The best things about living in Colorado

After living in Colorado for almost 9 months now, I am in the throes of falling in love with this state. Life is different here than anywhere else we have lived (which includes, in order: northern Minnesota,  central Minnesota, Lubbock, TX, way northern Minnesota -I could essentially see Canada from our rented cabin,  Wichita, KS, the Twin Cities, Holmen then La Crosse, WI, and now Colorado). I am blessed to have the rare opportunity, at least for the moment, to be unencumbered by the stress of paid, full time employment. This “unencumberedness” has gifted me with the ability to slow down and appreciate my new surroundings. And let me tell you, there is a lot to love about this new state that the hubs and I now call home. Below is my list of favorite things in this oh so colorful state:

  1. The scenery! I can literally walk to the edge of our townhome community and see the Rocky Mountains. To say they are spectacular is actually an understatement. As a bonus, the majority of the daytime the skies are blue and the sun is shining. And the skies at night are often stunning, particularly around sundown. The hubs has a Nikon and has taken some tremendous photos of said skies. Like this one: 20161205_070430

 

2) There are dogs everywhere! This is especially awesome for the canine lover in me. From Kevin and Bandit, our big, furry friends who live with our neighbors across the way, to the two sweet mutts who are the children of a nice young English guy we interacted with at our local watering hole, (Twenty Brew in Westminster), to the little fur ball named “Rhoda” who has the pleasure of living with a most wonderful older couple from our church, everyone seems to have a dog (or two). And dogs are also welcome in the most unlikely of places here. Example: I recently witnessed a large golden retriever taking a nap next to his human while he was at the customer service desk at Lowe’s (and no, he did not appear to be a service dog).

3) Easy access to great live entertainment. Since living here, we’ve gone to the Buell Theater in Denver to see “MoTown the Musical” which was amazing. We’ve gone to Boulder to see the band “Cake” at the Boulder Theater which was a crazy-good, rockin’ show. We went to Left Hand Brewery’s “Leftapalooza” event which featured cover bands of The Pretenders, The Who, and other classic rock bands. We have tickets to see Train with O.A.R. and Natasha Bedingfield at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater in Englewood on the Fourth of July, which we are super stoked about. And we have Red Rocks, which is around an hour away from where we live. While we have been there to check the place out twice now, we have yet to see a concert there. But it is certainly on our list of things to do while we are living here!

4) Okay, here’s the elephant in the room: weed is legal here (both medical and recreational), which I deem to be a very good thing. I have seen documentaries in which regular people suffering from medical conditions who have told their stories about how medical cannabis has dramatically decreased their pain levels and increased their appetite so they could gain much needed weight. From what I understand, the legalization of weed has been quite a boon to the economy here as well, as a host of new jobs have been created as a result.

5) The Next with Kyle Clark on 9 news. This is my favorite news program. The stories are often of the human interest variety, but always specific to Colorado. I learn something new about this state every time I watch it. And that Kyle Clark is a good looking, smart, and witty guy a person might just like to have a beer and shoot the sh*&t with.

Snippet of Kyle Clark doing his thing

6)  That of course brings me to the beer. Specifically craft beer. After living here for 9 months, I very likely would be considered a “beer snob” by my old pals still living in Wisconsin. I’m good with that though. Our favorite local joint, Twenty Brew, serves up a rotating menu of Colorado craft beer. You can purchase 4 oz. tasters up to 16 oz. glasses of anything from Kolsch styles, a wide variety of IPA’s, Stouts, Lagers, and more. An added bonus here is that the bartenders, and sometimes other patrons, are always up for lively conversations. There are also numerous breweries within a short drive from our house, such as Westminster Brewing Company, Left Hand Brewing, 4 Noses, and Wild Woods (just to name a very few we have visited). The best ones have outdoor seating, where you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery and sometimes catch some cool live music. Here’s hubs and I at Twisted Pines Brewery in Boulder (highly recommend-not only do they have great beer but the food is amazing). 20170409_122706 (1).jpg

7) The people! I love the friendships I have started to make here. There’s my new hairdresser, who is a spunky, hilarious, big hearted tattooed  and pierced mother of two who operates her business in the basement of her home. There’s my dynamic, artistically talented, kind and smart friend Tina, who I met through the “Meet Up” website. There’s the folks I volunteer with at FISH, a food pantry in Broomfield, through whom I am learning a lot about Colorado.

