Monday, February 28, 2011

Appetizers and Attitude

I warned you...

This stilty guy or gal was one of the first things I spotted on entering the park. At first it kept to the reeds but little by little it made its way into the open and was feasting on something wonderful in the muck at the base of this tree. I found it interesting to watch it put one wing or the other out - never both at once - to balance as it plunged face first into the water to dig around.

And as I was walking on a bridge I heard a real ruckus. I turned to see this guy racing across the water. I guessed it was a male as they are usually more colorful.

And he was shortly followed by this (I'm guessing female) who appeared to be madder than a wet hen. Just as she'd start to gain on him

She'd start squawking and flapping so hard she nearly lifted out of the water. Amid the screaming and her splashing, he'd find a new burst of energy and gain a little ground and then she'd take up the chase again.

I'm not sure what the dynamics were that I observed but I'm guessing neither of them were nearly as amused as I was.

Florida in Winter

So this is going to be a picture heavy post. I'd been to Florida two other times, once to the Disney Swan Resort and more recently to the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island. Both lovely, luxurious settings. But this time I actually had the opportunity to enjoy the kind of things that really turn me on - the natural world!

Even in late winter-not-yet-spring, there was much to see and enjoy. Blooms, birds, wildlife, smells and, of course, sunshine. We were able to visit a park with Dad and I had a great time seeing what I could see.

So here's what Florida looked like to me:

Haven't had a chance yet to identify these two water fowl...

Do you see the algae covering the shell of the largest turtle?

I found the Spanish Moss very beautiful. I could imagine quite the fairy land if I was a kid playing among these trees.

This was the second pair of eagles I saw while in Florida. That made about three more than I'd seen in Colorado in a decade.

And though the weather wasn't really warm enough to bring the alligators out of the water to sun, I was glad to see (part of) one during this visit.

Such grace!

I found Florida charming and beautiful. I'm not quite done sharing pictures yet so you'll have to bear with me on another post or two...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today

I can hardly believe it's been that long. Ten years ago today the direction of my life changed and I haven't looked back. You see, this man at church called me out of the blue and asked me on a date.

But I should back up a little. I was done with dating and relationships. I was happy with my life and didn't really think I needed the complications that would entail. I had a job I was happy with. My daughter was a teenager (14), which keeps a mom busy. We were living with my sister and so we had family. The three of us took trips together and lived very companionably. I was very involved with church activities and my spiritual life was healthy. I truly enjoyed the gym and spent free time there kickboxing and weightlifting. Life was full and good. I was in the best all-around place in my life that I'd been in a very long time. I'd been asked out and accepted various "dates" but I had decided that I was quite content in my singleness.

Still, I talked to God about it. You see, I'd never been in a truly healthy relationship, so I knew my opinion of such things was not necessarily objective. I knew that my resolve, if it wasn't the attitude of my heart that God desired, would be thrown into confusion if the right kind of man showed an interest in getting to know me. In fact, I said to God, "Well, if someone like (pull up an unlikely name of someone I didn't actually know)... Kent Smith... asked me out, I be stuck questioning my decision not to "date" anymore. So help me understand, Lord, if I should even entertain such concerns or not?" Why did Kent Smith come to my mind? Perhaps it was the Spirit. Or perhaps it was because he was a man I respected though I didn't really know him. I'd observed him in church for a few years and believed him to love the Lord and think deeply on spiritual things. He rarely spoke but when he did it was always worth listening. So I ended up spending weeks immersing myself in the Word, talking and listening to God, and pouring out my heart to the true lover of my soul.

You see, if you dug under the surface of my content and put-together life, you found someone bruised and beaten and all the more wary because of it. I was not just independent, I was suspicious and proud. "I could do it all on my own. I don't need anyone else, they'd just mess my life up." As I prayed and meditated through this in January of 2001, I never felt like I heard God's heart for me until I peeled off my mask and spoke my true heart to Him. Not that He didn't already see and know it, I think I needed to acknowledge and confess it. I remember tearfully admitting to God that the fondest desire of my heart was a loving, forever relationship with a Godly man. I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to say those words out loud. Because by burying and not admitting this, I was able to pretend to myself most of the time that it was not so.

By the end of January I felt a deep sense of peace. Revealing my secret heart to God had brought release. I knew my heart was safe with Him and whatever the future brought, I was loved and known. I was truly content.

Forward to February 18th (safely after Valentine's Day he now tells me) and my sister brings me the phone, "It's Kent Smith". Did you just get goosebumps, too? How surreal was that? He wants to know if I'd like to go to dinner and see a movie. Uh, sure. I'm stunned, I don't think to ask any questions. We hang up the phone and I'm so baffled. What just happened?

February 24th, I'm getting ready to go out. Let's see, he said dinner and a movie... he probably means something at Evergreen Grill and go to the local cinema. Yeah, good guess. I mean, he seems quiet, introverted, shy and very low key whenever I see him. We're not going to get too crazy here, I'm sure. So, what should I wear? Well, I've only ever seen him in jeans, hiking boots, and a plaid shirt (cotton in summer, flannel in winter). Ok, jeans, boots, sweater. I can do this. My daughter says to me, "Mom, I don't care if this doesn't go well, we are NOT changing churches." Oh, sage advice from my teenager. Of course we aren't. But now I realize that I actually care about this. I want it to go well. A new feeling for me.

