Saturday, July 7, 2018

A Year for Adventures

2018 has been an exciting year for our family.  First Laurel departed for a semester in Germany.  If you are interested in hearing more about that here is a link to her blog.  My big adventure was at the start of the summer when I went to visit Laurel.  I kept a pretty detailed journal but so as not to bore you all with too many details, and since a picture is worth a 1000 words, I figured I would post a top ten photo summary of my visit with Laurel. 

 This photo was taken along Lago Maggiore while we were waiting to take a ferry to visit three islands- Isola Bella, Isola Superiore and Isola Madre.
 Enjoying some pizza and the sunset along Lake Como in Bellagio- (We enjoyed a lot of yummy pizza and gelato while in Italy.)
 One of many beautiful villages along Lake Como.
 One day we took a funicular up from Como and then took an 8 mile hike along a trail called the Strada Regia through the woods to another town and then we took the water taxi back to Como.  It was a very nice hike but hard to stay on the trail which made it much harder and longer than we planned. 
 Prosecco and eggplant parm was a well deserved reward after our long hike!
 Enjoying the Austrian Alps above Innsbruck.
 While back in Freiburg we took a day trip to Basel, Switzerland.  I have been to this city several times and always enjoy the visit.
 On another day we took a bus ride to Strassburg, France with Rahel and Renate.  We enjoyed walking around the city and treats from a French bakery.
 Another picture in Strassburg- this section of the city was called Petite-France.
 Laurel enjoyed showing me around Freiburg.  She was especially excited to show me all of the pens.  She loves the German pens.

So that about sums up my European adventure.  It was a wonderful two week trip filled with lots of good visits with Laurel and Renate and the rest of her family.  I am so grateful that Laurel has had this opportunity thanks to the generosity of Renate and her family. 

Yesterday Justin began his big adventure- he will be hiking the first 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.  He will start at Hart's Pass, WA- hike up to the Canadian border and then turn back to head all the way to the Oregon border.  He can't just start at the Canadian border because of 9/11 permit regulations.  That is why he has to walk in 30 miles south from the terminus.  I am so excited for him and I cannot wait to hear about his adventures.

Owen has his own big adventure coming up in a couple weeks.  He will be going to visit Longmont's sister city in Chino, Japan.  He applied to be an ambassador last fall and he has been attending many meetings to prepare for this special trip.  When he returns he will have a host sister with us and we will enjoy showing her around Longmont and Colorado for a couple of weeks. 

So even though we are not taking a traditional family vacation this year, I am glad that everyone is pursuing some sort of interest and we are all growing by taking our own trips and living through each other's trips.  And once we all return home we will plan some nice weekend getaways to reconnect this last year as a family of four before Laurel heads off to college. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Mantras to Live By

In November I took this excellent class about teens and how to celebrate this time of development rather than dread it.  It was one of the best professional development classes I have ever had and worth giving up a fall weekend of hiking (which says A LOT).  Another benefit of this class is it reintroduced me to the wonders of meditation.  This was my third try at meditation and I am not sure why it took this time but for some reason the timing was right.  In the past I would always find it so stressful to sit around and do nothing.  "I just don't have TIME meditate. " But I happened to be in a stressful place and I could not ignore the immediate calming and relaxing benefits I was experiencing.  At the same time Oprah was offering her free 21 day meditation so it was perfect timing.  Below are some of my favorite mantras. 

My go-to mantra is No Regrets.  Whenever I start to wonder what-ifs about my job and how things would be financially different had we stayed in NJ I just keep repeating No Regrets.  My friend said it better-  your life choices reap better health.  She reminded me there is more to life than salary and health benefits.  And whenever I start spiraling I just keep repeating No Regrets until I feel calm again.

Here are some other mantras I like to meditate with:

"Be present in all things and thankful for all things" -Maya Angela

"Live today, not yesterday, not tomorrow, just today. Inhabit your own moments" -Jerry Spinelli

 These three all came from the Oprah 21 day meditation- I do not think there we names tied to them:

The fullness of life is here now

Awareness is the home of wholeness

Happiness itself is a kind of gratitude

Since I am an admitted planaholic living in the moment can be a challenge.  One of my resolutions and goals is to be more intentional about living in the here and now and enjoying the present.  

Here is a watercolor Laurel made with some of her favorite mantras.  It was hanging in her wing at Conserve School that is why it says Badger Wing

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

My Favorite Hikes

If I had to choose my favorite thing about living in Colorado it would be the hiking.  I really enjoy hiking.  But the window for perfect hiking is small.  This summer snow is still covering the Continental Divide!  Right now hiking is spectacular, especially if we do a trail with wildflowers.  But school starts in less than a month so that leaves a pretty small window.  Of course there is always winter hiking and fall hiking.  And even spring hiking if you don't mind the wet and the cold.

