Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - A Year in Review

For 365 days we have lived through 2009. During this year many things have taken place and we have accomplished many things. So as we bid 2009 adieu, I thought I would do a brief re-cap of the year! So here is 2009 by the numbers: - Zack and I hiked 236 miles and visited almost every space in Douglas and Jefferson Counties - We climbed 3 fourteeners and one thirteener - I visited 3 foreign countries (Zack visited two) - I donated 15 units of blood and platelets - Zack had one serious anxiety/emotional breakdown - Zack and I took 2 major vacations (Las Vegas/Grand Canyon and France) - For the first time in my life I spent a night in the hospital - Wrote 215 blog entries for this blog - Made countless Facebook entries - some funny, some not so much! - Gained 4 pounds (I am not happy with that one!) - Zack grew at least 2 inches (I am very happy with that one!) Yeah - Zack and I had a good year. It is sad to see another year pass us by, but as always I look to the future with undying optimism and happiness. There is nothing that will keep us down as we have adventures and fun times together. So to all of you who follow this blog - Happy New Year to you! May 2010 bring very good things to you! Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Xena - Princess Warrior

Here is where I am going to show my geeky/dorky side. A couple of weeks ago I was browsing around through Amazon.Com and I came across a link to the complete box set of Xena: The Princess Warrior. This box set contained DVDs that had every single episode of Xena: The Princess Warrior on them. You can probably guess what I did. I bought the entire set and now I am just revelling in every single episode of Xena that was ever produced. For anyone who is not familar with Xena I do apologize. Xena was television show produced in the 1990's that followed the tales of the mythical Xena in a fantasy world. She was a powerful warrior who fought for good against evil. It starred Lucy Lawless as Xena and Renee O'Connor as her sidekick Gabrielle.

When Zack was a little kid Xena was a fixture in our household. It was on either Fox or the WB networks and the same episode was aired at least twice during the week. The first airing was on a weekday evening in prime time and then the second airing was at 11:30PM on Saturday night. Needless to say I would always watch it at 11:30PM on Saturday night.

I am sure many of you are thinking that I just like Xena because it starred Lucy Lawless. Well - that really isn't the case. I liked the show and it doesn't have anything to do with Lucy Lawless' looks or the supposed "sexual" overtones in the relationship she has with Gabrielle. Nope, it is just one of those mindless shows that you enjoy. Kind of like a BattleStar Galactica of an earlier generation. (And I am talking about the BattleStar Galactica that aired on the SyFy network from 2004 - 2009, not the campy series by the same name that ran on ABC in the 1970s!) Of course Xena didn't feature cyborgs, spaceships and other out of this world things. But it was a great show that kept me suitably entertained late on Saturday nights.

The downside to my purchase is that Zack just doesnt' seem to be into it. We watched the very first episode of Xena that was produced and he kind of told me - "Dad, this is boring". So I don't see it as a big father/son event for us to sit down and watch Xena every night. Oh well - I will just have to watch it after he goes to bed.

On a different note.... Besides my posting about llama on my blog yesterday I was posted something similar on Facebook. I got all kinds of funny responses to that post. Most were totally and completely in jest. I got lots of good names for my llamas if I want them. Some of the best were Dolly Llama after the Dalai Lama of Tibet. And of course if one of the llama turns out to be an evil master mind terrorist who spits on everyone, I can call him Osama bin Llama. Yes - it was quite the humorous posting that is for sure!

Well it is almost the weekend. I am sure we will have some fun and interesting things to do this weekend and I hope that everyone reading this has some fun plans also. You also have to remember it is only 15 days until Christmas - so you better get shopping if you haven't already done so.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What I Might Get for Christmas

Before Patty got sick, I could always count on finding a lot of presents under the Christmas tree every Christmas morning. Obviously since she is now gone that is definitely not the case as Zack really doesn't get out and buy me any Christmas presents. I have found significant joy in just giving gifts these last couple of years. It is something that has made me feel very good. But this year might be a little different. Why might it be different - because I am considering buying myself two very unusual Christmas presents this year. Or... they might be birthday presents for myself. What are these presents - two Llamas! Yes - that is right two llamas. Now most people reading this blog are probably thinking I am off my rocker. It goes without saying that is absolutely true - but that has nothing to do with me buy llamas! So why would I seriously want to buy two llamas? In many of my past blog entries I have talked about my desire to become a much better nature photographer. The problem with that is you have to carry many pounds worth of equipment far into the back country up very steep hills. That wasn't so much of a problem when I was in my 20's or 30's, but now that I am in my 40's my shoulders have a tough time supporting an 80lb backpack. So - llamas are the answer! They can carry my back packs for me and I can go merrily about my way without breaking my back. Most of my friends think I am joking when I talk about getting llama. My friend Shelly has told me I have a case of llama love. It has even been suggested that I get two llamas so I don't have a lonely llama. Oh my..... I do know that this is quite humorous, but I am seriously considering buying llamas. Now most of you are wondering - where is Jerry going to get a llama? I have done some research and there are several farms here in Colorado that sell llamas. They aren't even that expensive. You can get a good health male that is capable of carrying between 80 - 120 lbs for an inexpensive $500. The next question is what am I going to do with 2 llamas when I am not using them to carry my backpacks for me? My neighbors in Willow Creek do not need to be concerned as I am not going to introduce 2 llamas into my back yard! I have started to investigate various ranchs and farms in which I could board my llama and I have found several in the Parker area. I may not have Mr. and Mrs. Llama at Christmas time, but you can better believe that I will have them by next spring! Thanks and have a llllllllovely llama day tomorrow! ~J.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A question of priorities.....

(I wrote this on Tuesday of this week, but then I never published it. But I can't let a blog post go unpublished!) I am certain this post will be viewed quite controversially. It has to do with the current economic situation and how people are temporarily adapting. Today I was reading an article on MSNBC.Com which talked about how the recession had positively changed people's lives. I couldn't help but view this article in a very cynical manner. Basically the article tells of how people made changes in their lives because they lost their jobs or their homes, etc. The people profiled all stated how much better their lives were and how they were now concentrating on their families, their faith, etc. My problem with these people is if the change coming out of the recession was so positive why did it take a recession to make you come to this viewpoint? My guess is that if they could go back to the "old ways" of doing things, they certainly would. To me it seems like a lot of what they are saying is strictly cosmetics to make them feel better about the things they have lost. In most of the profiles they talk about spending money like it was water back when they had jobs and homes. The people would buy frivilous things that they didn't require and would run up massive amounts of debt. Ok - fine and dandy, you now don't have money so you are making all these "adaptations" to make your lives feel good - going back to school, finding religion, etc. What is going to happen in another six months or a year when you still don't have a job and all the benefits have worn out. How are these people then going to feel about the situation? Why couldn't these people have thought ahead when money was plentiful for them? Why didn't they save more instead of buying silly things that they really didn't need? (I mean who really needs a power boat, an RV, etc.) I just think it is silly and it reflects the fact the America is now a post-empire country. I don't know how we as a nation think we can every recover from this downturn without a ton of sacrifice - without the loss of so many of the privileges that we think are intrinsic to our well-being. Guess what.. people had better get used to living with a lot less and get used to having a different standard of living. And the temporary patches that have been put on lives to get them through some of these dark days are going to wear out and people are going to feel even worse as they realize what our nation has squandered. I am not meaning to sound ungrateful at this time of Thanksgiving as I do not feel that way. I just wish people could learn to appreciate so much more about life before they have to face some kind of loss. Appreciate that which you have now and take some time to save for a rainy day! Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

And the Holiday Season Begins!

That blessed time of year has begun again - the holiday season. For us, I am determined that it will be the best holiday season that we have had in many a year. All the "firsts" of Patty's loss are now long behind us and we are enjoying life and rebuilding our new lives day-by-day. So the Holiday season of 2009 will be a special and magical time for us. We intend to do a lot, share a lot with family and friends and just enjoy the peace and beauty of this season. One of the first things that I did this morning is I put up our Christmas tree. For us this is usually a multi-day affair. We have a very big and very heavy tree. It is stored each year in our storage room in the basement. No matter what I do I must restring a large number of the lights on it each year. That is the first thing that I will do now that the tree is up in the living room. In a short while we are going out to Target to buy some new sets of lights to replace the ones that did not light this year. After the lights are fixed, we will get about the business of putting the ornaments on the tree. Due to the literally hundreds of ornaments that we have, this is sure to take the remainder of the weekend. But come Sunday night we will have a bright, beautiful Christmas tree standing in our living room. Well - we are off to Target to face the "Black Friday" crowds. Wish us luck - LOL! We hope everyone is having a wonderful long holiday weekend! Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Return to Hidden Mesa

