A Trip Down South ~ Just What This Old Girl Needed

This has not been the best week.  Medical issues and medical tests continue to consume my days.  I had some more bad news from the doctor.  After a pulse oximeter test, it was determined I have to wear oxygen at night.  My doctor had ordered the oximeter test because of my continued light headedness and chest pain.  It just so happened that I was scheduled to wear the holter monitor at the same time as the oximeter test was taking place.   The results of the pulse oximeter were not good at all.  I won't go into details because it needs to be compared to the holter monitor results by my cardiologist before we will really know for sure what is going on.  My internist says the oxygen will help me, help my heart, but it is not the fix I may ultimately need.  Needless to say, I was discouraged, but decided until I have a better picture of what is going on, I would not completely freak out stay calm and wait for further test results.

I won't go into more details on my health, let's just say, the continual bad news was beginning to really get me down.  I told my husband last night that I don't know when I have been more discouraged.  The winter has just been too long and too hard this year.

After a down and depressing Friday, I was so glad to know I had a plan for today.  A month ago, a dear high school friend and I met for the first time to write together.  We'd talked of setting a date once a month to write together for over a year.  Finally, last month we actually met at a coffee shop and worked on our writing together for over several satisfying and happy hours.  Our time together was inspiring and gave me a renewed desire to write. Before we parted last month, we set our next writing date for today, February 22.

Since my friend IC lives forty miles south of here in my old stomping grounds of Pueblo, I decided to book a manicure and pedicure before our meeting time for writing.  My dear friend Kerri, has done my nails for years.  Since I've moved, I really have not found anyone to give me a manicure or a pedicure.  I've visited a few different places.  All were nice, but none were Kerri.  I missed her!  No one could replace her.  In fact, I'd stopped getting manicures and pedicures since we moved. (I wrote about Kerri in a blog post two years ago.  Click here to read about her.)

Before I left town, I dressed in some brighter, more springlike colors.  I'm tired of wearing black and brown and blue and red and all those winter colors!  I am ready for some color in my wardrobe again.  After dressing,  I threw together a bag for the day.  It contained:  my journal, my iPad mini, my yellow pad for writing ideas, my favorite pen, and my flip flops.  The flip flops came out when I arrived at Kerri's.  I'd need them after my pedicure.  As soon as I walked in the door, an old friend whom I usually meet at Kerri's because she gets her hair done on Saturdays was there.  We hugged and caught up on life.  I then hugged Kerri.  I then settled my feet into the waiting warm water.  Ahhh.  I was home again surrounded by my friends.  Do you remember that old song we learned in Girl Scouts?  Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver, and the other's gold.  It felt good to be back with my old friend.

I used to joke that Kerri was my therapist.  Now, I know that she probably knows and understands me as much as anyone does.  She's heard my deepest griefs, joys, dramas, and frustrations for at least ten years.  We've laughed, cried, and moaned, and groaned on a monthly basis about so much over the years.

As she massaged my feet and exfoliated my dry, cracked heels, I felt as it wasn't just dead skin that was being sloughed off of my winter and illness weary body.  I felt pampered, cared for, listened to, and renewed.  A coat of pink polish applied to my nails  added another lift to my spirit.  Two and a half hours later, I left Kerri's shop with a lighter step to my walk and with a much brighter outlook on life.  Thanks Kerri.  How I've missed you.
My feet are ready for spring.

The weather was absolutely beautiful forty miles south of here.  It was sunny and warm.  Already feeling like I'd been on a mini-vacation, I drove to my friend's house for lunch and writing time.  I was met at the door with a warm hug and the words, "You are a welcome sight for sore eyes."  I responded with, "You are a healing sight for a weary heart and soul."  From there, we proceeded to eat the wonderfully healthy lunch IC had prepared.  Chatting as we ate, we caught up on our news.

Then, it was down to work.  We started the writing session by our free write.  IC read great selection from the New Yorker written by Dave Berry.  We responded to the reading by writing for ten minutes.  It was so fun and interesting to see what each of us had written.

From there we shifted to talking about writing goals.  I love IC's great business minded approach to writing.  She is such a successful grant writer, and she is so successful at helping others begin new business ventures through her work with SCORE, so it was no surprise when she brought out the white board so we could use Venn diagrams to work out our personal writing goals.

I walked away from our time together with new clarity for my writing goals.  I was energized, and I was buoyed up by the positive feedback I was able to receive from her, and that I was able to give to her in return.  I felt like the teacher again.  I also felt like the student.  Heaven only knows that nothing builds passion in me more than being in a learning environment where I feel free to express and develop ideas.

Before I knew it, the afternoon was gone.  I'd left home early in the morning.  My day had been full.  I'd driven an hour south to where I'd been pampered,  reconnected with a primary relationship,  had lunch with a friend, and had time to write, to think, to plan.

As I left for my hour's drive home, for the life of me, I could not imagine why I had felt so used up and down the day before.  All I needed was a trip down south and a little a lot  of help from my friends to get myself back on track.  What a difference a day can make when it is filled with time with friends.  I think today was just what the doctor ordered.

Reflections: My 50th Class Reunion ~ Pueblo East High School Class of '63

My inner processor has been on overload this week.
Sometimes I wish I could be like my husband and just attend an event and then be done with it.
That would not be me.
I must process the entire event to make full meaning of it.

Fifty years ago, I graduated from high school.
Just writing those words causes me great disbelief.
How can that be?
Where did the time go?
I will be attending two high school reunions this year because I moved just prior to my senior year.
Pueblo East High School in Pueblo, Colorado was my high school home
 for grades nine through eleven.
It was here where I met the high school sweetheart whom I would marry thirty years after high school.
The girlfriends from this class are among my dearest and closest friends.
I have written often about this wonderful group of women.  
We meet every three months for lunch, so I am well versed on the lives of these girlfriends who live nearby, but I had not seen many from this class for at least 50 years.

