Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bucket List Adventure into Change

   Making a bucket list seems to be a popular thing these days. I have my own like most people do, and as a couple, my hubby and I share quite a few of those items. One of them was experiencing Mesa Verde in southwest Colorado. I’d been there as a child, memories had faded into sketchy images, but Ron had never seen it. We had to go. Before any changes happen in our lives.
   Our life journey seems to be headed for Texas in the near future. Living too far away from our only child and her family is not working for us anymore. With two grandkids now, we are just too far away. Change is hard though. And the older one gets, the harder those changes are emotionally, practically and logistically. But to attain what one desires the most, change is usually inevitable.
   So back in June of this year, we decided to just pack up the camper and head down to the southwestern reaches of our state while we were still here. We had a few days, it probably wouldn't be enough, but let’s just do it. We like to be rather spontaneous with our adventures.

   Being spontaneous is great, but when your vehicle is feeling older than I do, pulling a camper over mountain passes takes a longggggggg time. But hey, it’s Colorado. It’s mountains. It’s God’s creation surrounding you. As the old poem of my childhood days says, “Take time to see”.  I did. Right out my side window for many miles.



   We finally made it about eight hours later. Found the campground, settled in and enjoyed relaxing for the rest of the evening.

   The next morning, packed up a picnic lunch, snacks for the day and we were off on an adventure of discovery. Of a life led by people long ago who took up residence in the dangerous cliffs of the area.

  Now, one stops to think, why did they want to live there? What possessed them to climb the steep terrain and start assembling rocks, making bricks out of mud using precious water to form and stack them into walls to create rooms? To take your family into parts unknown and live what had to be a very challenging lifestyle involving incredibly hard work.

   But that’s what life is most of the time. It’s work. We all face challenges from the winds of change almost on a daily basis.
   Growing up, the historical name I learned for the inhabitants of the dwellings has now somehow become politically incorrect. I’m going to be on a soapbox for a moment, so bear with me. I learned back in the day when my family visited this site that the Anasazi Indians took up residence in the cliffs. Now it is apparently an insult to this civilization to refer to them by that name.
   According to, the name Anasazi derives from the Navajo as “ancestors of enemies”. It may have first been applied to the ancient Pueblo ruins in the Mesa Verde region c.1889 by rancher and trader Richard Wetherill, who began exploration of the sites in the area. Since modern man considers this an insult, being referred to as an enemy, they now must be referred to as Ancient Puebloans. That’s harder to say than Anasazi. But all forest service literature, signage in the park, and language used by the rangers has adjusted to the change. Enemies are real, and whether they were an enemy to someone or not, really?  Changing history.

   As our journey took us into the park, fires from years back had left a very stark landscape on top of the mesa. Skeletal trees stand as a remembrance of what was once a forest, now only gray sentinels waiting to succumb to enough age that the wind would knock them down only to slowly rot back into the earth.

   The winding road took us along the rim of the canyon in areas. At our first glimpse of a ruin far below we were amazed at what we saw. We had earlier made our reservation to join the Ranger-led trek down into what is known as The Balcony House. Having really bad knees, I was a bit concerned about being able to make this hike. I was pleasantly surprised – no thrilled – that I did it! Being in shape at this age takes a bit more work than it used to, and in shape is NOT a term we use for our lives. But I felt much like Rocky Balboa on the top of those stairs when we finished the hike. I think I might have actually done a little happy dance.
   Our hike began on a trail leading through the pinion pines; our group of tourists led by a very informative and capable Ranger. It’s fun to take time to get to know them and how they came to their job. When we first moved to Colorado, I had dreamed of becoming a forest ranger. Even looked into the job but realized it was not a lifestyle that would work for our family.
 As we walked along, headed down metal stairs down to a paved path, I couldn’t help but think back to the people that made their life there over 700 years ago. They didn’t have the luxury of these developed paths.
   I touched the rock wall next to the trail wondering how many of these ancient people had touched
this very wall. What was their life like? Did they complain about the heat? The work to survive? Or did they just do what they had to do knowing there was little choice? I lean toward the latter. They were a lot tougher than any of us are today, no doubt.
   The tour led to a tall, double-wide ladder that took us up into the Balcony House. What a climb. Sure was glad the heat of the day hadn’t arrived yet.