My ultimate goal for this summer, amidst a trip to see our beloved family and friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and a work related trip with the Hubs to D.C., is to experience more of what makes Colorado, well Colorado. And for those of you pronouncing it “Col-oh-rado”, I heard from a legit source (The Next’s Kyle Clark) that the natives pronounce it “Col-ah-rad-o”. A concert at Red Rocks just might be on the agenda. I will certainly keep you all abreast of our shenanigans in this uniquely wonderful state we now call home.

 

 

 

Home Sweet Home

While I do believe that Wisconsin and Minnesota are truly where my heart lives, and the hubs and I envision moving back to one of those states at some point in the future, I am good with life in Colorado. We moved here last summer, from what we referred to as our “Grandma House”, a simple ranch with beautiful hardwood floors, a great backyard and sweet 3 season porch, to a more modern 3 bedroom townhome smack dab between Denver and Boulder. Upon returning to our Colorado home last Friday after the most emotionally challenging  9 days of my life thus far (spent with aging parents in Minnesota), I have newfound interest and energy for sprucing up our townhome. The fact that the hubs had professional painters come in and paint our downstairs walls (which houses a small living room, dining room, kitchen and half bath) is a major inspiration for me as well.

That said, I’d like to do something a little fun here with this blog post. Hubs and I have lots of ideas for how to adorn our walls downstairs and soon we should be able to start making some purchases. I’ve taken pictures of the wall spaces that I believe need to be customized to reflect our lives here, right now. If I had to categorize our home decor style, I’d say it is “arts and crafts meets modern rustic”. I’m highly open to comments or suggestions people!

So without further ado….let’s begin!

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This is our dining area. The small framed mirrors were a find from a few years back, which I still love,  from Ikea. I really want to keep them right where they are. However, I think they need some color! I would like to tie in the hints of burgundy (or maroon, depending on how your eyes see it) somehow. I’m thinking possibly a thin dark wood shelf above the mirrors with some small basic tealight candles in just the right shade of burgundy/maroon.

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So here is our main wall in our little kitchen. Pretty boring right? It is such an improvement from the previous color, however, which was a wine/burgundy that made the space seem even smaller than it is. I like the idea of a beer theme here (Hubs and I are fans of Colorado craft beer) though I don’t want to go overboard. I have been saving bottle caps from beers we’ve enjoyed with the notion that some day I’m going to actually try one of the many Pinterest crafts I have saved. One idea I have is to superglue the bottle caps onto this clock that we both really love. We want this clock to stay where it is for sure. Then possibly put a couple of framed (black and white possibly) pictures of beer. Or else some small wood shelves on either side of the clock with tea light candles (beer scented-but that might be overkill).

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So this is a pic of the wall next to our entryway. I am in love with the placement of the peace sign, which I picked up on Pearl St. in Boulder shortly after moving here. And the peace lily is so beautiful and special, as it was a gift from my in  law’s for my 50th birthday. I just feel that the wall space needs a tad bit more color. Perhaps adding it by putting colorful ribbon on the peace sign? Not certain if I should mess with this or not.

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This is of course the fireplace wall. One thing Hubs and I have agreed on from Day #1 in this townhome is that the peach colored tile framing the fireplace is quite hideous and needs to go! Especially now with buttery yellow combined with chocolate brown on the wall above it. We do plan on having a beautiful picture of the Colorado sky,  which the Hubs recently took, blown up and framed with rustic looking wood for above the fireplace. The real dilemma for us here is how to re-face (is this the correct term? Not sure) the lovely (not) peach tile. We are thinking slate or stone, but have no knowledge of how to do it. I do have faith that once we figure that out, it will be something special.

I have more pics of my house I may share in the near future, but these are the areas I am most interested in updating at this moment in time. As I said earlier in this post, comments and/or suggestions are much appreciated! It’s time for this joint to become a real home for the two of us 🙂

Meditation and me

I have a curious relationship with meditation. Over the past several years, I’ve had several people recommend it to me as a way to cope with anxiety and calm my fears. Like lots of things throughout my life (exercise and writing are prime examples), it’s been an on again/off again affair.

