Sunday, July 31, 2011

"You Complete Me" Bwahaha!

My Nearest Dearest and her family had been on vacay for two weeks.  I'm still relatively new to CO and so don't have all of the family and friends that I did back in TX.  I have lots of friends here, I do, but Caren and her family are the closest to us physically and otherwise. 

I also learned that most people in CO are either gone during the summer or have company.  Why one would leave CO during the summer is beyond me.  I know, I know....I went to TX for 3 weeks this summer but I vow to never do that again!  It was dumb to be in the "screeching heat," as Drew would say, when I could be enjoying temperatures in the 80's and with little to no humidity.  I had to see my Texas People though.  I missed them so MUCH!!  I'll see them in the Spring, when Texas is in bloom and the weather is lovely.

Anywhoo, while Caren was gone I tried to round up some play dates for the kids and I.  I was able to schedule 3 such dates.  That's right 3 in two weeks and they happened to be the last 3 days before Caren's family was to return home.  It was so good!  After days of entertaining myself with Tostito Lime Chips, books and laundry, it was so wonderful to see some of my girlfriends and their little ones.

Caren came home Friday and I "killed the fatted calf."  OK, not really but practically.  I put a roast in the crock pot so when they rolled in at 5:30 she would not have to scrounge around her empty kitchen to feed her hungry brood.  This also ensured that I would get to hug and kiss them all. ;)  Ha!  I also made a chocolate cake because I missed Caren's and her oldest's birthday while they were away.

As always when I try to cook for my Personal Chef Friend, I screwed it up.  Really?  How does one screw up a Duncan Hines box cake that I've made a million times.  Well I'll tell you.  The first layer fell so there was a huge well in the middle of it.   No problem, I thought, I'll just fill it with something.  I looked for strawberries but we were out so I just filled it with extra chocolate frosting.  Yummy but ended up being a bit too rich.  Also the second layer was somehow bigger then the first and so I thought I'd just trim that little over hang off...BIG mistake.  Then there were crumbs and they got all up in the frosting.  The end result was a grainy looking chocolate mess.  It's the Curse of Cooking for Caren.  Arrrrgh!

No one seemed to care but me.  Typical.  We sat out on the back patio enjoying our meal. 
"The texts you sent me while we were gone were cracking me up!" Caren laughed as she read them aloud: 

"Come home soon!  No one will play with me.  Make that 'us.'  No one will play with the boys either. 

Won't you come home Bill Bailey?  Won't you come home?

Hurry home.  Never mind.  Take your time.  The giant pimple on my face is keeping me company.  His name is Desperado.

Drew is craving your pear pie. 

Tooooomorrow!  Tomorrow!  I love ya tomorrow!  You're only a day awaaaaaay!"

"Hilarious or pathetic?  By the way, have you been properly introduced to Desperado?  He's a mean little cuss.  That reminds me...I need to have Aaron buy Desperado his own plane ticket for our trip to New York."

The Husbands sat with us on the patio drinking wine and catching up.  Our kids periodically ran through the patio; laughing and screaming.  There was talk of back to school shopping and plans for the last days of summer.  Ahhh!  All is right on my part of the mountain again.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pages, Pieces, Priceless

When I was in high school I had this friend, Sarah.  She was only at our school for one year but in that time we became very good friends.  Her family  moved though and we did not see or hear from each other until after we both graduated.  As life would have it we had the unhappy coincidence of both of our parents divorcing at that same time.  We consoled one another in that brief reunion and then she was gone again and neither of us heard or saw each other again. 

I have several stories like that.  People who I connected with and loved for a brief time, part ways with and then reconnected with years later.  *Thanks social networking!*

About 2 years ago we were living in Texas and a friend of mine gave me an incomplete set of 1940's encyclopedias. 

"When I found these I thought of you," she said, "I figured you could think of something creative to do with them."

*Gauntlet dropped*

For a year, the encyclopedia's sat in boxes in my dining room back in Texas.  Finally, I decided to set to work.  I leafed through each book, and marked the pages that interested me.  Later I went back and narrowed it down to the things that had words that encompassed a part of my life or had drawings that had artistic interest.  These things were cut out and applied to a piece of stretched canvas with Jesso.