   I’m a bit of a news/information hound. I guess that comes with being a writer. So I hung on every word the Ranger spoke. I found the stories fascinating since I love history. Most of it, of course, is guess work on the part of modern people trying to figure out how and why this civilization did what the evidence left behind. But isn’t that the fun of history?
   Learning how these structures were built was just as fascinating. In some areas, the stump of one of
Over 750 years old!
the supporting timbers could still be seen. A 750 year old log! Think about that. The method of building these was genius. Considering the tools, or lack thereof, available to them.
   Having a young, almost walking grandson now, made me think about the momma’s back then. Looking at the overhang of their dwelling, how on earth did they keep their toddlers from darting toward the edge? I just couldn’t spend a lot of time on that thought line. Those were the bravest women I can imagine.
A window into the past!
   After wandering around the ruins, asking questions, taking advantage of photo ops (and if you know us personally, you know we came out of there with a lot of photos), the adventure continued in the ONLY way out of the Balcony House. Think thin folks!!


  Whether the occupants designed this structure for protection from their own enemies or just had no other choice for a second way out, or perhaps when those that came along in the 1800’s to save the ruins back in the days of discovery, found themselves cut short of ledge so a tiny passageway was the only escape for touring through, I don’t know. The park service had attached metal grates to block passage for those that are not with a tour to protect the ruins (and make a few more bucks). But there was definitely little choice in our leaving the ruin. That’s what I love about adventure. One never knows what that next step will be.
   We squeezed our bodies through the escape only to find ourselves looking up another wooden ladder leading to an odd little path of steps carved out of the stone. Past more metal fencing and gates, we made our way to the top.

Yep. It was as unnerving as it looks.

   Did I mention the views from these cliff dwellings? As they say, location, location.
   We spent the day exploring more by car, hikes and a tram/bus ride that became one of the most harrowing rides of my life it seemed as this double vehicle bounced and swerved around the curves of the designated tour route. Okay, I’ve been on worse, but the seats made you slide all over the place enhancing the reactions from the road.
 Dropping our group and Ranger at the trailhead to hike down into the Long House, we gathered around to hear more facts and history as they determined it to be. Again, I worried how my knee would do. I’ve come to believe that the excitement of an adventure helps me to just ignore the concerns. This was again a fascinating tour. Learning about the lives of the people. How they gathered food, water, seeing the type of tools they made from rock and bone. How they adapted to life in these elements. Building the structures that meant their survival.
   How they changed to the environment they now lived in.

The residents would pull these weeds out
to access the water. No sense sharing
with weeds.
   Water is an essential source for survival and they had unique ways to collect that. Rock down there is porous sandstone, so when it rained or snow would melt, it would just percolate down through the sandstone, hit a layer of shale and emerge through the cracks at the back of their alcove on bedrock. They carved little channels leading to larger catch basins to collect the spring water enabling them to ladle it out for drinking and cooking. Clever. Survival.

  We did one more major hike that day down a self-guided tour of Step House. Worth your time. Interesting view into the past and how they lived.

     As I stood in some of these alcoves taking time to think, to imagine, to listen for the voices of the past whispering on the wind to try to hear what their daily struggles must have been. I was awed by the tenacity of these ancient people. It truly was a mesmerizing adventure. If you allowed it to be. It was a test of ability. A test of determination. A test of…change. Doing something different. To push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of doing.

Look around for surprises.

One of about 125 wild horses in the park

   Now we are facing major changes in our lives with the hoped for move to Texas to be with our family. The Anasaz….excuse me… The Ancient Puebloans had to move. Whatever their reasons, whether drought chased them to a more fertile area, or an enemy drove them off, or too many rocks fell on their heads, or they just died off completely; we’ll never know for sure. But we know why there is a need for change in our lives. I just WANT to move -near my kids.

   Aging makes you rethink many priorities in your life. Not that we’re THAT old, but we are starting down the back side of this journey if you consider 50 the half-way point. Things come along sometimes in life that you aren't expecting. Life can be happening in other places that you aren’t a part of. Things that you’re missing out on that you begin to realize are far more important than the place you love to live just because of scenery and adventures. Well, that and good friends and a church family. We both want and need the adventures of grandparenthood and we aren’t willing to settle for just an occasional few days a few times a year. Life is way too short. 