I was instructed by my dear friend, Donna to take good notes,

Donna & Sally 2010
so, Donna, here you go...

First of all, I missed you.  
I wish you could have been at the reunion with us.
I loved your response to the question I posed on whether or not you would be attending.  
You said,
Pity the girl that leaves the party early.
That certainly may have been true in high school, but
I found that all of us were so happy to see each other again that the pettiness that may have been there in high school seemed to melt away.  
I think you would have been happy to know that the reunion was a wonderful success that left us all basking in the glow of friendship.  We truly missed all who were unable to attend. 

Friday Night

I'm afraid, I didn't take many photos. I was having too good of a time just catching up with all of my classmates to take a photo.  Our first night of the reunion, we all gathered on the patio of Gray's Coors Tavern , home of the famous Pueblo slopper. (click on the link to read about the slopper)  Judiciously, I did not eat a slopper.  I did overhear a lot of conversations regarding those who chose to eat a slopper.  "I hope I don't have a gall bladder attack tonight."  I guess our age was showing when it came to food choices.  
A Pueblo Slopper
Gray's Coors Tavern

It was a hot Friday night in Pueblo.  The town was hopping.  There was a very big football game in town.  Central and Centennial were playing for the Bell.  Many were stopping by Coors on their way to the game for a quick hamburger.  Traffic was heavy.  It was hard to find a parking place.  Some things never change.  Friday night football games between the town rivals still create a sense of excitement.  Already, as we walked towards the reunion, I felt the years begin to fall away.  I was off to see my high school buddies.  

As soon as I walked onto the patio to register, I was asked to remove my sunglasses so those at the registration table could see who I was.  "The eyes don't change," I was told.  "You won't be recognized if we can't see your eyes."  True.  I found us all looking deeply into each others' eyes and seeing the girl or guy from long ago.  Also, some of us still had good enough eyesight to read the large letter name tags from a distance.  That helped too!  

My husband had thought he might skip out of the reunion early, go to the football game, and then return later to pick me up.  It was my reunion after all.  I sent him over to a table where other spouses were sitting and went off to connect with my friends.  Soon, I saw he was drawing his own crowd.  The underclassmen went over to see a favorite upperclassman, my hubby Jim.  He had as good a time as I did.  

Time after time, I found myself being spun around by a guy or gal I had not seen in 50 years.  "Sally French.  How long has it been?"  Someone asked me where a certain guy was.  I answered with, "He's that one over there that looks like an old Fonzie."  I was told to remove the adjective "old" from my description.  "Where is so and so?" was another often asked question.  "What, she has short gray hair now???"  "Yes, don't we all?"  

The evening was way too short.  I left thinking to myself, "We had the nicest group of people in the whole world in our class."  Truly I just could not get enough time with these people.  They were all so nice!
Saturday Recap

Many spent Saturday morning and early afternoon touring the old hometown.  I met up with my dear friends Dove and Eileen and Dove's husband David who heading toward the old Denver and Rio Grande Railroad Depot.  There were joined by Dennis, former class president, who was here from out of state.  He and I discovered our mutual history:  our father's both worked for the railroad at the same time.  He had even worked at the depot in as a baggage handler during his years in high school.  
Eileen, Dove, Dennis, Sally
Oh the memories this old depot held for me.  It was great sharing stories with my friends of their memories of the building.  We sat on an old railroad station bench for our photo.  We then posed in front of the building for another photo.  

Sally, Dove, David, Eileen

Somehow, Dennis and I started discussing the work of William Stegner.  I imagine it began when I told of recently reading Angle of Repose.  From there, we then began to discuss what I am currently reading, Crossing to Safety.  I could not help but draw parallels from that book to the weekend.

Saturday Night Recap
"The Trajectory of Our Lives"

Again, I didn't end up taking many photos on Saturday night.  (Dear Blogging Friends, aren't you glad?) I was having too good of a time chatting and catching up with friends to take photos.  

Here are a few:
Our awesome leader:  Carol and husband Andy worked tirelessly to keep all reunion committee members on task.  The reunion was a huge success.  Thanks, Carol.

Elaine and Marilyn worked so hard on the planning.
Elaine & Marilyn

Iris put together a phenomenal "year book."
Iris & Ginger
Loyal Eagles
These two can still light up a room with a smile.
Sharon & Kathy
The table decorations were made by Carol D.

I think she would be voted homecoming queen again if a vote would have been taken.

Carol D. and Cliff J.
Val brought her cheerleading outfit.
It was made of wool.
The waist was tiny.
It had been lovingly preserved.

Val is still one of our great cheerleaders!  I can always count on her for the best hugs.
She is always in your corner cheering you on.
Love you, Val.
Val & Sally
Kathy, pretty in pink, or any other color, handled all the finances for the reunion.
What a job!
Here she is with Frank, Ray, and Ray's wife.
What wonderful people these four are.
Kathy, Frank, Ray, and Ray's wife

Karen, Val, and Dennis caught up on the past 50 years.
Karen, Val, & Dennis
Annette says that Jim taught her to drive.
She says she is a good driver and has him to thank for that skill.
Annette & Jim
I love these ladies!
Here is a photo of just a few of the girls who mean the world to me.
The EHS Girls of '63
It was a treat to spend time with the guys from the class also.
After the reunion, I could not help but think what a wonderful group of men this photo represents.
I am proud to know each these men.
The EHS Guys of '63
Sunday Recap

On Sunday morning, the group gathered at the high school to tour the school, and to enjoy a continental breakfast.  Jim and I attend the breakfast and then left for home.  I understand the tour of the school was great fun and brought back many happy memories for all who took the tour.