It had been awhile since Zack and I did a weekend hike. So on Sunday morning we were up and about early so it was time to resume our hiking activity.
I decided that we would make a return journey to Hidden Mesa. This Douglas County Open Space is located off of highway 83 about 7 miles south of the town of Parker. The area encompassed by this open space is part of the Palmer Divide and true to it's name it is made up of a series of mesas rising up from the plains.
Zack and I first hiked this open space back in December of 2008. During that hike we had one of the most incredible wildlife experiences. As we rounded a bend in the trail we came across a large herd of elk in full run crossing the trail and running up one of the sides of the mesa. It was truly an astounding, beautiful sight of nature.
(For the post about our hike at Hidden Mesa in December of 2008 please see the following link...
(Typical rugged terrain that makes up the Hidden Mesa Open Space.)
We set out to reach the trail head around 8:20AM. We arrived at the trail head parking lot about 8:45 AM and found that there were a number of cars already there. As I surveyed the land, I knew we were in for a rough hike. Not because of the terrain, but because of the condition of the trails. We last received snow the previous weekend and the trails though not snow covered were still coated in mud. Given that we had arrived early enough in the day, the mud was still pretty much frozen solid. But I knew once the sun really set to work, we would be slogging through fields of mud!
The hike starts with a 1/2 mile traverse of a field until you reach a steel and concrete bridge that crosses Cherry Creek. Once across the bridge you immediate hook up with the concrete Cherry Creek bike path. (This is a 50 mile plus bike path that run from Castlewood Canyon State Park, through Cherry Creek State Park and into downtown Denver.) To reach the mesa for which the open space is named, you must walk another 1/2 north on the bike trail before finally arriving at the path that leads into the backcountry and the "Hidden Mesa".
Thoughout most of the hike to this point, Zack and I were continually being "warned" by the Prairie Dogs. They would sit on top their dens making a horrible racket as we approached. As soon as we got too close they would jump down their holes and make off into the safety of their underground warrens. Zack was loving the Prairie Dogs and would stop every 50 feet to look at the most recent one "warning" us.
(One of our friends - the Prairie Dogs! Note how easy it is for him/her to slip right down the burrow into the ground for safety.)
The trail leading into the gulch that winds it's way up to the top of the mesa was starting to warm up enough that Zack and I were slogging our way through a torturous mud pit. As we hiked and worked our way up the gulch we were slipping and sliding on the slick surface of the trails. Eventually we reach a picnic table set into a copse of scrub oak and we took the opportunity to rest and clear some of the mud off of our shoes.
After making our shoes a few pounds lighter we resumed the slog up the gulch. Eventually we came to the very steep section that lead to the very top of the mesa. Given the lack of sun in this particular section of the trail, we were trudging through dirty snow and ice. But at last we broke out on top of the mesa. The view from the top to east and north was fantastic and well worth the hike through the mud. The view to the south and east was very different as it appeared that the top of the mesa went on forever. Though we could see the height and bulk of Pikes Peak far off to the south.
We stopped and enjoyed the view for a while before starting our "slide" back down off the mesa and through the gulch. Unfortunately for us as we walk the situation on got muddier and muddier. It got much worse once Zack slid and fell on his butt. But this time he was practically a creature of mud!
(Zack slogging through the mud near the end of the hike)
We did finally make it out of the mud pit and get back to the concrete of the Cherry Creek Bike Path. As we walked the final leg of the trail back to the car we came across 2 women riding horses. They stopped and let us pet the horses which is always a very nice experience.
(Zack petting one of the horses we saw. This horse kept us amused by continually doing a brrrrrr... sound while we were petting him. I think he like us petting him.)
All-in-all our Sunday hike was a good hike even despite the mud. I am still clearning the mud off of our shoes and hiking gear, but I am sure I will have it clean for another hike by the weekend!
Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hiking Thursday - Dawson Butte

Dawson Butte is an open space located in southern Douglas County between the towns of Castle Rock and Larkspur. This is not a well known open space area that sees a lot of visitors. When Zack and I visited this open space back in September we literal had the entire place to ourselves. When we arrived there was not one car in the entire parking lot. However, when we left there were two other cars there but we didn't see anyone. So if you are looking for solitude it seems likely that this open space can provide it to you.
Dawson Butte open space was formed when Douglas county bought out a ranch in the early 2000's. The center piece of the open space is the aptly named "Dawson Butte". The Butte is a sensitive area for wildlife and is closed to people. However, there is a 5 mile long trail that loops round the entire perimeter of the open space.
(Zack with Dawson Butte in the background.)
The trail winds through a variety of habitat from open meadows that provide excellent forage for elk and mule deer to forest made up of thick stands of pine trees. There is not much elevation gain or loss along the entire trail so it is a relatively easy hike. There are a few areas of elevation change but nothing is significant.
(Zack standing in one of the meadows.)
Zack and I hiked this open space when Zack was in the midst of in anxiety meltdown at the beginning of the school year. It was a great hike for us as it gave us a lot of time to talk. At several points throughout the hike we just sat down in the middle of the trail and talked. I don't know if it did a lot to ease Zack's anxiety but it at least helped me to talk to him about what was going on. Given the solitude of the area, it offered us a perfect opportunity to spend time talking with one another with out interruption from anyone else.
For a quick and easy get away hike from Denver, Dawson Butte is an excellent option that provides lots of good scenery and a not too hard hike.
On a totally different note.... I thought I would acknowledge in this blog that I am seeing someone. I feel it is important to put it out there so she knows the depth of my feelings. I am not going to start naming names as I besides myself, Zack and Nancy I really don't like to put a lot names into this blog. Anyway... it was something that was important and had to be said. Much of what I have accomplished with Zack in recent weeks has been inspired by this wonderful woman's words and thoughts.
I hope everyone is having a great week so far.
Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Interesting Change for Me

One of the key challenges I have faced with Zack has been getting him to sleep in his own bed. When he was younger and Patty was healthy, I was often on the road for work and Patty would let him sleep in our bed. As a result, Zack developed a distinct preference toward sleeping in my bed.
After Patty got sick I went through several phases in which I did the work and got Zack to sleep in his own bed. It was never perfect as he would wake up and come into my bedroom very early in the morning - usually around 3AM. When his anxiety issues would flair up I would back slide and left him resume sleeping in my bedroom.
About a month ago I decided that was it! I was going to get him out of my bed permanently and have him sleep through the night in his own bedroom. This began a classic battle of wills! We fought it out night after night. We would duke it out through argument after argument. Gradually, eventually he began to accept what I was telling him and would sleep in his room. The number of times he got up went from 15 or so to 1 or 2. On Monday night I finally was able to declare victory when I had to go into his room on Tuesday morning and actually wake him to get ready for school. That has NEVER happened before. I don't expect that it will occur every day as it didn't occur this morning. He was up at 6:10AM wanting to come into my room. I refused and he went down stairs to watch TV until I got up.
(My bed...)
The interesting thing about all of this is it's impact on me! For the first time in years - except for when I was travelling I am totally sleeping on my own. Given that Zack sleeps better with the dogs in his room, I am even giving him both dogs to sleep with him. It has been kind of weird adjusting to not having him sleep with me, but in the end run it is really good. I have gotten over the adjustment and I am sleeping very soundly. In fact I think I am probably sleeping better than I have slept in years. So all-in-all it has been a bit of challenge but it has been really good for me!
Not a whole lot to say about our day. A lot of work, a lot of managing issues with Zack and that is about it. We continue to make progress in "Operation Zackie Grow Up". The weather here in Colorado is still cool and we have a blanket of snow on the ground. It will be nice when some of the snow melts off.
Happy "Hump Day" to everyone as the week is now over half over - yippee!
Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Milestone!

Yes - I have reached another blogging milestone! I have now been blogging on this blog for over 1 entire year. Wow! It seems like it was just yesterday when I started this thing. During this past year I have logged over 225 blog posts! I don't know about you, but given all the other stuff that I have going on, I think it is a pretty good to have been able to write over 225 blog posts.
I know I haven't been blogging a lot recently, but it is still something that I really enjoy doing. I love to be able to write and put my thoughts and ideas in a place that they are subject to the critical thinking of the entire world. I am so very thankful for all the readers that I have who diligently write all the stuff that I put out there. I love receiving the comments and thoughts of others. So really - thank you for making my blog what it is!
What else is going on with us?? Umm... A lot! Work for me is difficult for a lot of different reasons. I am doing my best to stay on top of all that is going on, but at times it does seem to spin out of control. Regardless I will succeed at my job and get done what is necessary to get done.
Zack is doing OK with all his issues. We have made some gigantic strides in addressing some of his issues - I will actually write an entry about that later this week. His first trimester report card came in a little over a week ago. It wasn't too bad, it wasn't too good. Given his intelligence level I tend to say that anything less than an A isn't good, but given the situation with his anxiety this trimester, I was OK with B's. He got one C though which did not make me extremely happy!
(Zack doing his homework this afternoon at the kitchen table.)
The weather has been pretty snowy and cold here in Colorado recently. So it has definitely limited our ability to get out and hike. We could head to the mountains and do some snowshoeing I suppose but it seems like every weekend we have something going on. Regardless I think this weekend we will get out an at least do one hike/snowshoe. The leading candidate hike is the Blue Spruce Mountain in Douglas county. With the snow, it should be an excellent hike.
We hope everyone is having a great week so far!
Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Trauma and Tragedy in Willow Creek

