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The Gift of a Day

By Randee Bergen
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Beep, beep, beep. I had set my alarm for 4:30, mostly to get up and check the weather.

It was raining when I went to bed and was supposed to turn to snow overnight.

If it didn’t look too bad outside, I would get up and go swim laps. If it did look bad, I’d go back to sleep for a while.

There was a soft glow coming from the living room. The white lights of the Christmas tree. The same soft glow was just beyond my bedroom window curtains. The white Christmas lights running along the front side of my house.

I pulled the curtains aside and peered outside. Snow. About three inches. And still coming down. Sleet-like.

I turned alarm number two on – 6:00 a.m. Alarm number two was the lazy alarm or, for today, the bad-weather-can’t-really-be-expected-to-get-up-and-exercise alarm.

Back into bed. I wrapped my down comforter around me like a sleeping bag. Oh, what a feeling.

And then visions of accidents started dancing in my head.

Not me. I’ve been driving in this stuff for decades. Not my vehicle. It’s a big SUV with four-wheel drive.

My daughter. Seventeen, and responsible for getting both her and her younger sister to school. In her tiny, old Honda CRX. With no experience driving on roads like these other than once last winter.

I had talked to her last night about quadrupling her stopping distance. Her response was, “Yeah. Yeah, mom, I know.” Actually, you don’t know. No one knows, really, until you smash into the back of the car in front of you. Or, you slide right on through an intersection because you didn’t start braking a half a block ahead of time. That’s when you get it, when you say, “Oh, so that’s what my mom was trying to tell me.”

Maybe I would just drive them to school. The thing was, Addy had to work after school so she’d need her vehicle to get there.

The other thing was, she needed the experience. Even if it resulted in a wrecked car, she had to learn at some point how to drive in such conditions.

Back and forth, back and forth. Drive them and keep them safe or send them out into the snowy, slippery world?

Just one of many fine lines to walk as a parent.

I wasn’t getting back to sleep. I wasn’t enjoying my last hour in my cozy bed.

And then my phone rang. My cell phone. Right there on my night stand. 5:23 a.m.

The call was coming from a number in my contacts and I recognized the name. A colleague of mine. It could only mean one thing…

SNOW DAY!

I quickly called the next teacher on the telephone tree, texted my daughters to not get up, and then, no, though the stress had run out of me like a bucket of the melted white stuff, I did not snuggle in and go back to sleep. I was wide awake, celebrating the gift of a day, embracing it, joy emanating from me like the glow from the Christmas tree just beyond my bedroom door.

The gift of a day. A free day. No obligations whatsoever. There’s nothing quite like it.

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Laissez le bon temps rouler

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My little family was lucky enough to be able to spend our Thanksgiving holiday down south in New Orleans. Actually, we barely made it out of the French Quarter our entire trip and that was fine with us. 

I loved being in a city founded in the 18th century. We are such a relatively new country, I enjoy being surrounded by a city that wears its aged patina with grace and elegance (it helps that they wash down Bourbon Street every morning). 

We had a delightfully fun and delicious Thanksgiving supper at Arnaud's where the champagne was bubbly, the food was savory and the service impeccible. We drank amazing cocktails — several times — at the Irvin Mayfield's jazz club which just happened to be part of our hotel. I had an amazing muffaletta at Cafe Amelie. Our final dinner in Louisiana was at the renowned Commander's Palace. I could go on and on, but instead of boring you with tales of delicious creole food and cocktails, take a look at a photo essay of our trip.

Most of these pictures were taken by Margaret who is proving to have a good eye when it comes to capturing texture, detail and finding interesting angles. 

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It’s What We Do

By Randee Bergen
Thursday, November 28, 2013

Today my daughters and I drove seven hours to my hometown where 84% of my relatives still live. We weren’t in town but an hour before everyone started gathering at the swimming pool.

It’s what we do. We’re a family of swimmers.