I was an interloper of sorts to this group.  I did not go to grade school and junior high with these 'kids.'  I moved to Pueblo and joined this class in November of my freshman year.  East High School was a brand new school.  It had been built to handle the great influx of baby boomers who had reached high school age.  In 1959, Pueblo, Colorado was larger than Colorado Springs, my hometown where I had attended grades K - 8.  I joined this convocation of Eagles when they were taking its first year of flight. It was great fun to be a part of a brand new school creating new traditions.

I was welcomed into this group immediately.  We had such good times together.  There were:  sock hops, bon fires, rousing football and basketball games, proms, homecoming parades, and exciting pep assemblies.  We drug Main after games on Friday and Saturday nights.  We ate the best French fries after these games.  We had slumber parties where we talked and laughed all night long.  I loved my times at East.  And then, my senior year my father was transferred to another town and I had to leave the nest and go to another school.  I did not graduate with these classmates.  No one seems to mind.  I am still one of them.

Pueblo, Colorado is a steel town.  It is a blue collar town.  It is a town of immigrants.  It is town that has gone through hard times.  It is a town where people don't forget their roots.  Life is centered around family, school, and church.  Ethnic and cultural foods and traditions, religious affiliation, and familial ties are greatly honored.  Perhaps that is why these people are such nice people.  I just kept hearing from everyone at the reunion that we sure had a nice group of people in our class.  We seemed to just enjoy being together again.  

I found it interesting that we didn't seem to need to listen to or dance to the old tunes from the '60's like we did at other reunions.  I think this reunion was not so much about a look backward where we were trying to recapture those days of our youth that had vanished.  This reunion was more about reflecting on how short life is, and about how important the people in our lives are.  

When the former class president spoke to the class, he said he wondered if any of us ever even imagined this day that would occur fifty years later.  I'm sure I did not.  I thought we would be forever young and idealistic.  Fifty years ago we had no idea how much the world and our lives would change. The 60's were in their infancy.  Martin Luther King had not had his March on Washington when we graduated.  The Viet Nam War was just beginning.  President Kennedy had visited Pueblo in the summer just before our senior year.  We could not imagine that he would be assassinated before 1963 was over.  Our dreams for the future were just as hopeful as those our parents had instilled in us, the generation that was born just after World War II.  We were all born just as the war was ending.

As I have reflected over this reunion, I find it hard to sum up my emotions.  Mostly, I came away with a sense of gratitude for a time, a place, and for the people who were there with me in that time and place.  Dennis, our class president, spoke of the trajectory of our lives in his remarks.  Certainly, we had all been launched from this same Eagle nest with great dreams to soar through the future.  Now, fifty years later, to me, and I think to others, it did not seem to matter to what heights we either soared or did not soar.  It only seemed to matter that we were able to be together again.  The flock had made it safely back to our beginnings.  

The words of Terry Tempest Williams in her introduction for one of the editions of William Stegner's Crossing to Safety   sum up the thoughts I have been processing about attending this milestone:

Stegner shows us again and again that it is love and friendship, the sanctity and celebration of our relationships that not only support a good life, but create one.

As I grow older,
I value these primary relationships and experiences more than I ever could have imagined 
when I was younger.

Thank you, 
East High Class of '63
for your
and friendships.
I can't imagine what my life would be like without you.

Your laughter echoes in my ears.
The tears you have shed as you have shared your trials and triumphs with me are stored in my heart.
You have made my life rich and full.

You are all Golden Treasures!

Trying to Settle In

Moving is exhausting!
Boston and Jim took some time to rest in the midst of all the unpacked boxes and mess.
Bit by bit, we are getting it done.
We are sticking together and tackling the task ahead of us one day at a time.

I keep being asked, "Are you all settled in yet?"  I just want to answer with a curt, "Are you kidding?"  Tomorrow, we will be able to say, "We have been living in this house for three weeks now."  In someways, those three weeks have seemed like a very long time.  We are growing accustomed to our surroundings.  We are beginning to establish a routine.  This place is even beginning to feel a bit like home.  We are not settled in yet though.

I am still writing this blog from my favorite chair in the corner of the guest room.  I have not yet set up my desk, my office, my writing space.  I did finally unload the top of my desk.  It is no longer covered with boxes.  I have not unpacked any of my office supplies.  I don't even know where my mouse is for the computer.  Thank goodness I use a laptop.  Thank goodness a laptop allows portability and connect-ability.  I think I have finally decided which room will house my office.  I think my husband and I have decided what space will work for his office.  Thank goodness, we are finally getting a vision on how to set this house up to best suit our needs.

We went from a two story house with a full unfinished basement to a one level patio home with a finished basement.  We had four very large bedrooms at our former home.  We now have three bedrooms that are not very large.  Two of our bedrooms were large enough in our old home to allow for space for a bed and an office.  This is no longer the case.  In theory, I went from a five bedroom house to a three bedroom when it comes to space.  What I didn't realize, was that I also gave up three very large closets!  I had a lot of stuff (please note how descriptive that word is!) in those closets.  Now, I am trying to figure out what to do with my stuff.  My new favorite place to shop has become The Container Store!  I am constantly on the search for better ways to store and have access to all that stuff that I need. Believe me, this stuff is the important stuff.  I still have a storage shed full of stuff that isn't important that I need to deal with at some point.  For now, I am just dealing with the important stuff.