This morning as I was heading out to Bonfils for my twice monthly platelet donation, I passed E. Phillips (a street in Willow Creek) and I notice a there was a very large contingent of police present. It was definitely an odd sight for Willow Creek as you rarely see police in our community. When I reached Bonfils and got set up in the donation chair for my platelet donation, I quickly opened up my laptop and went to 9News.Com to see if I could see what was happening in Willow Creek. The lead story on their website was indeed about what was happening in Willow Creek. The story said a homeowner had awoken early in the morning to find a body lying in his front yard. From what they said in the story, the body appeared to be of a male in his 20 or 30's and his death was classified as suspicious. Needless to say this is not a comfortable thing to have happen in your neighborhood. Despite the reassurances of the police it is just the kind of thing that makes you want to lock all your doors and make sure the house is very safe. From what I just read on 9News.Com they are thinking the person was killed somewhere else and was just dumped here in Willow Creek. All of it seems kind of strange to me. Why would some one pick Willow Creek as a place to dump a murder victim? It is just insane! Not much else to report for the day. Nancy had a lengthy doctors appointment. I do have to thank my brother for taking her as I just couldn't fit it into my day. Zack and I did our normal routines - though for whatever reason he was having a lot of anxiety at school today which is not good. We don't have any major plans for our weekend. I am planning on getting up early and hitting the gym but that is about it. Otherwise I think we will spend a lot of time here at home working on stuff. We hope everyone has a great weekend! Thank and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hiking Thursdays - Bluffs Regional Park

As every parent whose kid spends time watching Cartoon Network knows, Thursday is always HarHar Tharsday. Yes - Cartoon Network has renamed Thursday to Tharsday. This has been a consistent theme for a long time. Thinking of this gave me an idea. I need to have some "theme days" for my blog. So, Thursday is now the first theme day of my blog.
So, what do you think my theme for Thursday should be about? It didn't take me much thought to come to a conclusion. Thursday is going to be about hiking and outdoor stuff. So I will provide an update as to what Zack and I have gotten up to in the great outdoors. If we haven't had the chance to do a hike, ski or something else, then I will write about a place we are going to go. I'll also always try and accompany my Thursday posts with some cool pictures of where we have been or where we want to go.
We haven't been out doing much hiking in recent weeks - because of a crazy busy schedule and the snowy weather. I figured I would write about a place very near to our house. It is called Bluffs Regional Park.
This "park" is an open space area that is part of the Douglas County Open Space system. It isn't particularly large as it is only 253 acres. Despite the small size there are still 3.9 miles of trails throughout the park. This open space was established in the late 1990's as a means to protect the dramatic bluffs that make up the northern most part of the Palmer Divide. The City of Lone Tree is continuing to grow right up to the base of the bluffs. Protecting this area has provided deer, elk and other animals critical habitat to survive the continuing onslaught of development in Northern Douglas County.
(This is the typical rolling hill praire land that makes up Bluffs Regional Park.)
We have hiked the 3.2 mile loop through this open space more times than I can count. Yet each time we hike this area, it seems to change based upon the way they sun shines upon the terrain. The terrain that makes up this open space is very hilly with deep gulches running across the area. There are almost no trees located on this open space as it is pretty much wind swept praire. Regardless of it's foreboding quality, it is home to large numbers of mule deer and elk. Though I have never seen any I am quite sure that mountains lion probably also frequent this area at times.
(Views to the north from the lookout points within the park highlight downtown Denver.)
One of the most spectacular aspects of this open space besides it's nature beauty are the views that are afforded of Denver and much of the southern metro area. The bluffs is the highest land mass to the south of Denver for some ways. Looking north from the tops of the hills within the park, you get fantastic views of the Denver Tech Center and Downtown Denver. The views are very well worth the effort required to hike to the top of two lookout points. You can get fabulous pictures of downtown Denver and the entire surrounding area. (I am planning on doing a photographic study at some point by taking pictures from one of the lookouts at many different times of day.)
(Some of the mule deer that make Bluffs Regional Park their home.)
During the summer this area is home to many rattlesnakes. As a result I tend to shy away from it during the summer months as I really don't get along with the rattlesnakes too well. Given it's closeness we will definitely hike the Bluff many times this fall and winter!
Our day was pretty much a normal kind of Thursday for us. Nancy is continuing to recover from her hospital stay of the prior week. Her biggest challenge right now is getting up and about and getting stronger. Today was the best she has done in terms of spending time out of bed. Hopefully she will continue to work hard and get her strength back.
Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November and the descending darkness...

Another year is beginning to wind down. I suppose every year starts to wind down from January 1st of that year. But with the start of November it seems as like a year is beginning to come to an end. One of the things that makes this seem even more obvious to me, is the end of Daylight Savings Time. The yearly end of Daylight Savings Time is one of the most distressing yearly events to me. For whatever reason it comes as such a shock to my system. When it is only 4:30PM and the sun begins to go down, it just fills my body with a sense of dread. This sense of dread lasts for about the first week of Standard Time, before I begin to adjust to the new reality. That first week of adjustment is now almost over and my body and mind are beginning to feel comfortable with this new season of few waking hours of daylight. But I still cannot escape the fact that 2009 has less than 60 days to go. It seems as though this year has bearly been with us and the preparations for it's end are already beginning. Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner. Speaking of these holidays have you yet begun your preparations for these holidays? Gosh - it is time to start thinking of Christmas Card lists and dates for holiday parties. I am hoping before we reach the time to send Christmas Cards I will be able to take a good picture of a winter scene. I would love nothing more this year then to have my own Christmas Cards made from a picture that I have taken. But that means I need to get to the mountains or somewhere in the outdoors to find a suitable landscape to photograph. With all the activities that are coming up during the following weekends, I am not sure that is going to happen! Things have been moving slowly for us these last several days. Nancy is now home from the hospital but still needs a fair amount of assistance to get around and to do things. So for the most part we are staying close to home while she gains her strength. Zack is doing OK and despite Nancy being hospitalize hasn't had any major anxiety issues occur. I was surprised by this as I expected him to have a much greater negative reaction to Nancy being hospitalized. But... he is doing OK. Yesterday I was reminded that I need to be more timely with my blog posts again. I was in Boulder yesterday for several meetings that I wanted to conduct face-to-face. During that time I went to lunch with a friend who I have worked with for many years. She kind of gave me a little kick in the butt for being so slow and infrequent in my blog post recently. I am going to try to keep more current. Hopefully there won't be any other emergencies (hospitilizations, anxiety melt downs, etc) to keep me from writing. We hope everyone is having a great week! Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Did I offend the God's????

Let me be clear, the title of today's post is a J O K E! As I would hope you all know by now, I am a very most optimistic, hopeful, positive person. In many cases I think I have been offered the challenges in life I have faced because I do have the capability and capacity to face these challenges and surmount them. So, what is the latest challenge? Nancy is now sick and in hospital. She has a severe case of colitis. This condition is a significant inflamation and irration of the lining of the intestine. There are many potential causes of it, but in Nancy's case the current belief is that it being caused by a bacterial infection. Nancy had been feeling back all last week. I took her to the doctor last Thursday and there wasn't much done for her at that point. She began to feel even worse on Friday and by Saturday I told her that she really needed to go to the emergency room. I really left it up to her, but there was no way I could have imagined her making it through the weekend without seeking medical attention. After she hemmed and hawed around for much of Saturday morning but I finally got her into the ER around 1:00PM. Of course it took hours for the doctors to determine what the course of action was and we didn't find out until almost 9:00PM that she was going to be admitted. They did a complete series of test upon her including a CT scan of her abdomin, an echogram of her upper abdominal quadrant, loads of blood counts and lots of different kinds of cultures. So she has been in the hospital since Saturday afternoon getting loaded up with all kinds of IV antibiotics to fight the perceived infection in her intestine. Unfortunately because of the hospital regulations she has not been out of bed hardly at all since Saturday. I am NOT happy about this as her physical condition is rapidly declining. Today I spoke to both the nurses and her doctors about getting physical therapy ordered. The agreed to it but as far as I could tell when I visited Nancy this evening nothing happened. So... I will have to be all over them tomorrow! I think Zack is feeling the stress and strain of not having Nancy around the house and his anxiety levels have ratcheted up again. I am trying to keep him in check so that he doesn't totally and completely start down the meltdown path again. That is something I do not want to have to deal with right now. On top of all this, Zack is on Fall Break this week. Our original plans had been to take off and head to the mountains for several days, but needless to say this is not going to happen. So instead of taking vacation I worked today and will work tomorrow. I will be looking for fun things for Zack to do to make up for the lost vacation time. We hope everyone's week is off to a great start! Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Night for Neither Man or Beast