My mother is partly to blame. She did synchronized swimming at some point in her younger years. And when I was a kid she used to have my siblings and me swim around an island every time we were out for a day at the lake. My dad contributed, too, with comments, while we were young, like “Go play on the highway” and “Go play in the riptide.” Later, it was, “We didn’t come all the way out here for nothing! I don’t care if it’s 55 degrees and raining, you will water ski!” as he picked us up and threw us overboard.

My sister and I ended up on the high school swim team by default. We couldn’t run, but man, we could swim in anything and do it for forever. And I lifeguarded back in the day, the most coveted summer job in town. My sister’s three children all grew up with USA Swimming and were outstanding high school swimmers. My girls were raised at the pool, too—USA Swimming for many years, high school swimming and diving, and now lifeguarding during the summer. My brothers’ boys, who are about the same age as my kids, were excellent on USA Swimming, too, as well as on their high school team. And they also lifeguard.

Often times we’ll meet at the pool to swim laps or just visit while treading water in the deep end, but this time it was mostly about the next generation. My sister’s kids are all grown and married now (and all three have returned to the hometown) and are starting families of their own. There are three young ones so far with another due in a couple of weeks. The main purpose for being at the pool this time was to play with the kids and ooo and ahhh at their nascent swimming skills.

I went to the pool a bit early to swim some laps before the relatives arrived. I thought my sister might appear and do the same and that we’d meet in a lane, totally unplanned. It wouldn’t be a coincidence if she had; it’s just what we do.

Soon my niece was there with her two little ones, the youngest of whom—Owen Daniel—I met for the first time tonight. Then everyone else trickled in. 14 of us. (A few stayed home.)

 

I was in the water for two hours, swimming laps, playing with the little girls, treading and visiting with my nieces and nephews, and then holding my easy-going, mellow grand-nephew for about 45 minutes in the baby pool. He was fascinated with the lady with the purple head (I had a cap on) and four eyes (goggles up on my forehead ).

We stayed not until the kids got tired but until closing time, catching up on everyone’s lives while hanging out in the water.

It’s just what we do.

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From the Haute Mamas

By Robin Dearing
Monday, November 25, 2013

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It’s a Major Award

By Randee Bergen
Friday, November 22, 2013

The weekend before last I ran the Rimrock Marathon, relay style; that is, my partner ran the first half and I ran the second half. That’s how you do a marathon when you really are in no shape to do a marathon. I’m not going to go into all the details because that’s not the point of this post. The point is [SPOIL ALERT] I got A MAJOR AWARD.

 

The Rimrock Marathon

This event took place in my backyard, up and over the Colorado National Monument. I have run across the Monument a few times, road biked across it, and, of course, driven it, many times, but still, I had to stop and take photos along the way today.

My relay partner, Butch, who recently turned 60, offered to do the first leg of the race. I’ve run this on my own twice, the whole marathon, so I know what the first leg entails–getting bussed to the start, standing around in the cold for an hour, and then, then, four miles of uphill switchbacks followed by another seven or eight of rolling hills. Luckily, the scenery is out of this world.

All of us second-leggers were bussed to the approximate middle of the top of the Colorado National Monument, where we hung out until our partners arrived, pooped and ready to hand over the baton. It was an unseasonably warm November day so we could be out of the bus and watching all the marathoners go by as well as be on the lookout for our relay partners.

Butch Crotchety and the Slowpoke Kid

I waited about two and a half hours before Butch showed up. During that time I drank a (second) Diet Coke, had a peanut butter and honey sandwich and a banana, and made a few trips to the bushes. I hung out with some of my running friends and got to know most of the others doing the downhill leg. And, I cheered for everyone going by. I also got amped up. I’d been awake since 5:00 a.m. and I didn’t start running until 10:25.