The result was a very interesting collage.  In and of it's self it was a piece of work that I was proud of but it never seemed finished to me.  I had always thought I would paint a big....something on it.  A large typeset letter?  I didn't know.  I just knew I liked it well enough on it's own that I did not want to ruin it with  just some hair brained idea. 

My collage stood alone in the corner of my breakfast nook (that no one eats breakfast in) for another year.

You can see it there under my Aspen painting.  This was taken at our house warming party in our home in Colorado.  Guess who came to that very house warming?  Sarah!  Turns out she lives about 45 minutes away.  It was such a comfort to see a familiar face there!  We have since been able to get together numerous times.  Each time I think how amazing it was that we became such quick friends so long ago and how close we still seem to be.  Our lives rolling along in sync with our faith, spouses and kids.
This summer, while I was visiting folks in Texas, I saw a collage at my friend Lesley's house.  (Another Lost and Found friend.) Over the collage was a painting of a huge butterfly and what looked like torn scrapbook pieces.  Her piece was a print from Target I think.  I snapped a shot because it was closer to what I wanted to achieve with my collage.

Back home in Colorado, it had been raining every afternoon for weeks.  The result was an abundance of wild flowers in bloom.  There were pockets of poppies everywhere.  I have always loved the delicate, papery petals of the poppy...and then it hit me.

After a hike one rainy afternoon, I pulled out the jesso, paints and some tissue paper.

Such is life.  So often I have found that events occur in life or people pass through and its good but seems random.  Years later it all comes together and you find yourself with a treasure in your possession.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"...Or Are We Dancers?"

This week I solicited some help with my dancing.  I would practice the routine and knew what I was supposed to do but when I would spin I would bobble and then be off on my count.  I called my friend Rende who has had years of experience in dance and movement.  She is a Pilates instructor and is presently studying the Franklin Method.  Both Pilates and Franklin are about moving your body the way it was made to move.  Franklin applies visualization to get your body to move how it should.  That is my very raw, very layman translation of these very complex practices.

Rende came over on Thursday morning and began by getting me in tune with my body and getting it to move how I asked it to.  We then watched the video of the most recent dance routine I had learned.  Rende was a quick study of it (as I knew she would be) and she set to work on helping me with my technique.  Her tips and using visualization really helped!  It was just what I needed.  We danced for over 3 hours.  It was so fun and I felt much better about my next rehearsal.

My house guest has left, the local yokels are either out of town or working and so this week has been a particular drag.  My kids are bored and I am bored so having the dance to work on has been great for me.  To break up the monotony in my kids day we have taken to "swimming" in the hot tub.  The kids love it.  We don't turn the heat on and I let them "man" the jets as they care to.  In the mean time I sit in the shade of the patio and read or lay out and get some sun.  It's been a little life saver!

The book I'm reading is called Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner.   It's about a mother-daughter relationship.  The mother is a writer.  She had previously written a book about her life that had some people upset.  Though the book was fiction, she gleaned most of the tale from her actual life.  Those who recognized themselves in the book were angry that their business had been aired.  That's been the biggest reason I have not written a novel.  (As if it would actually get published.) But I have not even ventured to try because I know people would recognize one another.  It would be a really good book though....  I try to figure out how could I twist it up enough with other people's stories enough to not make certain people or even ME seem obvious. 

Blech.  Forget it. 

I have started a collaboration with another friend who writes and so maybe that will be the key.  It's nothing like I ever write or even rarely read as it's a sci-fi/fantasy sort of thing.  Crazy huh?  It's been surprisingly fun, though we are just in the beginning phases of it all. 

