Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vacation Days 1 – 2; Denver to Rapid City, SD; Badlands National Park, Wall, SD

Car Oil Changed and Inspected – Check
Car Filled with Gas – Check
Several Bags of Home Made Beef Jerky – Check
Tons of other snacks to feed a growing 12 year old (make that 13 year old) – Check
GPS Programmed to Rapid City, SD – Check
All my favorite iTune playlists loaded on my iPhone - Check
Mentally set to be annoyed by Zack – Check
Bags packed – check

Everything was finally ready to head out the door on our long awaited vacation!  We ended up leaving a little bit later than I wanted as we didn’t get out the door until 4:20PM.  No really a problem as this would still put us into Rapid City around 10:30PM.  

Ah – no problem except for horrible traffic from Centennial all the way to Fort Collins!  What would normal take about 1.5 hours to travel took over 2.5 hours.  That put us a little bit behind the eight ball in terms of my goal to reach Rapid City by 10:30PM.  Oh well – no big deal as we are on vacation and we had no schedule to keep.  

Once we were through Fort Collins the drive turned uneventful.  As planned we stopped in Chugwater, Wyoming to get some dinner.  Zack wasn’t interested in the slightest in eating at the only restaurant in town – the Buffalo Grill.  Because we were already running much later than I wanted I went with his suggestion and we just got pizza from the local convenience store and were on our way.  Oh well – I will eat in Chugwater some other time!

Around 10:15PM I decided it was time to pull over and check out the sky as we were absolutely in the middle of no where and aside from our headlights there were no other sources of light.  I found a small dirt road on which to pull off.  There was no traffic at all on the main route – US Highway 18.  We stopped, turned off the car, got out and waited until the inside lights turned off.  We were rewarded with one of the most spectacular sights you can ever see – millions of stars and the Milky Way in its full glory!  We stood there for about 10 minutes in utter amazement of the sight that filled the sky in above us.  Zack was thrilled beyond belief to see the Milky Way in the manner in which we saw it.  It was truly beautiful!!

After this beautiful interlude it was time to resume our way to Rapid City.  About 30 miles outside Rapid City we had our next little adventure as we went through a police sobriety checkpoint.  I think that was the first time as a driver I ever had to do that.  Of course I was stone cold sober and the State Trooper let me through as soon as he was finished introducing himself.

We arrived in Rapid City around 12:15AM and we got checked into our room at the Marriott Fairfield Inn near the Waitiki Water Park in very quick order.  After taking a few minutes to decompress from our drive we were both in bed and asleep by 1:20AM.  

This morning came way too quickly!  Regardless we still managed to get up and be out of bed by 8:20AM and out of the hotel by 9:00AM.  Our destination for the day was the Badlands National Park.  Getting to Badlands was very easy.  All we had to do was hop on I-90 (which was right out side our hotel) and head east for 60 miles and the entrance to the park was pretty much right there.  We arrived at the park around 10:30AM and began our exploration!  

I was utterly stunned by the beauty and wonder of the eroded and wind carved shapes.  The broken surface of the earth in the Badlands appears so hard and permanent, but in fact it is soft and malleable.  The Badlands erode at an average rate of 1 inch per year.  Geologists theorize that the Badlands will be totally eroded and gone within the next 100,000 – 500,000 years.  That is a long time for us humans by in geological terms, that is just a blink of eye.

The heat of the day played a large role in how much time we spent hiking through the shattered hills.  We did a couple of longer hikes but the searing sun and heat of the midday began to curtail our efforts to climb through the more remote sections of the park.  The road through the park roughly follows the “wall” that makes up the majority of the rock formations.  The “wall” is a roughly 300 – 500 foot high escarpment that has been eroded into the formations that make up the Badlands.  This escarpment runs for over 60 miles and forms the backbone of the park.  

 The Badlands have been something that has interested me for years since I was a teenager.  I read an article in National Geographic about the Badlands and it just captured my imagination.  I was mesmerized by the pictures of the rock formations and the animals that inhabited the Badlands and I knew that some day I was going to come here.  I am glad that day has finally come.  My intention is to come back some time in the not too distant future when the temperatures are cooler and I can spend more time exploring without dying of the heat.  Additionally, I hope to be able to spend time here that is more conducive to taking pictures.  In the harsh midday sun much of the color is washed out of the environment.  Instead of contrasting colors that are highlighted by the glowing orange of sunset or sunrise, the unrelenting midday sun bakes the color out of everything and makes it appear dull and lifeless.  Though I took a ton of pictures they all lack the vibrancy and life that makes the Badlands unique and special.

After many hours exploring the Badlands we exited the western side of the park near the small town of Wall, South Dakota.  Wall has a total population of 818 people – not even as many people as who live in my neighborhood in Colorado.  Yet it sports a remarkable tourist attraction that pulls people in from all over the world – Wall Drug.  This unusual store started in 1931 when Ted Husted arrived in town and purchased the failing drug store.  For the next five years he and his wife attempted to make a go off it with out a whole lot of success.  Then in 1936 they hit upon the secret to a successful future – offer free ice water to all the people passing by during the hot summer.  Before long their small little drug store had turned into an unbelievable success.  They began to sell more and more and they offered other attractions to pull in patrons from all over.  Today the store which now covers 2 city blocks and sells pretty much anything known to man, must host hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.  It is truly a unique tourist attraction and Zack loved it.  We spent over an hour there and got ourselves some very tasty ice cream!

After that it was another 45 minutes back to Rapid City and our hotel.  We discussed going to the water park but after all our hiking and how hot it was, we decided to just hand out in our hotel room and take it easy.  We got some dinner at the restaurant in the hotel and just had a really relaxing evening.  

Tomorrow we start our journey to Yellowstone.  We will see a few more things here in South Dakota and then we have a nice very meandering ride across Wyoming.  It should be a very good day to celebrate Zack’s 13th birthday!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

I just had to do another blog post tonight because of picture I took.  I was downstairs in the family room folding clothes and I came upstairs to get more clothes to put in the washer and I decided to check in on Zack and the scene that I saw was so cute I had to take a picture of it.

Zack is totally surrounded by his dogs.  Finnegan has just started sleeping with Zack in the last week and he get so close to him it is ridiculous.  That puppy loves his boy.  This scene just gave me a warm feeling in my heart getting to see it.

Really does it get any cuter than this???

Good night!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Wall of Chocolate

For the last 2 nights I have been working hard in my basement to ready things for the installation of a series of cabinets that will be used as an entertainment center.  While we are away on vacation my brother, who is much more talented at these kind of things than me is going to install the cabinets.  The only work that will remain to be done once he is finished is to install a counter top on the cabinets and wire everything for satellite TV, sound and electricity.  I should be able to handle those tasks without too much problem, as the electrical outlets are already there, the sound is easy and DirectTV will do the satellite installation.

Once I had all of Zack's toys removed and the furniture moved away it was time to paint the wall on which the entertainment center is going.  The wall is about 12 feet in length and was originally painted an off-white color.  The interesting aspect of this work was the color that I choose to paint the wall.  Eventually I will be mounting a large flat screen TV on this wall, so I wanted to create a dark backdrop so that whatever was playing on the TV would really stand out - like the movie screen at a movie theater.  I used Behr paint from Home Depot and the name of the color I choose for the wall in Behr Paint's vernacular is "Bear Rug Brown".  It was a very dark color!

I got everything prepped for painting on Tuesday evening and then began the painting on Wednesday around 10:00PM.  Thankfully I only had one wall to paint so it didn't take too long, but because of the color I was using it was definitely going to take a second coat.  I finished up my first coat around 11:30PM on Wednesday and then I started the second coat Thursday after work.  The second coat went very quickly and I was done by 6:30PM.  The problem with painting a wall this shade of brown is that the paint really looks like liquid chocolate.  Every time I poured the paint into the roller pan, I really wanted to stick my finger in it and taste it as it really looked like chocolate!  I know that is really silly but that is what I thought each time I poured the paint from paint bucket into the pan.

The wall came out looking very good - though I do have some touch up to do around the sides as the brown paint leached through my blue painter's tape and made the joint between the white walls and brown not exactly even.  (I should have used the old tricks I learned years ago and once I put the tape down I should have caulked over it and I would have gotten a perfectly straight line.  But I hate doing the prep work so now I will do the touch up.)

Here's what the final version of my chocolate wall looks like:

I really think this is going to look great with my entertainment center in front of it and the TV mounted on the wall.  But of course I am wildly biased as I was the person who picked the paint color!

