Wednesday, March 28, 2018

An Invitation

Blogging has delivered so much more than I ever expected when I started posting a year ago.  Access to spectacular photography, most of it by ordinary people just like me.  Inspiration from prose, quotes and video embedded in posts.  A window into the joys and trials of others, with its incumbent responsibility to affirm and to support my fellow bloggers, as needed.  So, it felt really good when LeeAnna at Not Afraid of Color invited me to join "I Like Thursdays", a 'posting party' that emphasizes positives.  This is for LeeAnna and the entire blogging community: I appreciate your diversity, your talent and the entertainment! So, I guess that's my first LIKE for the week!

Many posts I have read over the last few weeks have documented the delayed arrival of spring, and fickle winter storms.  Here in Montana, it's still winter in the mountains, but there are signs of spring in the valleys. As soon as some grass was revealed by the retreating snow in our backyard, robins suddenly appeared and commenced pulling worms out of the compressed earth.  I was so excited to see them!

Yesterday, I was watching the juncos pick birdseed from the snow below my birdfeeder, and I suddenly noticed something poking its head out of a hole in the snow, where it meets the grass.  For the next 10 minutes or so, that mouse/vole worked the semi-circle in front of the hole until the grass was bare.  While I am not a big mouse fan, I do admire the ingenuity of the tunnels that must be laced throughout the two feet of snow that still remains in the shaded part of the yard.

Warmer weather in town means the foot-deep ruts on our streets have disappeared, and the sidewalks are passable without Traxx and winter boots.  Running outside  has returned!
Whitefish Mountain Resort
Meanwhile, on the mountain, we are enjoying the final weeks of ski season; last day for the resort is April 8.  Enamored ourselves with the beauty of the vistas from the Summit, we aren't surprised when people ask us to take their pictures with the mountains as a backdrop.  But recently, it was a request with a twist ... a young bearded man approached me and asked if I was good at photography ... this was new.

I said yes, and then he confided in me that he was about to propose, and would I just use his SLR to take pictures continuously as to not miss a thing?  No pressure!!!  I will probably never know if they were quality shots, but it sure looked sweet through the viewfinder!  And she said yes!

Easter rapidly approaches; it seems like just yesterday that Lent began.  It's no coincidence that my February 15 post celebrated an author with a focus on positive action rather than avoiding a negative.  In reviewing that post, I can honestly report that I have moved the needle on patience and hope.  Day 37, I have more capacity to adapt to life's curveballs (except for moving day - that was an anomaly - LOL).  I spend a greater proportion of time in the moment than on worrying about tomorrow.  And if both of those fail me, I have the hope that circumstances will improve tomorrow, along with my ability to deal with them.  Along the way, an occasional indulgence in a Cadbury crème egg or a Girl Scout cookie doesn't hurt!

Speaking of indulgences, it's not hard to be in a good mood when your day starts well.  One of my greatest joys in retirement is the option to lie in bed until a formerly-unknown hour of, say, 9 a.m.  And the proverbial icing on the cake is a surprise breakfast in bed.  Spousal Unit is a blessing beyond compare!

Pets are good for the soul. Yes, they can be work (daily sweeping of cat litter scattered all over the hardwood floor), but the companionship, love and entertainment is worth it.  Josie often keeps me company while I am blogging, and her cuteness is enough to make my heart burst sometimes.

When I am not looking out the window, running, skiing, eating fine foods, or blogging with Josie, I am embroidering one of my tea towels.  I recently finished Tuesday and I am on track to complete Wednesday before the end of the month - one "day" per month is my goal - so far so good.

How Montanans get to dinner
Do you know Reader's Digest?  When I was young, we always had the magazine at home and I would consume it cover to cover.  Of course, one of my favorite sections was Laughter: the Best Medicine.  So, I thought I would leave you with this photo, taken outside the Kila Pub, where we had dinner last week after spending all day opening boxes.  We were tired, to say the least.  But this made us laugh, which automatically lifted our moods ...

