Portland State of Mind

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Transitioning to a new life, in a new city, at times, has left me feeling out of body:  Observational, but intimidated; Curious, and unsatisfied with answers; Patience, only leading to frustration; Built up excitement, then unimpressed; Incognito, but lonely; Surprised yet torn; basically all conflicting emotions that can happen were my experiences.  When I decided to “Jump in,”  “Carpe Diem” and “When in Rome” cliche it up and to Facebook-style exaggerate what is happening, I tucked my tail and went running back to my comfort zone.  Those approaches were not me.  All the million, trillion suggestions people asserted were not me either.  I had to surrender to the change and whatever catastrophe came with it.  Even if that catastrophe meant I had to slow my life down and concede that moving and transitioning to a new city takes time, its not just a romantic idea thought up in a single moment.

So, while browsing through an adorable Portland vintage shop, because that what Portlandians do, the owner offered me half price on the 2013-2014 Chinook Book because it would soon be expired.  chinook2 The contents of my Chinook Book include coupons to ONLY local grocers, restaurants, shops, entertainment, rentals, and transportation. Trying to fit in by conversing and observing and taking infinite amounts of recommendations was OVER!  (Ugh!  Finally!!)  I would take this coupon book and I apply whatever food, shop or entertainment Chinook threw my way.  No more thinking, weighing, mapping it out, discussing, deciding, comparing and contrasting agony!

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Chinook  gave me a coupon for this local, sustainable, green convenience store, not far from our home.  Using my coupon, I decided all purchases must be Portland local goods, it was a fun, new, grocery store game. I stood baffled in front of the fill your own growler Kombucha tap, and sampled fresh picked strawberries that were teeny, tiny and full of flavor like the ones I grew in my community garden in Denver.  Eventually, I took Tillamook Ice Cream, whole wheat pancake mix, single serving of Kombucha, Portland made ketchup, Stumptown cold pressed coffee, and wild caught salmon to the cash register.

juice pressProudly presenting my coupon at the register, I used my ninja-teacher-questioning techniques (also known as Bloom’s Taxonomy), to focus a conversation completely on this man’s love of Unicorns.   He didn’t mind there were people waiting in line, he just needed to express his knowledge of unicorns to me.   Filtering myself carefully, I asked the young adult, “Why on Earth did you decide to tell me about unicorns, today?”  “Because you just look like someone who would appreciate them,” he answered.  In fact, I once loved Unicorns, too!  As a child, I had an entire shelf of porcelain unicorn statutes and as a 3-year-old, I dressed up as Rainbow Bright for Halloween, complete with unicorn horn added to my pony on a stick.  Both costume and statutes were sold in a garage sale almost 20 years ago.  This guy has plans for a chest tattoo of a winged unicorn to match his sleeve of more unicorns and wizardry accents.  I took his statement as a compliment, but politely declined his offer to smoke pot with him.  Kombucha tap and unicorn conversations, still makes me smile at the odd memory.

Chinook showed me a lot of great Portland spots.  We do our fruit and vegetable shopping at the Farm Stand called Kreugers.  If we want it fresh from the farm, all we have to do is drive 15 minutes with a basket and pick it ourselves.  We have sampled several mushroom varieties in effort to learn our local mushrooms.  Chantrelles sauteed in garlic and butter are divine!  We have enjoyed more fresh caught, wild seafood like scallops and salmon!   Other enjoyable food adventures include marionberries, Blue Star Donuts (Voo Doo donuts are a sham!!), kale chips, Salt and Straw, Papa Hayden’s, Slappy Cakes and McMennamins mustard.mushrooms

I enjoyed more interactions Chinook brought me, and took note on language especially.  Now, I say things like “Oh, ‘Southeast’…errr..” and “Yea, the ‘food cart pod’ on Burnside/ China Town/ Lombard.”  I usually reference “Sauvies, Forest Park or ‘The Pearl'” when describing my weekend.  I learned to ask questions important to Portlandians, like: “Is it local?” and “What do you recommend?”