I definitely engage in a lot of stream of consciousness thinking.  Because I was doing the painting with brown, chocolate looking paint last night I was reminded of a song from several years ago that was a big viral hit on Youtube.  So I had to go back and listen to it again last night.  Since I think it is an amazing song in terms of the message it conveys and the talent the singer exhibits, I decided to link it to this Blog Post.  The song is called "Chocolate Rain" by a guy by the name of Tay Zonday.  If you have never heard it before take a listen as I think it is a really amazing song.

Not much else to say...  EXCEPT.... TOMORROW IS THE START OF VACATION!!!!  Woohoo!!  I am looking forward to where we are going and all that we are going to see and experience.

Originally I was thinking of taking a "digital holiday" for vacation but instead I have decided I will take my digital life lines with me and where possible be connected.  Hopefully we will have Internet coverage while we are in Yellowstone.  If so - I plan to try and blog on most days as I think we will be having quite a lot of adventure and I want to post some of the pictures that I take.

As always - thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Monday, July 25, 2011

There Are Some Days You Wished Never Happened

As the title says - there are truly some days that just should not happen and today was one of them.  It has just been a crazy out of control day in which nothing seemed to go right.

The first wonderful event happened very early this morning when I open my work e-mail for the day.  I had only two new e-mails in my inbox since last night at 11:00PM.  Unfortunate they were both titled "Brazil".  Ugh...  Yeah I am going to have to spend some time in Brazil.  I am not exactly sure of when and how long, but needless to say it will make my life interesting.  It has been 2.5 years since I had to travel outside of the country for work.  The last time I did so was in February of 2009 when I had to spend a week in Glasgow, Scotland.  No disrespect to Brazil, but spending a week in Glasgow is a much nicer proposition to me than Brazil.

I will be heading to Brazil because we have a very large project that goes live on August 1.  Due to the size and complexity of the engagement our leadership team is expecting problems.  As a result they are already getting ready for who will be going to Brazil to help sort out the mess.  I will be taking a lead role in that effort unfortunately.  Given the amount of time it is going to take me to acquire a Brazilian work visa it will probably be a while until I am actually on the ground in Brazil - which will give me plenty of time to line up care for Zack and the puppies.

That wasn't the greatest news, but the next activity in the day got things really sliding down the "crapastic" slope!  Nancy had a doctor's appointment at 9:30AM and she was not feeling up to driving because she has been experiencing dizziness.  So I had to take her.  They got her in to see the doctor pretty much on time, but she was back in the office forever!  Finally Daphne the nurse and Nancy's doctor Kendall came out and got me.  Nancy takes a drug called warfarin which thins her blood and significantly increases the clotting time.  The clotting time for Nancy's blood was off the charts which meant she had way too much warfarin in her system.  But because of the dizziness, Kendall was very concerned that she could have had a minor bleed in her brain.  So we were off to get Nancy and MRI to see what was going on in her head.

Due to the situation with insurance we had to go to a Sally Jobe Inivision center in Englewood to get the MRI.  It took loads and loads of time for all this to take place and then we had to wait for the center to call Nancy's doctor back.  By the time everything was all said and done, it was 1:00PM and Nancy got a clean bill of health.  (She has had this dizziness problem for almost 2 years and it seems to be more a situation with her inner ear than her head.)

One good thing about this incident is it forced a more thorough discussion of assisted living for Nancy.  This is something we have been talking about for 4 months and as much as I hate for Nancy to go to an assisted living place, I don't see what alternative we are coming down to.  It is becoming increasingly harder for her to do all the stuff she needs to do for herself.  She doesn't want to talk about so getting the conversation going and sustained to really get her moving towards it is like pulling teeth, but I don't see what choice we have.

The next craptastic event occurred when I got Zack from his camp.  He got himself into a peck of trouble today by not listening to his group leader.  He kept on acting like a goof/clown to make the other kids laugh so I got to hear about it.  Needless to say, Zack is the one who is paying a heavy price in terms of loss of privileges for today and for the foreseeable future.  He will get a break on his birthday but that is about it.  He has been doing so well with so many things this summer so this is the real first problem we have had all summer.  Nevertheless, I am not going to let up on him.  I am going to keep holding him to higher and higher levels of responsibility - heck he is turning 13 in 6 days!!

Finally things are now calm.  Zack and I went out and ran a bunch of errands early this evening.  I am getting ready to paint the wall in the basement in which my entertainment center is going so we went to Home Depot for some painting supplies, Barnes and Noble for a book Zack needs to read for school and then we picked up some Subway for dinner.  Given that Zack has lost all his privileges he is now sitting here in my office on my big overstuffed chair reading his school book.  (That's the only book I will allow him to read since he lost his privileges.

It is only 4 more days until we leave for vacation!!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Travel Notes:

I wrote this blog entry yesterday evening while I was away from my computer.  I wrote it by hand and then was going to type it in last night but I never got the chance as I was pretty tired and I feel asleep on the couch shortly after Zack went to bed.  Anyway...  Here it is.

I finally sat down and created the itinerary for our summer vacation.  We will be gone for eight days.  A lot of time I don't do detailed itineraries for my trips but I really wanted to get things planned out so that we can see all the places that Zack really wants to see.  (Plus a place or two that I kind of want to see.)

This is a little bit late in the game considering we are leaving on July 29th.  But it is still better than 2 years ago when we went to France.  In that case I bought our airline tickets only 5 days before we left.  This trip will be much more flexible given we will also take a tent with us, so we can change the itinerary up if we want and then just find a place to pitch our tent for the night.  I am really trying to do a much better job of not continuously flying by the seat of my pants when it comes to this kind of stuff.

Every other Wednesday I am involved in a volunteer activity that sometimes allows me to catch up on my reading.  Sometimes like this Wednesday things aren't too busy so I get a chance to do some reading.  Usually I try and catch up on old magazines.  Today I was reading the April edition of Budget Travel and had a great article about traveling alone.

The whole idea of traveling solo is interesting yet scary.  I did a little solo traveling when I traveled internationally for work.  My normal overseas trips would usually keep me away from home at least one or two weekends each trip so I always made plans to travel to other countries or major cities on the weekends.

Traveling by myself was different as it forced me out of my comfort zone.  Since I was alone I made real efforts to meet people and put myself out there.  It was a rewarding experience as I met some unique people who I never would have met had I been traveling with a companion.  I had a whole host of unique experiences and learned a lot about the countries I traveled in from these people.  The most unusual experience was when I traveled the whole way across the Czech Republic with a unit of soldiers from the Czech Army.  None of us spoke each others language but we sure could relate over a case of beer.

The article in the magazine gave some fascinating statistics about how many people travel abroad on their own purely for enjoyment (as opposed to business travel I guess).  Overall 11 percent of American's who travel abroad every year do so alone.  Many cruise lines have seen a huge upsurge in solo travelers so they are adding studio cabins for people traveling alone.  Norweign Cruise Lines newest ship the Epic has 128 single cabins.  And lastly, solo traveling is not a guy thing, over 9 million American women travel abroad on their own.

The article also mentions some great websites to reference about traveling alone.  Some of the websites mentioned include:, and  I don't anticipate I will be doing much solo traveling any time soon, but I really wanted to share some of this information as I think the whole concept is pretty fun.  (Besides traveling with Zack I do hope someday to have a companion of the female variety to travel with.  :)  )

We have had a bunch of big excitement around our house in the last 2 days.  Yesterday the new concrete was poured for the walk into the house and the front patio.  It was pretty cool to watch them do the stamping of the concrete.  Today they came back and sawed out the joints.  Now we have to wait 2 - 3 weeks until they come back to stain it and apply the sealant.  The wait is caused by the need for the concrete to fully cure and dry out.

Today's excitement wasn't pleasant.  I discovered that we have a very slow and minor leak in the pipe that supplies water to the sprinkler system.  Unfortunately, the leak is within the confines of our water utility closet in the house.  Given the slow nature of the leak it wasn't apparent as I don't typically find myself near the water utility area.  So there has been some substantial damage done to the dry wall that surrounds it and the carpet right near it.  I am going to have to have a wall replaced and potentially all the carpet in room.  (The room is in the basement.)  That discovery did not make me happy in the slightest.

Zack is in the midst of his "academic" camp for the summer at St. Mary's Academy.  He is really enjoying it which is a surprise given how much he whined about it.  But he is having fun so that is the good thing.  He had an appointment with his psychiatrist today and she noticed some definite progress around his anxiety and OCD issues.  I am glad that his progress is being recognized by the professionals because we are working very hard at resolving some of this issues this summer.  All the professionals seem to think it will be a while before he is fully over these issues, but they think he is now at an age where he can do a much better job controlling the situation himself.