People often ask me what my favorite hikes are. I figured it would be efficient to make a list so you it is easy to share. My Favorite Hikes (Not ordered in rank order because that would just be impossible.)

The first 5 are in RMNP
1.  Nymph, Dream and Emerald
2.  Black Lake
3.  West Creek Falls
4.  Glass to Sky Pond
5.  Lawn Lake
6.  Lake Dorothy
7.  Lake Isabelle
8.  Jame's Peak
9.  Heart Lake
10.  Mount Flora (tied with Butler Gulch)

And too far for a day hike but worth the trip- Blue Lake near Ouray

A few questions about what kind of hike you want...
Lake or Summit?
Sunrise or Sunset or something in between?
Escape or workout?  This is where my husband and I need to compromise.  My number one goal is escape. I want to get away from people and bikes.  He wants to burn calories.  So some days are workouts and some days are all about the Zen.

Most important tips:
1.  Go early- you beat the CROWDS and the CLOUDS.  Especially in the summer the weather pattern often starts with a blue sky and the clouds build in the early afternoon.  For hikes above tree line you don't want to be hiking when the lightening rolls in. Leaving early increases the odds of great weather while also having more of the trail to yourself.
2.  Pack your ten essentials
3.  Layers- there is a quote in Colorado...."If you don't like the weather wait 15 minutes". This is even more true while hiking.  On some hikes I start with hat and gloves, put on a raincoat and finish with shorts.  At a minimum. Always have my pack-able down along with hat, gloves and raincoat in my pack.
4.  Elevation matters- notice the start and end elevation.  If it is more than 2000 feet it will be a workout no matter how short or long it is.  If the destination is over 10,000 feet the air will be thin.

What's up next?
Island Lake and Ice Lakes near Silverton
Mount Chiquita and Ypsion
Mirror Lake (Backpacking)

 My favorite resource (although it is a bit dated) is Protrails.  I also like to read trail reports the week before I do a hike because often I will be aware of something that might need my attention.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

As I sit down to write my mom a card for Mother's Day I am reflecting on all that she has taught me.  Here are some things that come to mind in no particular order:
1.  Family is everything  
She has always been there for me and raised us to do the same. Just about every decision she has made was based on what would be best for the family.  Her loyalty to family- both near and far is gigantic. 
2.  Life is for the living 
My mom has certainly had her share of tragedy and hardship.  My sister died when she was only 20 and ten years later my mom became a widow to the love of her life.  She could have become a sad lonely widow and no one would have judged her.  But she has always said "Life is for the living."  While she always remembers and honors loved ones who have gone before us, she wakes up ready to make every day count.
3.  If you lose something,  pray to St. Anthony
My mom's faith is very deep and very strong.   From childhood whenever I lost something her response would always be did you pray to St. Anthony?  He always helps me.  Now I find myself giving the same advice to my own children.
4.  Usually when people are mean it is out of jealousy
This one took some time to make sense.  When I was growing up and my mom said this I really did not believe but now that I see similar events through adults eyes I see she was right.  It has helped me not to take hurt personally because usually when someone is being mean it is their own issue, not mine.
5. When you are cooking, the most important ingredient is love. 
One of my students told about the traditional way to make tamales.  It is not just the ingredients but she said everyone needs to gather together with love.  She said the one time they were arguing when they made them they did not turn out.  I believe this.  Because sometimes I will make something with my mom's recipe and it just doesn't taste the same.  There is something about the love she puts into it that always makes it just right.
6.  Laughter can see you through almost every single situation.
My mom tells the best stories and many are to retell a funny teaching story.  Many dinners were highlighted with one of her funny and loved-filled stories.  She taught me empathy and love and a love of storytelling with every story that she told. 

There is a lot more I can say I learned from my mom but this is a good start for now.  Because if I wait any longer Mother's Day will be over!

Circa 1972:  My mom smiling with 5 kids under the age of six!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

This is What Determination Looks Like!