StumptownCB1Here in Portland, I learned that barista, bartender and shop girls take ownership, pride and embody their respected careers.  Also, many Portlandians enjoy careers best described as “Hustler for Life!”  ‘Hustlers for life,’ work a job, but are really an actors, musicians, artists, writers, OR (like me) teachers, etc.  One Portlandian friend I have from my rugby days is combination of paleo baker, grower, caretaker, but really she’s a rugger.  Perfect example.  Now, when people ask me what I “do.” I reply, “Yoga pant sales and professional parallel parker, but really I’m an educator.”  I keep a straight face, it’s really what I do every. day.   blue star

Many other restaurants were visited and shops were perused, but the best part of Chinook was it made me learn on my own.  At times I  felt like I knew where to find the best of something, and now I am a part of the conversation.  I can contribute a review, a recommendation, or give directions to a popular spot. Other times, I failed.  It was my own failure, not one that someone or google maps led me to with anticipation.  I recovered myself from failure and laughed at the story because really, I was learning.  I’m not any good a coupons, and by no means a coupon lady.  The value of the Chinook book is not monetary.  It is the waterfall of new ideas, getting out of my comfort zone, failing, accepting new changes, and figuring out the city of Portland in my own way.

What have you done that helps the transition from your home to a new city?

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Go, Go, Go…

Life has been blurry with the move from Denver to Portland. DB reminded me to be in the moment, love the ones your with, stop worrying and say goodbye. It was fun to see everyone and I needed all the support from hugs, children’s books, offers to help pack, money, gifts, meals, texts, FB messages, cards, alcohol and all the people who held back tears for me. Thank you.

Ivyn’s favorite little girl. She sang to Ivyn and they held paw and hands before saying goodnight.

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Ivyn likes to steal his hat and run around the yard shaking her head left to right. FB chases… hehehe…
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One last walk at Standley Lake with my mom, Sadie Angel and all the memories we’ve made since childhood.
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My yoga studio for the past 3 years. Qiflow will be missed and all the inspiring instructors!
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Packing glassware is tedious and brutal! Glad my little trickster was around to remind me to play. …and pop the bubble wrap!
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Saying goodbye to my garden and Ivyn got to “dig, dig, dig” her little heart out.

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Finally got the courage to get my Sailor memorial tattoo. Thanks bro for helping me through it! Anchor is for my Chesapeake Bay Retriever whom I still miss so much. He gave me strength, perserverance, and protection to carry with me.
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Rhubarb coming in strong. I hope someone makes good harvest of it!

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Dad tries to be tough with her, but she melts his heart. He’s a softy, we know it!
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The movers gave me total stress and a panic attack. Scammers, liars, and nightmares are how I will describe them in my report to the BBB. I hope all our worldly possessions will make it back to us. I’m glad I’ll never be a first time mover ever again in my life, it was awful!
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Thank goodness my mom took time off work to help me deal with all the trouble. This is our special lake, been coming here since I was a kid.
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Our home, the “Hoe House.” So many happy times and growing pains to move away from.
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Goodbye, Denver! xoxo

Goodbye PBA!

I had to say goodbye to my 5th graders last Friday.  Goodbye to the 80 colleagues I have spent 5 years of trials and moments of glory with.  Goodbye to the woman who has vacuumed my classroom floor for 2 years.  Goodbye to sharing a wall with the same fateful friend or 5 years.  Goodbye to my classroom, where I started as a first year teacher.

My joke for the day was to walk by frowning faces and strong hugs and say, “Summer break!”  The only given phrase that will always make any teacher or student smile….or roll their eyes.

I held my tears back until the last bell of the day.  The kids swarmed me with hugs and I had to shoo them away before their buses left without them.  My heart felt very heavy that I had to leave them before the school year was over.  I promise this, I did give them every piece of me for the time that I was with them.  I know that their substitute will have a rough time with this group, she has no idea how special they all are.  I still miss them now. 

The regular happy hour crew met me for one last “PBA FAC.”  Everyone signed an umbrella for me, fitting for Portland.   One teacher friend, “Little Lammie” gathered notes and pictures from students in all grade levels in the school.  I still haven’t opened the cards, but I appreciate everyone who helped make that day special.  I needed even the smallest supportive gesture more than you know. 