The kitchen was the first challenge in this new home.  I also didn't realize that I was giving up a large pantry, a pantry I constantly complained about and didn't appreciate.  The pantry in this house, and the kitchen cabinets, took me about a week to arrange.  I am still rearranging.  My husband, my dear sweet husband who is patient and helps me so much, is still asking me to show him around the kitchen so he can figure out where items go.  I have rearranged quite a few times trying to make sense of where each item should be placed.  It has all been like one big puzzle, but I think the puzzle is finally coming together.

I love my new kitchen.  I love cooking in it.  Yes, I am actually cooking.  That is not something I have done much of over the past 15 years.  Our lives were too busy while we were working.  Then, after retirement, I just never took up cooking again.  I never liked my kitchen before.  I loved how I had fixed it up.  I loved its colors, but I didn't like cooking in it.  This kitchen has less storage, but it is more functional, and I love being in it.

The first floor of our home is finally free of all boxes!  This is something to celebrate.  Now, I have to empty the dining room table of all the china and crystal and get it loaded into the china cabinet.  That doesn't seem like it should be such a big task, but it is.  The only thing I have more of than shoes is china or dishes.  I love dishes almost as much as I love shoes.  The everyday dishes are arranged in the kitchen; now I must take care of  the "good" dishes.  I must get them all put away.  I lamented that I could not remember how I had the china hutch arranged.  Thankfully, my husband had taken a picture of it before we moved.  Now, I just have to look at the picture and not rethink how to arrange it all.

We are finally also making progress on the basement.  A good friend of Jim's came over on Saturday, the second time he has been here to help, and loaded a lot of things into the crawl space.  He brought his seven year old son who thought it was just really cool to take things into the huge crawl space.  Wow, was that ever helpful.  Our friend, Rob, also helped us get a vision for the family room.  I think we know what we will do with the space now.  He is coming back with his family to help us arrange it all and unpack books.  We would not be where we are without the help of friends and family.

It hasn't been all work and no fun.  We take time each day for a walk in our beautiful surroundings. 

On the day after we moved in, I took Boston for a walk around our little block.  Just three houses up from ours, as I rounded the corner, I was again awestruck by the beauty of where we live.  This scene that I photographed is just steps from our home.  This sight, the white sandstone rocks, the stately pines, and the Colorado blue sky, are there for me to admire when I round the corner from my house.  I still can barely believe I have the blessing to live to in this beautiful place.

As I rounded the next corner, I saw a few of our neighbors were checking us out.  Boston and I are the new kids on the block.  I'm not sure what they think of us.

Boston was surprisingly polite while he met his new neighbors.  He sat quietly without barking and kept his distance.  I guess he didn't want to appear too eager to meet the other animals in the neighborhood for fear they would scamper away.

Boston spends most of his time gazing out of the window at his friends.  This keeps him entertained throughout the day.  He has his favorite viewing spots.  This one is in the living room.

Our lives are very different here.  Our vistas are different.  We are settled in a small community of patio homes just over the hill from the Air Force Academy.  We drive two and a half miles from the interstate up a wooded road to our home.  I breathe a sigh of relief, of peace, whenever I drive this beautiful road on my way home.  I am away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and yet, in just minutes, I can be anywhere in the city itself.  We are surrounded by nature, trees, and lot of wildlife.  I saw a fox tonight as we were driving home.  I understand a bobcat lives in the area.  Needless to say, Boston no longer is able to run freely in the yard, but I think he is ok with that.  We give him walks, and he goes to doggie daycare to play on special days.

We have wonderful neighbors.  Everyone has been so friendly.  We are all about the same age.  Most of us are retired.  Everyone stops to chat when they are out and about.  Everyone waves.  We have had visits from our closest neighbors.  They have brought food, flowers, and housewarming gifts.  They have given suggestions on handymen and even helped with advice on where to hang pictures.  We think we will be very happy here.

I have longed for a sense of community.  I have longed to be near my family again.  I worried that my husband would never really adjust to moving to a new town.  So far, we are almost feeling like we are on an extended vacation as we get to know new places to explore.  We are in the honeymoon stage.  This past Friday night, we thought we would settle in and not go anywhere.  For the first time in our marriage, we ate in on Friday night.  (Really, that is the truth!)   For the first time in years, we did not go out for Mexican food on Friday night.  Jim put on his pajamas early.  Then, we remembered we needed something from Home Depot before Jim's friend Rob came over on Saturday morning.  Jim changed from his pajamas to his clothes and we were off into the night.  We drove all over looking for a yogurt place.  We found it and ate frozen yogurt just before the place closed.  On our way home, I said, "We were in a rut before we moved.  It is good to do new things and go new places."  Just tonight, as we came home from another trip to explore new places, Jim said, "I love living in Colorado Springs."  I am so happy he is happy here.

We've had our moments of profound homesickness.  We miss much about our former hometown.  We lived among the most wonderful people in the world.  We lived in a place with great tradition where people have roots that go deep.  We lived in a place that we dearly loved, but it was not where our children and other family members lived.  We were an odd rarity in Pueblo.  Most everyone in that town was surrounded by family.  We were not.  We knew our children would never move back.  That is why we moved.

The move has been very unsettling in many ways, but in others, it has also given us a chance to begin again.  For me that was most important.  I needed a new beginning.  I needed a new focus for my life.  I've never believed a place will make you happy.  I still believe that.  This place will not make me happy, but I know that I will be happy in this place.  Jim told me this past week that he thinks I am happier here.  He is right.  I am happier because I have the opportunity to move on with my life.  We are both able to rebuild again after great loss.  We've always been at our best when as a team we are building something new.

