Monday, December 20, 2010

Just Ask

Strange phenomena going on over here. Seems that nearly everything I ask The Universe for lately not only arrives in my life but tends to come out of nowhere, often dropping from the sky. Case in point: Despite the very frustrating Southern California-style 'winter' we are having here in Denver, I specifically requested snow for my birthday last Friday and Ta Da!

I was indulged by the Snow Gods and by 3 p.m. it was all gone. Now we're back to sunny 60 degree days. Blech.

Meanwhile, Kirk and I have pondered what to do with the massive blank wall in our dining area. "I see a big ass chalkboard there," I said.  "For ideating and shit."

"You mean, like a big white board?"

"No! A CHALK board - the sound, the smell, the sound. All of it. The whole childhood tactile experience." 

"Okay. I'm on it." 

So Kirk, resourceful as ever, went online and found us a 4' x 8' chalkboard for FREE from a wee church in Castle Rock. In fact, as we loaded it into the back of my truck, the church guy asked, "I have another one - want that one too?" (Um, no, one is enough.) Our fabulous new chalkboard was a big hit at our recent Festivus party:

Also, while we were picking up the chalkboard, we came across an incredible situation that I could not walk away from. Perusing The Barn across from the church, I discovered a beautiful leather chair with a horse head stitched in the back. When I looked upon it, I could only thing one thing: MINE.

Then, I realized it came with a matching sleeper sofa - both from the 1940s. Then I saw the price $249! Which included both pieces plus an end table and coffee table.

Talking with Larry, The Barn owner, he explained that the set had just arrived the day before. It was brought in by the family that had originally purchased it when it was new. As a goodwill gesture, Larry knocked the price down and I walked away with all four pieces for a clean $200.


Finally, my other birthday request to obtain some horse slobber on my person. I visited my pal, Noodle, and when he saw me turn the corner, he did two straight-up leaps (cats are not the only animals who can project vertically), one buck and a loud fart. All together, that's a very big horse compliment.

It's not so much me that he was excited about but he knew I came bearing carrots and that I'd be turning him out so he could let off even more steam. After removing his blanket and giant rubber donut thingy that supporting his sore ankle, we headed for the big arena. Barely in the gate and VROOM! He took off, halter and all. He zoomed around, bucking and farting, until he finally came to me to remove the halter.

After he'd worked off some aggression, rolled a couple of times and searched all my pockets for extra carrots, I shot this quick video.

I think 45 is starting out on the right hoof....

Friday, December 17, 2010

I'm 45 Today!

Maybe at some point I'll be one of those people that turns 29 over and over again in denial of their true age, but I doubt it. Every year has come with its own challenges, blessing and revelations and I'm grateful for each one.

Bring it on, 45! I am ready.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Neighbors and The 'Hood

Now that my ankle has finally healed and we are experiencing an LA version of December, I've resumed my running schedule. Just the other day, I ran around nearby Sloan's Lake - while wearing shorts - and watched the heavens dump snow on the Rocky Mountains. This is Colorado, a bi-polar state with a flat prairie alongside a massive mountain range, where hippies and rednecks collide and the weather has no allegiance to the calendar.

My new run tops out at 2.72 miles, a tad longer than my previous run around Wash Park, 2.59 miles. Every M-W-F, I untangle myself from cords and head south for 10 blocks, gingerly avoid massive goose turds and take in the big sky. 

 I've already earned one supporter, an old man who gives me a thumbs up when I pass him. While Sloan's Lake Park is flat and brown this time of year, with very few trees (Wash Park was always green and lush), the entire Western landscape presents the indomitable Rocky Mountain range. Its craggy, powerful profile provides enough inspiration to keep me chugging onward, grateful not to be a pioneer woman in a covered wagon.
Photo by Mark Fitzgerald.

And amongst my many new neighbors, there is Will. He is tall, friendly, interesting and has not led an average life, which I appreciate. When he was about four years old, his parents decided it would be an excellent time to pull he and his brother out of school and take them sailing around the world for the next two years. "I spent my sixth birthday in Tahiti," he told me. Naturally, we are now buddies.

