WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DID SOMETHING FOR THE FIRST TIME?

first time

I remember the first time Robin mentioned the phrase “we are going to work on our inversion practice.” I started trying to retrieve the meaning of “inversion” and kept mentally throwing away the definition I came up with because it just could not be right. Inversion meant upside down didn’t it? Maybe she meant submersion practice? But how would we submerge in a yoga studio?

She did a demonstration. Yep, she meant upside down. Like stand on your head upside down.

Holy cow was this girl crazy?

Robin and Justin had been fellow students in yoga classes that I took in Canon City. Our instructor, Marie Bailey, wanted to fully immerse herself in yoga so she moved to Florida to live at an ashram. I tried some classes in Pueblo after Marie left, but it was a long drive and it just didn’t seem worth it.

Then I heard about Robin and Justin. They had started River Lotus Yoga in Canon City and they had classes during the day. I remembered them as being young, and very “bendy” which is a good thing in yoga. The bendy part. The young can be good or bad. Ok, it was worth a try and the first class was free.

They were operating out of a martial arts dojo in those early days last year. Many times Robin and I were the only ones there for class. I liked the variety of poses, I liked that I was challenged, I liked that we didn’t hold the poses for so long that I started doing my shopping list in my head.

Then came the day of the “inversion practice”.

Robin gave me several alternatives to standing on my head. I think she saw the look of incredulous mutiny on my face. So the first few times I’d lay on my back with my feet on the wall. Then that started feeling too lazy and like a cop out, and I graduated to my hands on the floor and my feet on the wall at a 90 degree angle. That was certainly more challenging, and I was “inverted” but I wasn’t standing on my head.

I did not want an inversion practice thank you very much. I didn’t care if the wall was there or not, I did not want to be upside down. I didn’t like it and I was not going to do it. The toxins that were in my body had been there a very long time, and I was ok with them hanging around indefinitely.

After a few weeks it started to sink in that this was not a phase she was going through, and she was not going to give up on this idea of an inversion practice.

So I did a tripod. You put your head down, place your hands at the base of the triangle formed between your head and hands, and stick your knees on your arms.

I was happy there. I was upside down and I felt pretty stable. I did that for a few weeks.

Then the classes started to grow. We moved into our own really cool yoga studio. And the classes got bigger and bigger.
The inversion practice did not go away. I started to get pissed off because IT DID NOT GO AWAY.

Driving home from class one day, I thought of something one of my instructors used to tell me all the time.

“That which is hard is your test”

Somehow, me getting upside down had become my test.

There was not anything physically keeping me from standing on my head. Fear was holding me back. Once I used that word “fear” in my conversation with myself instead of “I don’t like it” I realized that this was something I absolutely had to do. No way was I going to not do something like stand on my head because I was afraid of it. Especially since other people in the class were standing on their heads and some were working on hand stands. And that really bendy Gumby clone Justin (Robin’s husband) was practicing a one-handed hand stand for Pete’s sake!

I’m not going to bore you with the process I went through of learning how to stand on my head. At times it was definitely not pretty. I will tell you that knowing how to tuck and roll is very important. But I will show you a couple of pictures, taken this Saturday at a Yoga in the Park class that Robin taught.

Yes, that is me doing a handstand in the park
Yes, that is me doing a handstand in the park

Notice there was no wall to catch me.

Yes, this is me playing around with my leg position while in a headstand.
Yes, this is me playing around with my leg position while in a headstand.

Notice there was no wall to catch me. Notice I am actually smiling.

And just to show you some total awesomeness, this is Justin, yoga instructor and river raft guide, doing a handstand on a boat in the Whitewater Festival this weekend in Canon City.

Justin Englerth  handstand in the Whitewater Festival 2013
Justin Englerth handstand in the Whitewater Festival 2013

I’ll be 56 years old this year. I feel grateful that I was given the gift of the opportunity to do something I had never done by a very gently persistent yoga instructor named Robin Beals.

So…

first time

A Really Good Day. Our Wedding

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For those of you who could not make the wedding weekend…

It was a very good day.

The weather cooperated.  Mild temperatures and no wind.   Let me tell you, the no wind part is very important.  The days leading up to the wedding were windy, and we are talking about 40mph winds here in Penrose.  We had a lot of people invited for the party, and we wanted to be able to open the house to the deck and the back yard.  And the actual ceremony was to take place in the back garden, and that worked too. 