Well, LeeAnna, I can see why "I Like Thursday" has meant so much to you ... it certainly was powerful for me to reflect on my LIKES this week ...

and now, check out all the other good stuff at Not Afraid of Color.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Keep Calm and Carry On

I am not one for loose ends.  Once I start something, I like to finish.  Dot the 'i', cross the 't'.  So our Phase I move-in this week is testing my limits.

My running internal conversation goes something like this:

Moose flag and moose
metal sculpture near
front porch
"The snow is melting - everything looks like a mud pit - I can't show that on my blog."

"What an opportunity to demonstrate you are letting go of perfection."

"Despite all my efforts, the movers didn't get the piano onto the lower level."

"The piano is undamaged and even sounds in tune".
Piano originally belonged to my maternal
great-grandfather Clem

"Boxes basically everywhere.  Dining room chairs in the master bedroom until we get protectors on the legs.  Yikes!"

"How blessed you are to have this house.  OK!"
View from back deck

Original paperwork from
June 23, 2016
So, now that I have my attitude firmly planted on the positive end of the spectrum, let me start at the beginning, June 23, 2016, the day that two-thirds of our household possessions were packed and transferred to a United Van Lines warehouse near Cleveland, Ohio.  And on March 19, 2018, Billy, Eric and Levi delivered them to our new house near Kila, Montana.

We'd had a couple of inches of snow overnight, which made for serene views but less than ideal moving conditions.  The guys quickly determined that it would not be safe to maneuver the piano down the hill to the lower level (sad face).  I will not bore you with the details ('cause my attitude is in the right place!), but we had worked very hard ahead of time to ensure this would not be an obstacle.  Oh well.  Ultimately, the moving company agreed to come back when the weather is better and transfer the piano to its proper place (at no charge to us).

Elsie's Corner Unit

Over a three-hour period, the truck slowly emptied.  It was a bit like Christmas to watch items emerging.  The corner unit, which was purchased with hard-won savings by Spousal Unit's maternal grandmother.

The dining room table and chairs, along with the hutch.

The family room furniture that has seen 5 houses and 10 Super Bowl parties, and now occupies the lower level.  (My attitude creeps in again when I ask myself if the red/green colors work with the blue walls ....)

The overstuffed formal living room furniture looks like it was made for the loft - and you can still see the divot in the cushion that was Maggie's (the cat) go-to sleeping spot for many years.  (We are going to need some decorative cushions/throws to add some color here .... sorry, can't help myself!)

First meal at the dining room table
Paperwork complete, Billy, Eric and Levi drove off and left us to satisfy our noisy stomachs with home-made vegetarian chili, and our eyes with the view from the dining room table.

Soon I will bring my spotting scope to the house, and perhaps I will see these critters through it in real time, rather than after the fact via our trail cam.
Note how hind legs are sinking deeply into the snow
Running through the snowflakes

Breaking through fresh snow

We wrapped the day, tackling a couple of dish boxes.  It's probably no coincidence that wine and beer glasses were near the top!

Tomorrow we return to carry on.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

The Proposal (Showing Off a "Small Island" - Part 6)

Durham, a historic city in North East England, is home to a Norman cathedral that became a center of pilgrimage in medieval England.  That's because the Cathedral contains the final resting place of St. Cuthbert.  The city also boasts an 11th century castle that has been the home of Durham University since 1832.  And all of this perched on a stunning rocky outcrop that looks down on the River Wear (pronounced like 'weird' but without the 'd').  But what you really need to know about Durham is this: Spousal Unit proposed to me here, right outside the main door of the Cathedral, 28 years ago.

So, of course we brought my sister and her husband to the scene of the crime during their UK tour in June 2017 (see previous posts about their visit: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

Durham is only a short drive from my in-laws' house; we took advantage of the Park and Ride just outside the city center because the walk into town along the river offers peek-a-boo glimpses of the Cathedral until suddenly it looms over you and the water.
Scaffolding on right-hand tower - repairs!