Will comes to my door and says things like, "Do you want to go on a leaf gathering mission?" or "Do you want to go turn over some compost?" Last week, he rang the bell and asked, "Do you want some Green Drink?" Um, some what?

Will, his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their sweet daughter, Thea, all have strict nutritional needs so they are always coming up with creative ways to get the good stuff without all the crap that most of us ingest without a thought. Hence, the Green Drink.

I watched Will cram some green apples, spinach, celery, parsley, cucumbers and something else green I'm forgetting (frogs?) into a blender and frappe the hell out of everything.  The result was a bright green earthy elixir about the consistency of a fruity grass milkshake. It wasn't half bad and my body sure appreciated it. The day I gulped down the Green Drink, I felt like I could run twice around the lake.

Ah, lessons from the neighbors. It's nice.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Healthy Kidneys For Everyone!

I just spoke to my friend, Heidi (pictured here in her natural state), who is in the hospital after blazing through her kidney transplant yesterday. I'm told the pink is back in her cheeks and she is even walking through the halls - an amazing response to a tricky operation.

This means the end of dialysis for Heidi, which is the best news ever. Through her, I have discovered what an incredibly difficult way of life that is - cramping one's style is the very least of it. Heidi is a vibrant woman who loves travel, adventure, books and meaty conversations. I love her dearly and am so lifted by this wonderful turn of events.

Heidi was one of several dialysis patients who received a kidney thorough a 'donor chain' of patients and donors. It's kind of complicated but it allows for multiple people to receive a healthy kidney that matches their blood type. So, she's on the same hospital floor with several kindred spirits who all face a new life.

If you haven't thanked your kidneys lately for the great job they are doing, now is a good time.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

My New Workout Program

Actually, I've been doing these 'nephew leg lifts' for several years now. But with seven-year-old Robbie at 60 pounds - and my ass getting older and weaker every year - I figured it was time to document them.

It was sure a lot easier when he was three.

Monday, November 22, 2010

SoCal for Thanksgiving

As much as I hate leaving the Village just as we are settling in, it's time to head back to the LBC to breath in great gulps of brown air and spend time with the Family. We'll eat too much, play board games, eat more, watch movies, make sandwiches and ask mom the same question: "Where is the lid for this Tupperware?" 

MaryAnn tries to make a match at 2:00 a.m.
 We'll also head up to the family cabin, Chez Clisby, the weekend after. Last year, we were treated to gobs of snow and we're hoping for the same this year. I mean, who doesn't love sledding, cocktails and a crackling fire? Not to mention a little something extra in one's suitcase? Like a sweet nephew, perhaps?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Village Life

No matter how many boxes get unpacked, there are always more staring at you, demanding attention. And the trouble with living on three levels is that you can make the main level look perfectly organized in the high hopes that no one ever goes up or down - then, all would be revealed.

Now, I've had a ton of questions - emails, IMs, FB notes and yes, even phone calls - curious about the co-housing life. Therefore, I'll provide as many details here as I can. I'm going to adamantly avoid naming the place here (though I can send you to the website if you contact me privately) and also, photos of individuals without their permission. I am anxious to share but equally concerned about upsetting those with privacy concerns; it's not how you make new friends. 

Our front porch.
Bottom line? I love it here. So does Kirk. Last Friday, we attended a small 'Welcome Kirk & Heather' party from our fellow building dwellers. (The homes are broken up into building pods, about six dwellings in each.) Lots of food and wine, with each person giving a brief synopsis of their lives and how they came to co-housing. Lovely, lovely people. 

We've started attending the community meals, which are held twice a week and always optional. If you are vegetarian or have concerns about allergies, you just mark a specific box on the sign-up sheet. Each meal costs you about $4 and you are billed at the end of the month, along with your co-housing fees, which begin at $140 per household.

The main room of the Community House, where we have our meals and the occasional poker game with the mailman.

