Monday, December 31, 2012

A Million Reasons To Believe

I just returned from a much-needed jaunt away from the city.  In order to relax, renew my spirit, and luxuriate in the warmth of my surroundings, I took a quick ride up I-76 to Kearney, Nebraska.  And while most people don't envision Nebraska as being rejuvenating or warm, being surrounded by laughter, family, and love is exactly how I wanted to end 2012.
Because, wow, this has been a year of ups and downs.   I've never been one to dwell on the downs.  Ever.  But with the devastating and tragic horrors that happened in my own state of Colorado and throughout the US, this holiday season felt different.

Oh, I went about my Christmas tasks and rituals as usual, but my heart often just wasn't in it.  As I decorated my house with sparkles, shopped in fancy malls,  and wrapped presents in beautiful paper and shiny bows, I couldn't help thinking about the many people whose lives were changed forever during this year.  I felt sad . . . and guilty.

I felt that way most of the time leading up to Christmas, right up until . . .

I was packing up presents to send to Nebraska . . . filling boxes and shopping bags to the brim . . . and my eyes saw this

I had been in and out of Macy's lots of times during this holiday shopping season and loaded my car with many of these shopping bags.  

I had walked through Macy's decorated aisles and surely must have seen the beauty around me.

But it wasn't until that moment that my heart felt the message. 

 "a million reasons to Believe."

Who knows why I missed those words--after all, I'm all about reasons to believe!  And who knows why, at that particular moment, those words hit me.  Maybe it was synchronicity (thanks for the word, Joy!) or maybe it was Seth by my side.   All I know is that I felt the fog clear, and my heart got a little lighter.  I could let go of the guilt and embrace my reasons to believe.  Yes, I have tons of them.  I'll share about half a million in this one short video.  Reasons like . . .

rosy cheeks
LOVE . . . 

The years will always be filled with ups and downs--that's what makes life rich.

  But there will always be reasons to believe--millions of them--and that's what makes life amazing!

Happy 2013, everyone!  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Seth, a Christmas Angel

I have a Christmas angel.

He visits me every Christmas and makes his presence known by lightly clicking the glass ornaments on my Christmas tree.

I will be going about my business around the house and out of nowhere hear the melodious clink of glass coming from wherever my tree happens to be that year.    It's not constant--just occasional--but most definitely daily, as Seth, my Christmas angel, reminds me that he's with me.

And oh, what a comfort that reminder is!

There is a story behind Seth, dating back to 1982, the year my dad died very unexpectedly. Needless to say, my entire family was devastated--sad beyond words--and very lost without him.  As Christmas approached, we knew it was going to be hard, but we went through the motions of decorating, shopping, wrapping, and planning to spend a quiet Christmas gathered around family and memories.

At that time, my sisters and I watched a soap opera, Texas, every day.  During that Christmas season, one of the characters had died, and everyone on the soap was sad.  The plot mirrored our own sorrow, and perhaps that was why we were riveted to the TV when Texas came on.  During this holiday season, an angel unseen to the characters would ring a bell that was hanging on the Christmas tree.  They named this unseen angel Seth.  With perfect use of dramatic irony, the characters couldn't see (but the audience could) that is was the angel of the deceased character ringing the bell.

My sisters and I took great comfort in that angel on Texas, and we started ringing our own bell on our Christmas tree whenever we walked by it.  We created our own Seth to get us through that first Christmas without Dad, and we believed with all our hearts that somehow, somewhere, our dad was channeling his spirit, his love, and his strength to us through Seth.  Every Christmas after that (and even now), we continued to summon Seth by gently ringing a bell on our Christmas tree.

The wonder of Seth took on a new layer when I moved to Colorado.  I decorated my fancy new Colorado apartment with all my traditional Christmas lights and ornaments, including the glass bells.  When I walked by the tree, I rang each bell with a smile, thinking of my dad and my sisters.

Shortly after the Christmas decorating was complete, I happened to be home during the day.  As I busily wrapped presents, I heard, for the first time, the champagne-toast-clinking sound from my tree.  I paused, listened, and continued on.  Another clink soon followed.  I felt a warm glow envelope me, knowing and believing with my whole heart and soul, as I whispered, "Seth."

For the rest of that Christmas season and every season following, including this one, Seth has been clicking the glass ornaments on my Christmas tree!  Moving from apartment to house, adding new lights and ornaments and even a new Christmas tree, Seth has remained with me all these years.  Sometimes the sound is soft and delicate; other times it is powerful, almost urgent.  Family and friends who visit during the holidays hear him.  Some try to explain the clink away.  "It's the lights," some say.  Or the temperature.  But mostly, we just believe and smile and say "Hi Seth." And we think about Dad and Christmases from the past and family members and friends near and far and the miracle that is Christmas.