Well that is about it for the night!  I am very glad that it is Thursday and the weekend is almost here - though this weekend will be very busy with tons of work around the house as usual.  Though I do hope to sneak in bike rides both Saturday and Sunday.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Projects - Photographs!

Whew - it was another busy day around our house today.  The day started early and as a result I had to pull Zack out of bed by the ankles.  He has another camp this week and we have to leave the house by 7:55 and getting him out of bed has been like pulling teeth.  So at 7:10AM he was still sleeping soundly so I turned all 4 dogs loose on him.  Lulu, Finn and Ray attempted to lick him to death which only brought peels of laughter from him but no movement.  So we reverted to plan B and he was pulled out of bed by his ankles.  It's much harder to do now than when he was 7 or 8, but I still manage to get him out of bed.

After dropping Zack off at his camp I stopped for an Einstein's bagel and drink before heading home.  By the time I got home half of my front patio was already destroyed as the guys from the concrete company arrived shortly after I left the house.  They moved quickly but for some reason they thought they could get away without having to use a jackhammer.  That would be a big fat NO - as there are some fairly large sections of solid concrete.  While 2 of them continued working on the brick portion of the walk and patio, the other guy went off to company HQ and got the jackhammer.  It was pretty amazing how quickly they worked as all the removal of old bricks and concrete was completed by noon.  They spent the afternoon cleaning the area up, setting up the concrete forms and putting down a layer of fine gravel for the concrete base.

They won't be back to finish until Thursday as they are laying concrete at another job site tomorrow.  But on Thursday all they need to do is put down the rebar, lay the concrete, do the stamping and it should be done with the exception of sawing the joints and putting down a protective clear coating.  Hopefully with any luck all will be completed by the weekend so that I can get a start on the landscaping work for the front border around the walk.

The following pictures are of the work that has been done.  The first two are of the what remains of the front patio and the third is a picture of the new garage doors.  There is a bunch of stuff in front of the one garage door because we had to remove everything from the front patio so that the work could be done.  I think once you add in the work to the landscaping that I am going to do and the curb appeal of the house has gone up substantially!

Once the work on the entertainment center in the basement is complete I will get those pictures posted also.  That will take care of the major projects that are currently scheduled right now.  I am still going back and forth on the garage and mud room expansion but I will definitely make a decision by the time we come back from vacation.

There are a couple of painting projects that I also hope to get done in the next several days/week.  I am going to be painting one wall in my bedroom brown.  I am still researching the exact shade but I want a warm brown color that adds some diversity to the setting sun yellow that the room is currently painted.  My thoughts are also wandering to painting the wall behind the entertainment center brown.  I think this will really make the big screen TV stand out very significantly.  I am still debating that one, but hope to decide that within the next several days.

That's about it for this Tuesday evening.  We survived the severe storms that rolled through here about an hour ago.  We had some marvelous amounts of rain and some great lightening - but in the end the storms weren't too bad.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Slow Agonizing Demise of the 2011 Hiking Season

It's mid-July, the snow has finally melted from the mountains tops in Colorado and just about every hiking trail is calling my name.  But yet - I sit at home or in my condo weekend after weekend and don't get any hiking done.  Why?  My leg is still hurting me after my stress fracture in March.  I keep expecting it to be 100% better and yet it is not quite there yet.

My latest attempt to show myself to be trail worthy came last night after the sun had set and the temperatures had cooled to some degree.  I was in a crappy mood as Zack was doing everything possible to push my buttons and everywhere I turned in the house I was tripping over a dog since we are dog sitting for my brother for the next several days.  I needed to get out of the house and do some walking.  Leaving son and dogs behind, I headed out along a different route through the neighborhood.  After about 2 miles the familiar ache in my left leg began.  Yep - that bone is still healing!

During my last visit with the orthopedic doctor back in late June you could see that there was a clear "doughnut" of new bone surrounding the break - but there was still a break evident on the X-ray.  So as he has for the previous 2 visits, he warned me against running yet and said only do the activities that you can tolerate.  The pain isn't that bad mind you, but if I am feeling pain on a 3.5 mile walk through the neighborhood I am definitely going to feel a lot more pain descending down the side of a mountain.  So for now the 2011 hiking season is still officially on hold.

I am hoping that my injury will not have an impact on our trip to Yellowstone and our attempts to reach some of the geyser basins in the back country.  I have been mapping out routes and some of the hikes that we will take will be fairly lengthy (8 - 12 miles), but for the most part they are relatively level without a tremendous amount of elevation gain or loss.  And of course with the recent bear attack in Yellowstone we have had plenty of warnings about being careful when we are there.  We have a somewhat full proof mechanism to ensure we are safe and I don't mean a gun!  This is an idea that is adopted from what I do to keep the dogs safe when hiking in mountain lion country - Zack and I will be wearing bells on our backpacks that will warn every creature around that we are coming.  As long as they know you are coming they would much rather get out of your way then have anything to do with you.  We will carry a can of bear spray (concentrated pepper spray) in case we get to close to a bear.  But I really don't think that would be too effective as you have to be within 6 - 10 feet of the bear and hit it in the face with the spray.  If I were that close to a grizzly, I would be pretty useless as I would be crapping my pants!

I still have a couple of weeks to continue to heal before vacation.  Worse case - I just walk injured, because this is a very important trip for Zack.  So we will do whatever is necessary to do our hiking.

People might be surprised but I am really looking forward to this trip with Zack.  I do get a bit worn out being with him 24 x 7, but we have had some real adventures on previous trips and getting to spend 9 days together doing something like this will be amazing.  Once we leave home we will quickly get into our traveling "groove" and we will have an excellent time.  With the exception of the tail end of our trip to France 2 years ago - I have loved every second of every vacation that we have taken.  The vacations that we take where it is only the two of us are usually very special.

Good news came today in the fact that the work on my new front walk and patio is going to start tomorrow!  Originally the concrete company was not able to start until August 8th, but they had a customer cancel a job and I had asked for an early date if possible, so the work starts tomorrow!  I am quite excited by that prospect as I might be able to have the front re-landscaped before vacation.

There is a lot of blood sweat and tears that has gone into the house this summer.  But I feel really good about it.  I am re-making it in an image that suits Zack and me.  Not that I am trying to erase Patty's stamp on the house, but the perspective we had when we bought this place and put it together was that of a whole family as opposed to that of a single Dad and a teenage son.  This too will make it easier if we do not sell the place and if eventually I were to have a partner move in with me.  At that point it is Zack and my place as opposed to Jerry and Patty's place.  I know in the case of Shelly it was very hard for her to move in as she felt like it was a place in which she could have little say - and I can totally understand that.  I think there is a very different feel and make up to the place now and it continues to change as more and more work is completed.  I wish I had been able to make Shelly feel more at home here as I hated the fact that she didn't feel like she could totally relax here.

That's about it for a Monday night.  I am off to spend some time hanging out with Zack and doing not much of anything for the rest of the evening.

Thanks and peace to all!


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Boring Saturday....

For the first time in a long time I have had a boring Saturday!  Recently I have spent most of my Saturday's working my butt off on projects here at the house.  If I wasn't working on the house I was doing something fun like being in the mountains with Zack or taking a very long bike ride or something like that.  Today I was tired and I just didn't have the drive to get busy on my projects here at home.  (I stayed out way too late last night at a party!)

We did a bunch of shopping today and got our hair cut but both Zack and I were tired so we really didn't push it too hard to do much.  I guess you need days like this every so often but given the pace that we have been moving this summer, it has been a highly unusual day for us.

Since Zack got to have such a fun evening the other day with his sleep over, I made him do a bunch of his summertime homework today.  He wasn't too happy about that but at least he got to do when I went out to go shopping.  I had a bunch of things to buy at the container store to help with overall organization and Zack would have rather had a few teeth pulled then go with me to do more shopping as I had already made him go to WalMart with me for an hour today.

What is kind of funny about all of this with Zack is I am really starting to see some growth in him in terms of taking responsibility for stuff.  He may not want to go shopping but he is taking his summer homework seriously and has really stepped up his performance on his chores.  I am proud of him as he is starting to mature in ways that are long over due but unexpected yet the same.  Needless to say I am very happy about this!

