Saturday, January 18, 2014

The East West Region Trail - A Wilderness in the Midst of the Suburbia

Warm southern winds have pushed the temperature in the Denver area well above normal in the last week.  This morning was no exception as the day dawned sunny, bright and warm.  Today was a day made for hiking!

Around 11:00AM I headed out for a long hike along the Douglas County East West Regional Trail.  In the last year a new trail head at Ridgegate Parkway was established that has opened up access to the high bluffs above the city of Lone Tree.  The trail head is in a well populated area where the new Cabelas Store opened in August of last year.  Despite the business of the area, once you set out upon the trail, it is though you have journeyed from the middle of Denver suburbs to a desolate ranching area.  Leaving the parking lot of the trail head behind, the trail quickly ascends to the top of the bluffs that dramatically rise up at the southern edge of the Denver metro area.  The elevation change is abrupt and significant as the high point along this ridge rises to almost 6300 feet, which is 1000 feet higher than Denver.

Getting up on top of these ridges is amazing as the view of Denver is fantastic and you really do feel removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.  The trail makes it's way to the west and all through out your journey there is a barbed wire fence on your left (to the south) that marks the boundary of a working ranch.  It is an interesting ranch because in addition to cattle, they also raise ostriches.  Today I was privileged to see two of the great birds strutting in one of the fields.  It is not a normal sight to see ostriches in Colorado!

Here are some photos that I took along the way.  I made use of a new Nikon Coolpix camera I received as a Christmas gift from Lisa.  It takes some pretty great pictures!

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 - My Year in Review

Another year is done and in the record books.  What a year it was!  My experiences with 2013 were varied but were for the most part pretty good.  Even the things that happened that weren't quite so good, turned out to have some pretty good silver linings.

The biggest event that occurred this year wasn't even something that directly happened to me - it was something that happened with Zack.  It's not something that I have mentioned on this blog or anywhere else for that matter.  The event was that Zack was officially "diagnosed" with Asperger Syndrome.  Aspergers is a mild form of autism and with the most recent version of the
"Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" it is now considered part of the "Autism Spectrum".  I guess this diagnosis really isn't a big surprise but it certainly had a large impact on both Zack and me in 2013.  Knowing this information has allowed us to change the way we interact and work together to address the issues that Zack needs to overcome to be a successful young adult.  Though some might think that getting this diagnosis is devastating, for us it has been extremely helpful as we now have a much better way to address the issues that have plagued Zack since Patty got sick in 2006.

Another event that occurred which was not so good and really has no silver lining has been Lex's near death experience and subsequent diagnosis with cancer.  The only good thing that has come out of this event has been that Lex is still alive.  When his vet informed us that the tumor on his spleen was cancerous we were told that he only had 2 - 3 months to live.  The doggie oncologist gave us a longer time frame of 6 - 8 months, but we are even now approaching the end of that period of time.  I am not going to be so foolish to think that Lex has this horrible disease beat.  With the incredible pain tolerance that all dogs have, it is possible that Lex could be fine one day and close to death the next.  He is doing well right now but that can change at a moment's notice.  I am just so happy for each day that we have with him!

Losing my job as part of IBM's huge layoff this summer I first viewed as a very bad thing.  However, events have shown that it was actually a very good thing!  You would never think that getting laid off would turn out to be something good, but in this case it certainly was.  With over 14 years experience with IBM the severance package I received was pretty darn good.  On top of that, after getting to take 2 months off of work, I went back working for IBM as a contractor at the beginning of October.  Working as a contractor was at first pretty weird, but I have grown used to it and I have found that many aspects of being a contractor are superior to being an employee.  I don't receive any benefits, vacation days or any other kind of paid time off, but I get paid for every single hour I work.  If it is a busy crazy week and I work 60 hours, I get paid for each and everyone of those 60 hours.  On top of that, when my work day is done I turn off my computer and stop thinking about work.  When I was a full time employee, I was never able to do that.  Now I realize I am just a contractor and there is no overriding goal or reason for me to focus upon my job as anything more than an hourly, day-by-day job.  As a contractor I make a much higher hourly pay rate as I don't get any benefits so I have to pay for those myself.  All-in-all getting laid off was a good thing rather than a bad thing! (That seems weird I know, but it is the way it has worked out for me.)

Another good thing about this year has been the amount of progress I have made in reinventing my house.  In 2012 we had the big remodeling of our kitchen and family room completed.  There was no major projects like that this year.  However, I accomplished many things in terms of getting the entire house in order and reducing the amount of "stuff" that I have.  It has been a fabulous feeling to reduce the clutter and be able to consistently pull one of my cars into the garage.  Just the feeling of having things organized and well in hand has been great.

Dating Lisa for all of 2013 has also been a really good thing.  We met in the spring of 2012 and have been dating since we met.  Our relationship has been drama-free, full of good times and pretty wonderful in general.  After the trauma and drama that I experienced with Shelly, I was pretty down on the whole concept of dating.  Instead of jumping right into the dating game after Shelly, I waited a long time and made sure that I was re-entering the dating world for the right reasons.  The wait and manner in which I approached dating really paid off, as Lisa is a wonderful, loving, kind, gentle and extremely positive person.  She has added a tremendous amount of positive things to Zack and my lives.  Lisa is a wonderful, happy person who I enjoy being with so much and this past year really saw our relationship grow and mature.  It's great to have her in my life!

There were many other events that occurred this past year and both Zack and I got to do many new and adventurous things - from Zack's Outward Bound expedition to my trip to the Philippines, each month of 2013 allowed us to grow and learn.

I know I am looking ahead to this new year with many plans for personal development, adventure and positive things.  We never plan for our future to contain things that are negative but undoubtedly those things will occur.  The key to handling those negative events are to try and find the positive things that you can gain from them.  I can't predict what negative events will happen this year, but I am determined to try and gain something positive from even the most negative things.  Hopefully there won't be a lot of negative events in 2014 - only time will tell, yet I will face it all with a smile on face and viewpoint of seeing the silver lining in everything.

Happy new year to you all!  My hope each and everyone of you is that 2014 is better for you than was 2013!

Thanks and peace to all! ~ J.

Below some of the pictures we took this year showing our adventures and activities.

(Yosemite Valley during Fall Break Trip)

 (Deer on the trail near El Capitan in Yosemite)

 (Zack and me at Glacier Point in Yosemite with Half Dome in the background)

 (Zack at Mono Lake outside of Yosemite)

 (Lisa and me on the Staten Island Ferry in NYC at Thanksgiving)

 (Lisa and me in the Devil's Garden in Arches National Park) 

 (Zack climbing a shear rock face on his Outward Bound expedition)

 (Sunrise from top of Mt. Olinger when Zack and I volunteered for The Hike for Hospice fund raiser.)

 (Lower Manhattan skyline from the Staten Island Ferry)

 (Colorado Sand Dunes National Park during spring break)

 (Our little group during spring break trip to Sand Dunes)

 (Moose outside of our condo in Silverthorne)

 (Zack hiking with me at Colorado's newest state park - Staunton Ranch)

 (Zack and I at Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico in August)

 (Hiking South Valley Open Space in Jefferson County early one fall morning)

 (Zack at Death Valley National Park on fall break trip)

 (In Death Valley National Park)
 (Zack at Christmas giving me a wave)

 (My and my brothers and sisters together at Christmas)

(Crossing the finish line at Canyonlands Half Marathon in March of 2013)