I’m cranky.

There. I’ve said it. Don’t ask me why, because I can’t really explain it, but since we got back from our wonderfully relaxing vacation in Colorado last week I’m in a mood. First day back I felt GREAT! Isn’t life fantastic? Lots of energy, sleeves rolled up, told husband I felt like I had my mojo back.

And then it all went south.

My first thought was that perhaps my foul demeanor was due to the change in elevation. Many of the trails we hiked in the Rocky Mountains brought us higher, ever higher, our lungs expanding in the thin air and our hearts pounding like jackhammers in our chests. One day last week we stood at a high point along the Trail Ridge Road where we towered over everything else around us at more than 12,000 feet, wind howling and bellowing, it seemed, from every direction. But now, here we are, back in the lowlands of the Midwest (Des Moines, elevation 958) and my poor body has no idea what to do with all this extra, heavier, moisture-laden air. While in Estes Park we pretty much ate what we wanted but came back at our pre-vacation fighting weights, thanks to all the hiking we did. Stuck in ‘pig-out’ mode, we’ve maintained the same eating habits so maybe that’s a contributor as well to said crankiness.

But when I ponder this further I think I know the answer. In Colorado, for one glorious week, we knew FREEDOM. We did pretty much whatever we damned well pleased and never (well, hardly ever) gave work more than a glancing thought or two. Monday morning when the alarm clock went off at five-twenty, it was truly a rude awakening and an evil reminder that our time, now, was no longer ours to call our own.

Sing it Soul II Soul: Back to life, back to reality!

Bill and I have taken very few trips longer than a three or four day weekend. This time we were away from work for ten whole days. That’s a long time to get used to being on your own schedule, being master of your minutes and hours and days. I loved it! But oh how cruel having to return to the workaday world after such a carefree existence as that which enveloped us in Colorado. Perhaps it’s because retirement isn’t really that far off but this little ‘vacay’ of ours has just made it seem even more tantalizing than ever before. I want it and I do, yes, want it now. The harsh, financial vagaries of life, however, intrude.

The state-run lottery here has a slogan that urges folks to buy tickets by (not so?) gently reminding them that you can’t win big bucks if you don’t play the game. So please excuse me while I, ahem, make a quick run to the nearest convenience store.

IMG_3926

This grand specimen greeted us early one morning as we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park last week. He stood just across the road from us and raised his head to bugle. When he’d finished staring us down, he ran across the road right in front of our car. Incredible! We saw elk throughout our week long stay but seeing this guy took the prize. A wonderful way to start our day! Just one of many memorable moments to cherish forever. Dare I say – this is what life is all about!

IMG_4417

My husband and I (no, NOT pictured here!) just returned from a week in Colorado. We stayed in Estes Park and had ourselves a wonderful time. Hiking the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park was more lovely, more beautiful, more amazing than I could have ever imagined. We only scratched the surface of what the park has to offer and so, like General MacArthur, we shall most certainly return – perhaps time and time again.

An interesting observation that Bill and I both made during our visit was the surprising number of elderly hikers on the trails. We encountered this lively couple on two separate outings as we made our way ever upward, navigating steep inclines, large rocks and loose gravel en route to incredible vistas, towering cliffs, rushing streams, golden aspens and roaring waterfalls. The woman shown here is 65, a cancer survivor and her partner is 80. We chatted about this ‘elderly phenomenon’ with some younger hikers at one point on the trail. They had hooked up the day before with a couple who were both 85, one of whom had had a knee replacement. The octogenarians took them through a shortcut in the trail that they knew about and the youngsters told us they had a hard time keeping up.

How cool is that?

Some of these seniors told us they had been hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park for 30-35 years which is probably key to their ability to traverse this challenging terrain with such ease. But I don’t think that tells the whole story. To a person, everyone we spoke to exhibited an enthusiasm and a joy of living that, I believe, helps to propel them forward just as surely as the hiking boots on their feet or the hiking poles held in each hand.

Inspiring? You bet. The time is NOW to get out there and enjoy life: To commune with nature, to eat healthy and be active, to keep putting one foot in front of the other whether as ‘flat-landers’ (as the couple above described themselves) or as experienced hikers in any one of our nation’s amazing national and state parks. John Muir once said “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…”

After a week spent in awe of Rocky Mountain National Park, I could not agree more.

We’ve been cable-free for several months now after paying homage to the DirecTV gods for far too many years. Not being chained to endless political programming and 24×7 news coverage as well as getting sucked in to one cable TV documentary and special feature after another is refreshing. We now have more time (though in truth never, never enough) to pursue other interests.