Yesterday's dance rehearsal went much better than the first.  We learned the rest of the routine and it's super hot!  I love it!  It's the dance for the song Buenos Aires.  It's basically a big street party!  The choreographer wanted to record it for at home practice.  She and her husband danced and she asked for my partner and I to dance with them as well for the recording.  This was both scary and WOoHoO!  We must not be doing too badly if we are in the "training video."  Ha!  Rehearsal was much more fun this week.  *Wink to Rende.*

I dreamt last night that I made french toast.  I whisked the milk, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon together and added a tablespoon of orange juice to it.  When I woke up I had forgotten about it until my kids asked for breakfast.  I decided to make my "dream french toast" but we were out of orange juice.  I think I've made it that way before...surely I did not just dream that up.  Literally.  I looked it up on  I love dream analysis!  Apparently to dream of French Toast means that you are happy and content in your present life and to dream of orange juice means that you have a positive out look on things.  So there you have it! 

The current state of things is French Toast and Orange Juice.  I just keep on dancing through life.

Shout out to my reader in Kenya!  I am fascinated by my international readers.  Who are you?  Why aren't you blogging?  You must have absolutely amazing things to share!  It's gotta be more interesting then hot tubbing with your kids and reading...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Deja Vu

Several times this week I've had a feeling of deja vu.  I'd go downstairs and the house smells like it did when we first moved in.  In the kitchen making breakfast, it would feel like one of those first mornings in our new home.  It hit me on my walk today that we are very near to our one year anniversary in Colorado.  We closed on the house either July 31st or August 1st.  I don't remember.... 

This time of the year the mornings/evenings are cool and light.  The breeze carries the scent of wildflowers and pine.  Outside birds and squirrels chirp at each other and one can hear the trilling hum of the hummingbirds as they buzz the house.  Everything feels new to me again.  New but comfortable.  Like when you get to pull out those perfectly worn in flip flops for the first time for summer or the equally perfectly worn in jeans for the first time in the fall. 

A year ago, everyday felt adventurous.  Who would we meet?  What would we see?  Even a trip to the grocery was trimmed with excitement.  There were new dangers too. 

Remember that hummingbird that charged my face?  We all laugh now but you know another friend of mine (a mountain woman, mind you) said she had something similar happen to her once and it was scary!  They have really long, sharp looking beaks.  Coming at your FACE!  Well, I still love the hummingbird.  From a safe distance.

Also the bugs.  There does seem to be less bugs up here then it is in Texas.  I don't think it's so much that there are less but that they do not swarm you as they do in Texas.  When Lesley was here last week we did have a weird sort of bee-fly that followed us down the hill.  It was so annoying!  We ran flapping our arms everywhere and the little bugger kept after us.  Finally it seemed to be gone until I saw it piggy backing on Lesley's back.  I took the shirt she had tied around her waist and swatted at the thing until it fell dead.  (Sorry Les.)  Lesley examined it.  We'd never seen a bug like it before.  The next morning the same thing happened again!  Same bug.  Well, not exactly the same bug because we killed it but...same kind of bee-fly thing.  My friends always tell me it's silly to be afraid of bugs.  "They won't bother you if you don't bother them."  BULL!  This little turd stalked us!

We have chalk boards through out our neighborhood where people post information like petting sitting, kickball games, things for sale or bear sightings.  "6/24 9 p.m. young cat mountain lion spotted at this intersection," one of the chalk boards reads.  That always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling...

I remember my first hike at Red Rocks.  I got freaked out by a field mouse that ran across the trail I was on.  Well guess what I woke up to Monday morning?  A dead field mouse in my house!  Hurray cats.  I guess.  I know it's a gift but I have not been able to muster up any thankfulness.  Husband was not home, neighbors were gone and so I had to deal with the remains myself.  I got two dustpans.  One for scooping up the little guy and one for keeping a sort of lid over him.  You never know.  He could be faking it and jump up onto my face or something.  Don't tell me it could never happen because ya'll also told me bugs were not coming after me and hummingbirds are not scary.  Wrong on both counts.  I flung the little rat over the fence.  Some fox probably enjoyed it.

So I have survived a year on the mountain.  I can handle critters, feed the hummingbirds, hike amongst mountain lions and bears, build fires, make food from scratch, snow shoe, ski...sort of, and can drive in the snow and ice.  I've made wonderful, fabulous friends but I still terribly miss my Texas people.  Today especially.

"Miss you," I texted to Shalah and Lauren.  Even though I just saw them a few weeks ago, my heart aches for everyone back home.