I’d had two weeks to put it all together.  Our vision was a simple and easy ceremony, followed by a few hours of sightseeing with Terry and Tracey who had flown in.  Then a casual BBQ that evening with friends. 

One of the coolest things I’ve found out yet about Colorado is that it is very easy to get married here.  You don’t need a Justice of the Peace, a minister, or even a licensed officiate.  All you need is $30.00 cash, identification and proof that you are divorced if you have been married before.  Then, you can do your own ceremony. 

We knew that Steve’s divorce was finally done (after three and a half years) but the judge hadn’t signed it yet.  Keely was scheduled to leave for Little Rock on Friday June 7.  It was very important to all of us that she participate in the ceremony.  Really, if it wasn’t for Keely, we probably would not have done a ceremony at all.  But I’m glad we did. 

We decided to set the date for the ceremony and party on June 1.  It really didn’t matter when we signed the paperwork for the state of Colorado, the ceremony was symbolic anyway. 

Once word got out that we were getting married, we had a posse of little girls very excited about the prospect.  Since I feel like they are all my kids too, we included them.  Then we had to invite Dylan, because he’s one of my kids too. 

When I called Tracey to let her know that we had set the date, I was braced for her to say “can’t do it” when I asked if she could come.  I’ve tried to get her out here for three years with no success.  So yes, I cried when she told me she would be here.  I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. 

I had my posse of girls at the house Thursday and Friday to do the house cleaning.  I figured they would be there anyway, and I’d use them to get much of the work done and it would be a good opportunity for them to earn a little spending money.  There was a little friction at times, but they did a great job. 

I’d called my friend Heather Tippitt and asked her to do the cake.  No problem, what are your colors?  Colors?  I have to have colors?  Evidently I did.  So we did a wild flower theme, with turquoise and blue as a color theme.  Heather took care of the flowers too.  As you will see in the photos, they were spectacular.

Two weeks before the big day, the girls came over and painted mason jars.  We baked them to make them waterproof.  I think they turned out pretty well.  Each girl put her bouquet into one of the jars after the wedding and then took it home.

They also painted and stenciled some wooden hearts that we set the flowers on.  Those made good keepsakes for them too.

I found a dress I liked at the Sundance website.  Ordered it, tried it on to make sure it fit and that was that.   Then I went into Colorado Springs and found four dresses in sizes that would fit “the posse” on sale.  Steve already had a white shirt and black pants.  Wedding attire taken care of. 

The weekend before the wedding we went to Chicago Bob’s in Canon City to talk about catering the party.  Picked out what we wanted, and made arrangements to call once we had final numbers. 

Costco had mason jars on sale, so we labeled those with a Steve and Michelle sticker and stacked them up for everyone to use for their drinks. 

It took a couple of days for me to write out my vows and the ceremony.  I kept crying.  Yeah, I know, it’s silly, but I did.  And I knew I would be crying all through the ceremony.  I warned everyone and Steve had a handkerchief handy for me. 

Steve spent a morning on the computer writing his vows.  We had a structure with some vows that we both said, and then a few that we wrote ourselves.  I filled it out with a couple of readings and the ceremony was done.

Tonya Mansfield was our photographer.  A new friend that moved here from Little Rock when her husband got a job at Pueblo Chemical Depot, she did an incredible job.  Weddings are not her thing, but she agreed to do ours as a favor.  As you can see she did an awesome job. 

So we did our ceremony at 10am.  A small group, Stella did video for us, Paula was one of my “attendants” Melissa Logue and Terry got to watch the show.  We spent more time doing the photo’s then we did on the ceremony. 

Then we changed into shorts and took off for Canon City for lunch, dropped the girls off at the swimming pool, and took Terry and Tracey to see the sights.

Back at the house around 4PM, the party started at 5pm.  Easy, casual, and a lot of fun.  Kids running around everywhere, people laughing and chatting all through the house.  It was just as we had envisioned it.

It was a really good day.

The Posse” getting ready.  I think Keely was saying something like “I can’t believe you are putting all of that stuff on your face!”  Tracey talked her into some nail polish, but that was the extent of cosmetics for her that day.

"The Posse" getting ready
“The Posse” getting ready

"The Posse" Michelle, Keely, Kayli and Alayna
“The Posse”
Michelle, Keely, Kayli and Alayna

Paula Peterson on the left, Tracey on the right.  Me of course in the middle
Paula Peterson on the left, Tracey on the right. Me of course in the middle

Can you see the big tear on my face?  Yeah, I cried a lot.
Can you see the big tear on my face? Yeah, I cried a lot.