The cold winds of winter are beginning to blow through the Colorado Rockies today. Snow is falling and the landscape is turning white with the promise of an early winter ahead. Even the animals seem to sense that this change in the weather is the true beginning of winter. The squirrels despite the snow and cold were making last ditch efforts to pack on the food before everything is frozen and still. One audacious little bugger even came right up on to my front porch and made a meal of the cool little pumpkin I had there as a decoration.
So tonight Zack and I are hibernating all warm and comfy in our home. I am in my element as I sit here in my office typing away with some wonderful music playing in the background and the glow of the coals in my fireplace filling the room right outside my office door.
Tonight is the kind of night that leads to lots and lots of thoughts running through your head. My mind is lost on the thoughts of friends scattered far and wide across this world tonight. I don't know why this kind of weather makes me feel very thoughtful and deep, but I am so very thankful for all those people in my life. I am so thankful for that little man who is right now upstairs doing his marvelous trick of watching TV and playing a computer game at the same time. (Good god, what does that say about my parenting skills!!!)
Sometimes you just have to step outside of the day-to-day existence and really give thanks for all that you have and all that you hold dear. And tonight I am very thankful and want to do as much as I can to give back.
On a totally different note, one of my friend's fathers is currently in surgery in a hospital in Northern Colorado in a struggle for his life. If you don't mind give him a good thought, say a pray, spin your pray wheel - (whatever it is that you do to express your spirituality) for him so that he pulls out of this difficult spot.
Have a great evening! Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Adventures in Western Pennsylvania

Last Friday - October 16, 2009 I took a trip that I hadn't taken in over 5 years. It was a trip of distance, memory and emotion. For the first time in more than 5 years I travelled back to my childhood home in Western Pennsylvania. The last time I travelled back there my life and my outlook on life were very different. In some ways this trip was about putting the last of the ghosts of my old life behind me. But, I also didn't realize to what extent that I would renew old friendships and pathways by taking this journey. I left Denver on Friday using a United Airlines frequent flyer ticket. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the days of me being a 1K flyer on United are long past. So I ended up in the last row of an Airbus A320 in the middle seat. Given my size it really isn't a big deal to me as I still have a fair amount of room even in a middle seat. I just kind of think it is funny as about every flight I have taken in the last year I have ended up in the last row of the airplane. On the way to and from Paris, Zack and I there were in the last row. When we went to Las Vegas in the spring we were there in the last row. When I went to Scotland in February I was there in the last row. I kind of chuckle to myself now when I look at my boarding card and I realize - "Yep another back seat trip". As soon as I arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday evening I realized why I had left Western Pennsylvania. The skies were filled with clouds and rain. The kind of sky and weather I experienced in Western Pennsylvania we only experience maybe once or twice a year in Colorado. I suppose the rain, fog and clouds are part of the allure of Western Pennsylvania as it makes the sunny, cloudless days that much more appealing. Friday evening was spent catching up with my sister Lesley. We met at Primanti Bros in the Strip District and had dinner. I of course had to have one of the famous Primanti Bros ungodly large sandwiches. I had a steak and cheese sandwich. These aren't just sandwiches as they are entire meals on bread. Every Primanit Bros sandwich has both coleslaw and french fries on it along with lots of other stuff.

(Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington with the clouds hanging low during Friday's storm.)

After leaving Primanti Bros, I headed on down memory lane! First stop was Mt. Washington. The view wasn't that great because of the rain and clouds but it was really neat. On the way down off the bluff, I nearly hit two dear that were out strolling along the road on that very steep hillside. After Mt. Washington I did the entire South Side and Oakland. I was unhappy to see that the club that replaced the "Upstage" in Oakland is finally gone. Argh... one key piece of my wasted college years as a new wave 80's rocker is gone! I ended up driving around various areas of Pittsburgh for several hours more before I finally decided to head to my hotel which was in Greensburg. The town of Greensburg is about 45 miles to the southeast of Pittsburgh. The population of the town is roughly 16,000 people with a total of 60,000 or so living in the surrounding area. Greensburg was really the destination of my trip as I was in town for my high school 25th reunion. I had attended Greensburg Central Catholic for high school and graduated from there in 1984.

The Comfort Inn on Route 30 outside of Greensburg was where I was staying for my 2 days in town. I arrived there around 10:00PM or so on Friday night. Needless to say I was tired and besides reading for a while, I pretty much went right to bed.

Saturday morning dawned gray and cold - just like it had been when I went to bed on Friday night. The previous evening I had made arrangements to meet up with my sister Lesley again for breakfast. My original plans of taking a hike on the Laurel Ridge Trail near Somerset were out the window as I was just not in the mood to hike in the rain.

I met up with my sister at her home in Norvelt - she has purchased my parents old home. We decided to take a drive up to the top of Chestnut Ridge and have breakfast at Brady's right off of Route 31. Instead of heading straight up the Kecksburg hill, we took a route through Mount Pleasant and then drove route 31 up Chestnut Ridge. After a good and filling breakfast we were off. I didn't have any particular places in mind to see so I drove off meandering through the Laurel Highlands. We visited all kinds of places that had played a significant role in my earlier life. They are too numerous to name, but it was good to go back and see these places.

(Fall foliage at Laurel Hill State Park outside of Somerset.)

I dropped my sister off back at her house around 1:00PM as she had to catch a flight to Boston from at 5:00PM. She needed to pack and get down to the Pittsburgh airport in time for her flight.

After dropping her off I continued my meandering around. I stopped and visit my parents graves at St. Stanislaus Cemetary in Calumet. It had been on the order of 6 or 7 years since I had visited their graves. Not that it was something I had to do or anything - but with my interest in genealogy, I also find it good to visit the graveyards in which members of my family are buried.

I visited many other places that afternoon and I confronted much of my past that I had yet to confront. It was important for me to visit some of the places I had visited. Some of those places had played a significant role in Patty's and my lives before we moved to Colorado. As such, I think I have taken some additional significant steps to confront and purge myself of many of the ghosts from my past. I really do feel like I have the capability and capacity to move forward with my life.

I won't go into any detail about the reunion itself in this post. Needless to say it was fun, interesting and really great to catch up with a lot of people. I renewed many relationships that have long been dormant. I am greatly looking forward to once again building on those relationships.

Well - for now that is it for the night. I hope everyone's week is off to a great start. Yeah - for everyone in Denver I know that is the case as the Broncos beat the Chargers. (I am still not a 100% Broncos lover... It's better now that Shanahan is gone, but still it is hard for me to swallow routing for the Broncos!)

Thanks and peace to all. - J.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Plans and more plans....

I had a great idea for a blog post this evening but I got to admit, I am just too tired to write it. The post is about wines. I want to write about the wines I have discovered to be really good over the last 6 - 12 months as I have been experimenting with and trying a lot of different wines. I am tired tonight as I just feel emotionally worn out. Zack has been giving me fits since he got home from school today. Getting him to bed this evening was such a chore as he was really on the anxiety rollercoaster. I am not sure what set it off but these last 2 days have been difficult. I think it might have had to do with the fact that I told him he was once again going to be transitioning back into his own bedroom. Since his most recent anxiety attack in August he has been sleeping with me in my bed. But... that time has to come to an end as I am rapidly growing tired of it. Some other subjects I plan to write on in the near future are some of the hikes we have taken in the last several months. We have been doing too much hiking but we have had a couple of good ones that I really need to write about. Provided I actually go - I want to write a blog post about my 25th high school class reunion which is taking place this coming Saturday in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Anyway - I am exhausted but I did want to post something tonight. I will write a much better and longer post tomorrow when I am feeling a tab bit more perky! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Burning

Fire is supposed to cleanse and reinvigorate. It is suppose to take away and destroy all those things whose time has come. For the last several weeks I have been burning. I have been burning the remains of much of my old life. With the coming of cold weather here in Denver, I have lit my wood burning stove that I have in my basement and have had fires almost every day. I have burnt through about an 1/8 of a cord of wood in the last 3 - 4 weeks. On top of the wood, I have been burning things from the past that have needed to go. In particular, I have been burning many of my late wife Patty's personal belongings. I hated the thought of just throwing these things out to molder and rot in a garbage dump. (Most of these are things that cannot be donated to charity.) Instead I have burnt them. Each day I make a decision to burn another set of these things. At first I thought it would be really hard to do this but I have realized that there is a sense of liberation as I burn these things. It is as if I am truly setting Patty free and letting her "cross over to the other side". It is not as if I am driving Patty from my life as that is definitely not the case. It is that I am not using her memory as crutch to get through life. Patty has been gone for 454 days now. (No I don't count it. I have a spreadsheet that I track all my athletic activity. In it I have a column called - days without Patty. It gets incremented everyday automatically - so I just need to look at that column to see how long she has been gone.) Patty's memory is more precious to Zack and me now then when she died as we have forgotten about so many of the painful things we endured during her illness. Instead we only focus now on the loving and good things we experienced with her. Regardless though, it is time for her earthly things to be gone from our day-to-day lives. So the things that can be donated are being donated. The things that can be burnt are being burnt. The things I want to have for Zack when he is older are going into storage. And the keepsakes and memories are being put in their right places. I think it is fitting that I am burning these things as we had Patty cremated. But I know she understands that it is time for these things to exit Zack and my lives right now. We still love and miss you immensely Rae, but we know you approve that we are moving on with our earthly lives. We hope everyone had a great weekend. It was an amazing football weekend - how about those Stillers (Steelers in Pittsburghese) and Broncos. Never thought I would see this with the Broncos! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Our Next Step in Environmental Activity