Now, one hard part, my last day at work in Denver, is over.

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Cayonlands Half and 31st Birthday

My first half – marathon experience will forever be best described as fun, positive and successful.   My friend Betty helped coach me with training, nutrition, recovery, and logistics.  She’s not the only part of our team, though.  Mr. Paul, the best dog sitter anyone could ask for, took care of my puppy on every long run.  Mr. Paul also conferred with us on pre and post – run rituals including reflection on training, evaluation of supplements and hydration.   Ivyn was my motivation and Dain Bassett, ever present in my every blinking thought and beat of my heart, supported it all! 

Race day was exhilarating.   We dressed up for St. Patty’s Day, my birthday and the completion of a journey.  Dain Bassett joined us for the finale, which made crossing the finish line so much more enjoyable.  

I loved this experience.   Plans already in the works for running another half – marathon over Labor Day weekend in Portland wine country! 

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Leaving Denver

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Family

I have deep roots being a Colorado native. My family, mom, dad and brother, live here. DB has his Grandma, brother, sister-in-law and beautiful niece in Aurora while his parents live up the road in Cheyenne, WY.  Our circle of friends includes several Denver communities and goes back 5 years for DB and 25 years for me.  Who would want to start all over after living with the convenience of family and dear friends?

A Skyline I have Loved Since a Kid

Great Match

Denver is our city, our perfect match.  We do it all: hike, bike, run, camp, kayak, backpack, swim, parks, restaurants, eating, drinking, bars, ski/ snowboard, concerts, sports, museums, gardens, events, rec centers, lakes and swimming holes, shopping.  Every activity has lead to expert knowledge on logistical details and a familiar sense of direction.  It’s easy to be an active Coloradan when you know so much and have so much fun!  Now that we know how to have the most fun, why not keep it going with all your best friends and family?

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Location

The beloved “Hoe House” (the nickname I gave to my house because we live on ‘Ivanhoe St.’) holds many cherished memories and times of pain and growth. Our blood, sweat and tears, not to mention money, went into cleaning it up after it stood vacant and foreclosed for a year.  The backyard was once occupied by high schoolers doing drugs behind the garage, forever earning it the label of the  “Meth Lab.”  Our location is within 5 miles of King Soopers, Safeway, Sunflower Market, Whole Foods and now a Trader Joes.  We are 20 minutes from downtown and 10 minutes to the highway leading towards the mountains.  Not to mention, Colfax, the longest, continuous street in the nation is only 2 blocks away with all sorts of fun to be had.  Our system for living in the house is effortless, smooth, well practiced.  Why complicate life with a new home to get to know and love?

Micro Brews another Perk of Denver!

Climate and Culture

Denver is home of the ‘Mile High’ city, it’s unique!  (Red Rocks.) Fresh mountain air breezes by the Denver ‘Blue Bear,’ ‘Demon Blue Horse’ and ‘Dancing Aliens.’  Enjoyable Denver weather is unbeatable with the best snow for skiing and 300 days of sunshine.  (Red Rocks.) Hardly, do I need a hair dryer for 3 seasons out

of the year because of NO humidity…none!  (Red Rocks). We made recent history by legalizing marijuana; furthermore taxed retail pot is sold around every corner.  (Red Rocks).  Dog friendly Denverites, who often resemble their dogs, speak easily of their pets’ recent humorous story.  (Red Rocks).    There’s ALWAYS delicious Mexican Food nearby, FastTracks, the developing light-rail system is quickly underway for greatness and it’s safe here!  (Red Rocks).  Denver is not overcrowded, it’s not loud, it’s not fancy, it’s not too young, too old, or too cool.  Obviously…..Red Rocks.

RED ROCKS!!!

The Perks!