As we settle in, we recognize that we must take it slowly, one box and one day at a time.  We also recognize that we are starting a new chapter in our lives and in our marriage.  This is a something for which we are both very grateful.

Our Last Sunday in Pueblo

No Place Like Home

As on every other Sunday, we sat in the "newspaper room" in our twin chairs reading the Sunday morning newspaper.  The pink chairs were purchased when we moved into this home 17 years ago.  I was expecting my first grandchild at the time.  I remember the salesman telling me these were perfect grandma chairs because they rocked and they swiveled.  I wasn't sold on the pink, but the chairs were so comfortable, and they did rock and swivel.  

Now, the chairs are very worn.  They are no longer pink.  Newspaper print has rubbed off on the fabric.  Babies have been rocked in these chairs.  Christmas morning activities has been witnessed from these chairs.  Easter egg hunts have been witnessed by these chairs.  My chair, the one on the right, held me when I heard the worst news of life. It was here where I heard my Amy say, "Mommie, Julie is dead."  

Still, this chair is always a comforting place for me to go.  It speaks of home, of family, of times with my husband as we rehashed what we read in the paper.  Back in the day, when my hubby was working, I'd sit in this chair reading and say, "I see you made the newspaper today."  Thankfully, he always seemed to garner good press.   One morning I read he had physically apprehended a student who had a knife in his hand as the student attempted to exit the building after making a threat.  That was after I had asked him what had happened at work the day before and had received the reply, "Nothing really."  When I read the news clip to him saying, "I thought you said nothing happened at school yesterday."  He said, Oh, that's right.  I forgot."  I guess it was just another day in life of a high school principal.  

Yes, this room, these chairs hold many memories.  We will take the chairs with us.  We've talked of getting rid of them since they are so unsightly.  I think they will make the move.  We will reupholstery them.  They are comfortable.  They rock.  They swivel.  We do like them.  It is the room we will leave behind.  This room, called the "newspaper room" by the grandchildren, was the setting for our last Sunday morning paper reading today.  I raised my coffee cup to my husband and said, "Here's to this room and our last Sunday in it."  

Sunday Routine

We needed to keep packing, but the sun was shining.  The weather was warm, and we needed to settle our minds about leaving the place where we have lived for so long, so we went to the Pueblo Riverwalk for one last Sunday walk with Boston.  We go to the riverwalk nearly everyday, but Sunday is a special day because so many others are there walking when the weather there on Sunday afternoons.  Located in the heart of Pueblo, a walkway runs beside the historic route of the Arkansas River.  Just this past week, on a beautiful fall afternoon, I spotted a beaver in the river that runs right through the middle of the city.  Can you see him in the middle of the photo?  Good thing I had my iPhone with me.  

Beaver swimming at the Pueblo Riverwalk
I captured this photo from the bridge over the river
We couldn't spend our last Sunday in Pueblo without going to our favorite spot to spend a Sunday afternoon.  We ran into friends who were either walking or eating on the pizza on the patio at Angelo's.    I don't think we can take a walk on a Sunday without spending at least 15 minutes chatting to friends along the way.  We will miss this.

How could we have our last Sunday in Pueblo without buying popcorn from Taffy's?  Well, we didn't think we could, so we went to get our Sunday popcorn.  They were closed!  How can that be?  The sign on the window said, "Closed.  No electricity."  That is when we remembered that the power was out all over downtown because there was a fire at the electrical plant.  We had learned that while chatting with our friends at the pizza parlor.  The waitress had come out to say to our friends that they were having some difficulty with the bill because the power was out because of a fire at the power plant.  Our car was parked right next to the power company, so we saw all the commotion as we left to go get popcorn.  I guess we should have known.

Another routine for Sunday involves Boston being groomed by Jim.  We came home so Jim could get that done.  The last roses were blooming.  I've tried to ignore the roses this week.  The sprinkler system is off.  They are not getting watered.  I decided to just let them die for the season and not get emotional. As I stepped onto the back deck to watch the grooming, I saw my beautiful Easy Does It rose was not done blooming yet.  I decided I had to snip the last blooms.  I could not let them remain on the bush to die.  I had to enjoy their beauty.

Try as I might, I can never quite capture the richness of the colors of this rose with a photo.  Of course, perhaps I should try to photograph it with something other than my iPhone.  We do have a fancy camera around here, a Nikon D90, but I never bother to get it out.  I guess I am not a serious photographer at all.  Despite the poor attempt at photography, I am amazed at the colors that do show in the photo below.  

Easy Does It
We may be in a state of chaos around here.  I haven't cleaned for several weeks.  There are boxes all over the place.  We are moving, but I decide I need one last round of roses in the house.  This bouquet was for the table next to my chair in the family room.  The roses go in my two favorite vases next to my favorite portraits:  one of father, and one of Julie surrounded by my seven grandchildren, her beloved nieces and nephews.  This week of goodbyes will go better with roses in the house.

I was struck by the absolute beauty of this:  the last full bloom from the rose bush I planted in memory of Julie.  It was the best full bloom from this plant I'd picked all summer.  It seemed to say, "I've saved the best for last."  

This day, our last Sunday in Pueblo, blessed with perfect fall weather.  We spent it doing what we love to do.  The day was full of sunshine and the colors of autumn.  The reds, the yellows, the oranges of fall put on a wonderful show of vivid color for us today.  