If ever I thought I might miss the plethora of options cable TV provides, those fears have now been laid to rest. Late this afternoon, while out and about, we caught a glimpse of some of the cable news stories du jour. The overly dramatic posturing, the hype, the propensity of the news personalities, regardless of your political persuasion, to insert themselves in such a manner as to being the story nearly induced nausea. The only thing we’ll miss is easy access to televised sporting events such as away games for our beloved Iowa State Cyclones. A small price to pay, however, for a return to sanity and clearer thinking. No regrets whatsoever. I heartily recommend cutting the cord and returning to network TV. With the easy and affordable availability of streaming and movies we don’t feel like we’re missing a thing. And saving almost $1200 a year sure feels good on the old pocketbook as well. A winning proposition no matter how you look at it!

Gorgeous fall day and all is well.  Sitting comfortably in the sun, sturdy twin-seat andirondack chairs beneath us, favorite beverages in hand, we are enveloped by nature.  Babbling brook, stellar jays and magpies flitting about, congregating three abreast on a branch high above, wildflowers and tall grasses slightly swaying in the warm autumn breeze.  Perfect venue for playing with my camera, inspired by two new photography books I picked up at Barnes & Noble earlier this week.

Bill and I took a class when we bought our first SLR almost fifteen years ago.  The assignments were fun and we learned a lot.  However, while I ‘got’ it at the time, working the manual dials on my camera is a bit of a challenge for me.  Bill retained pretty much everything and so is a good mentor.  My brain just can’t think that fast.  But I know practice is key and this is something I’d love to master.

Auto mode is easy and, for the most part, a no-brainer.  From my perspective, composition and subject selection are what I enjoy most but as Bill and I played around today stuff was starting to click.  The books I purchased include assignments to complete to help drive home the concepts.  I’m looking forward now to becoming a student again and photography is one subject I heartily look forward to studying any time, any place!

The light this time of year is like no other.  At certain times of day, whether early morning, late afternoon or early evening, I’ll glance up from whatever it is that I’m doing and be utterly transfixed by the soft glow sidling across furniture, covering walls and streaming through the windows.  It is simply lovely as it casts everything in its path in the mellow gleaming of these autumn days.  Whether you choose to bask in its warmth or grab your camera for some great photos, don’t fail to appreciate the light in these precious weeks and short months before the gray and gloom of late fall descends upon us and skies turn white and angry with ice, wind and snow.   Yes, the light is gorgeous this time of year and it only serves to amplify the reds, yellows, golden browns and purple beauty of this – my favorite – the very best season of all!

 

It would surprise me if my younger female readers have ever seen or – better yet – owned a pair of pettipants. Since I don’t wish to be accused of being partisan in any way, this sentiment might also apply to those of the male persuasion as well. But for the sake of simplicity I’m going to assume my target audience here is strictly of the so-called weaker sex (society’s purported dictate, not mine).

Quick show of hands – how many of you gals out there wore pettipants under your dresses when you were younger?

Do they even make this article of (under) clothing anymore? My dear, reliable friend Google tells me yes.

I recall owning at least two pair when I was a child, one black and one that was RED. Most likely I also had one that was white as well. When I was in second grade, I apparently wasn’t shy about telling my best friend Linda one day that I had on the pair of red ones as they were my favorite. Maybe I also told a few other friends or maybe someone else overheard our conversation. Perhaps Linda wasn’t as discrete as I would have hoped she’d be.

During recess some of the boys apparently were somehow made aware of what lay hidden beneath my skirt. Whether they asked to see my pettipants or not I don’t recall. What I do remember though is being chased around the playground, terrified. It’s entirely possible that I was secretly thrilled at the prospect of all these boys chasing me but most likely that’s just Hollywood’s way of muscling its way into my memory bank. In any case, what I certainly do recall is that I was FRIGHTENED.

The boys’ stronger and longer legs eventually caught up with me as I huddled against the brick wall of the school building. There was no other place for me to run! My friend Linda (bigger and stronger and always more self-assured) placed her body in front of mine in an effort to protect me from those nasty boys. Alas, they simply tossed her aside, lifted my skirt and gazed at the lacy reveal of those incredible red pettipants.

After a few ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ the show was pretty much over. Nothing to see here. My first introduction into the male fascination with the mystery of what it is that girls wear that is unseen, secret garments speculated about and always just (barely) out of sight. But this simple childhood episode offered another lesson as well and that is of girlfriends sticking up for each other despite the risks. It is both an unsettling memory and a reassuring one as well.