Steve gives Keely a family medallion necklace
Steve gives Keely a family medallion necklace

Keely was in charge of the rings
Keely was in charge of the rings

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Michelle and Tracey
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It's great to have friends like Paula
It’s great to have friends like Paula

Not only did Heather do this incredible cake but she cut and carved the stand
Not only did Heather do this incredible cake but she cut and carved the stand

Terry and Tracey
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Signing the photo that Tonya got printed and matted to use as a guest book
Signing the photo that Tonya got printed and matted to use as a guest book

That's Heather, the cake and flower genius
That’s Heather, the cake and flower genius

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Life With A Nerd

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If you have spent much time with us, you know that while Steve and I have a lot in common, we have a very important fundamental difference. He is a nerd. I am not.

Now if you know Steve, you know that he is not the typical nerdy guy. He is very athletic and outdoorsy and has a great sense of humor. Our friend Paula says he is the most charismatic nerd she knows.

Steve is a scientist, and majored in math and chemistry. I’m more of the creative type. Now I can do math, quite well in fact if it has to do with financial statements. Although the only “F” I ever made in school was in Algebra, I made a very good living for many years as a surety bond underwriter doing financial analysis. But I am not a numbers person.

Steve’s brain just works differently than mine.

Here is a conversation we had a year or so ago. We were in the plane, and Steve was giving me an explanation of all of the gauges and numbers that go along with flying the plane. He gives me this explanation pretty much any time we get in the plane. I think I listened the first couple of times. Maybe.

Anyway, he is going on and on about this and that, what this gauge does, what that number means. When he took a breath I looked at him and said:

“You know that when you start talking in numbers I quit listening? I look at you and see that your lips are moving, but I am not hearing a word you say. Because you are talking lots of numbers that don’t mean anything to me, and my brain shuts down. So if you want to keep doing this because you enjoy it, you go right ahead. But I’m telling you right now, I’m not listening.”

He understands this theory, but that doesn’t stop him from explaining things to me that he feels that I “need” to know. So I let him talk, and I either listen or not.

The big difference between us is he wants to know and understand the whys and wherefores of the process, and I really don’t care. I just want the end result.

Which leads me to the reason for this blog. See the picture below.
peel

This is what was in the jeep when I started it up to take Keely to the bus stop. She wanted to know what the orange peel was doing in the jeep.
“Steve left it there.”
“Why?”
“Because he likes to watch it dry.”
“Oh, OK”
(Keely understands this completely because she is a nerd too)
(And you don’t want to be around when Kat, who is majoring in science at the University of Louisville, and Steve get together)

Anytime that man eats an orange, he leaves the peel out. So that he can watch it dry. For real, he is fascinated with watching an orange peel dry. I just don’t get it.

But it doesn’t matter if I understand. It’s a part of who he is, that mixture of personality and interests that works so well with mine. We both know how incredibly lucky we are to have found each other at this stage in our lives. Instead of being irritated by our differences, we acknowledge them and laugh about them. I think that is where age and maturity really help in a relationship. We don’t try to change each other.

Of course I couldn’t change that nerd aspect of Steve Cox if I tried for the rest of my life. And it really comes in handy when something goes wrong with the computer.

She Is Gone

She’s gone.

Those two words keep popping into my head, and with them this sense of heaviness that won’t go away.

Those two words are what Michael said when he called me two nights ago. Words I had been waiting to hear. Dreading them, but needing to hear them also.

It’s been such an emotional roller coaster this last year. She would go into the hospital and we would think “this is it”. Then that tenacious fighting spirit of hers would kick in and she would surprise everyone and bounce back

But each bounce brought less of her back.

That 87 year old body got more and more frail.

That witty brain became dull and foggy.

Each time I’d think about how I would miss her. What a special person she was. I’d cry. I’d grieve.

In between I told myself I was getting used to this. No more phone calls, she couldn’t hold the phone. No more visits and hugs, we are in separate states.

I thought I would get this all out of my system so that when it finally happened I’d be calm and controlled.

Michael called. I was calm. Shock I think. A sense of finality.

The calm didn’t last as long as I hoped.

She’s gone.

Words I’d expected to hear and now I was saying them. First to Steve, then Charles, Kat, David. Keely the next morning when we told her we were leaving in a few hours for Little Rock.

Each time I told someone the reality would hit and I would tear up.