At home, I then was blessed with this rose.  The tinges of yellow blending into vivid orange softened by light pinks and apricots around the edges of this beautiful rose reminded me of a sunset.  Drinking in a beautiful sunset at the end of a day always brings such joy.  One is grateful for such a gift that reminds us of the blessing of that day as it ends.  Such is the feeling I get as I look at this rose.  Our days in this place that has been our home for so long are coming to an end.  Jim has lived here nearly 61 years.  I have lived here 20 years.  This is the town where we met as teenagers and where we have lived as married couple.  We will miss it all so much.  We will miss the town, the people, our home, our special spots around this house, our garden, our flowers, and so much more.  We carry so many memories with us as we go into a new day.  This season may be ending for us, but we are not done blooming yet.  We are off to cultivate new memories in a new place.


I'm adding my daughter Keicha's post about our dearly loved home.  Read it here:  Letting Go.

End of A Season

Announcing Some Big Changes Coming Our Way

It was hot this summer.
Some mornings after a romp on the grass,
Boston would rest in his favorite spot under the glider on the back deck.
Before long, once he was settled and comfy, 
he would be asleep and taking his morning nap.


If Mom wasn't looking, he would climb onto the glider so he could take a proper nap.
This spot is forbidden,
but who could make him move?
He was too cute, and he looked very happy and content in this spot.

He is a smart dog.
He found one of my favorite spots and made it his too.

This glider was where I spent many hours journaling after my daughter's death.
It gave me great comfort to look out on my garden during many difficult days.

This spot is also a favorite for my husband.
This is his morning newspaper reading place in the summer.

I usually sit across from him when he reads here in the summer.
Once a week, usually on Sunday, I sit here and happily enjoy watching Boston's grooming time.

Who is enjoying this time more?
Is is Jim,
is it Boston?
I see joy in the faces of both of them.


our previous golden retriever,
also loved this deck.
As a pup, he chewed it so badly, it had to be rebuilt.
My daughter-in law Sam
has sweat equity in this deck. 

and my son Jon,
shown here with my daughter Keicha enjoying time together on the deck,
rebuilt the deck for me over a decade ago.

Jon & Keicha

Cousins have spent many happy times here with each other.

Gillian and Hannah

It has been the gathering place for the family during summer get-togethers over the years.

Trista, Julie, Amy, Ryan
Yesterday marked the beginning of the end of a season of our lives.
We will say good-bye to this deck,
and to so many other places we have loved so much 
in this home
where we have 
for the past seventeen years.

It is the end of season.
The season has been good.
We have loved this place.
We will be so sad to leave it.
There will be tears as we say our good-byes,
but seasons do change, and we are ready to move on to a new season in our lives.

After 25 showings,
and after keeping our house on the market during this past summer,
we finally have accepted an offer on this home.
We have made an offer on a new home in Colorado Springs.
It all came together yesterday.
The last few days have been an emotional roller-coaster.
I didn't find the house I wanted to buy until Tuesday after accepting an offer on this home the day before.

Hopefully, all closings and all those other details that go along with selling and buying a house will go well.  If so, we will be out of here on October 23rd, the day after Jim's birthday.

Did I say I haven't slept much?
Did I say I was exhausted?
Well, I am.
I am also feeling those mixed emotions that one feels as one moves from one season to the next.
I am melancholy.
I am sad.
I will miss this place I have loved so very much.
I am excited.
I am looking forward to many new adventures.

Best of Pueblo ~ Coyote Grille

The Nature Center

One of my favorite places to go has always been the Pueblo Raptor and Nature Center down by the Arkansas River.  I fell in love with The Nature Center when Jim and I were dating.  Early in our dating life, I was still living in Colorado Springs, when he took me for a romantic stroll along the Arkansas River one Sunday afternoon in late fall of 1991.  After our stroll, I remember sitting in the warm sun on a log under the beautiful gold colored cottonwood trees and watching people enjoy biking, running, and walking along the path next to the river.  In other spots, people were fishing either from the shore or in the river itself.   I found myself thinking, I like this place.  No, really, I love this place.  I can see me living in Pueblo and enjoying this setting for many years to come.

Now, the Nature Center just got better.  Have any of you been down to the cafe/restaurant since it is now under the management of Jim Beatty?  If not, you should enjoy a wonderful meal at Coyote Grille as soon you can.  I guarantee you will put it at the top of your list of "places to go" for good food, ambiance, and friendly service.  I don't want to sound like I work for Jim Beatty, or the Chamber of Commerce, but really, I just don't know where you can go for a better setting that offers fabulous than the Coyote Grille.
Jim Beatty

Chips & Salsa
Coyote Grille
Let me tell you just a little bit about the owner/operator of this venture first.  We were first introduced to Jim Beatty's food at a graduation party four or five years ago.  Actually, my husband Jim fell in love with Jim B's food when he first bit into a tortilla chip that he had dipped in amazing salsa.  Before long, he was also raving about the guacamole. Now in Pueblo, there are a lot of places to buy great chips and salsa, but in my husband's mind (and mine) you can't beat Jim Beatty's.  These chips are served hot and fresh and are made from homemade flour tortillas.  The salsa is also made from scratch.  I honestly don't know where you can get better chips and salsa.

Jim Beatty's Catering Company
Classic Catering

Jim enjoying a taste of the good food
Jim serving food to the grandkids
When it became time to have Jim's retirement party, we decided to have Jim Beatty's catering company, Classic Catering,  cater the family party.  When you have a blended family of eight children, their spouses, and seventeen grandchildren, you cater.  Anyway, I do.

 The food that was served that day was a huge hit with everyone!  We were thrilled with the food, the cost and service.  All these things helped make our day special.  We didn't have to worry about anything except enjoying our family and celebrating the milestone of Jim's retirement.