From many of the blog entries I have written in the past I am sure most people can tell that I follow a liberal brand of politics. One of the things I do not believe I have talked much about is my belief in environmentalism and stewardship for this earth. In many of our day-to-day activities here at home we try and practice as much environmentalism as is humanly possible. no we still own cars and stuff like that, but we try and recycle as much as we can. We limit what we use as much as we can.
In keeping with this vision I am continually on the lookout for new and better ways to be environmentally conscious. One of my most recent methods for being environmentally responsible has been the addition of a composter to our home. While watching a show on the History Channel called Modern Marvels, Zack and I became aware of a compact composter that can be purchased called a NatureMill. After some debate I decided to purchase one of these composters.
The composter arrived on October 1 and I didn't get a chance to get it up and running until last weekend. We started the composter off with all the starter material that was advised by the manufacturer and we added our table scraps for a several meals I made over the weekend and early this week. It is absolutely amazing to watch this work and turn what would normally be viewed as garbage into rich and fertile compost! It only took several days for this process to occur - which to me is absolutely amazing. I am very much looking forward to continuing to use this composter to grow and develop a rich source of compost for our flowerbeds and garden. I am quite sure next fall I will harvesting record sized pumpkins, melons and other fruits and vegetables.
This is just one of the many environmental activities I have planned for our home in the coming years. Some of the other projects include - replacingthe old and worn original windows in the house, placing sky lights at strategic points throughout the house to limit our need for electric lighting and the installation of solar panels on the roof. Now of these are huge game changers but I am sure they will help lessen our impact on this earth.
We hope everyone's weekend is off to a great start!
Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Comfort, Peace and Contentment

As I sit here at my kitchen table penning tonights blog entry, I have a lot of thoughts on my mind. But the key thing that I am thinking about is the sense of comfort and security that my son and I have built in our life together. Zack and I have formed a perfect little team that can work through just about any issue. Despite the anxiety issues that Zack has faced we are still marching step-by-step together and getting through life. I had one of those moments of profound internal peace and contentment when we sat down to dinner tonight. I had made a dinner of meatloaf, mash potatoes and veggies. Though it was only the two of us as Nancy didn't want to eat dinner when we did, Zack and I had a marvelous time. We did our normal routine and had the radio on with some classical music playing and we just talked. It was a very good time and we felt very much a family even though it was the two of us. I don't know - it is hard to describe what we have. It is hard to describe the peace that I feel that even knowing Patty isn't here with us we are still a family and we have contentment within ourselves. I feel sad for people who can't accept what they have and who are always searching for something more. Sometimes it is good just to be happy and accept what life gives us. Zack and I will be forever happy as long as we have each other. Even if we end up on opposite ends of the world once he is grown, we will still always have one another and in that there is such great peace and contentment. I hope you all can have that same kind of peace and contentment in your lives. Thanks and peace to all! -J.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Something you don't see everyday....

So today I saw something that you normal don't see everyday anymore. I was going into a grocery store and I saw someone using a pay phone. Think about it - when was the last time you saw someone using a pay phone? As I watched this woman talking on the pay phone I tried to remember the last time I actually used a pay phone myself. I had a very hard time remembering when that was. I came to the conclusion that the last time I used a pay phone was when I was in Europe in 2005. Back then I didn't have a good international dialing plan for my cell phone, so I shied away from using my cell phone and instead used pay phones and my international calling card.
There were a couple of interesting things to think about in this whole concept. The first is how things have changed. Back in the 1990's pay phones were everywhere. I can remember how hard it was to get a pay phone booth at the airport, because they were always in use. Today, the same places that housed all those pay phones are empty or filled with internet kiosks. Even now, the whole concept of an Internet kiosk is going the way of the dodo bird because everyone has smart phones.
The second thing I found interesting from this whole thought process was just figuring out the last time you did something that you no longer do. For me this was the whole issue of "when was the last time I used a pay phone". But there are so many other things that this whole issue of "the last time" applies to. As an adult, think about it, can you imagine the last time you... watched a cartoon, played with an action figurine, had to study for a test, played on a playground, etc. There are so many things that we do in life that we do for the last time, but we never realize. I think it is fascinating to try and figure out some of those last times. Maybe I am just a sentimental fool, but it is something that I think is really interesting to think about.
Well with that thought I am off to kick back and watch some TV before I go to bed for the night.
Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Hot Tub Experience

It is October, so that means it is the beginning of hot tub season in this area of Colorado. The summer nights in the Denver Metro area are not times that are particular great for hot tubbing. It is really no fun to be in 100 degree water when the outside ambient air temperature is approaching 80 degrees. So by the beginning of June of every year I tend to turn off the hot tub for the summer and drain it. Once the leaves begin to change and we get into the end of September/beginning of October, it is time to scrub the hot tub out and get it filled up with water. During this summer I had my brother do some work on the hot tub and replace all the worn and crappy looking wood on the outside. Even though this hot tub is now at least 15 - 20 years old it looks brand new again. My hot tub was here when we bought the house in 2004. At first I really had no interest in using it as it just seemed like such a pain in the butt. However, I gradually started to get interested in getting it up and running in the summer of 2007. So I made the decision at that point to have a hot tub repair guy come in and take a look at the thing from top to bottom. Though it hadn't been used in several years and it was at least 15 years old at the time, the repair man found it to be in good shape with the exception of regular maintenance. So we took care of the maintenance items and got it up and running.

(Our hot tub!)

Zack and I have enjoyed our hot tub for the last 2 winters and we are definitely looking forward to this winter. Given the amount of work that I have done to clean and organize our basement we now have a fairly nice place to come into after hanging out in the hot tub. Tonight we used the hot tub for the first time of the 2009/2010 winter. It was great as the temperature outside was just perfect for being in the hot tub. Our day was pretty uneventful. Zack did OK in school today and didn't get kicked out. (When his anxiety flairs up too much and he has a bad day, he gets "kicked out" for the day and I have to go and pick him up.) It's not exactly a fun thing, but I do understand to some degree as his teacher has to manage to continue to teach. This evening we started a program to help him deal with the loss of Patty. We are going to a program at St. Anthony's Luthern church in Highlands Ranch called "Rainbows". It is for kids who have lost a parent or whose parents are going through a divorce. I am hoping it will be a good program for him. We hope everyone had a great Monday! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Reboot

My last blog post was on September 15, 2009. This is clearly the longest I have gone without posting an update to the blog. The basic reasons for why I haven't posted have been simple - my life has been way too busy and I have been in too great of a state of turmoil. The time of day in which I have normally written my blog entries was late at night. In the recent past I have been just too exhausted to do it because of all that has been going on with Zack and all that I have been doing with work. I intend to get back to my normal routine of making a blog entry a day. I like chronicling my life through this blog. It is fun and it allows me to interact with many people. Today has been a busy Saturday for me. No there have been no great adventures of scaling mountains or long hikes. Today's activities have been prosaic and about putting our life in order. Over the last 3 years a lot of things went undone - important things and low-key things. There has been a lot to catch up upon. Over the last two months I have been on a crusade to complete many of those things that have been undone. The most important of which has been addressing many issues in my house. During Patty's illness stuff just didn't get done. I gave up large portions of the house to being storage rooms because I didn't have time to deal with stuff. Room-by-room I am reclaiming my house. A great illustration of this point is that I am writing this blog entry from my office. My office is a great room and I just didn't spend any time in while Patty was ill and during the year since her death. Over the last 2 weeks I have reclaimed this room from the storage room it had become. It is organized and put back together. It feels good to be here writing at my desk and feeling at home again in this wonderful room. The same is true for the basement. Slowly but surely it is being organized and cleaned up. I will not let it fall into disuse again! To top it off I have a great incentive to keep it clean - I have my hot tub up and running. It is ready for another season for late night dips in the buff. God - I love doing that. (I suppose I shouldn't advertise that - my neighbors might try and take a peek at me slipping into it butt naked!) So I have worked and worked today to clean things up and organize. Unfortunately for whatever reason, Zack has been feeling under the weather for most of the day. He is having some stomach pain. So he has done a whole lot. I plan to change that tomorrow with an active and invigorating hike for us early in the morning! So - I am back and you will see a lot more blog posts flowing from my computer again. It is hard to believe but in only 1 month I will celebrate the one year anniversary of this blog! Gees - time sure does fly when you are having fun! We hope everyone is having a great weekend so far! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Harry Potter and Us

Ok - I haven't posted a lot in this blog about my late wife Patty. But after seeing this article, I couldn't do anything but post this! Patty is going bonkers with joy somewhere is all I can say. Patty was the BIGGEST fanatic! She would be so excited to go to this theme park. From 2000 onward we as a family were so Harry Potter-centric. I am sure we must have watched the movies hundreds of times each. Additionally, Patty read each of the books at least a dozen times. Shortly before she died I told Patty the outcome of the final Harry Potter book. She had wanted to read it herself but she never got the chance. Anyway - I am sure we will be going to this new theme park!
Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where We Have Been....