Seth, my Christmas angel, my reason to believe-- every Christmas and throughout the year.  

Merry Christmas, everyone.  May you all have your own Seth this season!

(and in typical Seth style, as I add the last words to this post, I am rewarded with a louder-than-usual clink coming from my tree!  Yes, I believe!)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

30 Years.

My life and the lives of every member of my family changed forever 30 years ago.  My dad died unexpectedly at the much-too-young age of 54.  Not a day has gone by since then that I haven't felt his presence, haven't smiled thinking about his spirit, haven't wished he could be with us.  Those of you who have lost a parent know the devastation that engulfed us and that even today brings forth moments of sorrow and tears.  Even now, I find it so difficult to write about that day 30 years ago, but sometimes I write down little memories when I'm feeling a need to connect with Dad.  

I wrote about my dad in one of my writing classes not too long ago.  The prompt was actually to write about the role that music has played in my life, but my version ended up being about my dad.  I can't think of a better time to share this than on this day.

                  Music has always been such an important part of my life.  From the time we were babies, my father instilled in us a strong appreciation for all kinds of music--especially country music.    In the evening, after he had worked hard all day, he would pick up his guitar and sit in his favorite chair and begin strumming chords.  That would be the moment we all waited for.  We would gather around him, hurrying to be first so we could sit in the chair with him, and just listen for a while.  Our anticipation would build as Dad just sat and strummed and hummed for a bit.  Finally, the moment would come when he would begin a song we knew.  It was then the magic would begin.  The sing-along had started!  Dad had a repertoire of songs that we loved, and he would play them all during  sing-along nights.  The one song I always waited anxiously for was “You Grab a Line.”  Or the title might be “Crawdad Hole”—I'm not sure and it doesn’t even matter.    When Dad had played enough of an intro for me to recognize that it was my song, I could hardly contain myself.  I would sing at the top of my lungs, most likely off key, as my dad and brothers and sister sang, too, although not quite as loudly.  When the next line was “we’ll go down to the crawdad hole” my dad would lower his voice in a baritone style to sing it, and we all would laugh and giggle at the unexpected yet familiar sound of his voice.  The sing along would last for maybe thirty minutes and then the moment we all dreaded came—Dad would get up and put the guitar away,  The magic was over for that night, and we all went about our evening rituals of homework, reading, or watching television, already counting down the hours until the next sing-along!

My oh-so-cool dad--black leather jacket/hat and all!!

The poem we wrote for Dad:

Oftentimes I find myself looking for reasons to believe 
in music . . . 
and in my dad. 

And I ALWAYS find them!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

E² !

I had such an amazing summer full of warm, sunshiny days, out-of-state visitors, and ETHAN!  Yes, E graced us with his presence again this summer, and not just once, but TWO TIMES!  I'm not sure how I got so lucky, but having E at my house twice in a short period made those summer days even brighter.   

Both of E's visits (the first with his mom Micki, his GG, and his Uncle Jake and the second with just his mom and dad Tyler) brought so much laughter and pure innocent fun to my house.  Plus, I learned a TON from this two-year-old iToddler.  Like . . .

Ice cream cones and GG are summertime MUSTS!

But so are Coca Cola and strawberries!
Ethan says, "They're delicious and delicious and delicious!"  He likes to repeat words three times!!

Grams makes the coolest quilts--especially this car quilt with a "race track" on it!

Wearing a bike helmet for hours is just cool!
(Ethan is learning to ride a Strider bike.  No training wheels for this kid.  And yes, he's only two!)

Playing in the grass with Andy and Ana will result in a big kid attitude.

Drawing on this little table magically turns anyone into a Picasso! 
(This was my mom's table when she was a little girl.  She and her brother colored on it, I and my brothers and sisters all colored and had tea parties on it, all of my nieces and nephews loved having tea parties on it, and now Ethan, the fourth generation, is making it his!)

Dinner dates should be full of laughter and fun--that includes playing with Stretchables and ordering from the kids menu!

but if course I already knew that!
(When you ask E what book he wants to read, he not only tells you the title but also the author--i.e "I want HOP ON POP by Dr. Seuss"! Plus, don't even think about reading the last line of a page--E will read it for you--even the line "Constantinople and Timbuktu"!!!)

Tea parties on the kids table--the only way to go!
(and if you've forgotten how to have a tea party, just watch this video.  E will teach you!)

All boys should get in touch with their feminine side!
(Ethan forgot Blue Bear  on his second visit.  Even though he had his blankie, nap time still seemed a little lonely, and so, when he saw my old dolls, he wanted them to sleep with him!)