I became more serious about meditation a little over a year ago, while reading a self help book entitled “Mind Hacking: How to Change Your Mind for Good in 21 Days” by Sir John Hargrave. The premise of this book is that we have the ability to “hack” our minds to change our thinking and overcome obstacles that prevent us from realizing our full potential. This book was actually a great read which empowered me to change my thinking, which improved my attitude towards life. I recommend to it anyone who feels they could benefit from an attitude re-adjustment.  Here it is: images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/…/51HW57bSE2L.UY250.jpg

A significant portion of this book is dedicated to “mind hacking” exercises, which included something called the “Concentration Game”. This exercise, from my perspective, is essentially meditation with an interesting twist: Once you are comfortably seated and begin focusing on breathing in and out, you are to keep track of the number of times you find yourself following your mind (being “lost in the movie”), by either counting on your fingers or in your head. When I first tried this, it seemed like a smart way to be mindful, which greatly appealed to me. I had recently embraced the notion of practicing mindfulness, so I was “all in”. However, this exercise proved to be quite challenging for me. Here’s how it went:

I sat my tush down on the floor of the room we used in our sweet “Grandma” house as an office. I closed my eyes, taking in a big breath, then slowly exhaling.

Then I thought to myself: “Okay, I got this. Oh, I feel so relaxed”. Then “Sh*t! I had a thought! Alright, there’s #1”

Then I thought “Okay, don’t forget to write down the total down when you’re done” Ok, so this was thought #2.  Then I thought “Alright, quiet your brain…D’oh! Now you’re at #3”!

Okay….blank mind, blank mind, breathe…..

Approximately 22 seconds later, I hear a noise I can’t quite recognize and think “Oh, that’s just hubs getting dressed in our bedroom”. Uh-oh! Thought #4….

Okay, breathe in, breathe out, in, out…then thought #5 pops into my noggin “I’m strong, I can do this”. “Shut up!” I tell myself. Okay, there’s thought #6.

Ok, so this was not necessarily going well.

Back to it. I’m breathing in, breathing out. In my head are the words “Breathe in love, breathe out kindness…oh, I like that. Very positive”. Crap! Now that’s thought #7. Focus, woman!

Ok, breathe in, breathe out…..

A maximum of 30 seconds passes, and it occurs to me that the alarm I set on my cell phone for this completely frustrating activity is likely to go off at any second now…whoops! Thought #8.

Okay, breathe in love, breathe out kindness, breathe in love, breathe out kindness. I am becoming more chilled out now. I start to physically feel  the level of relaxation I experienced when hubs and I were on vacation in the Florida Keys (Islamorada) the previous spring. I could hear the waves flapping from the ocean w/seagulls squawking in the background. Then, I thought to myself “I wonder if we’ll be able to go back there someday”. Thought #9!

Ok, breathe in love, breathe out kindness. Then the random thought pops up about how many more thoughts I might have by the time I have finished this god-forsaken exercise. Thought #10!

So, essentially this wound up being less of a mindful, refreshing meditation and more of a game of “how many thoughts can I have while meditating?”.

Surprisingly, I continue to meditate each morning.  It has a calming, grounding effect on me and sets the tone for the day. However, I refuse to count my thoughts while doing so. Instead, I set my timer to 10 (not 20 like the “Concentration Game” for Pete’s Sake) minutes. And then I breathe in with a customized acronym and breathe out to another acronym I came up with. I would bet (at least $1.08) that the number of thoughts I have in these precious 10 minutes are fewer than 10. Works for me!

Music Therapy

So here’s the thing: I haven’t written a post in a while because I’ve been in an emotional funk. Between worrying about my aging parents way far away in Northern Minnesota and the struggles my young adult children are facing, I haven’t been feeling my usual “pollyannish” self. Plus I came down with a nasty upper respiratory infection which didn’t help matters. My primary purpose for keeping this blog is to put positive energy out there. I’ve hesitated to post this last week or so because of my crummy mood as of late. But today I did something just for me. Something that feeds my soul like nothing else. That “something” is music therapy.

I’ve always been into music. Growing up, I remember spending large chunks of time in my bedroom, listening to my favorite albums on my turntable. Just listening, and pondering the lyrics and delighting in the melodies.  Like the Eagles Greatest Hits. Or the Beatles. Or even the old 70’s mellow tunes from the band Bread. Sometimes, I’d sing along to the Grease soundtrack. Or I’d dance around my room listening to the Kinks, Men at Work, or Michael Jackson.  The best thing about all of this music is that it made me feel. It made me stop overthinking everything and calmed my soul. Music continues to have that magical power over me.