So far, the meals have been yummy. Last week was pizza, salad and ice cream. Mine had about seven layers of veggies and it was more than enough. Each person is encouraged to join a cooking team, which we have done. Kirk's team, Team #4, will cook this Sunday, and my team, Team #3, will be on deck December 8.  Tonight, I think White Chicken Chili is on the menu.

A quilt depicting the Village hangs in the Community House's Music Room.

Another great thing about this life is the immediate access one has to a large group of helpful neighbors via the Yahoo Group. Minutes ago, I sent out a plea for a cat sitter over Thanksgiving. It took maybe 90 seconds to receive a positive reply. DONE. (Still getting volunteers, actually.) Need a key for the wood shop? Ask the group. DONE. Curious about newspaper delivery? DONE. For an online dweller like me, it's heavenly.

Community chores to be done - a list for all of us.

Weather Tangent: We got our first snow in the village this week! It was so nice to wake up to an adorable Village covered in snow. It went from this:

To this:

The western view from our bedroom window.
And in true Denver fashion, was completely melted the next day. WAH.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A New Reality

Unless you are still living with your parents, then you know how much moving sucks. Every time, I swear I'm going to pay other people to do it for me and then I get cheap and end up lugging all my crap myself. Exhausting, painful, dusty.

So, on my last day on Milwaukee Street, I hung out with my super cool neighbors, Graham and Andrew, whom I'll miss terribly:

And Bodi Cat, who would saunter into my place and take naps on my bed:

And, of course, the aforementioned Eliot (Graham's little girl), who is pictured here, playing with Bodi Cat:

Just for kicks, I also accidentally packed my car keys into one of hundreds of brown boxes so had to call AAA, who kindly sent out not one - but two - locksmiths to rescue me. The following day, my key was found. FAIL.

After the professional move-out cleaners had left (they had proclaimed it "dirtier than normal" which, I've decided, would make an excellent epitaph for me), I carried down the final final final box and BAM! Down I went in the crunchy fall leaves and sprained my right ankle, which I have done many times before. I ended up with a bright purple bruise around the back of my foot - quite bizarre. 

Kirk and I then sped over to our new digs and quickly got me set up on the porch with a bowl of candy and a whiskey cocktail. We did not want to miss all the community kids parading their costumes. With my swollen foot propped up, Kirk decided to tap into my endless accessories and 'dressed' me up for Halloween. I was helpless to his fashion whims and ended up with a cowboy hat and leather fringe jacket.

My buddy, Noodle. His barn is only 10 minutes away now - yay!

Trouble was, not a single kid could figure out what my 'costume' was because - I finally figured out later - we live in COLORADO. My 'costume' is not a costume here, it's just a regular outfit. Shit, I saw a guy with spurs on the other day at the gas station and I own pair myself now.

So, with the sucky reality of moving behind me and endless brown boxes staring me in the face, I'm finally getting settled in my new place, a co-housing community in North Denver. My partner in this wild experiment in living, Kirk, is hyper-efficient, easygoing and rather cheerful so I'll have to step my game a bit - a good challenge for me.

Co-housing is an organized community that shares in some meals, chores and other activities of life. It's like a cleaned up commune without the drugs or group sex. (Although I might suggest it at the next meeting.) Kirk and I had long discussed the appeal of living this way and had our names on several waiting lists in Colorado.

But together we manifested a true fluke of an opportunity and ended up sliding into this decade-old community, renting a 4-bedroom, 3.5 bath home for one year minimum. Located in a hip, funky part of Denver that was once home to a zoo and the old Elitch Gardens, an amusement park now relocated downtown, it's a very deliberate, thoughtful place. There are about 75 inhabitants (including 32 kids) and everyone has their own living space. All the homes are painted in bright primary colors - red, blue, green and yellow. (Ours is blue.)

Citizens include single folks, traditional families, retirees, solo parents and couples living in sin, like us! There are always kids running around and various dogs and cats too. I love it. All the houses face inward, like circled wagons. We had our first visitor on Saturday. Laura, who I know from my San Francisco days, walked the five blocks from her place to mine and gasped at the overwhelming cuteness. "It's like living in a Disney Village!" she said. It's true.