We scaled the cobblestone streets that wend a serpentine route to the hill occupied by the Cathedral and castle.  As we entered the square that is bounded by these ancient structures, I was struck by the contrast in the historical architecture 

Pictures inside the Cathedral are not permitted

and modern-day activities.
Large wedding tent on the square

Carousel horses - waiting patiently for the kids!
While my sister and her husband thoroughly explored the Cathedral, I enjoyed quiet time in the pews, absorbing the environment and reflecting on family memories (beyond The Proposal).  Our kids have visited often and we have brought other family members here as well.   Even after all these years, we haven't figured out the rhythm of the Tower opening, so we act pleasantly surprised if we can actually climb the Tower and enjoy the 360 view of the river and the countryside beyond.  (On this particular day, it was not open.)  And yet the Cathedral always has something new to offer.

After Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was released, the kids and Spousal Unit alike were thrilled to look at the Cloisters through new eyes, and speculate which side of the quadrangle had been used for the scene in which Harry magically releases Hedwig the owl from his hands.

In 2016, our family participated in the Durham Cathedral LEGO build.  For every British pound you donated, you got to place one LEGO brick on the model, which now contains almost 300,000 bricks!  The model is an accurate scale representation of the Cathedral,  12.5 feet long, 5 feet wide and 5.6 feet high.  It is currently on display in the Undercroft Foyer.  The first LEGO was laid on July 11, 2013 and the final brick was placed on July 25, 2016.


Two years ago, the Cathedral opened a new area, called the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  Perhaps because it does not get as many visitors as the Cathedral proper, I find the space to be utterly peaceful and an ideal location to ponder the glory of the Cross.


The grounds outside the Chapel are also glorious.  I could not stop taking pictures of the roses.

By this time the troops clamored for refreshments.  With the downhill before us, we positively legged it to Vennels Café.  But not before a final glance at the spot where I said yes to the man of my dreams.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Bountifully Blessed

Afternoon sky in North Dakota

It's been a week of introspection.  Looking back, and forward.  A celebration and a bit of a self-assessment.  A (sometimes surprising) re-affirmation of my passions.  On the whole, an eminently satisfying catalog of a year well-lived, well-loved, and bountifully blessed: it has been 12 months since I retired and started documenting my voyage with this blog.

Calypso Orchid
I won't apologize for my method to outlining this post: I organized my notes around the objectives stated in my blog profile.  I re-read all 72 of my blog posts, beginning with the first.  I perused (ancient!) notes I kept leading up to retirement and for the first 9 months post-freedom.  After all, even the most ad-lib writers structure their prose in some fashion ... but in the end, I sat back and let my emotions speak to me.  Here is what I heard:

Family game of Kings in the Corner

1. Letting go of perfection and structure is harder for me than I ever thought possible.  I deliberately bought a simplified Franklin planner that only has room for 10 Daily Tasks during the week and 4 on the weekend.  Nevertheless, my list often extends to a dozen or more, and I certainly don't finish them all.  I am learning I CAN give myself permission to engage in the 'fun' items even if there are still 'work' tasks on the list!  Enjoying the beauty of a moment can be difficult when my mind strays to tomorrow and its events and tasks.  With some effort, I am becoming more effective at re-directing my attention to my current environment and its gifts.
Sunset on Whitefish Lake

2. I am jazzed by the simple things and by traditions.  As I looked back through my blog posts, Fall Frolics, Autumn Antics, October Wind-down, The Spirit is a-Movin' and Treasured Traditions jumped off the page.  So maybe embracing adventure is not my bag; simple traditions ignite my passions.

3. If I could spend all day every day outside, I would.  This is not new and I am in 'outdoor' heaven here in Montana.  Hiking.  Snowshoeing.  Kayaking.  Skiing.  Outdoor dining.  All of which are even more special for the presence of Spousal Unit (also known as Man with Hat) by my side.  Our journeys frequent this blog, and you can be assured of many more in the years ahead.
Man with Hat among bear grass in Jewel Basin

The kids and Spousal Unit with
snow ghosts on Big Mountain
4. Family is a constant, a solid mooring, a source of pride and joy and new experiences.  Some of the posts that brought me to (happy) tears are those about family; we play together and make new memories, all the while recalling the family tales of yester-year.  Our children are adults, and times with them are at once simpler and more complex. 