A couple of months ago, I discovered how to create my own playlists via Google Play. I have created several playlists for myself since then. I have them categorized according to the moods I wish to create. Today, I chose to listen to my “CFO” (Chill the F out) playlist. I chose the songs on this playlist for the memories they evoke, the way they soothe me to the core. Now, on this particular playlist, there are a total of 27 songs. I respect my readers time, so I will choose to not gush over each and every one of them. I will simply highlight the ones that sang to my heart most deeply today.

“Way Over Yonder” is a beautiful song by the fabulous singer/songwriter Carole King. My oh my, how I love her songwriting abilities. This song can be found on her iconic “Tapestry” album. When I listen to this song, it makes me think of what “The Great Beyond” (aka heaven) would be like. One of the best lines (IMHO) is in the song is “Maybe tomorrow I’ll find my way to the land where the honey runs in rivers each day”.  This song is like the musical version of butter to me: soft, real, and smooth.

Likely John Denver’s most well known and loved songs is “Rocky Mountain High”. It has special meaning to me, having moved from Wisconsin to Colorado 7 months ago. The line “He was born in the summer of his 27th year, coming home to a place he’d never been before”. Wow. The simple beauty of that line and this entire song always brings tears of joy to my eyes.

Then there’s Jackson Browne’s “Pretender”. I believe Jackson Browne is right at the top of the best American singer/songwriters. I love how the melody of this song draws me in right away, making me feel as if I want to physically move forward and walk alongside him as he tells me this story. He sings this song from the perspective of an American blue collar worker and weaves details in his lyrics (like “when the morning sun comes streaming in, I get up and do it again. Amen” or “caught between the longing for love and the struggle for the legal tender”) that bring to my mind all of the hardworking men I know, such as the hubs, our dad’s, brothers in law, nephews, cousins and old friends. And then there’s the sweet, romantic, authentic line of “I’m gonna find myself a girl who can show me what laughter means, and we’ll fill in the missing colors in each other’s paint by number schemes”. This is just a classic American song and it will always be one of my favorites.

Please do yourself a favor and listen to “Flower” by Amos Lee. Simply gorgeous. The melody is so smooth and silky. It is, to me, the perfect song to listen to while driving around on a warm spring or summer day with the windows rolled down. It reminds me of when I was working as a social worker in La Crosse, jamming out in my good old Honda CRV between visits with my clients. My favorite line in the song is “my heart is a flower that blooms every hour, I believe in the power of love”. This is a song that will most certainly brighten up my mood no matter the circumstances.

Then there’s a Paul Simon (oh how I adore him) classic: Still Crazy After All These Years. The line he sings “and we talked about some old times and drank ourselves some beers, still crazy after all these years” brings back so many happy memories spending time with those special, treasured friends I’ve known since forever. Makes me wax nostalgic about shenanigans we engaged in together, often after drinking ourselves some beers (and not the delicious craft beers we drink now, more like Pabst Blue Ribbon or Schmidt “pseudo” beer).

“A Little Bit of Everything” is a most special song which is also on my CFO playlist. It’s written and performed by Dawes, a band out of California whom I discovered probably 4 years ago. This one for me is right up there with “Pretender” , with it’s emotionally honest lyrics. I have forced many people in my life to stop what they are doing and simply listen to this song. It always brings on the waterworks for me. It even made my mom cry.  It tells the story of different people going through their lives and declaring what’s important to them at the soul level. Every time I listen to it, I get a mental image of the story. That’s some powerful songwriting. I only wish Dawes would have made a video for this song. It would have been epic. Possibly the best line is ” I think that love is so much easier than you realize, if you can give yourself to someone, then you should”. Then there’s the line “I want a little bit of everything. The biscuits and the beans. Whatever helps me to forget about the things that brought me to my knees”.

All I can say is I am grateful I have working ears, a beating heart, and the blessing of time to listen to and appreciate my music. It fills my soul like nothing else. 20170329_143953

 

Tales from a 50 year old optimist recently transplanted from Wisconsin to Colorado. Finding silver linings, lifting others up, sharing positively good stuff

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