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Our Christmas tree

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Here's the 2014 Ashcraft Christmas tree:

Last Sunday, I made gathered up the family and took them on an adventure to the Covered Bridge Ranch in Montrose. I know that driving all the way to Montrose just to get a Christmas tree seems a bit ridiculous. and, I know there are plenty of trees in closer lots that support local nonprofits and such. But, I wanted the cutting experience. I wanted the adventure more than the tree. Mostly, I wanted it to be an enjoyable family experience.

This farm delivered, starting with the beautiful covered bridge entryway decorated for Christmas. This picture is from their website, obviously, since there hasn't been even the tiniest snowflake in the valley yet.

Upon arrival, we were directed by very friendly folks to get on the hayride. Much to our happiness, this included Kip and on a side note, this is one of the most dog-friendly places I've ever been to.

(This picture is also from their website. I was having so much fun I forgot to take any pictures. Doh!)

So, we rode the tractor-trailer down to the field of trees where another friendly guy gave us a quick lesson in Christmas trees. He suggested we get a Spruce-Pine because they are kid-friendly (meaning not poky,) pretty and the most economical. He said they were "America's Christmas tree" because they are the most popular tree sold in the United States.

Sounded good to us. We walked all through the field, discussing the flaws of every tree until we found just the right one. Not too big, not too small, not too wide, but just right.

It took the boys about 20 minutes to cut it down. Marty and I didn't help at all. They took turns and bossed each other then yelled "TIMBER" at just the right time. We carried it to the road and waited to be picked up by the hayride for the return journey. As we waited, Kip took a little tinkle on the top of our tree. Guess it was ours.

When we got back to the main area, the friendly guys wrapped our tree while we petted the animals, browsed the gift shop, and watched the boys roast free marshmallows over the open fire pit.

On the way out, the tree was tied to the top of the car and we were back on our way. Everyone LOVED getting our Christmas tree this year and talked enthusiastically about returning next year.

If you haven't gotten your tree yet, I highly suggest a trip to Montrose. We love the Covered Bridge Ranch!


Teach them to dance!

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Friday, December 5, 2014

I know this video is supposed to be about a cute little girl dancing on the subway platform. But, I clap for her green-haired mommy (?) who not only let's her dance on the subway station, but teaches her to dance like it's the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.


Hello Santa!

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, December 1, 2014

Nope, I'm not done shopping. I haven't even made a list yet. I haven't baked cookies or addressed any Christmas cards. Some would say I'm a holiday slacker, followed by a detailed description of all the stuff you bought on Black Friday and how you're all done. Followed by the sad "poor you" look.

Whatever, I'm Gen. X. I'll get to it.

We did, however, check this one thing off the list yesterday.

Notice that list Jonas had to share with Santa. I'm pretty confident that he'll take care of everything before Christmas Eve.


A Thank You Letter for Thanksgiving

By Randee Bergen
Monday, December 1, 2014

Giving thanks at Thanksgiving is customary; giving gifts is not. But a gift is exactly what I got from my daughter.

Addy wrote me a thank you letter and, really, what better gift could anyone ever ask for?

Dear Mom,

Thank you for giving me the gift of life and exposing me to the most beautiful parts of it. Thank you for protecting me. Thank you for accepting me. Thanks for my perfect little sister. Thank you for the most beautiful, magical childhood I could have ever asked for.

Thank you for being so strong for us when I know it was hard for you. Thank you for showing me how to not only survive excruciating pain, but thrive through it. Thank you for being such a good example.

Thank you for teaching me that nirvana is a twenty-dollar campsite and some breakfast burritos in a beautiful place. Thank you for teaching me how to read and write English and music. Thank you for teaching me how to teach. Thank you for teaching me how to love. Thank you for teaching me how to truly live.

Thanks for singing to me. Thanks for taking me to the beach. Thanks for dinners at your house even though I’m in college. Thanks for the hikes. Thanks for the ukulele. Thanks for finding Jim. Thanks for all the Christmases. Thanks for taking pictures. Thanks for having dogs.

Thanks for being you.

Love you,



Wordless Wednesday: Little brother armor

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Wordless Wednesday: Lego Land

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Four Sons Plus a Sister

By Randee Bergen
Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Six-foot-four walks through the door

In fatigues, fatigued

Fists tight, jaw clenched

Tears in eyes

Looks down on three-foot-ten

Counts to ten

One son, one of four

Plus a sister

Looks up to his father

Tears in eyes

Sorry he swung at a teacher

This son, one of four

Plus a sister

Angry, on the edge

Because dad went to war

Mom lost it, lost the kids

Four sons

Plus a sister

Then needed to be fostered

Dad came home

PTSD in his bags

No wife, no mother

For four sons

Plus one sister

Two sons

Plus one sister

Back with dad

No job, little income

Parenting experience near none

Another son, a toddler

Back home now

One father, four kids

Trying, struggling

Dads Group, therapy

Coping strategies

Visitations with the mother

Until this mother

Becomes another

No show

One father, four kids

The littlest son

Is yet to come

Fatigued father

Breathes now

Uncurls fists

And scoops up

His son

This one son

And hugs him

To his fatigued chest.


Old-school learning

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, November 17, 2014

Double-take? Yup, that's Jonas playing with my old school Speak-n-Math from the early 80s — and it still works.