"Miss you too," they said.

"My last visit left me very unsatisfied."

"Ditto," said Lauren, "Like having only one spoonful of your favorite dessert."

Even the homesickness is a deja vu.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Plan a Road Trip

The boys and I went to Texas for a three week visit/tour.  On our return we wrangled in my girl Lesley to ride back the whole 17 hours with us.  Yes, she loves me LOTS!

Lesley is a planner.  Sometimes it's to her detriment as she will plan what to wear, what to write, and what to do until all her time has been lost.  I love a plan but mostly I love the execution of a plan.  I am flexible with the plan prior to it being set in motion; then I can not tolerate any deviation from said plan!

Due to our love of a plan and of just being together, Les and I decided to meet just for this purpose.  We wanted to map out our route and reserve a hotel.  Les arrived (as planned) armed with a giant tote full of supplies, i.e. a bottle of wine.

Here is the official way to plan a trip:

Step 1

Open a bottle of wine. 

We were at my mom's house though.  Mom does not often drink wine and has a wonky wine bottle opener that Les and I could not get to work. 

                                                           Les tried:

And tried:

We tried it where I sat on the floor holding it between my legs while Lesley stood above me pull, pull, pulling.  Unfortunate that we did not have a picture of that. 

Then I tried:

Next I tried a trick I'd seen on YouTube.  Did not work since there was already a hole in the cork.  There were a few tragic drops that were lost in this attempt...
This did move the cork a tiny bit though and so I tried grabbing a hold of it with my teeth as seen here:

My apologies to every dentist I've ever worked for and who have cared for my teeth. 

Yes, I know better.

A final attempt was made in the traditional manner.  Sort of...  We reinserted the cork at a different angle.  I rocked and pulled and rocked and pulled and....


                                                           Step 2
                                                   Get Your Grub On

Whew!  Next we put together a lovely spread of various cheeses, smoked summer sausage, raspberries, strawberries and stuffed grape leaves.  Lesley then reached into her bag of goodies and succinctly plopped out onto the table an atlas, post its, pens, and her GPS.  I had a lap top computer.

While I both mapquested and called my husband to compare directions, Lesley simultaneously began plugging coordinates into her GPS.  In about 20 seconds we had our route planned, plotted and confirmed as well as a hotel reserved for the half way point.

We stared out our spread and laughed!  It took about a half hour to get everything ready (not to mention Lesley's 45 min. drive out to my mothers and my half hour grocery store excursion for the "planning fare") for a 20 second planning meeting.  I still stand by it.  This is the only way to plan a road trip!

Just look at the happy results!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day 1 of Dance Rehearsals

This week my sweet friend from high school, Lesley has been in town visiting. Saturday morning we went for a walk on the three mile loop in the mountain-hood. We've had a goal to do it every morning during her visit. We've had beautiful cool mornings but we still worked up a pretty good sweat and...musk. So before rehearsal I was sure to shower. Even though I knew I'd just get sweaty again from dancing, I felt this was a courtesy I must offer my dance partner as the tango is a close quarters kind of dance. My hair looked so pretty though so I tucked it into a shower cap.

After my shower I wondered if preserving my hair was the best idea.

"Les, does my hair stink? Does it feel sweaty?"

"No," she said after taking a sniff and scrunching my hair in her hands. "Smells good really. It looks great!"

Awesome. Les was going to come to rehearsal with me. I was so glad to have that bit of support there. On the way I started to get nervous. I popped a piece of spearmint gum in my mouth, again thinking of my partner and the hopes of not offending the poor guy who got stuck with me.

"I'm getting nervous."

"You are going to be great! Just have fun."

"Yeah. Yeah. It'll be fun. I'm excited."

I was wearing leggings and a button-up oxford that that would cover my toosh. I had another thought...

"Les, here's what I need from you: tell me if during rehearsal my crotch is sweaty..."

"OK, how 'bout we develop a signal for that. Like maybe three fingers together like this..." Lesley made a closed "W" with her fingers and then gave them a little wave almost like saying hi to a baby. This we decided should not be maneuvered in the area of the crotch, nor near the nose. Too obvious. Instead she would just casually make the symbol in a general way.