Now, Kent's side of the story includes the fact that he came to what he was sure was my door but no one answered. (My sister's house is very large, it's easy to miss the door if you are in the wrong part of the house.) This was pre-cell phone. He went to the local grocery store to call and confirm he'd been at the right house and let me know he was coming back. Oh my!

So we answer the door and there he is, dressed up, in a suit coat. I ask if I can have a moment to go change and he insists that I look "great" and there's no need. I'm not sure how I feel about this but I let myself be led to the car. But we don't head to the grill. No, shy mystery man heads down the hill to Denver. To a romantic French restaurant. Where people coming out recognize him from his art in the galleries and shake his hand and talk to him.

How can I convey my amazement that the guy I would have said was shy, maybe even a little backwards, is Mr. Suave on the Town? Now I'm feeling like I just crawled out from under the proverbial rock. What's going on here? Well, what went on was a conversation that lasted until the restaurant was closing. We never did get that movie in. And a friendship sprung up that neither of us expected and soon grew into a love that we are still marveling at and celebrating 10 years later. By April 1 Kent asked me to marry him. (My daughter had already given her seal of approval and suggested that she wouldn't be opposed back in March when I still thought she was crazy.) By August 4th we were married. This has been and continues to be the most amazing, transformative, educational time of my life. I have learned so much about God and His love to me, what it really means when someone acts like Jesus to us. How much healing and growth can come when God plants the seed.

So, Ten Years Ago Today, I was getting to know my best friend and husband.

(This isn't an actual picture from our date, it's just the oldest I could find this morning.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My "Nephew", Joshy

I wanted to introduce you to my nephew, Josh. Even though he is afflicted with looking like a dog, his family treats him like the boy he is. I must say, I've never seen a dog so trusting, so content, so utterly sure that nothing but good stuff is coming his way. I'd call him well-adjusted. And cute.

I found that Josh likes to sleep in a bit. He also likes to nap. And if you are too slow going to bed, he'll head off on his own. Tuck him in and you'll find him right where you left him an hour later.

Here he is looking out the window. He takes his job of knowing what is going on with everyone at all times very seriously. That's probably what wears him out so much.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Niece, Sarah

One of the great things about my time in Florida was the opportunity spend time with Kevin, Beth and Sarah. I hadn't seen Sarah in a few years and we enjoyed catching up. Sarah is sweet, smart, funny and full of life. She's skilled on the rip-stick, is a fun bike-riding companion, is the only person I know who can walk faster than me, gives a great pedicure and neck rub, and is an all-around super person.

She was frequently scooping up the camera and taking pictures of the two of us as we'd be cooking or goofing around.

She's a great cook and lots of fun in the kitchen. I'm not sure about the frosting kisses, though.

As soon as her Aunt Karen showed up, she started getting pics of them, too!

I snuck a few snaps myself. I was enjoying listening to her play while I cooked.

And she's already a lot taller than her mom who is probably taller than me. And they both have such beautiful blonde hair. What a pretty pair!

If you're reading this... I love you Sarah!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

I got home yesterday from Florida and it was so good to see my husband! It's the longest we've ever been apart. When I downloaded my camera this afternoon I was struck by seeing my father's improvement on "film".

He has felt frustrated often, thinking he should be further along than he is, and we tried to share with him the improvements, changes and progress that we can see. Now I have a graphic example for him of how he IS improving. And while it may not seem as fast as he'd like on a daily basis, it does add up.

Here's dad the day he left the hospital. That's Abby with him. Dad says she was very encouraging to him in his therapy. That was a an intimidating day for all of us because we didn't know how he'd do having to move from a wheelchair to a vehicle and then to a wheelchair at the airport. We knew it would exhaust him and it was a huge undertaking.

And here's Dad one week later, enjoying an outing with the family. He was still heavily relying on the wheelchair at this point for any distance more than across a room. And he was constantly cold even though the Florida weather was mild and sunny.

And here's Dad the night before I left, joining the family on the patio before our cookout.

I'm proud of my Dad and how hard he's working. He could choose to give up when faced with so much frustration and hard work but he's persevering. I look forward to seeing how far he can go.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Because That's What We Do

Last Friday my sister, Kathy, and I headed to Las Vegas to spring my dad from the rehab center. He'd been in the hospital and rehab for a total of 6 weeks and was ready to get out of there. He will need ongoing care and help and my brother Kevin and his family in Florida were excited to have Dad come live with them. They are very well equipped for this as Beth is an top-notch nurse and Kevin is a skilled phlebotomist/radiologist; they have a lovely, one-level home; and they live in sunny Florida.

And because that's what we do.

I'm blessed to live in a family that care's for it's own. I've watched and helped as my parents took care of their parents. My mother and grandmother provided loving care for my daughter and their other granddaughters. My sister helped nurse my brother after a very bad motorcycle accident. And now, we'll look after Dad as he recovers to whatever level he can.