Since I started this blog almost 10 months ago, this is the longest I have gone without writing a blog post. A debate has raged in my head over whether or not to even write this entry as to where we have been. The last several weeks have been a time of great personal pain and suffering for both Zack and me. Since our return from France in mid-August Zack has been suffering greatly from anxiety and fear. The situation reached such drastic proportions that at times Zack was entirely frozen by his anxiety. The root cause of all that ails Zack is ultimately the loss of Patty in July of 2008. As much as I and Zack's psychologist felt that he was "over" things in May of this year, it was definitely not the case. The anxiety, sorrow and grief over Patty's passing has continued to exist in his mind and soul. Due to the severity of this "outbreak" of anxiety, I have had to take some pretty serious steps to try and resolve the problem. Last week I even pulled Zack out of school for the week and had him attend a day program to help with his situation. Unfortunately this program didn't offer any really help and in fact made the situation worse. Thankfully, I have had the wonderful support of many people in terms of trying to work Zack through this situation. Without their help I am sure I would be going insane. At first as this whole trauma started again I felt very isolated and alone. But in the past several days there have been many people who have rallied around Zack to help and support him. For this I am forever grateful. Despite all that we have experienced and all that Zack has suffered through during these last 3 years, I am full of optimism and hope for his future. I believe in him. I believe that he will make it through anything that comes his way. He is strong and he has endured much more than you would expect any 11 year old to have endured. I will be back to my normal blogging habits in the near future. However for now I will be dedicating almost all of my free time to Zack and helping him through this current crisis. We planning on resuming our "adventures" as soon as is humanly possible. Til later! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Night of the Orange Moon

Tonight is a night in which I still had my digital SLR camera. I have been sitting on my back deck for a good bit of the night drinking beer just staring at the moon. It isn't a full moon tonight, but because of the wild fires in California, it is an orange moon. Honestly, it looks like a partial orange has been thrown into the sky in the place of the moon. It has a very interesting and haunting look to it. It would be very cool to take a time sequence picture of this orange moon as it transits the sky - so that is why I wish I had not dropped my camera and destroyed it. I should be in bed or doing something productive, but tonight the six pack of Corona beer that I have had in my refrigerator for the last month has been calling my name. So I sit here on the swing staring at this odd but beautiful moon. The fact that this beautiful moon is being created by the destructive wildfires is a downer as how could something so beautiful come out of such a horrible event. Is there a lesson in this? Umm... I don't know, as I am really not a philsophical person. I guess a person could search for a lesson in this and say "there is a silver lining to every cloud". Or perhaps the saying could be "even in destruction there is beauty". Regardless, it is a neat looking moon! So if you live in Denver and haven't looked at the moon, I would suggest you do it. Even in you are in your pj's get up and take a look at the orange moon as it is pretty neat. Last night's moon was surrounded by a halo of different colors, so it seems as though we are in for a show each night while the fires burn and we have lots of smoke filling the sky. Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ten Years is a long time!

In the midst of dealing with Zack and his anxiety on a day-to-day basis I somehow forgot what yesterday was. I remember what it was on Friday, but then when Saturday rolled around I totally forgot about it. You all are probably wondering what I am talking about. Ten years ago yesterday, August 29, my Mom died. To me it seems like it was a million years ago. It is funny as I don't even really think about it hardly at all any more. Of course, ten years ago it was the center of everything that was going on at the time. It is interesting how ten years can change your perspective on an event and make it remote past history. I don't mention this anniversary because I want to call out any pain or suffering. I just mentioned it because it is part of my past and yet it is so utterly and completely removed from where I am today. My Mom died after a 14 month battle with pancreatic cancer so it was an event that was actually expected after a while. It was quite traumatic at the time, but given where I have been since there many been many greater traumas. My keep point in writing this entry is just to contemplate the difference ten years makes in your life. It is huge. The wounds of ten years ago are just the long distance memories of today. It is amazing how time changes everything. I hope everyone had a great weekend! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Lot of Hard Work Ahead

It has been several days since I last posted an entry here on the blog. I have slow to blog for a number of reasons. The first is I continue to deal with issues with Zack and his anxiety. Given how difficult this time has been for Zack I have just not had the desire to broadcast the situation across the world. Thankfully he has started to show some signs of improvement but we still have a lot of work ahead of us to get him back to a state of normalcy.
A second reason I have withheld my posts is that I am just feeling somewhat beat upon. I do try and put as much of my life on this blog as possible. But there are certain things that I just don't want to talk about. Additionally, I do put my "spin" on what I write. As a result, what I write is strictly my interpretation of events. It is not necessarily the same way that some one else may see events occur. I am not a reporter. Therefore, my viewpoints are just that viewpoints. I have had several people have problems with what I write and I am a tab bit tired of that. So please if you have problems with what I write, please do the following: 1 - Stop reading, 2 - keep it yourself, or 3 - start your own blog with your version of events. Sorry - this is just something that has bothered me since before we left for Europe.
I don't believe that the weekend holds any major adventures for us. I had contemplated going out for a hike today, but I was just too tired this morning and had a nasty sinus headache. So.... no adventures for me to write about.
We hope everyone is having a great weekend!
Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Epiphany

Today was Zack's first day of school for the 2009/2010 school year. With it the start of school today has brought an epiphany for me. In the last 2 weeks I have really struggled with the problem of Zack's anxiety. His anxiety levels have reached such dreadful levels that it has left me questioning my sanity. Today brought acceptance from me. I have realized that his anxiety is just a consequence of what has occurred since 2006. I just need to accept it, deal with it and move on. I think up to this point I have fought it tooth and nail. I have desperately tried to make it not happen. I have tried to avoid the reality of what my son has gone through. Well - that time is up. I have come to peace with what he is suffering through and have determined that I can handle it. I can deal with his countless questions of "Are any of my fears true". I can and will help him overcome this issue as opposed to just fighting him over it. Beside my epiphany the day has not provided a lot to blog about. One of the reason I have not had a lot to blog about is that work is taking up an increasing large amount of my time. I wish it weren't so, but we are now 4 months away from the deployment of a very large ERP system and my work load seems to be increasing by the day. However, I will find the time and wearwithal to continue my blogging. As I look at my blog entries for the last month I feel like I have let myself down and I need to do a better job. As always - thanks and peace to all! - J.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Behind on my blogging

I am sure you have all probably noticed that I have posted a blog entry in a couple of days. I am definitely behind that is for sure!
The reason for my delay in posting is that I have been dealing with some substantial issues with Zack. As many of you know Zack has had a hard time dealing with the death of his mom. The issues have manifested themselves in Zack having a relatively severe anxiety complex. At the beginning of the summer Zack's therapist felt we could really ramp down his treatment - as did I. In late July - shortly after the anniversary of Patty's death, Zack began to exhibit signs of anxiety again. During our trip to Europe he managed to cope with the situation pretty well with all the stimulus and excitement of being overseas. Unfortunately when we returned home last week his anxieties kind of exploded upon him.
All this week it has been a battle to get him not to be paralyzed by fear. This has taken an extraordinary amount of effort on my part to keep him going. We are now doing multiple sessions per week with his therapist order to get him over this current hump. I guess it is not unexpected that he would have difficulties. Zack and Patty were extremely close and he has really suffered a lot from her death.
The bottom line is that I will do anything for Zack to get these issues resolved. It is going to take some time and Zack is going to have to put in a lot of effort himself, but we will get over this current situation.
I hope everyone is having a great weekend.
Thanks and peace to all - J.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Purpose of the Journey

As I wrote last week upon our return from Paris, I intend to write a number of different blog entries about our trip. This is the first of those entries, but it doesn’t directly address the trip – instead this entry focuses on the purpose of travel. From an early age my viewpoints about travel were driven by stories of adventure and exploration. I wanted to travel to see all the different sites and go to all the exotic places that the world had to offer. Obviously this was probably a very na├»ve view about what travel meant.