"Yeah...that's good," I agree. "Also, give me a signal if the back of my shirt goes up too high and my ass is hanging out. Oh man...I hope that won't be sweaty too..."

"K. How's this?" and she mad a smoothing gesture across the top of her legs.

"Perfect. Let me know if I'm making any weird or unsightly faces and please, please honestly tell me how I did when it's over. Let me know if I need to get some out side help. Oh and tell me if you notice my partner or anyone else making faces at me like because I smell or dance bad or gestures that suggest I need to get my eyebrows waxed."

Once there I met my fellow dancers.  I recognized some of them from the audition and we reminded each other of our names.  The choreographer warmed us up and we got started!  The first little bit I had missed while on vacation in Texas.  The gal who got the role of Eva has made a website with videos of the choreography so that should be a huge help in catching me up.  I tried not to dwell on that first part too much and instead took on tackling the new parts that we were all learning.

Several times I nearly cried.  The choreographer would show us what the next part of the dance was and there's some little hop with a flip kick back, then spin, squat and pose. Just seeing her demonstrate it with such grace and ease made me want to run and hide. There was no way I could get this and often I didn't. At one point instead of a flip kick back, I did more of a high kick forward only I don't kick very high. So everyone else is kicking back and I was kicking forward. Awkward.

I am not a dancer.  How did I end up here?!  What were they thinking?

I was very frustrated with myself.  My partner was always encouraging him, bless his heart.  I tried to walk a line between getting as much extra help and info as possible and not holding up the rest of the group.  I felt like such a problem child. 

"Do you guys want to do that part again," the choreographer would ask, "or should we go on?"

"Let's go on!" Every one would agree and inside I was shouting No, wait!  Again!  Again!

I was very thankful for Lesley. Every time I looked out at her she was giving me thumbs up. Gone were the baseball coaching signals we had developed in the car.  Just thumbs up and smiles the whole way.

I felt like a total fish out of water. Always behind. Not going the right direction. I fought tears and laughed in nervous hysterics the whole way home. The Dancing With Stars mirror ball once again came crashing down to the hard wood floor. This was not going to be the glamorous moment that I thought it would. I considered quitting. I mean, we are short one male dancer. If I left that would even it all out.

"Would you really do that?" Les asked.

"No.  No way.  I really want to do this show and learn to dance.  I'm just so bad!!!"

"You really weren't Michal. If you would just watch the videos..."

Lesley had recorded every take. I wouldn't watch them at first but when I did I saw that no one else was any more ahead of the game then I was. In fact I was not so obviously off as I had felt.  They all seemed to be having fun though and I looked very frustrated. I was making a strange face....("Why didn't you tell me?") lips mashed together, nostrils flared, eyes slightly bulging in disbelief, fear and frustration.  Nice.  Also my eyebrows were furrowed...I've really got to get those things waxed.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to Make a Toad Habitat

The boys and I have just returned from a visit to Texas. We spent time with lots of friends and family.  It was so good!  One fun thing we did with my mom was build a Toad Habitat.  I thought I would share it as it is a fun activity that you can do with kids and they add whimsy to a garden.

Meet Brandon
We added pavers around a large bush and then filled it with soil.

The boys spread the soil out.  Toads like shady areas with moist soil.

Next we added shelter.  Mom nestled a terracotta pot into the soil.  She sort of scooped it in there so that there would be soft soil inside the pot.  We then added broken pieces of pottery to partially block the entrance to provide some security and more shade.

A little grass was added and a shallow dish with water. More broken pottery was placed up to the "doorway" to look like stepping stones.  Gabriel built a little fence with sweet gum balls.  We also tucked dried leaves inside each house.  The toads like to hide down under those as well.

Cute, huh?  We lightly sprinkled the habitat with water to keep it moist.

Brandon approves!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

High on Grandma

It's High on Life Thursday!  Today I am High on Grandma.