The community's vision statement:

"Our vision is to live creatively in supportive and sustainable relationships with each other, the neighborhood, and the environment." 
Yesterday was our first Work Day, which they have every two months. Henriette, a sweet, older lady that is the current president, told me this morning that it was the best turnout they've had in years. Heading into the Community House, one sees a giant list of tasks to be done that day. Kirk immediately pounced on the "Organize the wood shop" and had a glorious time putting everything where it should be, running to the local hardware store for parts and so on.

Since we are enjoying freakishly warm weather for November (alas, snow is expected this week), I was determined to stay outside. So, I helped Howard clean up his yard, played with Ginger the dog, helped a shirtless, tattoed guy named Joe clean up leaves in the archery area and attacked the composting area with Brett, who was grateful for the help.

Already, the neighbors have organized a 'Welcome' party for us and a little girl named Thea gave me a candle. It's starting to feel like home. 

Lots more info and photos to come.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

So Long, Cave

For the past 4.5 years, this has essentially been my office view - the golden spire of nearby DU set against often-white capped Rocky Mountains. Not bad, eh?

And then, of course, there's the garden ...

Despite being right up against a major interstate (I-25), I have found so much peace here. I realized tonight that I'm completely ensconced in an area deep in prayer; nearby Iliff School of Theology, the huge seminary down the street, and all the usual desperate praying that goes on at the very nearby University of Denver. ("Please God, help me pass this final!", "Please God, help me get laid!", "Please God, I'll never drink again!", etc.)

In any case, something has made me feel incredibly safe here and I could happily stay a contented troll living anonymously alongside a giant river of humanity, but change is calling. I've spent many an evening in my cave being self-indulgent and puttering around in my head - writing, yoga, music, movies. It was here I first experienced being 'snowed in' and all I can say is, I am all for it.

Most of all, I'm going to miss Eliot, the adorable 5-year-old girl who lives beneath me:

She lives with her dad, Graham, a nice young man who takes fatherhood quite seriously. I can often hear him singing to her at night and I'll miss hearing her giggles come up through the water heater. Sigh. Hopefully, there will be other children in my life soon.

On my final night in the cave, I am filled with gratitude. Though my first couple of months were rocky, it proved to be a very soft landing. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hi-Fi v. Wi-Fi

It's fascinating to me that as Americans become fatter, our technology slims down. So much of our communication and entertainment in previous decades has come from bulky, brown items and now they come in tiny slivers of silver and black. Anyone remember when the television was part of a 'console' that made it look like a sleek piece of furniture?

Though my livelihood depends on the latest technologies, though I am completely reliant on my iPhone and MacBook Pro, though I worked at technology Ground Zero, Macromedia (Adobe), in San Francisco before, during and after the dot com frenzy, though I am a WIRED subscriber and a paid blogger .... I am also crazy about old technology.

First thing every morning, I fire up an ancient Packard-Bell Hi-Fi AM/FM Phonograph Stereo Console unit to get my daily NPR dose. When the dear old lady who lived below, Esther, was finally moved into an Alzheimer's Home, they had me come down and take anything I wanted. I laid my eyes on this beauty (circa 1950s?) and it was LOVE.

The sound is incredible - note that the entire bottom half is hiding several speakers. I also love to play my many, many vinyl records on this baby. It's what she was made for. Do you know what doesn't sound incredible? This:

Though my father's heart was in the right place when he gifted me with this multi-tasking stereo, it sucks deeply. Designed to play CDs, LPs, cassettes and the radio, it only performs about 40% of those tasks. No doubt it was Made in China and while its old-timey face is meant to pull my nostalgia cord, all it does is hold up plants and piss me off. In the donation pile it goes. Cheap, fake efforts are no replacement for the real thing. 

Confession: For the last decade or so, I have been dutifully bending to my favorite yoga video of all time: Ali MacGraw Yoga Mind & Body. Filmed in New Mexico's ethereal White Sands National Park with a rich soundtrack by Dead Can Dance and led by Yoga Master Erich Shiffmann, it is stunning. It literally birthed my lifelong yoga practice (for myself and others) and I never, ever tire of it. All this from a $15 videotape.