As I got older and I found that my viewpoints about travel were still influenced by writers. In the last 10 years or so it has been the like of writers like Bill Bryson, Michael Palin and Paul Theroux who have influenced my thinking. Theroux has had the biggest influence upon my views of travel. In its most basic form, his philosophy about travel is that it is the journey that matters and not the destination. In fact, very rarely if ever is his travel writing about a destination – it is all about the journey and ultimately what he has discovered about himself as a result of the journey.

For our trip to Europe I selected several books to take with me to read. As I mentioned in a previous post, one of them was the book the “Gold of Troy”. The other was Paul Theroux’s “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star”. This was a book that I had started back in March but I had put down to concentrate on some other projects. There wouldn’t be a better time to read this book than during our trip. I immediately launched into this book once we boarded our first on the journey to Paris. The thought 12 hours of time isolated to myself (well – with Zack in tow) during which I would have no interruptions, no phone calls, no e-mails was a grand thought. Despite being confined to an airplane I had this wonderful book to consume. It would be a good flight – and it was!

As I opened the book and began its consumption, my thoughts immediately turned to what is the real point of this trip and all the other trips I have taken. What do I remember the most of all these trips around the world that I have taken in the last 7 years? I would dare say my memories are not of the countless monuments, cathedrals, government buildings and historic sites I have seen. No – my memories are of the Czech soldiers with whom I shared a train carriage and whole lot of beer during a memorable train ride across the Czech Republic. My memories are of the toothless old man in a small town in India who invited me in to see the mosque of which he was the custodian. My memories are of the prostitutes in Frankfurt who tried to entice me with their “goods”. Those are the things that I remember the most – the people and the experiences that we shared. I still have my list of hundreds if not thousands of “things” I want to see in my travels. In reality I have several lists – one list is of the things listed in the “1000 Things To See Before You Die” book. Another list is of all the sites listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. I even have a list of all the National Parks in the United States. I will work very hard to check as many things off these lists as possible, but the purpose of my travel will be to learn more of myself – to take experiences, ideas and thoughts away from everyone I meet along the journey. Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A New WITWIZ.....

Happy Sunday to everyone! This morning there is a chill in the air and it is starting to look like we are moving into fall already. The long term weather forecast for Colorado this year is that we might have an early winter. Some of the weather forecasters on the TV have actually said we might see snow in September or October! Yikes!
We really didn't have much of a summer in Colorado this year. The temperatures for the most part were much lower than normal and we had much more rain (and even snow) than normal. It is of course sad to bid farewell to summer but it is the natural cycle of things. We still have a week until Zack heads back to school, but we are already focused on what we need to do to get ready. Later this week I will be heading out to Target, WalMart or Office Depot to get Zack all of his school supplies for the year.
I still have a couple of WITWIZ (Where in the World is Zack) that I want to post. Here is today's... good luck!
Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back to Normal Life....

First of all - the answer to the WITWIZ question from the other day is the Queen's Village at the Palace of Versailles. The Queen's Village is a reproduction of a French Village that was built on the grounds of Versailles at the request of Marie Antoinette. It was built near the Petit Trianon which was a palace at Versailles that she pretty much took over to be her own. It is very interesting to see this little "village" mixed in with all these palaces and signs of royalty. The village is maintained as a working farm so there are many different farm animals around - horses, goats, sheep, donkeys, chickens, etc. We are slowly but surely recovering from the jet lag. We are sleeping lots and going to sleep at early hours. But we will recover and get ready to return to the "normal" world on Monday. I am working on my writing from our trip but it will probably take me a while to work through everything and write it the way I want. I will post some more pictures here and on Facebook. On top of getting Zack ready for school, I have a ton to do in relationship to work and the house. These next several weeks are going to be busy, busy, busy as I try and get through all the things I have to do. But it will feel good to be concentrating on things here at home after our vacation! Anyway - that is it for this early Saturday morning. We hope everyone is having a great weekend! Thanks and peace to all! - J.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A brief thought on the journey and another WITWIZ (Where in the world is Zack?)

We are back in Colorado. After leaving our hotel in Paris at 8:30AM local time (12:30AM Denver time) Thursday morning we arrived home around 7:15PM. We are tired so I am quite sure we will sleep very well this evening. It was a great trip and we are sorry that it is over but it is also very good to be home. There is a definite reward in the journey, but there is also a feeling of happiness and contentment when the journey is completed and you once again rest in your own bed and own home. I plan to do a lot of writing regarding the trip but it will take me some time to organize my thoughts. I have taken notes and want to present a tale of our experiences not just as a verbatim playback of what we did on what day. Yes - if you want, travel can be all about checking a box to say "I was there", but I feel the heart and the soul of the journey is the experience, the people you meet and the thoughts and feelings that move through your mind with each new experience. In the meantime I have a couple more "Where in the World is Zack?" games to play. I have to admit, Zack and I are having a lot of fun with this so I am thinking of making it a regular addition to the blog. Once or twice a week, I'll play the game - at first with locations Zack and I have visited and then if you the readers continue to be interested in it, I dig up other locations. Anyway - for now here is the 4th installment of where in the world is Zack! Though it may look simple it is a famous place. I think this is the hardest one yet and I will provide clues tomorrow if no one gets it. Til later - thank and peace to all! - J. 1:00PM Denver time Friday - I have held back correct answer in the comments to see if anyone else can come up with it. For a clue I would say... "The residents of this village most likely ate cake".

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where in the world is Zack? This one is TOUGH!

So... Everyone has been able to figure out the other two "Where in the World is Zack?" photos. If you can figure this one out... Umm... You are darn good. Not that Zack and I are Francophils or anything, I just figure this one is tough. Good luck with your guesses!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where in the world is Zack - Part II - A little harder!

Zack and I are back in our hotel room after a good dinner at a little cafe in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Zack had a crepe with eggs, bacon and cheese and I had a beef dish that was a lot like beef burgandy (spelling). All-in-all a good evening meal, but then they have all been good.
We liked the "where in the world is Zack game", so we have added another picture. This one is tougher.... Until I was there myself, I would have never guessed it. A couple of clues... it is very famous (at least to some Europeans) and it is not necessarily near Paris. Good luck on your guesses - and thanks for playing - LOL!

Where in the world is Zack?

Zack and I thought we would play a little game. We decided to make it easy for this first one. So... Where in the world is Zack?

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Gold of Troy

Today Zack got a package in the mail with birthday gifts from my sister Lesley. Along with Zack’s b-day gifts there were 2 things in the package for me. The first was prosaic – a rugby shirt she had picked up for me during one of her trip to China. The second was something I had asked her for and is quite important to me. It was a book called “The Gold of Troy”. The book had belonged to my dad and had been left in my parent’s house after they passed away. “The Gold of Troy” is a book about an archeologist named Heinrich Schliemann and his quest to validate what had been written in the Homeric legends. Schliemann used Homer’s epics to find and excavate the legendary city of Troy in the late 1800’s. Up until Schliemann proved it, everyone had thought that Troy and the stories surrounding it were just legends and not based upon fact. Through his efforts, Schliemann validated much of what Homer had written and also found a marvelous hoard of treasure and gold in the ruins of Troy. I first read this book when I was a little bit older than Zack. As a kid I loved to look through the thousands of books that filled our home. Of all the books in our home this one fascinated me like no other. Though it was written for a much older audience I still picked it up and read it at the age of 12 or 13. I became captivated by it. I was entranced with what Schliemann had done and all the lands that he traveled through and visited to find the legendary Troy. This book was the first of its kind that I had ever read. I was so into it I remember coming back to it time and time again. It formed the foundation for so many of the other books that I read as a young adult. Besides giving me a foundation of books that I wanted to read, it inspired me deeply in my soul that I wanted to see the world. Not just Europe and the “safe places” – but the places that weren’t safe – the places that were exotic and out of the way. As I got older I read more and more about exotic locations. During the height of the Russian War in Afghanistan, I became interested in the writings of so many authors about the “Great Game” of the 19th century. The “Great Game” was the struggle for empire that was fought between Russia and Great Britain for domination of the Central Asia. This struggle, with the exception of the Crimean War rarely involved actual wars between the Russian and British empires. Normally spies and secret agents would use the tribes and feudal nations of Central Asia as pawns in this high-powered game. Once again – these books inspired me to want to visit these places. These were places with names like Samarkand, Bokhara, Kabul, Ghazni, Kandahar and Tashkent. Most of these places have faded from the viewpoint of the modern world. (OK – Kabul and Kandahar being obvious examples of places that have NOT faded from view. Or maybe I should say they have faded and have now come back into view.) As I got older, my desire to see these places didn’t necessarily diminish but was replaced with the reality of life. I had student loans to payoff, a career to start and a family for which I had to provide. Now that my life has utterly and completely changed, my desire to see these places is once again beginning to re-assert itself in my life. (Truth be told, I have seen a huge amount of world, including a large number of exotic places, but there is still so much for me to see! My last passport - before it expired, had just about every page entirely filled with visas and entry and exit stamps.) Our trip to France is the re-ignition of this lust for travel. I do need to take things slowly at first as Zack is only 11 years old. But we have to start somewhere. As we head into 2010 we will start to add more exotic destinations to our travel agenda – key place for 2010 being Iceland. By the time Zack is around 16 or 17 years old, we WILL journey to these lands and experience the savage beauty of these places. As I have always said, I can’t offer Zack the things that Patty would have given him had she lived, but I can provide him with adventure and an understanding of the world – and that is exactly what I intend to do! And if anyone is wondering - as we embark on our travels this week, I will be tucking that copy of “The Gold of Troy” in to my backpack and taking it with me.
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Destination France: The Plan

