Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

The ‘Let’s be neighbors’ sign in front of Get Some Groceries, in our little village, gives me hope.  It is acknowledged worldwide that now is absolutely an extremely hard time for our nation.

The hopefulness in the banner simply comes from seeing each other as human beings. For all our differences we are all people living on this earth, in this country, in this little mountain village – or wherever you live.

Encouragement means to be inspiring, to give support, so that as each of us shows kindness, we cause a ripple effect. Small changes in attitudes can indeed occur in the hearts of thinking, growing, openhearted people and maybe, finally, this can really be the beginning of authentic, lasting, kindhearted change in our souls and in our history.

If we don’t want people to judge us – we cannot judge. Remember the Golden Rule? And to all Christians: Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Genuine change can happen with valid relationships. Real relationships assume the best, kindly question and show love. And where there is love there is no judgment.

Lake City neighbors, like your own, are quite diverse. Our little mountain village is very unique in its location. The draw is the mountains but we can be as different as the seasons of summer and winter as to why we like the mountains. There are environmentalists and not. There are couch potatoes and active folks, same-gender couples, single folks and married folks. There are people who work and not. There are blue and white collared folk, artists, musicians, firefighters, atheists, clergy and agnostics. There are Republicans, Democrats, and folks who don’t declare. There are residents from birth and transplants.

There are people of color and not. There are people with physical challenges and people who have challenges that are harder to see. There are people who live in large and expensive houses and not. There are people of all ages. For different reasons, we are all drawn to these mountains – or to wherever you live.

If our goal is to move our nation in a healthier, kinder direction, we need to do that at home first. We are neighbors.  Let’s be part of a positive change. In the words of loveable Mr. Rodgers, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”  So, neighbor, what will you do with your life to make the world a kinder place to live?

 

Make your thoughts known in the comments section below. As always, I prefer if you post your comments and questions here rather than send them to me by private email. By putting them here, you share with other readers, not just with me. I read all comments and try to respond to all  useful questions. Sign up at the top of this post to be notified of new ones. Thank you!

Living in the Mountains

Today is the Birthday of My 1st Born

JulieAndBabyDavid

Julie, 38 years ago today, with her 1st born child, a son, David (biblical name) Bruce (Bruce after his dad and his dad’s dad)

 

For me, this has been the most life altering experience ever. There’s nothing to compare to growing a person inside of your body, giving birth and being responsible for molding another person’s life, especially with everything happening for the first time.

 

At 25 I had quite a bit of experience with babies and children. My parents had been foster parents and I was expected to babysit. I’d babysat for neighbors too. I had been a preschool teacher, Girl Scout leader, children’s swimming instructor – but – there’s NOTHING like having your own child that you are completely responsible for, not to mention the physical aspects of being pregnant, giving birth and nursing, all while your hormones do whatever they like…

Trying to be good environmentalist, we weren’t going to use disposable diapers. We started with the diaper service we were given as a baby gift and kept it. Pick up was every two weeks. The diaper pail was as tall as an average 5-year-old. The smell…well you can imagine. Nursing baby’s poop is…well let me just say that rubber pants did not keep the poop contained. There was a lot, a lot of laundry, all the time which had to be attended to as soon as possible if I had any hope of getting poop stains out of baby clothes, my clothes, baby blankets…

But I loved nursing. From the very beginning nursing came naturally, for both of us. It was also what was best for both of us. It felt emotionally satisfying to be doing the very best by my baby. David didn’t get anything but my breast milk for the first 6 months of his life and he thrived. It was so easy too – always handy, the right temperature, no bottles or any of that paraphernalia to deal with and a baby blanket was always handy for my privacy.

We took a car trip when our son was a few months old and we used disposable diapers. OMG!!! No diaper pens, no rubber pants, no leaks, no diaper pail and not nearly as much laundry! We never looked back.

As much as I loved nursing, at a year I was done. By that time I was no longer food. We were nursing first thing in the morning and the last thing at night for routine and comfort. I didn’t want to be a pacifier and knew how important it is for babies to be able to comfort themselves. David had always fallen asleep nursing but Bruce stepped up and sang and walked his baby son to sleep, until finally we could put David down awake and our little son could get himself to sleep! There was great rejoicing!

Autumn (our favorite Lake City season) David, (about 20 months) my towheaded toddler and me, his mom, in Lake City, throwing rocks in the river near our cabin. I can still feel the sweet coziness of the moment. I remember him calling Lake San Cristobal, “Crystal Ball”, and falling on a rock that gashed his little cheek. First time parents, we didn’t think to bring David a jacket. This little yellow jacket from Wal-Mart got a lot of wear and being a light color that was worn outside, a lot of laundering. We had fun. I remember a lot of joy.

Proud mom with my son in his engineering office at Notre Dame University (where he earned his PhD in aerospace engineering on a complete scholarship and stipend) and he is a kind person too.

Happy birthday David!

Much Love,

mom

“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains

Happy New Year

Celebrating New Year’s Eve

 At Climb in Lake City, CO

 Instead of the red sauce being over powering, this light red sauce has a gentle blending of complimentary flavors. The aroma was mouthwatering and the colors – a celebration! 