I am basking in the glow of some substantial accomplishments on the house.  The garage doors were installed on Thursday and look excellent!  Hopefully we will have one evening soon without rain and I will be back to get out and paint them.  If I can avoid it I would rather not paint them in the middle of the day due to the heat.  But if it must be that way, then I will just suck it up and do it.  The basement is ready for the new entertainment center and home theater.  I will be buying the cabinets within the next week and then my brother will be installing them when he is back from vacation.

More changes in are in the offing - on Friday I signed the contract with a concrete contractor to do the front patio and walk.  That is a couple of weeks off just because of their schedule but it is agreed to and work will begin in a couple of weeks.  I am still debating the proposal I have on the table concerning the expansion of the garage and the build out of a mud room.  While I was lying in bed this morning thinking before I got up I had a brainstorm - but it will probably add substantial cost to that project.   I am giving serious consideration to having a "wine room" built as part of the mud room expansion.  That would be very cool and given the quantity of wine that I frequently now have around the house it would be quite desirable.  I don't know if I will do it or not, but it is something to kick around in my brain for a bit. 

And with that I am going to wrap it up for the night....  Had a major something come up which has totally moved my train of thought elsewhere.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

3 Years, 1095 Days, 26280 Hours, 1,576,800 Minutes

Today’s blog entry is going to be long and somewhat emotional.  Also I am going to ask my readers to imagine themselves in the same situation that I am going to describe.  Perhaps some of you have been there, perhaps not.  But try and imagine the feelings and emotions that you might experience as I relay the events of three years ago - July 14, 2008.

I am writing this and posting this today as I really want to acknowledge all that was taken from us 3 years ago today.  I need to put this trauma down on paper in its entirety once and for all.  I am not doing this for sympathy or recognition of any form – I am doing it to write it and put it out there to maybe free myself from the trauma and memories that bounce through my head continuously during the middle of July.  If you have any questions of the honesty by which I hope to tell this story go and re-read the entry I posted back in October of 2010 that tells part of this story that I am not proud of.  You can find it here:

I have told this story to my therapist but I need for it to be heard and the emotions imagined.  I hope this will be my final telling of this story.  Then I will let go.  I will let go of it all.  I want to try to move forward and close this chapter.  Like a book you have read it will always be there, but I don’t want my mind to open these pages again.

Each relationship that we enter into is different and has its own unique characteristics.  This is especially true of long term relationships and marriages.  Patty and I had a marriage in which we were constantly connected.  Though I traveled a lot for work, we knew what each other was doing almost every second of the day.  We would typically talk 4 - 6 times a day if I were out of town.  When we weren’t working or doing something that required us to be apart, we were most likely together.  We did so much together, from going to the grocery store, to watching TV, to making dinner, to going to the gym, and on and on.  There were a few exceptions to the rule where we had interests that the other just wasn’t going to do.  For example, Patty wasn’t going to climb a 14er with me, nor was I going to go to scrapbooking event with her.  If we were going out with friends we normally did it together.  Rarely did we have a “boy’s night out” or a “girls night out”.  We thought and lived almost as one person.  We did have our ups and downs and at one point in 2003 we almost separated because my life on the road had done some horrible things to our relationship.  But still even then we hung together and fixed “us” and became even stronger as a couple.

All was good until the illnesses (colds, strep, infections, etc) began for Patty in the fall of 2005.  Then in the spring of 2006 the really bad stuff started when her platelet count fell to almost zero and she was diagnosed (inaccurately) with a condition call ITP.  Finally disaster struck on August 4, 2006 when Patty was officially diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia with the Philadelphia chromosome translocation.  With the Philadelphia chromosome translocation, it made the leukemia incurable by the standard means of chemotherapy.

Despite all of this the closeness in our relationship remained.  We weren’t able to do everything together any more as from the spring of 2006 Patty’s activity level was severely curtailed because her lack of platelets substantially increased the risk of severe bleeding from the tiniest of bumps. 

Even through her 4 rounds of chemo and her bone marrow transplant, we were pretty much always together.  I would arrange my day so that I could be at the hospital with her, leaving only when it was time to get Zack from school.  We felt so optimistic that life was back on a good course when Patty was discharged from the hospital after only 34 days post bone marrow transplant.  It seemed like our beautiful life together was going to continue with this road bump of leukemia behind us.

Of course that is not the way it turned out.  On May 7, 2007 Patty was admitted back to the hospital to treat an onset of severe Graft-versus-Host (GvH) disease.  GvH is when the transplanted bone marrow begins to reject the rest of the “Host’s” body.  Since the bone marrow controls the make up of our immune systems, GvH can attack any organ in the body.  Unfortunately for us, the immune response began attacking Patty’s entire digestive system and skin.  Fourteen months later in July of 2008 the doctor’s had tried just about every treatment known to cure Patty’s GvH.  Some worked for a while but in the end run none were really successful except for the use of massive doses of steroids.  At times Patty would be on 250 mg of prednisone for days and weeks on end to keep the GvH in check.  The side effects of these drugs were intense and Patty lost all her strength, became susceptible to very bad infections, had her kidneys completely fail, lost most of her eyesight and slowly slipped into a state of mental collapse and emotional despair.  In general those 14 months between May of 2007 and July of 2008 were month after month of hell.  I only had a ring side seat to all this trauma but Patty never left the ring – standing in day-after-day fighting to survive and doing a tremendous job despite all the set backs and severe consequences of the battle.

At one point during those 14 months things were so bad with Patty’s mental facilities that I had to explore getting a conservatorship put in place so that I could make decisions for her.  She became lost in a mental fog of anxiety, depression and drug induced dementia.  Yet through it all there were glimpses of Patty and her sweet loving personality that came through.  Despite that I was living my own life in so many ways and Patty’s mental decline, I still depended upon her so much.  She, along with Zack were the reasons that I lived.  I got up every morning with the determination and hope that I could do something that would make it so she could eventually come home.

Then we came to July 3, 2008 – the day I took Patty outside for the last time.  It felt good to do that and share our time together in that courtyard.  (See a previous blog post from last week.)  Yet even at that time the infection that would finally take Patty away from us was growing and gathering strength inside her.  Two days before, the home health aide who I had come to the hospital every day to hang out with Patty after I went home and I noticed that Patty had a very large skin break down on her leg.  (The steroids she took caused extensive damage to her skin and after a while caused it to break down.)  The wound care nurses took a look at the breakdown and were somewhat surprised at how large it was.  They did what they could to treat it and put antibiotics on it and everything seemed like it would be OK.

On the morning of July 4th I called the hospital before I came in for the day.  The nurses told me that things were not so great as Patty was having a very hard time tolerating her dialysis that day as her blood pressure was very low.  That concerned me greatly as if her BP were too low then there were many different complications that could start to take place.  I decided I needed to get into the hospital pretty fast and I was very glad I did.  By the time I reached PSL/St. Luke's the intensivist on call was already in Patty’s room.  One look from him and I knew there was something major going on.  His call was that Patty was in full blown sepsis and unless she was put on a ventilator we were going to lose her within the hour.  Since Patty was conscious she was able to make the decision and I did not have to step in and say a word.  The doctor thought it was a lost cause and tried to convince Patty not to go on the ventilator and just end it there.  To say that I wanted to punch the doctor in the face at that very moment is a bit of an understatement.  Patty was extremely upset and kept repeating to him and every one who would listen that she wanted to live.  At one point as her bed was being wheeled to the Intensive Care Bone Marrow Unit (Bone Marrow North).  Patty screamed – as loud as she could scream at the time “I WANT TO LIVE”.  At that point the doctor finally shut up and did what was necessary to get things ready to put Patty on the ventilator.

They put Patty in the room that I hated the most, room 3403 (what I called the death room).  This room was the room closest to the nurse’s station and only the sickest patients were put in it.  Typically the people who went in there did not come out alive.  Patty had already spent 5 different spells in that room over her 14 months of hospitalization and had come out alive each time.  Before they began the process of putting Patty on the ventilator I got to spend about 5 minutes with her just talking and trying to calm her down.  I told her that she was going to be OK.  I told her that she would come out of this crisis no worse for the wear and that regardless of anything I would be there and I would watch over her.  Then the doctors and nurses took over.  They let me stay in the room while they intubated her.  I had seen this procedure done numerous times before but this time it drove me crazy as Patty’s BP was already running very low.  When a person is put on a ventilator for whatever reason it typically causes their blood pressure to crash.  Patty didn’t have much room to maneuver before her BP reached critically low levels.