I was in a fog trying to get three people packed up, perishables in the fridge packaged for a friend to pick up. Steve had to go get hay, I needed to wash my dress to wear to the funeral. Phone calls…

We drove in a blizzard for the first few hours. I was writing the obituary as we drove.

Which is when I realized I’d left my dress in the dryer. Oh well.

I’m overwhelmed by the love and prayers being sent our way by friends. Don’t ever think that a phone call, email, text or Facebook post isn’t important. It’s hard to explain the amount of comfort I get knowing that people are praying for us.

One of my friends, Marc MacYoung, asked me to tell a story about her. I already had several pages of stories written on this trip. It was like I needed to hurry and capture them so they wouldn’t go away. As if now that she is gone her story would be gone too.

But in the end, that really is what our life is. A story. Some of it we write ourselves and narrate in first person. Some chapters are through the eyes and experiences of those around us.

There will be a lot of “Marty Stories” during the next few days. I’ll be writing as many of them down as I can.

Moms story was a long and complete one. It was full of adventure, comedy, tragedy. It was rich in love and friendship.

It was a great story.

Her Voice

DSC_1067A few weeks ago, my brother Michael called me while he was visiting mom in the nursing home. He said she was pretty chipper, and asked if I wanted to talk to her.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to talk to her.
The last few times he has put the phone to her ear, she either didn’t hear, or more likely, didn’t understand that I was on the phone. He told her who it was, urged her to say “hello”. She would finally mumble a little bit and he would take the phone away. All the time, I would be frantically saying
“hi mom! I love you, how are you?”
I’m really just throwing words out hoping something will sink in that she will respond to.
So this time, I really didn’t want to hear the mumbling that didn’t sound like my mom. But I told him to go ahead and put the phone to her ear. She seemed to know it was me. She said “Hello, Michelle”. It was the first time I heard her say my name since I saw her in November. I asked her how she was, and she went off into nonsense sentences.
But she said my name.
After we hung up, I cried. And I realized how much I was going to miss my mom’s voice. How much I would miss her saying my name.
So I sent a text to Michael and asked him to video her saying “I love you Michelle.” I know she was only parroting the words he told her, but I hope that she knew what they meant. Michael sent me that video, and I cried some more.
Really, I figured that would be the last time I heard mom’s voice.
Patty, Michael’s wife, called me Sunday. She was following the ambulance to the hospital, Michael was riding in it with mom. Internal bleeding, low blood pressure, bad bruising and swelling were all mentioned. Michael sent me text’s filling it all in.
So she is in the hospital now. Scared when she is coherent. But most of the time resting and almost comatose.
Michael called me yesterday and asked if I wanted to talk to her. I said no. Then I changed my mind. He told her I was on the phone, and asked if she wanted to talk to me. In a really strong, just like my mom voice she said “Oh ya, I love Michelle”. Once he got the phone to her ear, she really didn’t say anything. I sobbed out “I love you mom” and that was about all I could do.
Each time I talk to her or hear her voice I assume it’s the last time. This is killing me.
The logical, rational part of me is ready for her to be at peace.
Then there is the girl that loves her mom and doesn’t want her to leave.

MELANCHOLY

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I’ve made a conscious effort the last few years to soak up the good times. Be it the sun on my face as we hike a new trail, or the smell of Keely’s skin when I hug her, I appreciate this world I live in and the people God has put in my life. And I know I have many, many blessings.

But today is a melancholy day for me.

As we were leaving a movie today with Keely and a friend, I got a call from Charles. He was sitting outside St. Vincent Hospital. He had been asked to be with Dr. Mary Richards and her family as she was taken off life support. She collapsed at work one day, was admitted to the hospital November 17. She never left. One day she was fine, the next she was in ICU. Charles was devasted. It’s one thing to know what is happening, to hear that someone has passed. It is another thing entirely to be there. And there was nothing I could do. What words do you say?

A young husband and father shared the news yesterday on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer. As I was reading other posts about parties, friends and fun on New Years Eve, I couldn’t help but think of this family, clinging together and looking at 2013 as year that would surely be life changing.

My friend Marty Garrison lost his brother in a 4wheeler accident before Christmas. One day he was there, the next he was gone. Marty and his family have a strong faith. But this was a dark Christmas for them. I thought of them often, knowing that they were celebrating our Savior and mourning Derek during this season of light and joy.

