few months after I had lost my cousin Kirk that I started at a new job. And there he was at the desk next to me. To make a long story (that involved me doubting myself, doubting love, doubting life, having to get rid of the insanely insecure control freak I was dating but involving Billy’s unwavering faith and love and commitment) short, within one month we were together. On New Year’s Eve 2002, Billy left what is now a quite rare and valuable Kid Robot figure on my doorstep when I was out with my friends for New Year’s Eve. When I got home, I freaked out because although we both liked each other, I had decided what was best for me was to be alone and not date anyone for a while. So on New Year’s Day, I decided to return the Kid Robot and tell Billy that I couldn’t date him. I went to his house, his sweet little house with no furniture except for a computer, desk, chair, and bed. And I saw Billy, acting so nervous to see me, and I knew he loved me and that I loved him. I was scared because I had never had a good relationship before and I thought I was doomed at love, but when I saw Billy at his home, so sweet, so trusting, I had to give love a chance, I couldn’t let fear and doubt stand in my way. So New Year’s Day became our anniversary. Fourteen years ago, it’s hard to believe how fast the time goes. I can’t imagine how anyone could put up with me for fourteen years! He’s still sweet and loving and patient and unwavering and wise and so much more!

We took this picture not long after getting together. Billy bought a digital camera and we hooked it up to my TV. We took some of the funniest pictures ever; this is one of the normal ones. We were so young!

We took this picture not long after getting together. Billy bought a digital camera and we hooked it up to my TV. We took some of the funniest pictures ever; this is one of the normal ones. We were so young!

Joy often follows intense pain. Last year, one week after losing my stepfather, my dog Winnie had to have emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder. She only had a 30% of living, and she is napping in the sun right now. Twelve years ago, one week after losing my grandfather, my dad got terribly sick went into ICU. We almost lost him, but the experience changed his life. He’s now about to go take a bike ride on this cold, January day because he loves riding so much. It all makes you realize what’s important, who’s important, not to take life and those you love for granted. I’m so grateful to have Billy, my now husband of six-and-a-half years, in this same little house now filled with too much stuff. I’m grateful to have my strong, amazing, loving dad in my life, to have my sweet little spunky Winnie still here. And also my mom, my brother, my Grandma Cook, my dog Emma, my cat Boogers, and other family members and friends (to many family and friends to name individually), mentors, teachers, guides, and of course, those in my life who have died, but I know are always with me.

There is so much in each life to be grateful for if we look for it. Every moment holds the opportunity for gratitude. Find the people, the animals you love and hold them close. Make “thank you” your mantra. Make love and compassion your guiding stars. Happy 2017!

Grandma Feis, August 23, 1911 – December 31, 2000

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Oh, Grandma Feis. I look at her face, and my heart just melts. Her picture exudes all that she was: kind, caring, compassionate, loving, generous, classy, filled with gratitude and faith, life-loving, sweet, fun. Ella Mae was the quintessential grandmother; I could always count on her for encouragement, a hug and a kiss, a cookie, complete and absolute acceptance of who I was, unconditional love. If you think of the most sentimental, Victorian poem about the virtues of mother, it wouldn’t be sentimental or a reach with Grandma, she was all that and more. I’ve heard the story from family members that there was someone (I think hired help of some sort but I’m not sure) who said about her family: “Nobody’s perfect but the Karrs, and the Karrs are perfect.” Yes, Grandma was one of the perfect Karrs. Okay, nobody is perfect, and Grandma did have her flaws—although I had to think for a moment to find them—so I’ll say this, Grandma was practically perfect in every way. Not in a stuffy British, Mary Poppins way, but honesty practically perfect.

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Grandma loved life and loved people. I don’t remember her ever not liking someone. I don’t remember seeing her express any ugly emotions like jealousy or anger. She never whined or complained around me. Grandma truly did like every person because she was able to see the good in everyone. I think that must have come from her deep Christian faith. She could look beyond the pretense in everyone and see the God in them. She seemed to be able to tap into the ocean of universal love because she poured out love and understanding, wisdom and acceptance. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for her family or friends. And everyone who met her seemed to love her as much. All that I’ve ever heard anyone say about Grandma is absolutely glowing and gushing.

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Grandma was a phenomenal cook. My cousin recently commented that all of Grandma’s recipes had cream of mushroom soup in them, and they really did. I’m not a huge fan of cream of mushroom soup, but I think her food tasted so good because we could taste the love in it.

Before she was married, Grandma was a school teacher in a one-room school house in Nebraska. She had pictures of these classes in her photo album, and sixty years later, she still remembered these students. Grandma just loved children. When I think back to how bratty I could be, she always responded calmly and sweetly and with a sense of humor. The Christmas that I was six, I received a stuffed E.T. doll. Grandma agreed to crochet a sleeping bag for E.T. I guess I called her all the time and would ask, “What are you doing?” She’d respond, “Making dinner” or something, and I would say, “Get crocheting.” She just laughed. She did get crocheting, and not long afterward, my E.T. got his sleeping bag. I remember in fourth grade telling her how I got in trouble at school. My friends and I filled our mouths with water from the drinking fountain, didn’t swallow it, and then spit it down the back of the shirt of a girl we didn’t like. Now as a teacher, if I had heard about this, I would have been furious. Grandma laughed and said, “You girls have so much fun.”  Another time when Grandma was probably in her eighties, a little girl visiting them with her parents or grandparents (I don’t remember who) asked Grandma while looking at her stomach, “Is there a baby in there?” Grandma laughed and said, “Well, if there is, it’s been in there for a long time.” I’ve had kids ask me that before, and I usually feel nothing but indignation. Hi, I’m a long ways from being perfect.