Since living here and working here for the past five years, the morning Starbucks crew around the corner from my house knows what kind of morning I’m having based off of the drink I order.  Everywhere DB and I go, we run into a familiar faces, breweries, uptown, downtown, parks.  Colorado is usually the third from top of any online drop down-box form making any check out page smooth and quick.  I have extensively researched and found the BEST yoga in the city, I fuel up at the cheapest gas station in Denver and have finally mastered the art of parking downtown, including on game days.  When I want a sub sandwich I already know the menu at Udi’s, D’Deli, Snarf’s and a multitude of other back up places.  Happy hour choices are based on best wings, the Chinese food place is stored in my phone and top pizza places depend on how long the line is at 2 am.  I have an impeccable dentist whom I trust entirely, a massage therapist with magic healing powers, and not so sketchy bathhouse that is very therapeutic.    Finally, Ivyn is known by name at Mayfair Park and her list of friends includes Mogul, Tokee, Security Chihuahua, Riley, Cody, Bella and Carissa (human).  We’ve got it figured out, WHY are we LEAVING!??

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Home

We are leaving because home is a new concept, that is no longer a place.  The new meaning of home complies my heart and the heart of one other.  A feeling, a part of love, an instinct and a future.  My home is with my beloved DB, and with all our hearts we are explorers.  As a couple who has been together for seven years, we have never stopped exploring.  In fact, one of my favorite excuses to why we aren’t married yet is because we have been too busy traveling.  Our explorer hearts say its time and we know because we listen.

Colorado, and it’s culture comes with me.  You can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can’t take the Colorado out of the girl.  I will always be hiking, biking, running, swimming, dog walking, playing…. and apparently quite a lot of eating!  Moving to Portland will be a lifestyle change with more rain than sun, but there is no such thing as bad weather….just bad gear!  It doesn’t seem like a set back to move to a rainy climate, to me.  It’s a factor.  Just like the many times I sprained my ankle so badly there was a small, baby turtle growing out of the side.  It didn’t stop me from finishing the game, it was just another factor.

Truth is, complacency makes me more stressed than anything else.  I know all the right answers.  I love being right, by the way, but I also know I am comfortable.  I know I can push past this zone for a period of time and return later if I want.  Also, I’m excited.  I haven’t moved since I arrived back in Denver in 2008 from Buenos Aires.  In Portland, we will be a $200 round trip flight from Hawaii and Alaska.  We will live 90 minutes East of the ocean and 90 minutes west of Mount Hood.  Not to mention, Asia is a flight across the pond.  We get to make new friends, new community and expand our lives.  Last, this is not goodbye!  I fully believe in the “small world” phenomena and it only makes for more joy.  Friends and family will be missed, but growth and challenge will be welcomed.  Moving is not to say goodbye.  Goodbye, only to complacency and the symptoms that come with it.  We will always love Denver, Colorado and promise to uphold the Coloradan culture and friendliness wherever we go!  We’ll do ya proud Colorado!

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Denver Biscuit Company- a favorite for brunch!

Change

DB has been gone for 2 weeks and I am so totally over the distance between us.  We were able to see each other on Valentine’s Weekend, also DB’s birthday.  He flew home with a 4 day weekend that didn’t quite align with mine, so I still had to work, but nonetheless, I got to see him, touch him, hug him, and kiss him.  The time we were together felt great, but the goodbye always sucks.  Even though our weekend was spent a very normal way, with very ordinary Colorado fun, it FELT so right to be together and be doodling our time away….

Even though it’s his birthday, DB still spoils me on the commercialized Valentine’s holiday.  First of all, I was sick, sick, sick.  As a teacher whenever there is a day off, I always spend it with fever, sore throat, sniffles, congestion and the scent of eucalyptus permeating anyone within a 10 foot radius of me.  So, he helped take care of the sick girlfriend and the energetic puppy, which was a treat.

Taking a break from chores and have another helping hand to help pack, reorganize and declutter wasn’t the only way he spoiled me.  We ate hot and sour soup from the neighborhood Chinese food place, “Sweet Rice Cafe,” stopped by the Starbucks where we bumped into a colleague from the science and education world, someone whom we both have worked with, then ran the errands to Comcast and Costco, I just hate doing those boring chores by myself.  We walked the puppy around Confluence Park and she met a giant Cane Corso at REI.  I was terrified when Ivyn went right up and started licking his mouth!  There was time for catching up on TV shows, chatting over a bottle of wine, our generous friends cooked a steak dinner for us and we visited about their upcoming cruise.  The ordinary seemed so spectacular with DB home.  I miss him terribly and I know he is hurting, but we will get through it and put everything back together soon.