My mom is in the hospital again. There are no more phone calls, she only has moments of clarity. There are decisions that have to be made, painful for all of us. We are moving to an end, we all know what it is. My sister Tracey and I talked yesterday. I told her that I felt there was a kindness in the way Mom is going. We realize that she doesn’t want to be here anymore. She’s tired. She isn’t in pain, which is a huge blessing. She has lived a long life and we have wonderful memories. And one thing I know for sure. She knows that she is loved. So we comfort ourselves with these things.

The other side of love is pain. You can’t care about others and not hurt when they hurt.
So on this very sad and melancholy first day of 2013 I’m just going to wallow in it for a while. I’m going to cry, hot tears sliding down my face. I’m going to hurt for those that I know are hurting. And I’m going to hold very tight to those I love.

DR. MARY RICHARDS

Dr. Mary Richards
Dr. Mary Richards

My friend and partner in the Taekwondo school is dying. Dr. Mary
Richards was admitted to St. Vincent’s Hospital on November 17. She is
a tough lady, a fighter for sure. But it looks like she is not going to win this
fight.

She may already be gone as I write this.

I don’t know how old she was when she started TKD, in her 50’s perhaps? She had no flexibility and was not very graceful. But she had a single minded determination and I’m telling you she would flatten your butt and run over you
if you got in her way. I learned the hard way that I couldn’t trade blows with her. I’d throw a kick, she would step in on it, and I would get knocked on my ass.

I used to call her the Tank. The name fit her physically and it also described her personality, especially if you were trying to spar her. She’d grin really big when I called her that.

One of the greatest things I ever saw happened in class one night. It was before I bought the school, and Marcus Turley was the instructor. We were practicing board breaking for testing, the required technique was a jump front kick. I’m the first to admit that I really really suck at jumping. But Mary would be the first to tell you that
she sucked more at jumping than I did. So I was standing there watching to see how she did. Remember her nickname was Tank.

Anyway, I was standing behind her as she set up to do the technique, Turley holding the boards. She got into position, hopped a little and hit the boards with the ball of her foot. Well she kinda hit the
boards, and kinda slid right up them. And her foot just kept going up and the rest of her followed.

The next thing I knew she had tucked herself into a tight ball and done a backwards roll. She rolled on over, stood up, standing and facing those boards in a fighting stance.

Turley’s mouth dropped open and his eyes were bugging out of his head.

I was speechless and I’m sure my eyes were bugging too.

After a shocked silence Turley said “Doc, are you all right?”

“Sure” she replied “let me try that again”

Age and injuries kept her away from Taekwondo and her beloved white water rafting. She used to tell me about rafting the Grand Canyon. Before we moved to Colorado I went by her office to visit. She had rafted the Royal Gorge, which is right by our house. I always hoped she would make it out here to raft with us.

Mary was Charles’ cardiologist. She was the first person I called when I took him to the hospital and they told me it was a heart attack. She was the first person I called many times after that. I’d like to say that she took special care of him because we were friends and partners. But that wasn’t the case. She took special care of all of her patients. I have heard from quite a few of them about their affection for the gruff lady.

Every few months I’d get a call. She had found someone who she felt needed Taekwondo. I was to call them, tell them there was no charge, and get them enrolled. We had some pretty special people at our school because
Mary sent them our way.

Her work as a doctor touched many in a very direct way. She literally saved hundreds if not thousands of lives during her long career. She didn’t have a lot of charisma or charm, she could be cranky and impatient. But she was smart, caring, steadfast and loyal. And you knew without a doubt that she was on your side.

If the measure of a life is by how many people are touched, Mary Richards had a giant life. Little Rock Taekwondo would not have survived without her financial backing and support. She never received any financial reward from her investment. Many people whose lives were changed never knew that Mary Richards was in the background. But I know the stories of the lives we touched meant the world to her.

I’d see her wipe a tear as I told her about the grandfather struggling to stay alive a few more years so he could
raise his grandson. The mother who was raising her son alone and had a diagnosis of breast, then bone cancer. We cried together over the death of Michael Coon, who was accidentally shot by one of his friends. So many stories, so much caring on her part that no one ever saw.

Mary Richards led a quiet life. She didn’t care about houses and cars, jewelry and sparkle. She cared about people. And in her unique way, she led a giant life.

No “Merry Christmas Michelle”

I talked to my mom on Christmas. As we were sitting down to eat our Christmas lunch, the phone rang. Michael wanted to know if I wanted to say hi to Mom.

Michael held the phone for her, and I told her “Merry Christmas”.

There was no response.

So I said it again, louder. “Merry Christmas Mom!”

Still no response.