Coyote Grille
5220 Nature Center Rd.
Pueblo, CO 81003

We were thrilled when we heard that Jim Beatty had taken over the management of the Coyote Grille.  Yesterday, my husband suggested that we go to the Nature Center so we could check out Jim's new venture, eat some lunch, and go for a walk.  As soon as we arrived at my favorite dining location, I was excited to see so much life.  Folks were sitting outside on the patio of the cafe enjoying the sun, the view, and the food.  Many were dressed as if they had just stopped in to eat after a bike ride or a walk.  
After entering Coyote Grille, we noticed that a number of people were also enjoying their dining experience inside.  Once inside of the Grille, we saw friends and stopped to chat before selecting a perfectly situated table in front of the large windows.  This allowed us to feel connected to the patio and look out to the river.  This particular table was also placed next to the warm, inviting fire that was burning the southwestern style fireplace.  Talk about great ambiance!
We had a hard time selecting from the menu because there were so many delicious sounding items.

We both decided on the dish above.  This was no ordinary burger!  The meat was good, as good as I've ever had anywhere.  The bun is homemade.  The burger is topped with onions, Pueblo peppers, and cream cheese.  (I passed on the cream cheese.)  The chips are hand sliced and made fresh.  The side relish featured some sort of wonderful tasting pickled red onion.  (I think that is what it is.)  Just as we'd been warned by our friends who were eating there, we found the servings to be large.  We both ate every last bite despite the size!

Jim with the manager
A former SHS student
daughter of a faculty member
We decided to go back to Coyote Grille for lunch today.  I didn't have a camera yesterday, and I wanted to get some pictures for my blog.  When I asked Jim Beatty if he minded if I wrote about his new venture in my blog, he said, "I'll have to think about that...for about two seconds. Yes, feel free to write away."  

While studying the menu yesterday, we both wanted to try the quiche and the three bean soup.  Guess what we ordered today?  Those who know me, know that my favorite place for quiche is at Wooglins in Colorado Springs.  I have long maintained that Wooglins has the best quiche around.  That is, until I tasted the quiche at Coyote Grille.  I now have a new favorite place for quiche.

Jim had the spinach quiche and the three bean soup.  I tasted it, and it was very good.  I had the green salad which was also very good.  The salad was set apart from ordinary green salads by the addition of those yummy red onions and rye bread croutons.  

If you are looking for a great spot for some delicious food, remember to stop by and see Jim Beatty and his great staff at Coyote Grille.  Tell him I sent you.

For my friends who don't live in Pueblo, I'm attaching some photos shot at the Nature Center and the cafe this past December when we took our international students there for a Christmas Party.  (The cafe was under different management then.)  I want you to see the setting that I enjoy so much.  As you can see it is dry in this part of the country, but I think it has its own unique beauty.
Photo's of Previous Visits
Some of the international students, staff and tutors
Nature Center - Arkansas River in background

International Program Christmas Lunch
Nature Center - 2010

Jeanne & Sally
in front of cafe at Nature Center
Wind swept xeriscape grass
at the Nature Center Garden
Backside of Coyote Grille
Structure near Coyote Grille
Bringing Home a Bit of Pueblo's Best
Coyote Grille

Before we left the Coyote Grille today, we bought a homemade cookie and a cherry turnover for our snack for this evening.  I think I'll go make a cup of tea for hubby and me and enjoy the treat we brought home.  

Lift Your Eyes

Just before my senior year in high school, my father was transferred from Pueblo, Colorado to Leadville, Colorado. Needless to say, I was not very happy that I was uprooted and moved away from the happy high school life that I had in Pueblo. I was convinced that life two miles high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in a small former mining community would be unbearable. One cold summer afternoon when the rain finally stopped, I looked out of the window of our house and said to my mother, "I hate this place. It is ugly. All I see in this town is mud." Her response has stayed with me all this years. She said,"Sally, you need to lift your eyes. Look above the mud on the ground and look at those mountains." The magnificent Mt. Massive, still covered with snow, seemed to fill all of the horizon above the street for as far as the eye could see.  I did learn a life lesson in that moment.  Focus is everything.  What do we see when we look beyond the window?  Where do we wish to focus our view of the world around us?

One of the first things that my son, Jonathan said to me after Julie's services was that he wanted to come to Pueblo to help me build a garden to honor Julie.  Since I have a great deal of yard that still needs to be landscaped, I was thrilled to think that we might begin to work on this project together.  Jon, wearing his traditional lungi from Bangladesh decided that the first order of business would be to install a fountain in the flower garden that is being developed on the side of the house.  This turned into an all day project, but, we finally had it installed and working.  Of course there was some water fun that kept interrupting the work!

While Jon and his wife Samantha worked on the fountain installation, Atticus joined me in planting some flowers.  What a joy it was for me to sit around a small flower garden with my grandson and dig in the dirt.  The curious sort, he had all kinds of questions and observations.  We decided that he should be a botanist someday so that he could study about dirt, bugs, plants and other interesting things.  I must admit that I used my influence to try to lead him in the direction that I think would be such a fascinating field.  He hoped we'd find a worm.  We did.  I went and got my brand-new jewelers 20X illuminated magnifying glass(my graduation present from Colorado Master Gardeners), and we looked for the worm's head.

Jon and I finally selected a spot for Julie's Garden.  We decided it should be the trampoline since that is a gathering place for kids of all ages in our family.  Also, that part of the yard is totally ugly and hot and could use some help.

I came up with the picture of the dream corner I wanted to create from a gardening magazine.  (Our spot is still a very long ways from looking like the picture!)  We thought a small patio next to the shed would be nice to build.  This would give us a place to have a small bistro type table.

Now that we had a vision, some bricks and two men to get busy on the work, I could leave the work up to Jon and Jim.