It was with great excitement that Dain and I try to go skiing at Winter Park!  We haven’t been up this year, and I have been dying to get on my snowboard.  Luck would have it that high wind closed the top lifts creating long lines and we skipped the pricey ticket for this experience.  Instead, Ivyn got her first high altitude hike on Berthoud Pass and she LOVED tromping through the deep snow, much faster than her human counterparts.  Down the hill, we met DB’s folks for a sandwich and a beer in Golden, another opportunity for our social puppy to interact and steal the hearts of passersby.

We had just enough time to squeeze in a visit to DB’s Colorado favorites before heading, teary eyed to the airport.  My heart hurts each time I say goodbye, but I also feel it strengthen through each challenge.

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A “Send-Off” …..Not A Party

After graduating with a Ph.D in physics there was, by request, little ceremony from my modest boyfriend.  No champagne toast, no party, nothing.  Resisting the traditional  “Going away” party was his next ploy.  In fact, DB stated, ” If it’s a party, I won’t come.”

DB is leaving for Portland, OR to begin work at Intel and has to head out, on his own, before me.  Oddly, this is the most time that we will be separated in the past seven years!  As we move forward in life, it’s important to others (not just ourselves) to feel closure, and togetherness through the distance that separates us.  DB later admitted, “It will be too hard,” to have a party that means it’s the last time in our home with family, last time to enjoy a casual beer with his brother, last time to give his niece his frequent and undivided attention…. last time for many things that are apart of our lives in Denver.  We had to change our focus, it is not “Goodbye!”  It is a “Send-Off” …another adventure of Team Bassett-Lange.  We will all still be together, through love and the spirit of adventure.

Here are the steps I took for my boyfriend of seven years to leave the state, on his own, without a friend, a family member and without his adorable 10 week old puppy feeling adventure, support, love and togetherness.

1.  Change the title.  Not a “Going Away Party” a “Send Off.”
2.  Invite family only,  and keep it small/ a dozen or less people.
3. Keep it quiet, low stress, low effort and crank the laughter when the house fills with guests!

4.  Request that every family member bring a framed picture instead of gifts or cards.  I specified the pics all go in black, wall mounted frames so I could create a wall collage.  Also, people appreciated the details and a chance to share a special moment.   At first the recipient found this slightly overwhelming, but later carefully went through each shot lovingly.   (He also gave me a huge squeeze when he saw them all!)

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Special pictures in black frames for gifts instead of money or other “things” we then have to pack-up and move. I can’t wait to collage these on a wall. Hope our landlord allows nails in the wall. Gonna need quite a few square footage!

5.  Ask willing family members (every family member in this case!) To bring a favorite dish of DB’s.  We all have our comfort foods, and this gathering was ALL of them at once!  So tasty, so heart-nourishing and so cheesy!  I put some family members in charge of beverages, but forgot the diet coke. Every party requires you to forget something and this was it, sorry!!

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These are two brilliant examples of Grandma Frances’ homemade pies. She has unbeatable crust and handpicks the fruit in the summer time and freezes them to make all winter long. Cherry is DB’s favorite and she made a blackberry, served up with a heaping scoop of vanilla. A homemade family favorite!

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This is my homemade Stromboli with handmade dough as well. They were a huge hit, and I made them a day before so the flavors were extra delicious! I also set out Real Dill (a local pickle company) pickles, banana peppers and Dijon mustard.

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Even the beer was home-brewed, by DB and his brother. The “Sweet Ol’ Brown” (SOB) beer was named after Grandpa George, a very close soul to DB and the acronym is intentional.