Keely was standing there, so I smiled at her and handed her the phone. “Tell Grandma Merry Christmas”
“Merry Christmas Grandma! I love you!”

Keely held the phone, waiting for an answer. I knew it wouldn’t come, so I took the phone, smiling all the time so that Keely would think everything was OK.

Michael got on the phone and told me that this was not a good day. She was very confused.

It’s the first Christmas that I can remember saying Merry Christmas to my mom, and not hearing her voice replying “Merry Christmas Michelle”

I think about all of those Christmas days I had with her. Fifty four of them. I think about the love and laughter shining out of her eyes as she was surrounded by her family. We would joke with her about her terrible cooking and she would laugh in agreement. We kids started doing the cooking out of self defense, we wanted to be able to eat something palatable on holidays. The food was not important to her, the family coming together was. She was always happiest when there was a big bunch of people milling around. She loved and welcomed us all. But she really loved the little kids. Nothing made her happier than having a baby or two on her lap.

I hope, while the fog is overtaking her, that there is a place in her mind that replays all those happy times.

Mom and Keely
Mom and Keely

CHRISTMAS

Charles was here for the week, so Keely got to have both of her dad’s with her on her Christmas break. She was so happy and excited. We didn’t do a lot, the purpose of the visit was for Keely and her dad to spend some time together.

We drove up to Bishop’s Castle. Bishop’s Castle is a remarkable testament to one man’s vision and perseverance.
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CDQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bishopcastle.org%2F&ei=aCLbUIGvOYaMqgHr14HADA&usg=AFQjCNEM1R-X91XiD8343oFkSnxMo268gw&sig2=xoQ3kMxvbYs1_-fvzcr0NA&bvm=bv.1355534169,d.aWc

It is one of our favorite places to take our guests, and never fails to amaze. Then we drove over to Westcliff for lunch. Penrose is flat and dry. But you can drive 45 minutes and be in a beautiful mountain meadow and feel like you are in a different world. Have I mentioned that I love Colorado?

Charles and Keely at Bishops Castle
Charles and Keely at Bishops Castle

Paula and Kurt came over for dinner one night. Keely already had a couple of friends over, so when the Peterson boys got here we had a house full. It was a fun evening with good friends.

Right after Charles got here we started getting reports of a monster storm moving through the country. Since it is a 15 hour drive from Penrose to Little Rock, Charles decided to leave the day before Christmas Eve so that he could beat the storm home.

So we woke Keely up on “Christmas Eve Eve Morning”, and she opened one of the gifts from her dad, and he opened the gifts from her. We ate some breakfast, he loaded up the car, and we stood on the front porch to wave goodbye. Nothing happened. Charles’ new Ford Escape would not start. It was really cold, around 20 degrees, and very windy. A cold and windy morning is not a fun environment to jump start a car. Steve and Charles worked for over an hour trying to get the car to start. We finally looked at the manual, and discovered that the Anti-Theft Locking System had been activated. It was Sunday, so of course there were no car dealerships or mechanics open. Charles got the car towed to the Ford Dealership in Canon City so we settled in for another day.

Christmas Eve morning, Charles was on the phone to the dealership. We didn’t find out until 10am what the problem was.
A bunny had sabotaged the car. Yep, we actually saw the culprit under the car when we drove in one day. We all talked about how cute he was hopping around under the Escape. Well he wasn’t just getting away from the wind under the car, he was chowing down on the wires. He ate right through enough wires to keep the Escape from starting.
An hour later the car was ready to be picked up. By now it was too late for Charles to get in front of the storm so he settled in for another day at the Ray/Cox Villa.

Christmas Day was pretty perfect. We had a light snow falling, Enya Holiday station playing on Pandora. Keely loved all of her gifts, and was very appreciative and loving. She disappeared for hours at a time playing and happy.

I’d put together an easy holiday menu.

Roast Prime Rib with a Dijon/rosemary /garlic crust. Horseradish sauce (made with whipped coconut milk instead of cream so we were still Paleo)
Cranberry Waldorf Salad
Savory Butternut Squash Individual Soufflés (lots of bacon!)
Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce
Dessert was a choice of Gingerbread Squares or Mincemeat Tartlets

Yes, everything was Paleo with the exception of the Hollandaise sauce which had butter. But it was worth it.

We even had a nice Columbia Crest Merlot to drink with the meal. Wine was a big splurge for Steve and me because we have not had any alcohol since July. Well, we each had part of a glass of wine at Thanksgiving, but that’s it.