My daughter did not find the sport that brought her joy until she was a freshman in high school.  First we had a long tour of sports.... cross country, soccer, gymnastics, lacrosse (I was even recruited as an assistant coach even though I knew NOTHING about any sport with offense and defense.)  Then in middle school she tried volleyball and track and field.  I began to wonder if there was a sport for her.  When she was in 8th grade, one of her friend's father suggested swimming and she decided to give it a try.  The summer before freshman year she went to a few stroke clinics and learned to do a flip turn.  I wondered if she would stick with it when the real season began- six days a week in chlorine sounded like a demanding schedule.  But with every week she loved it more.  She was not a stand out but the coach explained at the start of the season that anyone with perfect attendance to all practices and meets would letter.  At the end of the 4 month season Laurel was the only girl on the team with perfect attendance.  Over the next summer Laurel again went to some off-season practices and continued to enjoy it.  She still hadn't found her event but just tried whichever race they needed someone for.  About halfway through this season each girl had a private session with the coaches to discuss goals.  Laurel said her goal was to make state.  Her coach said let me crunch some numbers and I will get back to you.  Later that night she texted her and said I think you can do it.  You need to drop 18 seconds in three weeks.  So think of it as 6 seconds a week.  Anyone in swim knows seconds can be tough to knock off, even in a long distance event like the 500 free,  but the coach had the girls visualize meeting their goal.  Laurel closed her eyes and pictured the time she needed for state and just kept picturing it happening in her mind.  At the next meet she dropped six seconds.  Then she dropped nine so going into conferences she needed to drop 2 seconds from her 200 and three seconds from her 500 in order to qualify for state.  Justin, Owen and I left work and school early so we could watch the conference meet.  The 200M free is the second event.  Her split was really fast.  I kept adding the numbers and tried to guess if she would do it or not.  As she came down with her last lap I looked at the clocked, the entire team was cheering and yelling.  She got 2:13.23.  She qualified for state.  I was so happy for her.  99% hard work is what got her there.  It is hard to believe that 18 months ago she had never even done a flip turn and now she is going to state for two long distance events.  What a fun ride it has been this season!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Quandary Peak

It is so easy to get sucked into the daily grind of work and chores.  But STOP!!!! As my dad used to say (quoting Mark Twain):  "Never let school work interfere with your education."  It would be quite a treat to head to NYC to see a broadway show on a school day.  Well- I am not quite as spontaneous as my dad but Owen and I wanted to get one more 14er in before the snow covers the mountains.  I looked at the weather forecast and the only way to do it was to miss school.  So.... at 5:00AM Monday morning we headed off to the Quandary Peak Trailhead.  It was such a fabulous day and we had a wonderful hike up to the summit.

Sadly this month I have had a lot of reminders that life can change or end in a heart beat.  First my Uncle Phil died after a long illness, then my friend Matt died very suddenly on a camping trip, then my colleague Jared, along with his wife, died in a tragic car accident and left behind their two year old daughter.  All of these events make you stop and ask what really matters.  And of course the answer is always- time with those we love.  So pick up the phone and call that person you have been meaning to call, make a date with someone you need to catch up with or snuggle up a little tighter with those you love.  Yes I missed a day of work and Owen missed a day of classes but I am going to guess twenty years from now he will still remember the day he went hiking with a goat and you can be sure that whatever we missed at school wouldn't have been that memorable!  Here's to keeping it all in perspective!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Farmer Helen

This summer I have created a nice garden.  It is fun and I enjoy the time in the yard.  But I will be surprised if this is cost effective.  So far I have spent the following:

Soil $120 for 2 yards delivered:  I once heard this quote:  "I would rather put a $5 plant in $30 soil than a $30 plant in $5 soil."  I learned the hard way last year that good soil is critical.  Our soil is mostly clay so I got 2 yards of planters soil delivered to mix in with the current soil.

Mulch $200 for 2 yards delivered:  I am really, really good at growing weeds.  Maybe the best in the neighborhood.  I do not like to use chemicals to keep weeds away but all the watering makes more than just the plants want to grow.  So I plant everything and then mulch like crazy.  I like to use Gorilla Hair Mulch because it matts down nicely and mostly stays where you put it.

Water:  Not only do I need to spend a bit watering the plants.  I also use quite a bit soaking the greens and then rinsing the greens as I prepare them to eat.  Hard to know the cost of water because we are on a tiered system.  The first 5,000 gallons of water is only .0024 cents a gallon.  The second tier is .00342 cents a gallon.  I usually never hit the 3rd tier that starts at 15,000 gallons and cost .0042 per gallon.  I like this tiered plan because it encourages conservation- the more you use, the more expensive it gets.

Seeds $12:  I bought radish and cilantro seeds.  I also tried to plant some pepper, lavender and carrots but seed but none of those germinated.

Starter Plants $70:  I bought six tomato starter plants at the farmer's market.  I know I could have gotten these cheaper but there is so much fracking going on near me, I wanted to know exactly where the plants were started and that there were free of fracking soil and chemicals.  Some other plants I got for fun were:  Bok Choy (already harvested- YUM!!!!), Kale (3 kinds), Swiss Chard, Brussel Sprouts, and Celery.

Garden in a Box $70 from  Center for ReSource Conservation:  This is my second year using Garden in a Box.  I love it.  This year I got the Xeric Greatest Hits for my perennial flower garden out front.  I also got the Savory Seasonings vegetable garden.

Ultimately I will say this is a fun hobby.  I will not be harvesting enough to cover the costs but at least I am making good use of the land, learning a little bit about farming and enjoying fresh picked greens.  Here are a couple pictures of the garden so far.  I hope to post and update around harvest time.