It's okay to play in water.  Even drinking water!
(It's possible that, out of every ten water glasses E filled, he might have sipped one ounce of water.  But oh how fun that one ounce was!)

Always include homemade Brown Cows in any summertime slumber party!
(We made them with milk, half and half, sugar, and root beer in an ice cream freezer.  And--we got E all to ourselves when Micki and Tyler went to a Rockies game!)

and Happy Meals for supper!
(Come on--remember how fun those little boxes were??)

and nests of blankets and pillows!
(Ethan remembered exactly where I keep the makings for a "nest" on his second visit!  And what other movie would Ethan choose than CARS??)

Saying goodbye never gets easy :(

All too soon after summer goodbyes, I find myself back in teacher routine knowing that Ethan's safe at home in Kearney, and I'm already looking forward to the next time I see him.  When I'm having a particularly stressful day, I think about his laughter, his sense of wonderment and adventure, and his innocence.  Yes, Ethan took a little piece of my heart back with him to Nebraska, but he left behind a whole lot of love . . . and reasons to believe!

Oh, and . . .

a lonely tea party :(

a pair of big boy underwear!

a blankie! (Jewel misses E, too :(  

a "slug bug" car!  (the coolest car ever--it even has windshielf wipers!)

a journal entry (complete with mountains, a seashell, and a "big black snake"!)

Love ya, E!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Here's to the Ladies Who Lunch!

Summer is winding down.  Try as I might to remain in denial, there are just too many signs indicating that the end is near. I can no longer ignore . . .

the later sun rises
the earlier sunsets
the back-to-school ads in the newspaper

and the biggest wake-up call  . . .

the back-to-school email from my principal (ugh!)

As panic begins to set in, I find myself trying to cram in as much social time as possible in these last few weeks of summer vacation.  That includes having lunch with girlfriends!  Over the past several weeks, I have had the pleasure of "doing lunch" with some amazing ladies (and a gentleman or two!) and trying some new restaurants in the process.

The lunch frenzy began with . . .

Lauer-Krauts with Mom

Lauer-Krauts is a cute restaurant in Brighton, and it happens to be one of the restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  I could possibly have become obsessed with that Food Network show, and I secretly dream of following Guy Fieri's red '67 Camero around the country and trying all the restaurants he frequents!  (see post about the one I tried in Santa Fe)  Lauer-Krauts did not disappoint.  Their specialty is the Lauer burger, which, for my Nebraska friends, is very similar to a Runza--bread dough stuffed with seasoned ground beef, cabbage, and cheese).  It was delish--so fresh and hot from the oven.  Mom also tried their green bean soup, and she said she would go back just for that.  The restaurant itself is very small.  There were only three or four tables inside, but there was a large patio outside that was full of satisfied diners.  What I loved so much about this place besides the food was the personal and friendly vibe.  Robyn, the owner who was featured on Triple D, came to our table several times to chat and make sure we were loving everything.  She indulged me as I asked her about the whole filming process of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and how she got selected, and she posed for a picture.  She has such a beautiful spirit, and it definitely shines through in the food, the decor, and the atmosphere of Lauer-Krauts.    I will definitely go back and dine again!

Shortly following Lauer-Krauts, I had the pleasure of visiting. . .

The Brown Palace with Judy
Afternoon tea at the Brown Palace  was the perfect place to celebrate Judy's birthday, and since I already posted about how amazing it was, I will just re-iterate what James Joyce said in A Portrait of a Lady:

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.  "

Next up . . .

Cafe|Bar with Kari
Cafe|Bar with Kari--exactly what the doctor ordered!  It's kind of funny, but at the end of the school year, I always find myself saying goodbye to my colleagues, telling them to have a nice summer, and knowing that even though I will miss them, I will be seeing them in a few months.  But with Kari, I just know I can't go months without seeing her.  She is one of those women who just lights up a room upon her entrance and truly makes the world a better place.  And so, at the same time we hugged goodbye last May, we made plans for getting together during the summer.  Our friend Hannah suggested Cafe|Bar, and she was right on with the suggestion.  It is a quaint restaurant in the Washington Park area with a gorgeous patio!  Never mind that the temperature was in the upper 90's--we headed straight for a shady spot outside!  The food was delicious, although I must say that I was so engrossed with our conversation that it could have been horrible, and I wouldn't have cared.  Kari ordered and raved about the trout cakes while I munched on the avocado dip with homemade potato chips and a salad with a fresh and zingy lemon vinaigrette.  We both ordered some kind of summer cocktail (I can't remember what it was, but it was PERFECT!)  Time flew by as we caught up with summer news.  I could have whiled away the afternoon enjoying the peaceful patio at Cafe|Bar and the beauty and comfort of my dear friend Kari.