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Grandma used to be popular with the boys when she was young. But she settled down when she married her true love, my grandpa. He matched her spirit. They were the perfect, loving couple. Grandma and Grandpa were married for over sixty years. They raised four kids together, had eight grandchildren and now have countless great-grandchildren (I think around 15?), and now one great-great grandchild.

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Okay, I promised that Grandma wasn’t perfect. She did have a tendency to worry, but it wasn’t extreme. She was a mother after all. She was also a bit too keen on turning her children into teachers. I heard that my dad once told her that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. She told him, “No, you’ll be a teacher.” Dad never became a teacher—it just wasn’t him. But sometimes I think he wishes he had been because all his teacher friends were able to retire much earlier than him. The ironic thing is that being a school teacher is what I became, and that’s not really who I am either. So I’m living my Dad’s unlived life based on my Grandma’s expectations of him. Or I’m trying to be my Grandma when I’m really not. But that’s again just showing how unperfect I am. Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Grandma was human, of course, but truly as close to being perfect as you can be.

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Grandma had lymphoma on and off during the last ten or so years of her life. She fought it bravely, never giving up, never complaining. She had courage and trust in her doctor to try new treatments. At Christmas of 2000, Grandma hadn’t been feeling well. She was weak from her lymphoma, she seemed sad, worried, anxious. She needed a new calendar for 2001, so my brother and I got her one for Christmas. I remember her looking through it and looking forward to what the new year would hold. On December 30, she seemed really anxious. The doctor had tried her on a new medication, and I guess it had some bad side effects. I had recently had a similar experience. I tried a medication that made me extremely paranoid and anxious. I took myself off that medication, and I thought that’s what Grandma was going through. I advised her to see if the doctor could switch medicines or take her off it. I thought I was being wise and speaking from experience. Grandma looked freaked out, and I took her hand and told her, “I promise it will be okay.” I have regretted those words ever since because it wasn’t okay. Or maybe it was because twenty-four hours later she was no longer suffering. But I have had guilt for years because I promised Grandma something that I had no business promising. She had never deceived me, and now I had deceived her on her last day. I’m much more stingy with my promises these days.

The next day on New Year’s Eve, Dad called me in the morning to tell me that Grandma had collapsed and been taken to the emergency room. In the past few years, Grandma had spent a lot of time in the hospital, including three years before when she spent over six weeks there, when she was so close to death that everyone proclaimed it a miracle that she survived. After sitting in the waiting room for hours, it became clear that this time would be different. Along with me and Dad, Grandpa, two of my aunts, one uncle, and one cousin were all at the hospital that day, and we took turns going back two at a time to see Grandma. When Dad and I went to the room to see her, her organs were failing, she rambled on, talking about being in Hastings (the town in Nebraska where they used to live, where my dad was born). She wasn’t in her mind anymore, but Grandma looked at me, looked past me as if she were looking at my aura, and smiled in an otherworldly way. Dad noticed that she smiled at me and told me this to help me feel better, telling me that Grandma always had a special place in her heart for the babies of the family (him and me). Later that evening, I heard word that Grandma spoke of being in Blue Hill, Nebraska, that town where she was born and grew up, and we figured her life was passing before her eyes.

We spent the day at the hospital, a blur of hours passing at glacial pace, of hopes that grew fainter and fainter as time, hope, food, and drink felt inconsequential. Our visit in the emergency room was the last time I saw Grandma. Later, she would be hooked up to a breathing machine in the ICU. I didn’t want my last memories of Grandma to be of her hooked up to a machine, so I waited in the hall while the rest of the family stayed in the room with her. I’ve sometimes regretted this decision, wondering if fear and weakness kept me outside, away from the family, but I still think in my heart of hearts that I made the right decision at the time. While I don’t think I could pinpoint the exact second that Grandma passed from this life to the next, I slowly felt an emerging strength in that hallway and knew that some of Grandma’s spirit and energy passed into me (not feeling selfish about it—I knew some of her energy passed into all of us), and I knew that Grandma would still always be with me, looking out for me, helping me through dark times and celebrating in happiness, just as she had always done.

Feeling empty and lost, we had nothing else to do, so everyone went home to try and get some sleep, only two hours before the ball would drop on a Happy New Year. I went home with Dad that night because I didn’t want him to be alone and didn’t particularly want to be alone myself. As soon as we walked in the door, Dad pulled out an old Joan Baez record and played the song “Blessed Are”:

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No other song would have been more appropriate to express the emotions of our day. Joan Baez’s golden voice struck at my heart and the reality that Grandma was gone. I’d never see her again, never feel her soft, comforting hug, never have her angelic smile melt away my sad moods. Now I can’t hear “Blessed Are” without crying, but that night and for years afterward no tears would come.

I miss Grandma every day, but I feel honored to have had her in my life for the first formative years. I strive to be like her, to show others her sense of patience, compassion, love, and acceptance, no matter what, for who they are. But also her sense of humor, sense of fun, and absolute love of life. Grandma did love her life. Grandma was love.

It seemed cruel to lose my beloved grandma on New Years Eve. How could I ever look forward to the new year again? But then two years later, New Years became happy again. . . (to be continued)

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