I did manage to stay in the room throughout the procedure, but my stomach nearly came up as I watched her BP bottom out at some very low levels.  They got her on “pressor” drugs that brought her BP up and stabilized it within 20 minutes.  At that point I felt I could finally breathe again.

Then the long wait began as the infectious disease doctors took over and tried to fight the infection that was ravaging Patty’s body.  Because she was on a ventilator they put her in an induced coma using profopol – the same drug that killed Michael Jackson. 

Through the weekend and the following Tuesday Patty was stable and it looked like the infection was coming under control.  Each day a respiratory therapist would work with Patty and try and wean her off the ventilator and for the first days things were definitely on track. 

Around 3:30AM on Wednesday July 9th I was awaken from my sleep at home by a phone call from the bone marrow charge nurse that Patty had taken a turn for the worse.  For whatever reason she had spiked a very high fever of over 105 degrees and her blood pressure had gone down so that they needed to add another “pressor” drug to keep her BP up.  I quickly made my way to the hospital as what was going to happen was very unclear.  When I arrived the intensivist on call informed me that she thought Patty had potentially had a major bleed in her brain – which would have explained the fever and drop in BP.  The only way that they could determine for certain was to do an MRI of Patty’s brain.  Because of all the equipment involved in Patty’s care, doing an MRI was not going to be easy.  Arrangements started immediately for the MRI but it would be almost 10AM before it could be pulled off.  How the nurses and MRI technicians accomplished it I really still don’t know but they managed to get her downstairs and into the MRI without losing her.

The MRI did not show any brain bleed and throughout the day Patty’s condition stabilized somewhat.  No one could explain what had occurred.  This little incident scared the hell out of me and it made me realize how precarious Patty’s situation was.

The following 3 days were like a game of cat and mouse as Patty’s BP and oxygen saturation would go down and then the nurses would adjust the medications and ventilator to get the numbers back into an acceptable range.  Sitting in Patty’s room hour after hour watching the numbers on the monitor seesaw between OK and bad was pure torture.  Whenever the numbers got too low, the alarms would start to beep and my heart would skip a beat.  This kept up through Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  I felt continually emotionally spent but the adrenaline flow into my body kept me going pretty much all the time.

Saturday came and I spent pretty much the entire day at the hospital, only returning home in the late evening.  I hadn’t eaten anything so Zack and I went out to dinner and then we came home to get some rest.  (Zack never went into the hospital with me when Patty was on the ventilator.  I did not want him seeing her like that.)  I called the nurses station at 11:30PM before I went to bed and they told me everything was going OK.  Patty was back on her continuous renal therapy and her BP and oxygen saturation where holding their own.  Feeling that things were OK I lay down on the couch to watch some TV.  I think I must have fallen immediately asleep once I lay down on the couch because the next thing I knew it was 2:15AM and the phone was ringing.  Of course it was hospital and things weren’t going well. 

Driving to the hospital that night I ran a lot of red lights and I did my best not to puke my guts out in the car.  My stomach kept wanting to come up and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest.

The news and the view when I got to the hospital were very grim.  Patty lay there looking horrible.  She was by this point after 10 days on profopol totally unresponsive.  The nurses were scrambling to do stuff to get her BP and oxygen saturation up.  There wasn’t anything I could do so I took my normal chair in the corner and sat and watched.  I would go back and forth from that chair to a chair I kept beside Patty’s bed.  Ever hour or so I would come and sit by the bed and talk to Patty and stroke her hands and hair.  But by this point I knew that things weren’t going to be ok.  By 10AM in the morning I had to start leaving the room every so often as I just could no longer handle the strain of watching the monitors and seeing the numbers head downward.  I had to get out of that room just to feel like I could breathe.  The strain on the nurses was clearly noticeable and they started double and tripling teaming the room because they could only handle it for a couple hours at a time individually.

By noon that day there was a clear understanding of what was taking place.  Patty had a massive case of pneumonia in addition to the original infection that she was fighting.  When an x-ray of her lungs was done her entire left lung was cloudy and white as it was filled with fluid.  Things were rapidly reaching a point that there was little more anyone could do.

I stayed with Patty throughout the day until my sister-in-law Celinde came to the hospital at 7:00PM that night.  At that point I could stand the stress and strain no more and I went to a family waiting room, got a blanket and fell into a fitful sleep.  Around 3AM I woke up and went back to Patty’s room.  The numbers on the monitor were even worse as her oxygen saturation was rarely getting above 85% and ventilator was doing everything it could to pump oxygen into her.  I stayed in the room for several more hours with Celinde before I headed home to take a shower and get Patty’s mom, Nancy.  As I drove home that Monday morning I knew the end was near and I knew I had to play a role it.

After grabbing a quick shower and getting Zack taken care of – I sent him to hang out with Celinde (who was home by this point) and my nephew at Tim and Celinde’s house, I got Nancy and headed back to the hospital.  We arrived around 10AM and headed directly to Patty’s room.  Due to the build up of fluid in her body, Patty’s eyes which had been closed for the last 10 days were open.  Her eyes opened because her eyeballs had become so swollen with fluid the eyelids couldn’t remain closed.  It looked as though she was awake but that wasn’t possible given the numbers on the monitor.  By now her oxygen saturations were even lower and I considered the fact that she might be brain dead already. 

Patty’s doctor – Peter McSweeney came to talk to us around 10:30AM.  I knew what he was going to say.  I knew what I had to do.  The discussion wasn’t long.  I made sure Nancy was OK with what I intended to do and she agreed.  I sat there in the conference room while I waited for the paperwork to be prepared.  I sat there and I couldn’t cry anymore as I had shed so many tears throughout the last week.  They put the paperwork in front of me and I signed it.  I signed the papers that said I wanted Patty’s life support terminated.

I had never wanted to be in that position.  Even if I only cut a few hours or a few minutes off of her life, I never wanted to sign those papers.  But I didn’t have a choice.  There was no way I could have let what was going on in Room 3403 continue. 

My brother came into the hospital around noon and Tim, Nancy and I hung out in Patty’s room talking to her and telling her things while everything was done and finalized according to hospital procedure.  She had never finished reading Harry Potter book 7 and she never wanted me to tell her whether Harry lived or not – but now I told her.  I don’t know if she heard me, but it was just something I had to do as Harry Potter had been one of her favorite things in life.  Around 2:15PM the charge nurse and one of the more senior nurses came into the room.  They talked to us a little bit about how they terminated life support and what might happen.  They asked us if we wanted to say anything else to Patty before they turned the drugs and ventilator off.  I got as close to Patty as I could and I kissed her on the forehead and told her I loved her.  I stood there and held her hand while they turned the machines off and I told her over and over that I loved her.  Then there was silence.  No more sound from the respirator, no more beeping alarms, no more clicking of the pumps supplying medicine to keep Patty’s blood pressure up.  And she was gone – without a sound, without a movement – Patty had left us.  The person in this world who I had been closest to, the person who I could complete her thoughts, the person who I had spent 21 years of my life with was gone.

I sat at the side of her bed with my head on her hand and cried.  I sat there until I began to feel her body start to cool.  The nurses disconnected all the lines and tubes and Patty looked at peace for the first time in a long time.

After a bit Tim took Nancy home and I sat there and just looked at the physical remains of my beloved wife.  I knew she wasn’t there anymore and what remained were just the trappings of whom she had been, but I didn’t want to leave.  Finally I forced myself to stop crying and I got up and gave Patty one last kiss on the forehead.  Then I turned and walked out the door.  As I walked out I took one last look at her as I knew I would never see her physical body again.  I closed the door and was gone.

On my drive home that day I cried and contemplated what was perhaps an even harder task than signing the papers.  I had to figure out how to tell Zack that his mother had died.  Throughout the previous days I had hinted to Zack that Patty wasn’t doing well and we should be prepared for anything.  But he couldn’t and wouldn’t accept that thought.  He steadfastly told me that mom was going to recover from this latest time on the ventilator and would do OK.  How do you tell a 9 year old kid that his mother is dead?  Do you just blurt it out?  Do you do some kind of song and dance around the subject?  What are you supposed to do?  No one had told me – nothing in my life had prepared me for this.

Zack was at my brother’s house when I arrived back in Willow Creek.  He had gone to the pool with Cole – my nephew and Celinde for a good part of the day.  What was so amazing about his day is that he had overcome his fear of water and was jumping off the diving board.  He had a good day and was happy – and I had to ruin it all for him by telling him what had happened.

