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 But I can't let a blog post go unpublished!)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.