I begged my parents for a Speak-n-Spell because I LOVED spelling. But what you want and what you need are not always the same thing. My parents bought me the awesome (not) Speak-n-Math.

SPELL — I said — SPELL!

Probably no wonder why it survived 30 years in great condition and I became a reporter.

Jonas loves it and plays it often. I'm happy to pass it along to him.


I Finally Get Veterans Day

By Randee Bergen
Thursday, November 13, 2014

I don’t remember anything about Veterans Day from my childhood. I don’t recall talking about it at school. Don’t remember knowing what a veteran was. Don’t come from a family of many vets. Can’t think of anytime before adulthood when I saw Veterans Day on the calendar or thought twice about it when I did.

And, to be honest, for most of my adulthood I didn’t pay it much attention. I’m sure I had to get beyond early adulthood, beyond those years of finishing college and starting my career, getting married and raising a family, to have the time and energy to focus on what was going on around the world. To weigh what life must be like in other countries compared to what it is like here. And to really appreciate that.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I talk to my students about how fortunate they are to live in America. We talk about our freedoms and our quality of life. We read about people who came to America looking for jobs and other opportunities. And, especially, we talk about the free education available to every child in America. I want my students to realize that not all children around the world get to go to school and that the reasons many of them cannot is because their families cannot afford it. Or that not every child has equal opportunity. I want them to treasure and embrace the free education that is available to them and to never, ever take it for granted.

But I don’t talk too much about the price that was paid for our freedom, for our way of life, for our country which much of the world envies. It’s complicated. It’s confusing. It can be too much for seven- and eight-year-olds.

But this year we had an event at our school that provided the opportunity to teach my second grade students about Veterans Day – what it means and why we celebrate it.

A teacher at our school – who is also a mother of a veteran just returned safely from Afghanistan – organized a veterans celebration on our campus. Students and staff invited relatives who currently are, or did, serve in the United States armed services. Students brought in photos of their vets and these were displayed on a big red, white, and blue Wall of Fame. The staff at our school cooked up an impressive breakfast for the 40 veterans who attended that day. Then, the veterans, easily distinguished by their uniforms, the staff, parents, and the entire student body gathered at the flag pole shortly after school started.

We all watched, solemn and serious, as two men in uniform raised the flag against the early morning light. The silence was broken with the singing of the national anthem. I couldn’t see the person who was performing, so I watched my students instead. As they double checked to make sure they had the correct hand across their chest. As they focused on keeping their eyes on the flag, just as we do each morning during the pledge. As they refrained from talking or wiggling or joining in on the singing. As my throat thickened and my left hand moved to cover, in that crucial motion, the emotion building on my countenance. Upon that final note, I let out a loud whoop, as I would at a baseball game or most other gatherings where the national anthem is sang, realizing a second too late my faux pas. Several of my students turned and looked at me, standing behind them, utter shock and disappointment on their faces. How disrespectful, Ms. Bergen.

A few days beforehand the students had carefully penned a Dear Veteran letter and I had them role play going up to a total stranger veteran, with their hand out, ready for shaking, and say, “Thank you for your service to our country.” This opportunity – to shake a veteran’s hand and present the letter they wrote – was what they all were really looking forward to.

As the flagpole ceremony ended, I brought my class around to where the veterans were lined up. They walked down the line, so obedient, so respectful, so in awe. And I watched each and every one of them approach a vet, hand out, letter ready.

And I knew then how important Veterans Day was to me.

As we walked back to our classroom, I heard one student say to her friend, “Man, that made me get tears in my eyes.” Back in class, we had a quick discussion about the emotion we felt during the ceremony. Most students concurred; they had almost teared up.

And I knew then how important Veterans Day was to them, too.


Thoughts on making myself cringe

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I’ve been cringing over and over thinking about this post I wrote on Monday.

I hate how whiny and desperate for attention I seemed. I hate how I let this disease get the better of me.

But, at that moment, I was whiny and desperate. And I had become overwhelmed with my situation.

At least I can say I was being authentic.

Several times I considered taking that post down, deleting it and forgetting I ever wrote it or felt that way. But I talked myself out of it.

Turns out that post received more than double the traffic than any other post on this blog in the several couple of years. I’m glad I didn’t take it down.  

The fact is that sharing that rant was cathartic and helpful. Getting positive and supportive responses from so many, especially my fellow Addisonians and sufferers of adrenal insufficiency, was reassuring — embarrassing and humbling, but reassuring, too.

Thank you to all of those who took the time to share a kind word. I appreciate you. You made a difference in my life that morning. Who knew clicking the Like button could make someone’s day better?

I know there are those who feel I dwell on this too much, share too much, cry too much and/or think I shouldn’t be writing about my illness. There are people who wish I would just get over myself and go back to the way I used to be. This exercise in sharing has made me realize I need to care less about those people.

The truth is that it’s still really hard. I liked how things used to be, all full of beer, bread and ice cream and walking up stairs and skiing and being able to do whatever I want without worrying about pain, fatigue, medication, dying and whatnot. But, those days are gone, ain’t nothing gonna bring them back.

My challenge now is to continue to focus on what’s good for me. That means continuing to write and share and cry and eat no pizza or delicious cheese sandwiches. I need to spend time with those who think I’m all right just the way I am. Also, I need to flip the middle finger to anyone who doesn’t like the me that I am now and worry less about the things I can no longer do.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.


Page 5 of 174


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