We drove home and I continued to be tortured by how to tell him.  Once we were home I took him into the living room and sat him down on the couch and told him I had something important to tell him.  I didn’t beat around the bush but I didn’t just come out and blurt it out either.  I told him about how sick mom had gotten and how hard the doctors had tried to do everything for her.  And then I told him that his mom died that afternoon at 2:25PM.  He burst out into uncontrollable tears and sobbing.  For a while he just screamed and cried at the top of his lungs and all I could do was hold him and cry with him.

It took over 45 minutes for the initial shock and trauma to wear off before Zack could stop crying.  I asked him what we could do to make him feel better.  He wanted to “roughhouse”.  For the next 30 minutes we wrestled and rolled around on the floor with him trying to beat the snot out of me.  I let him that day – he got all the good moves in and routed me.  Then we started to deal with life that needed to be dealt with – it was really late and I needed to get my boy dinner and so went the rest of July 14, 2008.

Though Patty was gone from us we do believe she visited us that night.  Because things had been so crazy in the summer of 2008, there had never been any flowers planted in an elevated planter we have in front of our house.  The next morning we came outside to find one small solitary petunia in bloom in that planter.  It hadn’t been there when we went in the house for the last time the night before.  It hadn’t been planted as the ground was not disturbed in the slightest.  We came to accept that Patty had come and visited us that night and gave us that flower as a gift.  She loved to see that planter filled with lots of flowers every summer in full bloom.  You can chalk that flower up to a lot of things – but I do believe she sent it to us.

(Video montage from Patty's Celebration of Life Service)

This story has taken me the better part of an entire night and a bottle of wine to write.  So I am going to post it to the blog and go to sleep.  I have shed more tears while I wrote this than I have shed in a very long time. 

Rest well Patty Rae.  Someday we will be together again.  In the meantime watch over us and guide me to the best life I can make for that incredible boy of ours. But just know that even as someday in the future I move forward and start a life with a new partner you will never be forgotten.

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


I have debated whether to add this post script or not.  But it is ungodly late and I am exhausted.  So perhaps my judgement is clouded - I do not know.  Perhaps I will wake up at 7:00AM tomorrow and promptly delete it.

As I look back upon the loss of Patty I realize that there was nothing that could be done to avoid it once she had the bone marrow transplant.  She fought as hard as she could to survive and to go on and live a life with Zack and me.  But it wasn't to be.

On the flip side of this is the loss of my relationship with Shelly.  Here things were avoidable.  I could have done things differently and perhaps I won't have lost that relationship.  I am stuck in such a hard place as I still love her so much and there is nothing I can do to get her back.  I can't move forward and there is no way back.  I feel utterly alone and heart broken for so many reasons.  I know that I am going to be missing Shelly for a long time to come as I am still so deeply in love with her.  And on top of that I feel like crap because it didn't have to come undone.  I have only myself to blame.   So for now there is no future, there is no "other" who will be part of my life.  I am left with only the memories of the two great loves of my life.  The loss of one was unavoidable, but the second never should have been lost....  It just reminds me - always, always be thankful for what and who you have as you never know when it is going to go away.

And with that I am off to collapse before the roller coaster of life begins for another day.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Day My Neighborhood Changed - Forever??

Like a passenger on a ship looking at the wake the ship has caused in the ocean, examining past events through the eyes of the present can be deceiving.  As the ship passes through the ocean, it's wake spreads out further and further so that the exact point the ship traveled through can become hard to determine.  Much is the same of the examination of the past.

I speak of this in somewhat personal tones as an event that will have major ramifications on my little piece of paradise in this world is about to occur.  There is actually a countdown clock on the web that points to precisely when this significant event will happen.  At this exact moment as I write, the countdown clock stands at 15 days, 11 hours, 49 minutes and some odd seconds.  You can view this countdown clock too at:

By the web address above I have removed all mystery from this blog post.  Yes - I am speaking of one of the greatest events in the history of Colorado - the opening of the IKEA store in Centennial. I am joking about the significance of the event of course, but not the impact upon my neighborhood of Willow Creek. The store is located about 1/2 of a mile as the crow flies directly east of my home.  It is perhaps one of the largest single retailer stores that I have ever seen built in my life.

Like the ship passing through the ocean, looking back through the lens of today at the events of the past I find my eagerness that I felt for this new store hard to follow!  When the store was first announced in August of 2008 I was really quite excited about it.  I have a lot of fond memories of IKEA from when I lived back in Pittsburgh as my first apartment was pretty much furnished exclusively with IKEA stuff.  I still have a bunch of their bookshelves in my house. So it is pretty hard to see the journey my opinion has been on regarding IKEA since that day back in August of 2008 when the store was announced.

My problem with the situation is I fear IKEA and the government of Centennial have done a woeful job preparing for the crush of traffic that is shortly to descend upon this new store.  Unlike in other cities where completely separate interstate exits have been built for an IKEA store, literally nothing has been done to prepare our 2 lane roads for the additional hundreds of thousands of cars that will travel to the new store each year.

As a result of this lack of preparation I believe that all the streets that surround my neighborhood are essentially going to become gridlocked and impassable - particularly during the first several months of the store's opening.  I am dumbfounded and amazed that so little has been done to prepare the physical infrastructure for this massive change that is coming our way.

So what is to be done?  My hope is that very rapidly after IKEA's opening, the problem will become apparent to IKEA leadership and our city government.  At which time a crash course to add lanes to Yosemite, County Line, Dry Creek and Chester will be undertaken as it will be the only way shoppers will return to the store.  In the end run I think we will probably suffer through at least a year of major traffic issues before things get sorted out.  But what really surprises me the most is that this potential problem wasn't caught in the planning stages.  I am not a traffic engineer so I could be totally off my rocker, but I would estimate given the size of the store it was built to accommodate at least 3/4 of million customers per year.  Which - how do you add that many more cars to the streets around us without significant changes?  I guess I will just have to see how it plays out and hope that I am dead wrong!

I know the weather has been the topic of much discussion throughout the nation this week with the severely high temperatures scorching the south and mid section of the country.  Fortunately we haven't had those kind of temperatures here in Colorado.  But instead we have had rain, rain and even more rain.  Needless to say it would be great if things did dry out and get warm here as I am really sick of the rain.  This seems to be an opinion shared by many Coloradans at this time.

Our day was exceedingly uneventful!  For me it was all about work.  My division within my company is going through a major reorganization and there are many questions as to where my little world should be placed.  There continues to a back and forward between my current boss and others.  Regardless of where I end up, this reorganization is going to have some major impact upon my life as my responsibilities are going to become much broader.  In my almost 10 years with IBM, I have been through 6 major reorganizations, but this is the first that will really touch me personally in terms of my daily roles and responsibilities.

Zack got to go the natural history museum with one of his friends today.  That was big thing for him and he was quite excited about it.  That kept him occupied and quite happy.  He only has a few more free days this summer (except for weekends) in which he doesn't have camps or other activities planned.

My big thing for the day...  I discovered one more wine I really like.  I am in the habit of having several bottles of wine per week and I find it interesting to discover new and exciting tastes.  The wine I found this evening is a Malbec produced by Cupcake Vineyards.  It is a moderately priced wine and has a huge amount of favor.  I am somewhat of a Malbec snob these days and this wine definitely fits the bill as a superior example of a Malbec.  But I will admit one key thing - drinking a bottle of wine by yourself sucks.  It is so much better to have that partner to share it with!  But that is life for now - me and bottles of wine by myself!

I hope everyone survived their Monday's.  Hopefully it was a pretty good day for everyone!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Major Changes Start This Week!

You'd like to think that your weekend allows you to rest and get ready for the week ahead.  It is becoming more and more clear to me that my weekends are the really hard work and Monday through Friday is easier work!  Whew - it is now Sunday evening and I am exhausted from all that I have done this weekend.  I wish I could say that I was out partying each day and night but I haven't been. 

I know I have explained this in the blog before, but for much of the time between 2006 and 2010 life seemed to be in a state of suspend animation.  I didn't move forward with a lot of change.  When Shelly came into our lives in the 2nd half of 2009 things slowly started to change but the real work is taking place now!