   So, we don’t know what our next adventure in life will be completely. We have an idea. We have a goal. We have a hope and a dream. Stay tuned for what reality will come. If I know God, which I do in my finite ability, He is going to have something really incredible for us. He did nearly 30 years ago when He set us out on an adventure with a full U-Haul truck towing a ’63 Chevy with a five year old child, a small dog, two cats, and no jobs. We headed west and it was the best thing we could have ever done for our family.
   Now it’s time to change to a new journey to new adventures. To a new life, with new friends, to new beginnings. With grandbabies!!!
   To change.
   Change is hard, seemingly impossible decisions need to be made, adjustments have to happen, but like the cliff dwellers of old, you do what you’ve got to do. What you need to do. To make life better.
   Change. The journey continues.
Ron and I in The Balcony House

More ladders

Wall art

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Adventures of Granny Nanny

   The month of May 2014 hosted two weeks of my life that were a blessing beyond blessing. And adventure beyond compare. One doesn’t get to say that enough in life, but I can.
   My daughter and her husband have adopted a second child through an open adoption. Their son came along in April of 2013, and now his biological sister was born on May 21. Yep. Thirteen months apart.    Two in diapers and completely reliant on adults. Yep. Daughter needs prayer.
   But that also afforded me, Grandma, the privilege of going down to Texas to care for my grandson, upon their request, while we waited for Amelia to come. My new position: Granny Nanny. We enjoyed a few days at their home, a day at the zoo (bucket list item achieved for me. Grandkid zoo excursion.),
dinners out, lunch with daddy, Granny Nanny learning the ropes, and relaxing.
   My son-in-law rented a nice hotel room by the hospital, which was two hours away, for all of us when the time was near for Amelia’s arrival, of which they got to spend two whole nights in. Me and Timmy…much more time. He needed naps and peace and quiet. And Granny Nanny got to rest too. It’s a lot of work to haul around a little guy with all his gear. His mommy and daddy stayed at the hospital waiting with the birth family.  
   You must understand, I have the cutest grandson on the planet. There is no prejudice here and no need to disagree. I just do. ;) And at 13 months, I knew I’d have a ball with him. And that we did. We read, we sang silly songs, we danced, we played, we napped.
   One of the really fun things I managed to do was teach him how to give Eskimo kisses. Rubbing noses together. It was a hoot and he learned quickly so we did Eskimo kisses a lot. Fun except when the
Eskimo kisses
drooling was excessive. Still fun, but burp cloths were needed more so on Granny Nanny’s face.
   I have no problem admitting my age. I don’t care, and on the outside chance that someone thinks I look younger, I want them to know I’m 56 years old. Then they can just be awed that I look so good. Or something.
   Which leads me to this. I have an important thing to tell you all that are around my age. As a grandparent, you remember quickly how much stuff is needed for those babies. Timmy, thankfully, isn’t a big kid. Point of interest, his backpack weighs more than him. Diapers, food, spoons, bottles of water, formula to mix, wipes, toys, small blankets, extra clothes, you name it, it’s in the bag. Then there’s the whole “figure out how a stroller works” episodes. And car seat straps? Wow. My arms are half way to the size of Popeye’s after two weeks of all that. Then let’s talk Texas heat and going back and forth between the hospital and the hotel. No, let’s not. I’d like to forget that part. And it wasn’t even the hot time of the summer yet.
   Amelia entered the world and all seemed well. We got to meet her, Timmy got to poke at her. We were all so excited and happy, but that quickly changed. I held that beautiful baby girl at an hour and a half old. And yes, I cried. So sweet, black hair and lots of it. Seven pounds, ten ounces. Perfect size. Timmy didn’t have much of an opinion of this new creature.
   After the initial feedings, she wasn’t keeping anything down and quickly got dehydrated. She was put into NICU and tests began. It kept getting scarier. The fears cropped up. Establishing an IV line in a tiny baby that is dehydrated is nearly impossible. Through many tests, it was also discovered that she had a small hole in her heart. That was really difficult for everyone to hear. 