The snow stopped, and the sun came out. That afternoon, Steve and I drove to Colorado Springs to see the new Jack Reacher movie. One of the things I LOVE about Colorado is how the weather changes rapidly, and the effects of the mountain weather. It was clear and warm in Penrose when we left at 3pm. Fifteen minutes later as we started along the Front Range to the Springs the snow started falling and the temperature dropping. By the time we got to the movie theater it was 16 degrees and we were in the middle of a light snow storm. It really felt like Christmas.

It was a good week. I am so thankful that the three parents in Keely’s life get along. It’s important for Keely to see the respect and affection that the adults in her family have for each other. Kat and David love Steve. She sees that. Keely is comfortable showing affection for Steve in front of Charles, and vice versa. She is very secure and I have to give Charles a lot of credit.

Charles left early this morning, the day after Christmas. Little Rock got slammed with up to 10 inches of snow and widespread power outages. Fingers crossed he makes it home without mishap.

Who we spend Christmas with has changed every year for the last few years. And I have a feeling it will be that way for quite some time. And that’s OK.

Keely and Charles
Keely and Charles

FRIENDS

My “other daughter” Kira is staying with us for a week. Her visit was one of my early Christmas presents. We had coffee with Paula yesterday morning, then went to Coyote Den to meet with Alison, my friend and Crossfit trainer.

Driving in to Canon City, Kira and I talked about friendship. I’ve lived in Colorado a couple of years now, and I have several good friends. Friends that I can laugh and have fun with, meet for coffee, call if I need help. It took a while, because I’m really picky about who my close friends are. And let’s face it, I’m not your typical 55 year old grandmother. I’ve spent most of my life in male dominated business (surety bonds and martial arts) I have kids ranging from 34 to 10, and my idea of a good time is hitting and kicking stuff.

Friends take work and time. You have to call and visit. Take time to listen to them rant and rave, be a shoulder to cry on if they need it. You have to trust them enough to do the same. And most importantly, you have to understand each other.

There are some people in this world that I just don’t get. I can’t understand their thought process. If they are judgemental and righteous, forget it. I’m outta there. If they don’t have a sense of humor and can laugh with me and also at themselves, I’m not going to want to be around them very much. So like I said, I’m pretty picky about who I let in as a close friend.

When Steve, Keely and I went to Little Rock, the vast majority of friends that I met with were from TKD. Those relationships, forged with blood, sweat, pain and laughter, are lasting and deep. We may not see each other often, and we may not really have a lot in common now, but the love and memories are strong.

Alison and I have a lot in common. She is a martial artist, a chef (a real one, not amateur like me) and is making a living teaching. When the three of us met for coffee, the conversation was a lot of war stories. We talked about the sparring matches we had been in, I even stood up to reenact some of them. We talked about our injuries and how we work through them (Alison showed us her bloody leg from Crossfit that morning) We made fun of ourselves and we laughed and laughed. Because we got it. The three of us understand that you can be tough and strong, like to fight and hit stuff, and not need a straight jacket.

I’m so blessed to have the friends I have.

Chandra and Michelle We have been friends since 9th Grade
Chandra and Michelle
We have been friends since 9th Grade
Kailum Scharf was one of my TKD students and staff members
Kailum Scharf was one of my TKD students and staff members
Surya Cheek, a TKD student and staff member
Surya Cheek, a TKD student and staff member
Joe Jordan, TKD student and staff member
Joe Jordan, TKD student and staff member
Patti and Elliott Hickham TKD students and friends
Patti and Elliott Hickham
TKD students and friends
Dinner at Yayas.  Jennifer Johnston, Jill Reeves, Jennifer Seminara.  Yes, all TKD students and friends
Dinner at Yayas. Jennifer Johnston, Jill Reeves, Jennifer Seminara. Yes, all TKD students and friends

THANKSGIVING TRIP DAY TWO

Saturday morning we met Dennis and Debbie Oxley for breakfast at Delicious Temptations.
PALEO NOTE: Steve and I had an omelet (Paleo friendly with vegetables)

Steve and Michelle, Dennis and Debbie
Steve and Michelle, Dennis and Debbie

We talked for almost two hours. Dennis was one of the first people I met when I transferred from Mt. St. Mary’s Academy to Mills High School. We lost contact with each other after high school. We met again very briefly when his nephew Eric Scoggins was a student at my TKD school, then reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago. Steve and Dennis have also become friends on FB because of a shared interest in photography. Debbie and I are now FB friends since we spent two hours jabbering that Saturday morning.