Jon had a lot of work to do just getting rid of weed guard, the bark and leveling the ground.  Then, he and Jim brought in some sand to make the foundation for the bricks.  (These bricks used to be the bricks in our old patio on the side of the house. I guess they've been moved a few times now!)

Since Jon is young and has his original knees, he became our official bricklayer.  He has been watching a lot of the men in Bangladesh put down the bricks for roads by hand since he got there, so he knew exactly what to do.

PLEASE NOTE:  The corner behind the shed that we selected, is less than perfect due to the fact that our neighbor just that day came up with his solution to the fence I had Jim tear down that was falling into our yard.  Don't you love the orange, plastic fence?  Since our neighbor has not been interesting in sharing the cost of fixing this old fence, I guess I am going to have to pay him a visit soon so we can discuss how his choice is not working for me.

After a long, hot day doing the brick work, Jon, Jim and I drove to Canon City to get some trees.  We wanted a tree for this area that would:  a)not get too big, b) shade the small patio and trampoline, c) be the most beautiful around either Julie's birthdate in April, or the date of her death in May.  We selected a Newport Plum.  I love it because the leaves will always have a rich burgundy red/orange color.  In the spring, it will be covered with vanilla colored flowers with burgundy centers.

We also decided to replace the tree that we removed last summer.  We need the shade for our main patio and for our bedroom.  An Autumn Purple Ash was selected.

The trees were not delivered until Jon had left for home.  It was a wonderful day, when they were delivered and planted.  Planting a tree and building a garden are very healing ways to grieve the loss of a loved one.  In this case, I can't even tell you how much comfort it gives me each day to look out and see Julie's plum tree.  It reminds me of her somehow.  I think that sometimes when she used to dye her hair red, it would almost be this color.  Maybe it is just that it is a tall, beautiful thing of beauty that stands out in nature.  I think of her that way.

                                                       The beginning stages of Julie's Garden
                                                                      The Newport Plum

Each day, I gaze our my window and lift my eyes.  I see the two trees we planted.  It gives me comfort to see these trees and think about how they will grow and shade my home, Julie's Garden, and the trampoline for years to come.  They represent hope.  They represent inspiration.  This will be a place for healing, a place for laughter, a place to remember times past, and place to create new memories.  The trees allow me to lift my eyes and see beyond this earth.

Moments of Clarity

Clarity eludes me most days. That may be why I am grateful for those rare moments of absolute clarity that do present themselves occasionally. Such a time came to me in November 2009 when I heard Sandra Cisneros speak at the Pueblo Library. One of my favorite authors, she had been chosen as a guest speaker when All Pueblo Reads selected her book House on Mango Street for its book of the year. I attended her lecture, not looking for clarity of thought, but rather because I had always wanted to see her in person. House on Mango Street was one of my favorite books to teach when I was teaching, so I really looked forward to hearing what ever insights she had to give on her writing.

Photo: Pueblo City County Library

As I do whenever I hear a lecture or a speech, I scribbled notes in my little journal. My notes that day might have become just another record of things I heard and duly noted for future reference if it had not seemed that she suddenly began to speak to me directly. "If you don't tell your story, it doesn't count," Sandra stated boldly. "She is right," I thought, and in my own mind, I also heard, "You are retired now, so you no longer have any excuses for not writing."

Once the talk was over, I was able to see and speak with many friends in the audience. Because I am inspired not only by the words of others but also by interaction with others, seeing many dear friends and former colleagues kept my enthusiasm for the insights I had gleaned during Sandra Cisneros' talk at a high pitch. A much admired former professor, Dr. Margaret Barber, was one with whom I spoke. Margaret, in her first year of full retirement, shared a few thoughts about her new status. She seemed so sure of herself and how she was going to spend her time. She seemed to know exactly what path she was going to take in this time of her life. As always, I found myself learning from her. "I must not squander the gift of retirement," I thought after speaking with her.

It was in this state of mind, that I walked out of our beautiful library and headed toward my car. Gazing out over my city, and thinking of my experiences of the day, I had one of those rare moments of clarity. In fact, I spoke aloud to myself, "I am where I need to be in my life, and I am living in the exact right place for this time in my life." Now that may not seem to be very profound words to some, but for me they were significant and important. Part of what I have struggled with in retirement has focused on where my husband I should live. Pueblo has not always been the place where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. In fact, I had always hoped that my husband and I would move from Pueblo once we retired.

But on this day, back in November 2009, I knew for certain that I needed to stay right where I was. After years of wishing I could leave this place, I knew that Pueblo had seeped into my very being and implanted itself on my heart. "If I leave here, I won't write," I thought to myself.

Many affirmations began to tumble into my mind as I spoke my moment of clarity into being. They became bright little gems of thought that made my insight into knowing that I was just where I needed to be in my life for this time and this place even more precious. Some of these affirmations included these following thoughts. I know the educational community here; therefore, if I wish to contribute to future educational ventures, I know where
we have been as an educational community and where we wish to go. I have connections here. My husband served over 40 years as an educator here, and I have been a part of this community for nearly 20 years. This community has given me much; now I will be able to give back. Besides, how can I leave a community that names a street after my husband? We are established here; we don't have to waste any energy getting reestablished.

I have begun my garden here. I have accepted the climate, soil, the wind,
the heat and all the other factors that go into making this place an interesting place to plant a garden. If I moved, I would have to rethink my garden. I would have to adapt to a new environment both physically and socially. I am here. Here I will stay for now. It is in this place that I wish to establish my new identity as a retired educator. It is here where I wish to learn what I will need to learn for the next stage of my life.