6.  Tire the puppy out early,  then pack the dog away.

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This is Ivyn. DB’s 10 week old St. Bernard who was thrilled to get attention from the family. We tried to keep her outside, or crated as puppies have a tendency to get underfoot. Her yelping is pitiful, so we avoided it all together. This is how she passes out.

7.  Create a station with ample writing utensils and stationery for everyone to draw or write a note to DB.  While he is away and alone in Portland, I will randomly mail each note to him for additional support and love while he is away.  (This actually caused DB to be a little teary-eyed, more squeezing and ‘thank you,’ I think it was a hit!)  We also left our new Portland address visible for cameras and note-takers.

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I was SOO excited that so many people got into the cards for Dain. In fact, between the 12 people present there are 28 cards. I guess it’s still hard to resist a sharpie and a blank canvas. DB will be receiving one every other day, while he is in Portland without us. I hope it keeps him company! Creative ideas included: pictures, jokes, brain teasers, song lyrics, list of pros and cons and more!

8. Finally, emphasize the new opportunities.  We showed everyone a map on the big screen of our new home and announced there are 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms!  Many family members offered to help move, road trip plans were in the works, dates were being discussed, “berry country” was emphasized and campsite reservations were also pulled up on the big screen.  This was exciting and had both of us smiling!  We love adventures!!

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Homemade Chex Mix, store bought stuff isn’t the same! ** Not Pictured: Crack cheese dip made by DB’s bro and sis-in-law. Unfortunately, the huge crock pot of cheese had quite the spill on the car ride over….they were so kind to run to the store and make more for the guests!! ***

 

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Another fav of DB, made by his mom. I sprinkle Cholula on them and can’t stop myself. The two pans got eaten right up!!

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This chocolate layer dessert made by my mom has been in the family forever. The best layer is between the crust and the chocolate pudding, its a sugary cream cheese layer that is sooo good! Goes great with coffee, breakfast anyone!?

9.  Keep smiling!  Everyone left with a small bag of leftovers and smiled and waved on the way to their cars.  All said, it was about a four hour event and the timing seemed appropriate.

Everyone was pleased to have a “Send-Off” and they were the ones who truly brought the togetherness, love, adventure….and the FOOD!  It would have never worked without the help and support of every person.  We always feel so special and gracious to be a part of the lives of these amazing and unique personalities and today was no different.

The next day, Dain and I made plans to have a special day just the two of us.  We ate brunch at delicious “Lucilles” and chatted the whole time about the amazing Cajun food because neither of us have ever been there.  We ran a few last minute errands.  Comcast provided enough fuel to get the jokes rolling for awhile!  We walked with the puppy on the Clear Creek bike trail in Golden and stopped to talk with every person!  Ivyn, we are discovering, has a need to receive attention from every person, or she will sit stubbornly until she gets it!  I bought a special bracelet, as is my habit to pick up an “Adventure Bracelet” when embarking on a new journey.  We cooked dinner together, we watched “Wolf on Wall Street” until there were no more distractions left.  Then we poured one more glass and cried, until sleep couldn’t be fought.

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Next time she see him, Ivyn will be a big girl!

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My new favorite strategy is to ask teens and kids to use my phone to take a picture. I know, they will do better than a lot of nervous adults, and they love the trust. This teen took a great shot!

 

This morning, DB left headed towards Billings, MT and right when the Arctic Blast arrived.  The road conditions read, “slick, black ice, blowing snow.”  It wouldn’t be an adventure if one thing didn’t go wrong.  No, not the weather, the glass on DB’s truck topper shattered when he tried to close it shut.  It was pretty stuffed, but it was mostly due to a poor fitting truck topper.  Not to worry, he stuffed a tarp on the back, cleaned up the glass in the street and laughed and hugged me.

At the coffee shop, we browsed magazines for while and with a hot cup of coffee he departed northbound with all the strength and determination he had.  Not fifteen minutes later, Ivyn had me giggling in the park as she chased the geese and wiggled towards every person she saw.  This send-off, was fitting, complete, happy and sad at times, balanced and personal.  Taking the time to process was above all the most important.  Now we have four days of beautiful memories to think about when we miss each other!

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She will miss him sooo much!!