That's right, video tape. We're talking VHS, baby. Sure, I bought the DVD version but it's simply not up to snuff. And while I have gone through several DVD players since the technology arrived, my VHS player is a friggin' soldier that refuses to die. Technically, it was a 'gift' from Bob, an old boyfriend who bought it along with a television as he was tired of visiting me and having no entertainment technology available. This was perhaps 1993.

So, at least once or twice a week, I fire up the old gal - the crunchy noises she makes to start, stop, forward and rewind do sound ancient - and we do yoga together. For reasons that may be ridiculous, I have no intention of getting rid of the Signature 2000 or her dutiful partner, this giant, boxy television:

 And yes, that is Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies.

(Which reminds me that our family used to have a tiny b/w TV in the kitchen. Mom kept it for years and I adored it. One day in front of my brother and I, she discussed getting rid of it. I protested loudly: "You can't get rid of it - it only plays the Andy Griffith Show! It's like magic!" She laughed while my brother turned it on and sure enough, "Aunt Bee, have you seen Opey?" My brother freaked out and my mother stopped laughing. She did get rid of it, saying it gave her the "creeps.")

So, here's the funny thing. Shortly after moving into my Milwaukee Street Cave, nearly 4.5 years ago, I somehow lost the remote control for the old style TV. Happily, this led to more in-depth guitar practice for one is no longer expected to constantly get up to change channels and/or endure commerials. I mean, it's 2010, fer chrissakes.

Unhappily, this has led to a horrible twitchy finger when I finally do get a remote in my grubby mitts. Visiting family or staying a private hotel room, I simply go nuts. I'm in such complete control that I am totally out of control. My fingers become infected with ADHD and I get drunk with power. Not pretty. 

So, what to do with all these funky old technology? Use it as decoration, like I do now with this old rotary?

Maybe I'm more like my mother than I realized. The woman still plays 8-track tapes and every time I hear that click over sound, I chuckle to myself. I must have listened to Boston's first album and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes eight gazillion times through this technology. Which reminds me, does anyone remember Tom Petty's tongue-in-cheek technology commentary on Full Moon Fever? Against a background of of barnyard noises near the beginning of Track 6, we hear Tom politely explain:
"Hello, CD listeners. We've come to the point in this album where those listening on cassette, or records, will have to stand up, or sit down, and turn over the record. Or tape. In fairness to those listeners, we'll now take a few seconds before we begin side two. [pause] Thank you. Here's side two."
And what of my sub-woofer and giant speakers when all I need is my laptop and the two small speakers that accompany it? My many other VHS tapes from days gone by? My boxes upon boxes upon boxes and photo albums full of negatives and print photos? All my cassettes, especially those beloved mixed tapes?

 I'm only 44 and already my entire life is museum-ready.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Me Want Chickens

Although I am excited about moving to a co-housing community, it also means I have to put off my dream of having chickens for at least a year, unless I can convince them ...

In the meantime, we went on a Chicken Coop Tour in and around the Denver area. (Many thanks to Denver Urban Homesteading who organized the tour and the DUH's insane-in-a-good-way, James Bertini, who enjoys breaking the law as much as he loves being a lawyer.) We met so many beautiful birds and enthusiastic owners - it was inspiring. We also discovered how many different ways there are to house these fabulous feathered souls.

Some coops were just tiny dog houses and some were hi-tech pre-fab coops - not cheep - ha! In some backyards, the birds ran wildly around the backyard, taking dirt baths, foraging through garbage or whatever. While others had the corner of the garden perfectly spotless for the chickens and everything was obsessively organized.

My favorite might be James and Irina Bertini's old camper, formerly a favorite homeless hangout, now refashioned into a chicken hangout. Here's the back door:

And the inside:

And the whole kit and caboodle, which also includes a pen for geese:

 But everywhere we went, we found giggling kids who delighted in all things chicken. Besides all the fresh eggs - which are so much better than what you buy in the store - it's great for kids to know exactly where their food is coming from. Hell, it's better for adults too.

Ah, someday ....