Strolling San Francisco with 
#1 Daughter
We couldn't be prouder of their achievements - #1 Son has earned Dean's List honors for two semesters (Engineering Physics major!) and landed a teaching assistant position.  #1 Daughter will graduate from college in April, and has secured two jobs that will carry her through the summer months while she locates her first long-term stage management role.

5. Travel is a given that is interwoven with my other passions: family, the outdoors and time with friends.  It would be easy to turn this post into a month-by-month re-cap, but that would be predictable, structured Angie.  Where's the emotion, the importance?  These last 12 months, travel has meant catching up with college friends, making dreams come true for others, discovering new mountains, sharing UK culture and beautiful landscapes, and supporting our kids.
Upper left: Trout Lake Trail, Glacier National Park
Upper right: Palace Hotel in San Francisco
Lower left: Oughtershaw, UK
Lower right: Bow River, Banff, Alberta, Canada

6. Cross-stitch, embroidery and knitting offer an opportunity to relax while investing my love in a piece of lasting beauty.  I would like to produce more pieces, but this activity often gets sacrificed when I run out of time at the end of a full day.  As I look forward, I will consider how I can let go of some of the 'work' tasks on my list to make room for more craft time!

Hawes, UK
7. God is generous.  My relationship with Man with Hat.  Our relationships with our children.  Our log house. Our siblings.  Our friends.  Our health.  The stunning world in which we live.  In my retirement, I have made the time to pray every day.  A healthy chunk of my reflection time involves giving thanks, the other side of prayer.  Almost every week, I can add something new to my gratitude list.

8.  I am finding a niche in our community, from volunteering at the Whitefish Museum to activities at St. Charles Borromeo Church (lector, Eucharistic Minister, fourth grade religion teacher, prayer shawl ministry).  It feels good to give back, and to know people in town as we go about our routines such as visiting the library or eating out.  Looking forward, I know I will have to start over in Kalispell, which is closer to our new home, but I am sure I will maintain some of the relationships established in Whitefish over the last 12 months.
Top: September sunshine 
Bottom: December brings winter white to the same field
Near Whitefish

Scenes along Whitefish Lake and Whitefish River

McDonald Creek -
Glacier National Park

9. For me, blogging has blossomed from a tiny mustard seed of an idea to a tree with many branches.  A creative outlet for me.  (Hopefully) an inspiration to others who may have a down day, or dream of life in the American West.  A diary that is open to the world, allowing me to 'keep in touch' with old and new friends alike. A popularity contest for Man with Hat (he always wants to know the standing of 'his' post on the Popular Post list!)  A source of inspiration for me - my blogging buddies around the world can pick me up, teach me new blog tricks, help me find long-lost embroidery patterns and show me the beauty of the world around them.  A well-spring of affirmation - comments from fellow bloggers and others are priceless; I feel valued as a member of a community teeming in variety and geographic diversity.

10. I am not bored (this is for the people who asked me, before retirement - 'won't you be bored?') 

It is quite hard to recall the minutiae of my working life, 12 months on.  This quote from Without Reservations: the Travels of an Independent Woman by Alice Steinbach captures my feeling perfectly:

One morning while having breakfast on the King's Road I suddenly realized how foreign my life as a reporter now seemed.  When I thought of it now - the deadlines, the constant search to find material for a story or column, the compulsive need to read three newspapers daily, the fear of getting something wrong or not getting the whole story - it was like imagining a country I haven't visited in some time.
Keld, UK

And that's OK.  Because I have new 'countries' to visit: Having fun before my 'work' is done - especially my craft projects.  Being totally immersed in the moment.  Celebrating simple traditions. 

Stay with me and you'll have an inside track on the journey!

P.S.  I am starting now - I tweaked the content of my Profile/About My Blog, and have changed my background to something totally fun - jelly beans!  I saw it and had to have it!

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