Our tickets are purchased for our trip to France. It was a spur of the moment purchase but I got the tickets and hotel at a very inexpensive cost. I could not believe how affordably I found these tickets with only a six day advance notice. So here is the plan.... We depart Denver on Wednesday August 5 at 1:48PM on United Flight 940 to Chicago. Our flight to Paris - Charles De Gaulle is United Flight 942 and departs Chicago at 6:48PM. We arrive in Paris on Thursday August 6 at 9:25AM CEST (Central European Standard Time). Our hotel for the duration of our trip is the Villa Pantheon which is located in the Latin Quarter about 1/3 miles from the Seine and Notre Dame. It is an area of Paris that I am pretty familar with and feel comfortable getting around. We return to the US on Thursday August 13th, departing Paris - CDG on United flight 915 at 12:25PM CEST and arriving in Washington, DC at 2:51PM EDT. We leave Washington on United flight 903 at 4:13 and arrive back in Denver at 6:16PM MDT that same day. That is going to be a long day!! During our vacation I am planning a day trip to Brussels and depending upon how Zack is feeling about Paris we might take a trip to Luxembourg. Given that we are only spending a week in France, I don't see the possibility of doing a ton of traveling outside of Paris. But for us, this is a good introduction to France, Europe and international traveling for Zack. This first trip is really meant to be the beginning of our international wanderings. As long as Zack is into it I want us to explore this world. I hope for us to see the wild and the exotic. I hope for us to see the unique and the prosaic. I just want for him to have experiences that allow his mind to grow and see things in a worldly manner. Speaking of travel... Yesterday evening (Saturday) we had a number of people over for a BBQ. One of our guests is the husband of a long-time friend. Peter a writer and is currently in the process of writing two books on issues that are plaguing Africa today. As research for these books Peter is leaving in two weeks for some of the really exotic (and dangerous) places of the world - the eastern Congo, Somalia, etc. I am not saying I would want to take Zack at this age to this places, but they are certainly places I would love to visit! Best of luck to Peter as he will be gone for a while and traveling through some dangerous places. Well - it is getting late and I am tired as it has been a long and busy day. I will write more about our trip tomorrow. Thanks and peace to all! - J.
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Stupidity of the morning - courtesy of Fox News

OK - There aren't too many times I feel I have to provide a comment like this, but this story on FoxNews.com struck me so wrong I just felt I had to comment about it!
The story was "Titled Born Again Christian Stars". Why does something like this even warrant a story? I read the story and it just revealed to me the bias that is showed by so many news organizations in this day and age. Granted I tend to find the things on Fox News a lot more offensive because of their political standings versus my political leanings, but so very few news organizations are free from this kind of political pandering.
Why this one struck me as wrong as it did is because you never see an article titled - "Movie Stars Who Have Mainstream Religious or Political Beliefs". Why does this news organization need to call out people who have religious beliefs that pander to their political agenda? And to be honest all the people highlighted in this article are all pretty washed up movie stars. Come on - Kirk Cameron and his wife are major stars? Ah... I think not. How about MC Hammer or Jane Fonda? Neither of them rank high on my list. OK - there was one "movie star" who I thought had talent - Gary Busey! But I must say I miss the crazy, drugged out Gary Busey who would star in anything and do the most crazy things. Bring him back - he had talent!
Well - enough of my ranting and raving for a Sunday morning! Sorry that I have to add the political viewpoint, but I just couldn't help myself this morning. I guess my idiot button is turned on this morning.
Til later!! - J.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Eleven Years Ago Today

(Zack as a six month old.)
Over the years I have written a lot of stories about different things that have happened in my life. I have kept these stories hidden away on my laptop and haven't really shared them with anyone. The stories have been written so that I can share them with Zack when he is older. I have posted several of these stories here on my blog as filler when I haven't felt like writing much. Tonight I am posting one of these stories not so as filler but it is so appropriate for the day that is today - Zack's birthday!
Without further ado - here is a story I wrote back in 2003 called "The Day You were Born". I wrote this story specifically for Zack and it was written like I was talking to him.
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July 31, 1998 was a warm day in Denver. The temperature was in the high eighties or low nineties. It was one of those days in which the giant thunderstorms come rumbling through around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and just soaked the city with rain. It rained so badly that day that some of the underpasses on I-25, the major interstate through the city were total flooded.

Your mom’s pregnancy had not been easy for her and on July 29th the doctors had told us that it was necessary to induce labor pretty quickly. We did get to pick the day on which you would be born within a 2 or 3-day window. We choose Friday, July 31 because it also was my Mom’s birthday. At the time my Mom had been diagnosed with cancer about 6 or 7 weeks beforehand. She had just gotten out of the hospital after a bout of surgery. So we wanted to try and have you born on her birthday so that you would share a special day with her.

Anyway, your Mom went into the hospital on Thursday evening around 8PM. We had put Bailey and Devon into a kennel for a couple of days because we didn’t know how long we would be at the hospital. We took some videotapes with us that we could watch in the VCR in the birthing room. As soon as we got to the hospital, the nurses got Patty situated and got her going on the medicine that would induce labor. We then sat down and watch some of the videotapes that we brought with us. Your Aunt Celinde and Uncle Tim stopped by to visit for a while. They gave Patty the Babe stuffed animal that you came to love when you were a 3 year old. They were leaving early the next morning to go to Pennsylvania to visit my Mom since it was her birthday also. So, they weren't around when you were born.

Thursday night was uneventful and I managed to get several hours of sleep, but your Mom didn’t’ sleep too well. On Friday morning, the nurses really increased the medicine that would induce labor. Patty started to feel some pain as labor began. The pain wasn’t good. Around lunch time the pain got so bad that they gave Patty the epidural. After that she felt better and said I should go and get something to eat. I went down to the cafeteria to get something to eat and read the news paper. When I came back, your Mom was in intense pain as the epidural reqlly hadn’t worked. We got the doctor back in who gave the epidural and they worked to correct the situation. It helped somewhat but not too much. In the end run it didn't matter as you were going to be born very shortly.

As the labor continued the doctors and nurses in the room began to notice there were signs of stress that you were experiencing. At first your pulse rate when way up but then after a while it started to fall. It began to fall into a range that would be described as dangerous for an unborn baby.

After a lot of pain and pushing by your Mom - you finally made your entrance into the world at 3:01PM on July 31, 1998. It wasn't any kind of grand entrance as you entered the world in silence. There was no screaming or crying - only silence. The nurses immediately took you over to the "baby cart" (for lack of a better word on my part) where you were put on a soft pad and the temperature was kept nice and warm. The did a quick test on you called an Apgar test and to put it bluntly you failed. You got a big fat zero - which meant that they really didn't detect any life in you. And too top it off you weren't breathing. All of this took place in about 30 seconds so it wasn't a long time. Given that you were breathing or doing anything - besides starting to turn a shade of blue - after 30 seconds the decision was made to call for a "code blue" and get a "crash cart" into the room to get you going.

Just as the call for a "crash cart" was going out - you decided that it was time to get on with life and let out the biggest and most beautiful scream that I had ever heard. It was great - you were alive and though not happy about being out in the world - you were fighting to stay in that world! After about 15 minutes of having you checked out in the room, the you got to go and be held by Mom for a little while before you were shipped off to the neo-natal intensive care. Given the way you came into the work and your size - you were 4lb 9ozs when you were born, they thought it was best that you got some special care. However after spending 2 hours there the doctors decided that you didn't need any special kind of care and you were shipped over to the regular nursery.

You stayed the hospital for the next 48 hours with Mom. Around 5PM on Sunday August 2, 1998 your Mom and I packed you up in car seat and took you home. When you left the hospital to go home on August 2, 1998 you weighed a grand total of 4lb 5oz. Both your Mom and I wondered if we would be able to take of you. Only time would tell in this case!

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All of those activities from 11 years ago today seem so distant and part of another life. Despite that fact, Zack and I are together and inseparable. With the loss of Patty our relationship has taken on an entirely different tone. I am his one and only parent who is alive and in this world - so I have a tremendous duty to this little boy.

I will always be there for him regardless of his age or anything else. He is my one and only son, and I will do everything to ensure he has the best life possible. (Not the most cushy life, not the most pampered life or not the life with out responsibility - but the best life possible.) And by that I mean where Zack is working to his potential and is content where he is in life.

Thanks and peace to all! - J.