   The nursing staff worked and worked to get a line in her, somewhere, anywhere, one took, but then the vein collapsed. This went on for what seemed like forever. I stood with the birth father outside the viewing window for a short time. We watched, we waited, we worried, I cried, that another attempt was being done over and over.      Little Amelia screamed and screamed. That just tears your heart out. I asked the young man if he would pray with me. So we bowed our heads and prayed that they would get that line in and Amelia would be okay. We prayed for the staff working with this sweet little girl to have wisdom and success. We agreed with an Amen. He decided to go let someone else come back. Only two at a time were allowed in the NICU. When he passed through the doors, I was still watching. The determined, experienced nurse looked over her shoulder at me, nodded her head and mouthed, “We got it!” I cried again. Amelia was able to settle down. Fluids were finally flowing into her little body to restore and replenish what she had lost.
   Thank you God! Answered prayer!
   Time needed to pass. We needed to wait. Cardiologists had to be consulted with. CT scans, EKG’s, blood work, x-rays, I’m sure I don’t know half of what was done. She had to be at an angle at all times to keep things down. Two families, ten of us total, waited it out together, visiting two by two, praying and supporting each other. God does remarkable work.
   After forty-eight hours, Amelia was signed over to my daughter and hubby. The birth family stayed to make sure she would be okay. The support between us all is totally a God-thing.

   Me and Timmy made trips back and forth so he could nap. He had lots of people to play with while at
Granny Nanny at work
the hospital and he was a happy boy. Granny Nanny was really getting the hang of this stroller thing, back pack, eating/napping schedule and the route to drive. Not far, but Texas has this addiction to frontage roads that go one way so you have to circumvent the highway to get anywhere. Timmy was such a trooper!
   A few trips to Wal Mart were needed since we only packed for the anticipated 3 days and a few more were spent, and we didn't really know for sure how long we’d be there. If heart surgery was going to be necessary, then who knew how long we’d be. Washing stuff in a hotel sink is not real practical especially for a toddler and three adults. And Timmy started to run low on his favorite baby yogurt.
   Shopping with your grandson is super fun. And expensive. He saw a Mickey Mouse holding a soft blue blanket and reached for it. I handed it to him, and he hugged it. I hadn't seen him really hug a toy yet. So, really, how can I possibly put that back on the shelf… I mean really.
   On day three of the NICU, grandpa was able to join us. He flew to Texas then rented a car. Good thing since we were like 5 hours away from that airport now.

Blessed relief for a new mommy
   After four days of NICU, Amelia improved and was able to go home. After her parents learned infant CPR and received extensive instructions on her care from one of the best nurses I've ever met. I
listened in on that and wondered why in the world my daughter did not come with instructions. Sure would have made things easier. Ah, but I digress.
   Obviously with two car seats and four adults, one vehicle does not work anymore. We had even taken two vehicles down. (I foresee a minivan in their future…) My hubby had the rental car so all the new accumulated stuff had a place to occupy. Since Timmy was quite used to me at this point, I drove with his car seat in the back. He slept anyway. The kids went with the new baby to keep a close eye on her. And Ron followed behind for the two hour drive. Our little happy and relieved caravan.
   Life had now officially changed.
   Now being the kind hearted person that I am *cough, cough* I offered to keep Timmy’s baby monitor all night, every night. I would keep an ear out and watch the monitor faithfully and see to any of his needs, giving mommy and daddy time to bond with Amelia and get used to that little baby.
   Yeah. That’s it.
   Granny Nanny knew she’d get to sleep through the night just like Timmy does. But I was there for him! I’d be ready. Awww….. Blissful sleep envied by two others.
  I continued getting him up most every morning, changed, fed, played with, stories read, down for naps, up from naps and the whole routine over again. Splash, splash time before bed every other night (my knees aren't cut out for that), a sweet bottle time, hugs, prayers after which he waves up at the ceiling when you say, “Night, night Jesus.” (Is that too cute or what?) (I told you I had the cutest grandson.)
   Treasured moments that I’ll never forget. This grandmahood stuff is pretty easy to take. Now back in Colorado, I sigh a lot as I look at photos of our time together. There’s this little catch in my heart as I think about what I’m missing now with TWO babies so far away.

   But I’m thankful. I’m thankful for two young people and their family that made a heart wrenching decision to do what was best for their children. That allowed those babies to go to a family that will love them forever and give them the best of opportunities in life. A chance to become a grandma and see my kids become parents. I’m thankful God brought our little Amelia through such a challenging start to life. And we know and trust He will continue to bring her through this and bring healing to her heart and the reflux issue. Our little miracle.

   Quite frankly, in all the adventures we've ever gone on, this is the best adventure I could have ever dreamed of. And being a Granny Nanny was the most exhausting fun I've ever had. 

(I'm crying again.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An Adventurous Snowfall

   Eleven years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, we began a week long adventure of epic proportions. When all was said and done, seventy-three inches of snow filled our foothills area. You read that right: seventy-three inches. Six deep feet of cold white stuff. It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen, and I grew up in Minnesota where a ten inch snowfall was nothing! When drifts occurred you just hit the gas hard and blasted through to the other side.