My leg of the relay was downhill. Serious downhill. Painful downhill. After six miles of rolling road, I started in on the four miles of steep switchbacks into the valley below. You’re supposed to train for this kind of running, pounding down steep pavement. I didn’t. I didn’t hurt too badly during it–just some localized knee pain that fortunately melted away when I hit the last three flat miles.

Now, you might think that, since I was fresh, I passed a few marathoners along the way, but no. Several marathoners passed me. They were running a faster pace on the full 26.2 miles than I was running on my 14 downhill miles. I know, surprise, surprise.

As I approached the finish, there was Butch, just as I was there as he completed his half. He ran in with me, which was a good thing because I was barely moving along at that point. We went immediately to the food and beer because I was starving and had been for the last couple of miles. I got a turkey sandwich, chips, cookies, and hot soup and spread it all out on the table before me. Then I stared at it. For twenty minutes. It is impossible to eat immediately upon finishing a long run like that.

Finally, Butch and I could eat. We chowed down and gained back some strength and visited with others, oblivious that the awards were happening a short ways away.

The Award

Then, one of our local guys ran over and yelled, “Hey, you guys are getting an award. Come on!”

“What?” Of course, I thought it was a joke. But he was grabbing my arm and nudging us along.

It occurred to me, then, that we might be getting an award for the best team name–Butch Crotchety and the Slowpoke Kid.

The announcers were obviously waiting for us to arrive at the awards area. We went up and they repeated what I supposed they had said when we were way out of earshot. “Second place masters co-ed relay!”

Confusion, shock, and elation all on my part. “I’ve never won an award before!” I shouted to the awards people, my partner, the crowd.

“Here, take it,” said Butch, handing me the rock monolith-shaped plaque.

“You don’t want it?”

“Well, if you’ve never won an award before, you darn well better take it. I have plenty of awards.”

Masters

Anyone over the age of 40 is in “Masters” in running, but I’m not sure where that term came from or what exactly it means. You might think that the Masters group is full of old, slow people, but that is most definitely not the case. Some of the fastest runners are Masters and overall winners can easily be in the Masters age group. I always wonder if it means that, since you’re 40, surely you’ve mastered running by now. I, however, didn’t start running until I was 42.

But here’s something I may have mastered–how I can get an award, or at least have a better shot at getting one. Enter an event with a relay. Get a partner. The partner doesn’t need to be Speedy Gonzalez; “it” just needs to be a “he” and he needs to be an old guy (you know, OVER 40). Then, make sure all of my fast women friends partner up with other women, so they won’t be messing up my chances in the co-ed division.

Really, I think it must be that we were both Masters and that we were a male/female team to have gotten A MAJOR AWARD.

Or maybe, maybe, it’s because we were super fast relay marathoners who deserved it. [SPOIL ALERT] Not!

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Waivering faith in Santa

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, November 21, 2013

I always think I'll be prepared for those tough questions, but I never am.

Soren said this to me as we waited in line to talk to Santa last weekend.

Soren: "Mom, a girl at school says Santa isn't real."

Me: (OMG, OMG, OMG) "Uh, oh yeah, uh, well, um, what do you think?"

Soren: Shrugs. Walks away. Shows no interest in the big guy at all.

Right about then my heart broke. Is it really over so soon? If one falls, they all go, even if Marek is only 4.

I'm still not sure what to say about it and it's a question that's going to come up again in the next few weeks I'm sure.

Part of me wants to fess up. Recruit him to play Santa with me late Christmas Eve night.

And part of me never ever ever wants to confess. A big part of me wants to believe forever.

Advice?

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One proud Haute Mama

By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Margaret called me from school this morning. When she calls from school it's rarely a good thing.

Today's call was different. Margaret made the Colorado All-State Honor Choir. 

With that news, I learned that not only do I get teary-eyed when she preforms, but when she tells me very, good news, as well.

Her audition was recorded by her wonderful choir director and submitted to the the honor choir jury weeks ago. I remember the day, Margaret was disappointed because she was sick and feared her audition wasn't going to be good enough. Singing means so much to her and being selected to this all-state choir is a big deal.