Since mid-May life around the house has been about preparing for major changes.  In the preparation for those major changes I have been cleaning and purging.  The folks at Goodwill at Holly and County Line have to come know me on a first name basis as they have seen me in there so many times.  All the work and purging is now starting to pay off as the upgrades and changes to the house are starting this week.  The first thing that is happening is on Tuesday we are getting measurements for the entertainment center that is being put in the basement.  The entertainment center will give me the capability to install a home theater that we can use for movies and Zack can use for playing video games.  It will substantially increase the use of our basement for both Zack and me.  Then on Thursday my new garage doors are going to be installed.  The change in the garage doors will significantly update the curb appeal of the house.  Additionally, I expect to get my formal approval in the mail this week from the HOA Architectural Control Committee to go ahead with the stamped concrete front patio and landscaping changes.  On top of that there is another major change happening which I haven't 100% finalized yet but will have a major impact on life here at Casa de Kromero.  I should be able to get that finalized by the end of the week but until then I am somewhat loathe to speak about it.  (It is a change that has taken me a huge amount of effort to make.)

So what does all this change mean for us...  It means we are reinventing our home to match they way we need to live as we go forward.  I am still continuing to evaluate whether we are going to stay in this house or move to another house in Willow Creek.  But I have limited my search criteria with my real estate agent to some very specific features so it may be awhile before a house with those characteristics becomes available.  So in the mean time we are continuing to do upgrades to this house because we might just be staying here.  For those of you who know Willow Creek the specs that I am looking for in a new house are pretty detailed so you'll see that it may be awhile before a house comes available.  My key requirements are I want it to be on one of the big greenbelts, have a walk out basement and the house be thoroughly upgraded through out.  Given I am continuing to look at different houses I am holding off on the really big change to this house that is severely needed - a new kitchen and family room!

So besides all the work there really hasn't been much going on.  On a historical note, yesterday Zack and I took the last CRT monitor that we have in the house to be recycled.  Who would have ever imagined that we would be rid of all the Cathode Ray Tubes and only be using flat screen technology?  It is staggering to think of when you consider prior to 2008, there wasn't one flat screen TV or computer monitor in the house!  I think so many business and homes have gone this route in recent years, it is just startling the pace at which the technology we use changes.

The only real relaxation of the weekend that I got (I won't speak of Zack who seems to get tons of relaxation!) was taking a really long bike ride this morning.  I did over 37 miles on the C470, South Platte and Bear Creek bike paths.  I am starting to hit a good peak of endurance and speed on my bike so I feel pretty good about taking some really long bike rides these days.  My left leg still continues to bother me a bit.  Yesterday with all the moving of heavy objects I did, my leg was really bothering me.  However it felt better today since I didn't do that kind of work.  I am hoping this week it will feel good enough that I can return to the gym.  It would be nice if my leg started to feel good enough that I could do some hiking but so far that is not in the cards.

We are very quickly approaching July 14th and the 3rd anniversary of Patty's death.  I am consciously doing a lot of thinking about it this year.  My psychologist tells me that Patty's death is going to be part of my life for the remainder of time I have on this earth.  But with that said, what I do with her death and how I process through it makes all the difference in the world.  So this year, I don't want to try and sweep it under the rug the way I did the last 2 years.  I want to acknowledge it and deal with it.  I think that will really allow me to have a much firmer grip in my mind about the loss I have experienced and it will make life that much easier to move forward with.  In some ways it is all kind of crazy, but you come to realize that a death that close to you impacts you in ways that you never thought.  I just look at the impact it has on my day-to-day existence and I realize that I spend at least 3 hours each week taking Zack to/from psychologist appointments - all of that is due to his dealing with the grief from Patty's loss.  I just want all of that behind us for the most part so we can start living a day-to-day normal life again.

I could write a lot more tonight as I am in a writing kind of mood, but I am exhausted and I really want to go sit on the couch for a while, eat a few popsicles, watch the news and the head to bed.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

TODAYMoms - Stay-at-home and work-outside-the-home moms unite: We all feel overwhelmed

TODAYMoms - Stay-at-home and work-outside-the-home moms unite: We all feel overwhelmed I just had to share this article.... I found it funny because how do they classify single parents (i.e. other men and women like me) who have their children all the time. I find articles like this interesting because makes me think just how absolutely screwed so many of us are. When you are that single parent without any breaks or support from another adult your time is 100% dedicated to everything. So to all you other single parents out there. You're doing a great job just surviving. So don't be so hard on yourselves when you forget about a soccer practice, a doctor's appointment or whatever. You're doing everything you can just to survive!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Little Bit of Everything or A Little Bit of Nothing

A holiday week always seems to be a very weird week!  Your sense of what days are what becomes totally altered.  Sunday seems like Saturday, Monday seems like Sunday and the rest of the week is all messed up.  So though today is Wednesday it certainly doesn't feel like it.  But I must admit it feels good to having worked 2 days and it already being Wednesday!

In my last post I described Friday - Sunday in the mountains.  Monday - the 4th of July was a day to kick back and relax with friends who came up from Denver.  My friend Brenda and her family came up and joined us for a day of sight seeing and relaxing.  It was nice to have visitors with us in the mountains as we don't frequently have people join us in the mountains that much.  We had a fun day and a tasty dinner in Breckenridge.

After dinner we headed over to Frisco for the fireworks that are shot out over the Lake Dillon.  Our normal fireworks view spot was unavailable this year as the Frisco police had access to the Middle School Parking lot closed off.  So instead we found an alternative spot across Highway 9 and sat on the hood of the car to watch.  As soon as the fireworks were complete we headed back to the condo, got the dogs and made the trip down from the mountains to home.  We arrived right around midnight which was a perfect time as Zack was exhausted and went straight to bed.  It almost gave me 8 hours of sleep before I had to be up for my first conference call on Tuesday morning. 

The rest of this week has been uneventful and I am greatly looking forward to the coming weekend.  There is a ton of things starting to happening around the house that will result in big changes!  I am really looking forward to getting those changes started.

On a "little bit of everything" note - I discovered something totally new this evening about wine.  I had some time on my hands this evening and so I was reading the "Wine Enthusiast" magazine and I discovered an entirely new category of wines of which I had never before heard.  They are called "Icewines" and are made from grapes that are harvested once temperatures have gone below 17 degrees Fahrenheit.  The frozen grapes provide a very concentrated juice that is very rich in sugars.  This then factors into the tastes that is created by fermenting the juice.  I don't really understand how this works as I would think that the grapes would go bad before they are harvested.  These kinds of wines are only produced in the far northern latitudes.  (This makes me just think how much I miss the times in the past when I could share a bottle of wine with my partner and have a wonderful evening.  Oh how I miss those times!!)

Another "little bit of everything" is that I really need to find a cure for submissive peeing in Finnegan!  This afternoon my brother brought Cole over to spend the evening with us.  When Tim came in the door Finn totally and completely lost it and peed all over the place.  Needless to say I was not happy!  Then with the thunderstorms this evening, Finn did it again!!  I will be talking to my vet about how to prevent this with our wonderful little puppy as it is frustrating as all heck!!

One last "little bit of everything" to add.  The following is some of the video I shot in the mountains from my bike cam.  I got to say I am a little bit  enamored with the bike cam right now.  I am shooting every ride that we go on.  This is some video from when Tim, Celinde, Cole, Zack and I were riding from Frisco to Copper Mountain.  Some of the scenery is pretty cool if you ask me!!

(Agh - didn't turn out as good as I wanted because the file size was so big.  It was too big even for YouTube.  So I had go back and edit it down to 10 minutes.  Eventually I will get all this right so that I can post videos easily on the blog.  Maybe I need to try making them flash videos as opposed to Windows Media Files.  If anyone has any recommendations I would love to hear them.)

That's about it for a Wednesday night!  Hope that all everyone is having a good week so far!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Finnegan Learns His Trade

Dogs have been part of my family for most of my life.  As a child we got a dog when I was 4 and we had her until she died when I was 18.  A few years after that my parents got another dog.  As soon as Patty and I purchased our first house in 1996 we got our first dog within a week of moving in.  Since that first dog - Bailey, I have had a continuously unbroken string of dogs in my house with the most recent addition being Finnegan.

One of the things that has been really marvelous about having two dogs at a time but of different ages, is that the youngest dog is taught the ropes by the older dog.  Bailey taught Devon and Lex and now Lex is teaching Finnegan.  This weekend has been Finn's first real education in one of his primary job's - trail dog.  Finn has learned most of what he needs to know around the house and though Lex isn't a good of a teacher as was Bailey he has done OK.  But where Lex seems to excel is teaching Finnegan what to do when we are out hiking.