I’d received a text from my brother Michael that morning, asking if I was going to see Mom that day.

“Yes”

“Well good, because she doesn’t remember seeing you yesterday”

After breakfast with the Oxley’s we went to the nursing home. Mom was in her room. There were no lights on, she was in her bed, picking at her food on the tray in front of her. I wrote about our visit in a previous blog.

After seeing Mom and shedding quite a few tears in the car, we drove to Charles’ house, changed clothes and went to Pinnacle Mountain State Park for a hike. We wanted to talk, so we elected to hike the base trail rather than climb the mountain. I’m glad we did, because we met up with Mr. Robles, one of my former TKD students on the trail. We had a great visit and we both continued on our way.

I cannot tell you how much I miss Pinnacle Mountain. You might think that there would be a lot of similar state parks to hike in here in Southern Colorado. Well you are wrong. There is nothing close to our house that can even come close to Pinnacle. You guys in Central Arkansas do not realize what a treasure you have there.

Another run to Charles’ house to clean up and change clothes. Then we headed downtown to visit Kathi and David Jones. They used to live next door to me downtown on Spring Street. After a quick catch up visit, Steve and I dashed over to West Little Rock to the Texas Roadhouse.

A couple of years ago, this person named Diana Hampo sent me a friend request on Facebook. We had some Taekwondo friends in common, so I accepted the request. I love her posts and her blog, and we had become pretty good FB friends. Then she wrote about needing knee surgery, and I picked up the phone and called her. Several phone visits later we were even better FB friends. But we had never met in person.

So Diana and her husband Alex met us in the bar at Texas Roadhouse. It kinda sucked because Texas Roadhouse is very very loud and it was hard to hear each other. Alex is the head chef at Oaklawn Racetrack. This guy gives type A workaholic a whole new dimension. I don’t know about Diana and Alex, but I felt like we had known each other for years. We talked (or yelled) at each other for a while, and then Courtney and Jim arrived.

PALEO NOTE: Steve and I split a steak with vegetables on the side.

Jim Robinson was my first TKD instructor and has been a friend now for over 35 years. This was the first time for Steve and me to meet Courtney. In phone conversations Jim had been blathering on and on about how beautiful and nice she was. It was really kind of sickening. Well, he was right. She is gorgeous and a really sweet person. It’s great to see two people who love each other together. They held hands and gazed soulfully in each other eyes….

My biggest regret from this day is that I did not think to get pictures of Pinnacle, Dave and Kathi, or the dinner crew.

Thanksgiving Trip Day One

If you are friends on Facebook you probably heard about our decision to leave Thursday night for our trip to Little Rock.

If you missed the FB post, I’ll fill you in.

We were sitting on the couch, Steve said:
” I set the alarm for 2:30am. If one of us wakes up and it’s after midnight we can just leave then”

Me:
“OK”

I thought about it for a minute, then said:
“Why don’t we leave now?”

Steve thought about it for a minute, then said :
“OK.”

What I loved about our conversation and decision to leave early is how in tune we were. Each of us read between the lines to the logical thinking of the other. No rationalization or explaining needed. We just intuitively understood where the other was coming from.

We told Keely we were leaving as soon as she could get ready.

“What? We are leaving now? Yikes!” So she started scurrying around pulling stuff together. At one point, Steve was loading the car and I asked Keely if she was excited.

“Excited and a little frightened.”

“Why?”

“Well mom, every movie I have ever seen where the people are driving during the middle of the night they end up falling asleep at the wheel and crashing. I don’t think I’m ready to die yet.”

I assured her that if we got too sleepy we would either stop and get a room or pull over for a nap in the car. I’m thankful she trusted us enough to put her life in our hands for the drive.

So we left the Penrose house at 7:10 pm.

Around 2am we pulled over and took a two hour nap at a rest stop outside Amarillo, Texas. Steve slept, I didn’t. Keely seemed groggily reassured that we were stopping.

We pulled into Little Rock at 2pm. We are staying with Charles (my ex) so we deposited Keely with him, took a shower then left to run some errands.

Met up with my “daughter from another mother” Kira Sharkey. She is one of my former TKD students and one of my dearest friends. Much of our conversation that night was centered around what we are going to do when she comes to stay with us in December.
I wish I had thought to take some pictures but I didn’t. Guess the pics can wait until she visits us.

Back to Charles’ and we crashed for the night.