She will be singing with students from all over the state at a performance at the BellCo Theater in Denver in February and I'll be in the audience all teary eyed.

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8.8 Billion Earth-Like Planets

By Randee Bergen
Thursday, November 14, 2013

I knew it! Well, at least I presumed it.

I read in the paper a few days ago that there are billions of planets in the Milky Way Galaxy that are in the “Goldilocks Zone” – not too hot and not too cold.

Astronomers, using NASA data, calculated that there are at least 8.8 billion planets in our galaxy alone that could be habitable. 8.8 billion “throws of the biological dice.” That’s more chances than there are people on Earth that there is life somewhere else out there.

I’ve never been opposed to the idea that there are other worlds with other human-like creatures. In fact, I’ve always had this fantasy that God has several (hundreds, thousands, millions, billions?) experiments going on galaxy-wide. Which of my creations is going to make it work, is going to figure out that the secret to survival is loving and caring for every single living thing? I picture him up there applying different circumstances, different strategies for all of his planet creations, trying to determine which are the most effective in getting through to us. I have no doubt that God could be managing billions of lives on billions of planets.

And even if there isn’t a god involved, it certainly seems plausible that a cosmic number of these planets that are similar to Earth once had life, now support living creatures, or are nearing the time when life will emerge, when evolution will begin.

What are your thoughts? Is there life somewhere other than here on Earth?

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Perspective

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I think about what I’m going to write here before I put my fingers to the keyboard. While I’m making my bed in the morning, I try to think of a good lead. While I’m juicing my morning fruits and vegetables, I plot out what I want my story to tell. On my way home from driving Margaret to school, I figure out how I want to end.

I try focus on topics that would interest me as a reader and I try to avoid being too dramatic/emotional/sentimental (yeah, I know, I fail at that regularly, but I try). Always, I’m also honest with myself. Fact is, there are some things that I just have to write.

I don’t get writer’s block (I think you have to be a writer for that). Instead, I get topic blocked. If there is something profound going on in my life or more typically, in my head, I can’t not write about it (hello double negative, I tried to delete you, but yet there you still are).

These sticking subjects are like giant boulders stuck in the mouth of my creative cave. The boulder must be addressed before I can move on to write about the fun stuff that I prefer to post on this blog.

This post is me trying to get around that boulder. I either write this or post more pictures of my cats. I’m more embarrassed by my cat photos, so here it is.

I spend a big portion of my weekdays alone at my desk and rambling around the house. I love working from home. But this solitude allows me to be too self-indulgent.

I have lots of time to think about all the injustices in my life. I sit by myself and fume over the fact the insurance company gets to dictate which medications I can afford. I get teary-eyed over having to spend so much of our money on medical bills and interest on medical bills. I’m bitter over the fact that my disease is so damn hard to manage.

Then I read stories of the people suffering in the Philippines looking for food and water when my belly is full. I read about mothers whose children have terminal diseases while mine is delightfully spoiled. I learn of loved ones senselessly killed while mine are all safe.

Perspective is an amazing thing. If my biggest problems are that I have to pay my bills and work to stay healthy, then I’ve got it pretty good. 

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Thank you, veterans

By Robin Dearing
Monday, November 11, 2013

In honor of Veteran's Day, I would like to thank everyone who has served or who is currently serving our country in the Armed Forces. Our country is endebted to our military for all the freedoms we enjoy.

My stepson, Sean, is a proud member of the Air National Guard. This time last year, he was deployed to Djibouti, Africa. He celebrated his 22nd birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's away from his new bride, his friends and family because he chose to serve our country. I'm thankful he returned safely and for his service.

My husband, two aunts, an uncle and several cousins all chose to serve our country in various branches of the Armed Forces. I'm thankful to all of them for their service and sacrifice to our country.

I am grateful for the might and power of our military. 

Thank you, veterans.

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