Typically I let the dogs off leash when hiking unless it is specifically prohibited by local law or if I feel the pups might get into trouble.  But - I have to be at a point where I trust the dog and I typically don't trust puppies.  Finnegan has been a great exception to the rule.  By his nature he wants to stay close to me and Lex so he has done a great job being out on the trail without a leash.  Lex also did a great job "herding" Finn the way to go.  If Finn was going off in the opposite direction, Lex would be sure to be at his side and bump into Finn to get him going in the right direction.  I am definitely please with how fast Finn is catching on to the concept of being out on the trail and doing the right things.  He is learning his trade as a "trail dog" very quickly!!

The weekend seems to just be flying by as we have been busy from sun up to sunset.  We arrived at our condo around 7:30PM on Friday night.  Once my brother and his family arrived all 5 of us went out for some dinner at the Dillon Dam Brewery.  The brewery is by far my favorite place to dine out here in the mountains.

Zack and I spent most of Saturday with Tim, Celinde and Cole as we rode the Vail Pass bike path up to Copper Mountain and back.  We stopped there for lunch and had a very enjoyable day overall.  Zack was amazing in how well he did riding up hill to Copper!  He was like a machine and for the most part just kept going and going.  I had thought he was going to have a tough time with it due to the steep nature of the trail but he did great.  He is really starting to come into his own in so many ways!  I can't express how proud I am that he is really starting to mature and work through a lot of issues that have plagued him these last couple of years!

After our day of biking we were pretty much exhausted so I made some dinner for us at the condo and then we just stayed in watching TV and hanging out.  I spent a good part of the evening sitting out on the condo's deck enjoying some wine while I watch the sun fade from the sky.  It was a very relaxing and good evening.  On top of that I have installed a gate on the deck so that the dogs can be out on the deck without being able to run down the stairs and run off.  So for much of the evening either Finnegan or Lex was curled up at my feet.  It was an evening of happiness in the moment in which I was living.  And all the happiness and contentment came exclusively from me and being by myself.  That felt good!

Today - Sunday Zack and I were back biking again as Tim, Celinde and Cole had gone over to Vail to see some friends.  We did 15 miles on the Lake Dillon/Frisco bike trail.  We did have one little incident though when Zack crashed.  He was about 20 yards behind me so I didn't see it but I sure did hear it.  I heard the sound of a bike tire skidding followed by the sound of a bike going off the trail and then crashing.  Zack didn't start crying or screaming or anything like that he just called out "DAD".  I turned around quickly and got back to him.  Even before I could reach him 2 people who were behind him had stopped to help him.  Thankfully he suffered hardly any injuries at all.  He had a few scrapes and brush burns but that was all.  We were very lucky!

Lulu - my brother's dog did not escape an incident today as easily as Zack escaped his crash.  This morning when Celinde had the dogs out for their morning walk, Lulu decided to take on a porcupine.  Needless to say - Lulu came out the loser in that battle and ended up in the puppy ER with lots of quills in her muzzle and mouth.  Apparently she did OK with the surgery to remove them as Tim and Celinde took her to Vail with them.  Poor Lulu - I am sure she isn't feeling too good this evening!  (But I do bet she will give porcupines a wide berth from here on out.)

After we finished up our ride we got the bikes on the car and headed to Leadville for lunch at the Golden Burro Cafe and a visit to National Fish Hatchery on the outskirts of town.  The Golden Burro isn't anything special but it kind of is a Leadville tradition, so every time we are in Leadville we stop and have lunch there.  As for the Fish Hatchery...  I don't know but both Zack and I just think it is a lot of fun to stop and visit.  With the amount that Zack has been going fishing recently it definitely makes sense that he would be interested in how the fish are hatched and grown til they can be stocked in the streams and lakes of Colorado.

This evening we are going to watch Harry Potter 7.1 and have leftovers from yesterday.  Ah...  a good end to a fun and enjoyable day.

Now totally switching gears from my normal - "here what we have been up to" blog entry.  In my last blog entry I mentioned how that we were approaching the 3 year anniversary of Patty's final struggle and passing.  This date - July 3 is one of the most bittersweet of those last days.  It was the day that I had my last real conversation with Patty.  As per usual I spent most of the day at the hospital with her.  But I had committed to Zack that I was going to take him to Dave and Busters for dinner and then to see the Disney movie Wall-E.  So as the afternoon wore on I started to look at the clock.  Early in the day I had talked to Patty about going outside, but there was too much stuff that came up from physical therapy to various different doctors dropping by, etc.  Yet around 2:30PM that afternoon she told me that she wanted to go outside.  Getting Patty outside wasn't an easy activity as she required a special wheelchair, portable oxygen and a portable medicine pump that could accommodate 4 different medicines at once.  The set up time for everything and getting everything approved with her nurses took a while.

I was tempted to tell Patty that going out could wait until the next day, but for whatever reason that day I decided I was just going to push through things and get her outside.  The day was perfect as the temperature was only in the low 80's and there was a nice breeze blowing.  It took a bit to get everything set up but then we were freed from all the plugs, wires and tubes that were attached to the wall and we were free to go outside.  There was this special courtyard in the center of the hospital that I used sit in some times to just catch my mental/emotional breath.  So I decided to take her there.  It had been probably a month since Patty had been outside so it was a very special treat for her.  She looked at the sky and felt the breeze and we shared a very good conversation.  I will always remember those 30 minutes in that courtyard.  Maybe we both knew what was coming upon us the next day.  I really don't know why I didn't put her off that day and I really don't know why she wanted to go outside.  I didn't do anything special but those 30 minutes gave us one last moment together as husband and wife, as life partners before Patty began to fade away from this life.

And with that I will say - I hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July!

Thanks for reading my ramblings, it is cheaper to write this then to go to the therapist.  Oh wait a minute...  I do go to a therapist!  LOL!  Just a little humor to lighten up my mood as I finish this post!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

PS - I would like to add some pictures to this post, but I recently switched broadband carriers from Sprint to AT&T and I am paying the price as the AT&T Broadband network is just not very good.  So I can't get any pictures uploaded from here in the mountains.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Many of you who read this blog know the story so I am not going to go into details.  But in the last 12 months I have had literally dozens of new followers so I wanted to offer this brief explanation.

Three years ago this summer my wife Patty died.  In past years I have noted her death by one simple post.  This years there have been lots of thoughts going through my mind about Patty and all that has happened since she died.  So I have decided to write several blog entries about her and all that happened during those horrible days of July 4 - July 14th.  For those who don't know the detailed story you can check out Patty's Caringbridge Site for a complete telling of the story.  That address is:

Today's blog entry and several more over the next 2 weeks is dedicated to Patty and her memory.

Back in the day New Order was the one and only musical group for me.  I loved anything and everything that had to do with New Order.  Back in 1987 I actually got to see them in concert at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.  It was the highlight of the summer!

So I have embedded this song on my blog for two reasons.  The first is simply because it is New Order and it was something that Patty and I shared together.  We loved New Order and other artists of the 1980 and would listen to this kind of music for our entire marriage.  (I can't totally remember but I think we used a New Order song for the first song at our wedding reception.  Not because it was real classy or anything, but simply because it represented us.)  Anyway - I wanted to post this today as we are entering that period of the year - from July 1 to July 14 when Patty was in the final battle for her life.  Three years have passed since those days but I remember them like the were yesterday.  So I am putting this song up on the blog for her.

The second reason that I put "Regret" on the blog was a question that Allen asked me when he visited 2 weeks ago.  From June 21 - June 28, 2008 I took part in Bicycle Tour Colorado with Allen.  It was a time in which Patty looked to be pretty stable and it was the first respite I had from being Patty's care taker in almost 2 years.  I could do the bike trip and not have to worry about anything for a week as I had others looking out for things for me.  Of course I didn't know at the time Patty only had 3 weeks left to live.

Allen asked me if I regretted or felt guilty because I was gone for the entire week only a short time before Patty died.  I answered him with a distinct "NO".  To this day there is only one thing I regret or feel guilt about concerning Patty's illness and death and that is because I didn't question the decision to have a bone marrow transplant hard enough.  Had Patty not had that transplant there are 50/50 odds she would still be alive.  That is a hard thing for me to think through.  At one point in December 2006, Patty was wavering on whether or not to go ahead with the transplant.  We talked about it for a long, long time but my general response was "The doctors are telling you that you need to this transplant to be cured.  I think you have to go ahead with it because they have the best set of knowledge and really know what needs to be done."  Oh my - if only I could have toned down those words a little bit.  If only.....  If only....   But I didn't and as a result it is something that I regret to this day!

I hope everyone has a great safe and fun weekend ahead!