   But the March 17 snowstorm of 2003 was beyond my imagination.
   Ron, thankfully, came home from work when the first foot of snow had fallen. We knew he’d never make it up the canyon if he didn't get home at that point. As the day wore on, the snow depth grew and grew. We prepared by making sure enough firewood was accessible knowing we were in for it and would probably lose power at some point. The trees hung heavy. When we heard a bad storm was coming, we had stocked up on food and water. We had no idea it would get to the level it did.
That's a 5 foot chain link fence in the center of the photo.
   Now days, when we hear about these piddly six inch snow storms coming in and folks flock to the stores buying everything off the shelves, pushing people out of the way for the last loaf of bread, we just laugh. They have no idea… Or maybe they do. Maybe they were here for the ’03 storm and remember all too well.
   Days wore on with the snow depth increasing. Our dog Gus loved it. I think he thought he was a Husky. He’d plop right down in the snow and enjoy the cool. There was so much snow that we had to shovel him a path to do his business. He learned one of his favorite lessons that week. You know how snow gets that crusty top? Well, Gus figured out while outside trying to “find a place” that if he walked ever so carefully on top of the crust, he could get up higher and out of the yard. He had quite a sense of adventure. I caught him one time practicing his “walk” on top. Oh the concentration with each little carefully placed step. Little did we know that he saw his escape by walking right over the fence. As the snow melted in the coming weeks, he developed just the right jumping muscles. Each day he’d head over the fence to see who he could find to play with. The snow would melt some more, he’d just leap a little higher, and on that went, until he was a seasoned fence jumper. From that point on, we couldn't leave him in the yard if we left. He now knew how to jump over and go find us.
   Everything got buried. You couldn't keep on top of the shoveling. There was just too much and then the problem of nowhere to put it. We could only sit back and watch it snow. And try to keep the roof load lighter.

   That St. Patty’s evening, we lost power. Only a radio with poor reception could tell us what was happening with the weather. That was also the night our troops went into Iraq. So the biggest news of the year and we couldn't find out anything. It became quite unnerving in the dark of night. Oil lanterns provided our light, flashlights were used sparingly not knowing how long we’d be without power. You couldn't see our cars anymore in the driveway and the road out front no longer existed by sight. At least we had snow to keep the milk cold.
   The house got a bit nippy so we moved a mattress to the floor in front of the wood stove and were able to stay toasty warm all night. As long as one of us got up to stoke the stove.
   It was quite an adventure. Three days of snow. Morning light on the fourth day brought sunshine, blue
It was an adventure for wildlife too.
skies and the sight of a whole lot of snow. We donned our tall Sorel boots, snow pants and headed out to see what was happening in town. The roads were deep with only walking paths by the brave souls who trekked out. A lot of folks were down the hill by the main road. One ambitious guy we knew had walked the four miles to the grocery store, coming back with his goods, he informed us that the roof on the store had partially caved in and a few others along his way had sustained damage. It was crazy out there.
That's deep.

Gus and I enjoying the snow fall.

   We waited and waited hoping to see a county plow come through, but they had so many roads to clear and our little street was not one of them. Folks tried to shovel, but there was no way we were leaving the driveway.

The driveway. Somewhere under all that was my car.

Yep, that was our "road". 
The "road" was Gus size 

So that roof design was a failure.

   Then the cavalry arrived in the form of a front end loader owned by a guy that lived on the next street. He made his way scooping snow as he tried to find the narrow roads to rescue us all. Cheers rang out, pretty much loud enough for all to hear. We all ran out of our houses, with tall boots on of course, handing the guy whatever cash we all had in the house whether it was one dollar bills, tens or twenties. We were so thankful. Then with the help of neighbors and the guys from our church, the shoveling crews worked on driveways wherever the help was needed.

The guys worked their way down the street shoveling driveways as they went. God bless them.

   It was a crazy time, an adventure I don’t care to experience again, but all in all, it was a time of blessing. Folks working together, keeping a good attitude. We had snowball fights from on roof to another as we all tried to lessen the loads on our rooftops.

Our neighbor's dog had an easy time of getting on and off the roof.

   Sometimes in this life, when stuff piles up deeper and deeper, all you can do is laugh and throw a snowball. Move on and do what needs doin’. You WILL come out on the other side. Just give the “snow” time to melt.