Rarely a day goes by that I don't think of my Grandma.  I see something she would like or do something that she does or can guess her advice in various situations.  We talk often but this past week I kept thinking of her but never made the call.  Finally this morning I had a minute and gave her a ring.

We gabbed about the latest happenings in the news, the family, and movies we'd seen recently.  Last week a friend of mine and I went to a matinee and I thought of Grandma.  She and her girlfriends often go to matinees.  They are an old love as many of the tales she tells involve going to movies with her friends when she was young.

Grandma and her friends have been close for decades!  I always ask her about them and want to hear about their health and families too.  We laugh at how the oldest of the group is the most fit.  Good genes that one.  She's 90 years old and still goes to Jazzercise 3 times a week. 

Also bathrooms make me think of Grandma.  I know that's weird but she travels a lot and I tease her that she always makes note of the bathrooms of the various places she's been too.  She'll tell me of some cathedral that she visited, "but what was really interesting was the bathroom!  It had carpeting inside...isn't that strange?"  Or some sort of comment like that.  So when I am out and I find myself noticing the bathroom I have to laugh at myself and then I make a note to be sure and mention it to her.

Grandma loves to travel and has taught me that you should not just visit other places but take advantage of where you live.  "Be a tourist of your home town."  It always amazes her at how little people know about the museums, historical monuments, or national parks in their own city.  When I lived in Dallas I made sure to visit the 6th Floor Museum, the original Neiman's and the like because I heard so many natives of the city say that they had never been there.  "Then when people come to visit you," she told me, "you will know all of the great places to take them!"

This morning she and I talked about the shooting that happened just two doors down from my mom, the weather (severe drought situations!), her besties and my husband.  She loves Aaron (sometimes I think more than her biological grandchildren) but we laugh about him a lot!  She also encourages me to be supportive of him and points out all of the ways that he shows his love for me.

After calls like that I am so filled with love, joy and pride.  She is a fabulous lady and I pray for many more visits, trips and phone calls with her

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Baby You're a Firework!

For most of us, the Fourth of July is a celebration of America and of freedom.  I love to re-hear the tales of heroism of the men who fought for our freedom.  The tv flashes images of our flag and the men and women of our country's history.  It means all of that for me as well with an added anniversary of my first kiss. 

It was 19 years ago this 4th that my husband gave me my first kiss.  Exactly one month before my sweet sixteen.   My husband is a great kisser but there are two that I remember the most, our wedding kiss and that first one.  We had just viewed a firework show in downtown Houston but that kiss set off a whole other round of fireworks for me.  I thought it was such a romantic moment.  The actual story is full of humor and young love.  I think I've blogged on it before...

This year I have not been so much reminiscing about that kiss as the moments that lead to it. 

One day my mom's car was not working and so she had asked Aaron if he could pick my sister and I up from piano lessons.  Perhaps it was more than the boy scout in him that sent him rushing to our aide...  He held my hand for the first time on our ride home!

I used to babysit for a couple that lived behind our house.  Aaron had gone to my house but my brother and I were not home.  My parents told him where I was.  I was watching tv or reading on the couch in the living room (I can't really remember the details) but I was startled when there came a knock at the back door.  It was Aaron!  He had hopped the fence to come and see me.  He did not stay long.  I think my parents called after he had only been there long enough for me to ask what he was doing there.  I watched him hop the fence back to my house, nervous and thrilled that he came by to see me.  Just me!  Not my brother.  Hm to him!

On another occasion he drove me home from school.  It was a Friday.  When he turned on to my street he asked, "Are you doing anything this weekend?"

I couldn't believe it!  He was about to ask me out!

"Nope.  Nothing,"  I answered as nonchalantly as possible.

He said nothing.

"How about you?  Do you have plans?"  I asked, trying to help him along.

"Nope.  Might do something with your brother Saturday."


I decided that if he ever asked me again for my weekend plans I would tell him that I planned to hang out with him.  If I could be so bold.

And then, as he was walking out the door with my brother to join some other friends downtown for the Fourth of July fireworks display, he invited me to go along.  I didn't ask my parents.  I looked to my brother.  He never permitted me to run with his circle of friends. 

"Ugh!  You can come."

The rest is history.