Originally I thought I'd be flying home last Tuesday but we saw that it would be helpful for me to stay on while the transitionary details are worked out. So I'm looking at it as a blessing that I get more time with my father, my brother, my sweet sister-in-law and my amazing niece. And when I leave, my sister Karen will come for a week. And my older brother and his wife are looking at a visit as well.

I don't know if I'll get another chance to update my blog but I should be back home after the 20th. For now, I'm in Florida, loving on my family... because that's what we do.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And Say "Hello Again!"

The current greeting we seem to get a lot from friends is something like, "Congratulations! I hear you're homeless!" While we laugh along, the fact is that we are houseless, not homeless. Thank God.

Actually, I'm living with Kathy again and I have so many good memories of our years together that this is a happy time for me. Living in limbo isn't half bad when you are doing it with your best friends. We have been provided with a supremely comfortable space during this interim and I want to make sure everyone knows how grateful I am. We have the comforts of our own home within the comfort of Kathy's home. And her companionship as well. I believe that our "bedroom" with walk-in closet and private bath is more square footage and a single floor of our previous home.

Here we have our living room for those times when we want a little time away...

And our office and library so that we can keep organized while we begin our house search.

And I am blessed to have a creative space where I hope to make many things to sell in my friend's store.

And of course our bedroom...

All of this and we still have tons of open floor space. We've got more move-about room than I am accustomed to and it feels downright luxurious.

Even more luxurious is having some down-time after two solid months of running and doing. Between our trip, the holidays and moving we haven't hardly had a moment to catch our breath. So taking a nap with the fur boys is a real treat.

I found this early in the packing process in a box of keepsakes. Stephanie made if for me years ago. During our weeks of packing the house and laboring there I kept it hanging on a cupboard in the kitchen where I could see it frequently. And on the last day I removed it and brought it here with us as a continuing reminder. I am certain that my God is in control. I am sure He has plans for me. I pray that I may walk by faith through this life. Thanks, Steph, this has been a nice reminder and I smile and think of you every time I see it. I love you!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Time to Say Goodbye

Here are some of the last pictures of our home while we lived in it. Actually, things are in a bit of disarray because we were already packing when I took these. I figure it's about time I bring things up to date on the moving process.

After a summer spent painting the outside of our home and having the roof replaced, we took the plunge and it was put on the market in mid-November. I'm not sure of the actual date it first was listed in print or online but it was during our trip to see family for Thanksgiving. We had showings lined up as soon as we returned on December 2nd and on the 13th we got a call saying that the folks who'd seen it that day were very interested and wanted another look. They looked again on the 15th and on the 16th we recieved an offer. After a little negotiating we had an agreement. At this point there are still many things that stand between the agreement and the sale so we tried to relax and just enjoy the holiday with our family while being mindful that our days may be numbered.

Things moved smoothly and by the 5th of January, we knew we had to be ready to vacate for a closing of January 28th. While there were still a few hurdles (final loan approval, well tests, etc) we decided there was no more time to tarry. We had rented a storage unit after making the agreement and we began to pack in earnest. Our goal was to set a date one week in advance of the closing to be moved out. So glad we did since by doing that we managed to be out the day before closing.

I don't need to tell anyone who has moved from a long-time home that it is a monumental task to pack up half a lifetime. I devised a packing system that included color coding boxes by room/area of the house/property and then used an alpha-numeric code to identify each box. I preprinted labels and set up a spread sheet to track the whole process. While a stray box or two may have gotten past us, we can essentially tell what is in any box by the code on the label. Since items will be in storage for an indefinite period of time, this will be (we believe) enormously helpful on the other end. By toting our laptops and a workbox into each area as we packed, we had the tools and labeling materials we needed at hand and logging the contents of boxes was a snap. I'll revisit this topic later as I believe I might offer it as a service via the internet.

We packed and stacked boxes until we felt as if the house were barely navigable. Kent built wooden crates on pallets to load his heavy tools, sculpture molds, and parts. We hired two men to help with the actual moving of the household boxes and furniture for one day and then the shop for two more days. Kent rented a 26 foot commercial grade truck with a lift gate and all-terrain fork lifts for both ends - the house and the storage unit. The task was huge but once again my amazing husband proved equal to the challenge. The weather could have been worse but it could have been much better, as well. Still, we persevered. Our trailer lost a wheel and was not selvageable. Then the clutch in our pickup went. We rented a cargo van and kept moving forward.

By the 27th, we were spent. Physically and emotionally. And then as we were nearing our lowest point, the fine folks who were buying our house showed up with sandwiches and juice (we hadn't eaten all day). And words of encouragement. And a helping hand. It was the boost we needed when we needed it. And I don't want to forget to thank my friends who came to lend support and help me pack. Those days were the easiest of my packing job. Thank you Anne, Rae and Kathy. And thanks to Roger, who helped Kent for a long morning and contributed his own pickup to the task. We certainly could not have done this alone. If you have a friend that is moving, show up. Even if you just bring a glass of cold water and a smile. It really does help.

Meet Dan and Ruth! We are so happy that they are the ones who bought our home. We pray that they will have many happy years there.