Moving right along . . .

Johnny Rockets with Karina
 Johnny Rockets at Cherry Creek Mall is a fun place to take kids.  It is a hamburger joint fashioned after drive-ins from the 1950's, complete with a soda jerk and waitresses in bobby socks and saddle shoes!  Karina is a former student of mine whom I continue to mentor as she progresses through high school.  I taught her as a 7th-grader, and now she is going to be a junior!!  She amazes me with her positivity, her energy, and her beautiful spirit.  Karina and I spent a little time shopping at the mall before we had lunch at Johnny Rockets.  We were famished when we sat down to order, and I think we might have ordered a little too much (burgers, shakes, cheese fries, salad!) but we ate what we could.  The food was fine, but the real joy was spending time with an amazing 16-year-old.  I am so proud of Karina and look forward to many more outings with this young lady!

and finally . . .

Steuben's with Joy (and Mark and Mom)

Steuben's Food Service is (and I quote from their webpage!)  a Denver restaurant recreating American Regional Classics. Eat at Steuben's. Take-Out at Steuben's. Drink at Steuben's. Feel at home at Steuben's.  Yes, indeed, but it is also another restaurant featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives!  (that's three now out of over four hundred!) My sister-in-law Joy and I have been dying to try Steuben's for over a year now, but it seems that every time she is visiting, we never make it.  This last time she and my brother came to Aurora, we decided that we were going no matter what.  And go we did! She and I both felt like groupies as we gazed at Guy's crazy signature on the wall and exclaimed over every menu item, especially the ones we saw on Triple D.  Everything we ordered (and we ordered A LOT!) was delicious!  We started with gravy fries (not really smothered in gravy but rather cheese!)  Joy had the lobster roll, which she had been craving, Mark had fish and chips, Mom had the Monte Cristo sandwich, and I had the Southern fried chicken (such healthy choices, but hey--this is Steuben's!)  We didn't come close to cleaning our plates, but that didn't stop us from ordering dessert!  I think Steuben's Key Lime pie was/is the best I have ever had!!!  We also had a rich, chocolate brownie a la mode that was also delish, but my fave was the key lime pie.  
Experiencing the incredible food at Steuben's with Joy has been a highlight of my stay-in-Colorado summer.  She and I have such a history of doing silly things together and taking away vignette memories and quotes that nobody else gets.  We have been building up to this for so long, and neither one of us was let down.  Now we are planning our next excursion--meeting at the Wizard of Oz museum in Kansas!  (stay tuned!)

I know I said "finally," but does doing lunch ever end??  I can't end without including pictures from some last-minute lunches with beautiful women:

Racine's with my niece Ana and Ashlie
Eileen and Jess-- Mango Mojitos, Mocktails, and Magic!
Ted's Montana with Grams and the Fries
ETHAN--couldn't have planned a better end-of-summer lunch date!

As I get ready to say goodbye to summer and begin thinking about a new school year, I'll hold on tight to the strength, the energy, the hope, and the LOVE that my beautiful friends and family give me every single day!  I can't think of a better way to wind down summer and bring on a new year of learning than this:

Ethan and hearts--reasons to believe!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Afternoon Tea at The Brown

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as
 afternoon tea."
 Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

I recently had the opportunity to discover exactly how true the words of Henry James are when my beautiful friend Judy Gordon and I celebrated her birthday.  This summer has presented some challenges for both of us, and we wanted to go someplace where we could chat, relax, and feel pampered.  The Brown Palace was the perfect choice!

Just driving up to The Brown had me saying, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Aurora anymore!"  We were greeted by valet attendants and door men in black coats and white gloves ready to whisk us to our little tea party.  We both immediately felt like princesses as we entered the elegant lobby where afternoon tea is served.  From the rich, luxurious-yet-chic decor, to Roger, the pianist, everything about Tea at the Brown was sheer perfection!
1.  our tea lunch 2. Roger, the pianist 3. friends

There's something about having someone pour tea from a silver teapot into a china teacup that can melt the stress away.  Judy and I sipped our tea and champagne, ate scones with Devonshire cream, little sandwiches, and chocolate truffles, and we just sort of dissolved into a state of tranquility.  

Celebrating the birthday of a beautiful friend is delightful in itself.  Afternoon Tea at the Brown Palace made the celebration unforgettable.  Judy and I both left feeling renewed, blissfully happy, and very much like royalty.  

Tea, champagne, friends, and The Brown Palace--reasons to believe indeed!