This isn’t just going out to eat, Climb is a dining experience ~!  Linda is the chief and her husband Jerry,  the ‘everything else.’ Not only is the food really good, the restaurant is lovely and Jerry greets customers by name, with pleasure, as if you were gracing his home by accepting a party invitation. He spends just the right amount of time conversing at your table and letting you take everything in to enjoy your time.

The pretty presentation and gentle aroma are a given at Climb. My husband plucked the mint leaf from the chocolate and suggested I take a whiff ~ chocolate and mint, yum!

It was fun to dress up for the evening and go out together, celebrating the past year. Over dinner, I shared with my husband my ‘gratitude jar.’ For the past year I’d been writing down, with the date, something that touched me in a positive way, something I was thankful for. Some of my entries were as simple as a stunning blue sky day, my son calling me just because he was thinking about me and having an especially fun, satisfying day with my little pal Elsa. Of course this past year I overcame osteoporosis and we went to Italy too!!!

We are taught in psych 101, as well in life, that it takes numerous good things to overcome a negative one – something like 5-1. So, being more aware of the good in our lives helps insure we are living a more positive life!

***If we aren’t making a point to dwell on our blessings, we might as well not have them –

The New Year is the perfect time to start living a more positive life!

Happy New Year! Make it your best lived life ever!

What are you grateful for? What’s good about today?

“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains

How Did You Spend Your Christmas Season

Bruce and Joy deciding which tree is the right choice

For our mountain Christmases we always cut our tree. When living in suburbia, I’ve gone to a Christmas tree lot and also had an artificial tree. Cutting our own tree my favorite! We don’t have a specific time to put the tree up, about a week or two before Christmas is usually when we do it. How about you?

How do you get your Christmas tree? When do you put your tree up?

Elsa and I have been together for 4 years; since she was a young 2-year-old. Officially I’m her nanny-teacher. She’s like my Lake City grandchild. Having been a teacher and being a mom and grandma makes me a perfect choice!

Joy is never far from Elsa – she’s really quite adorable the way she ‘watches’ over Elsa.

The lighting of the advent wreath

I grew up Catholic observing the season of advent; the 4 weeks before Christmas. A candle is lit for each week.

We spend a lot of time outside

Christmas Eve – what a sky!!!

More often than not our winter days are calm and sunny with this cobalt blue sky. We work to keep a path open to enjoy walking on our nature trail right outside our garden.

Church is always a part of our Christmas. Bruce and I were asked to read at the Presbyterian / Episcopal Church Christmas Eve service.  Bruce was working until late in the afternoon Christmas Eve. I also went to St. Rose Catholic Church afternoon service Christmas Eve.

Growing up I remember once or twice going to my father’s parents for Christmas.  They lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin which was a completely different environment from where we lived in the south. Christmas morning we walked to church through the snow, leaving our unopened Christmas presents under the tree. Between untouched snow yet to play in and unwrapped presents yet to open – it was hard to be a child in church!

This year it was ‘just’ the two of us with our canine kids, Joy and Hope

What are some of your Christmas memories? Traditions?

“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains

Food – New Experiences

Our Rick Steves group. We traveled together  to Venice, Florence, and Rome in late October 2019. What I generally enjoy about our group dinners together, is the combination of getting to know the different people we are traveling with, while being in the midst of a new food experience. It’s FUN!

Food

For the two of us, eating out has mostly been reserved for special occasions or a once in awhile treat. Last weekend we had dinner at an Italian restaurant that everyone was so enthusiastic about – I was looking forward to the experience – I was disappointed. Maybe, subconsciously, I was reminiscing about our October meals in Italy. At this Colorado Italian restaurant the hors d’ oeuvres were as follows: the stuffed mushrooms were tasty but they were doled out one apiece. My teeth are fine. The bruschetta was so hard I could not enjoy it. The meatballs looked simply uninspired. Phooey! if I’d only known ahead of time we were allowed one hors d’ oeuvre a piece, I could have worked out a plan to trade ‘my’ meatball for a second stuffed mushroom.

In Italy I ate, be it unknowingly, squid. I seriously thought calamari was a type of pasta. The other choice was veal and I was not knowingly going to eat the flesh of a baby cow.

It had been decades since I’d eaten bacon. But since having eaten squid, I was more cosmopolitan, more sophisticated – right! Well, at least more open to trying the asparagus wrapped in bacon. These were the hors d’ oeuvres my girlfriend Erin had prepared a few nights earlier. Very tasty! So, having recently eaten squid and bacon I was intrigued with the elk tortellini at this Colorado Italian restaurant. The elk, I was told, was ground with the spices and other tasty treats and stuffed into the pasta. Sounded good, not a slab of animal, but sadly for me, not a lover of red sauce, the food was saturated in red sauce. The sauce should compliment, not take over the other flavors.

Since the city of Venice is actually on the sea, fresh seafood is the specialty. This fact does not go unnoticed when you live in the mountains.

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Early morning Venice fish market

Bruce and I ate squid or as it is more delicately put – “calamari” – as stated, I thought calamari was a type of pasta dish. I do like how the Italians lightly fry foods rather than the American way of deep frying. Pretty much, though anything fried will taste like fried food. Laughing with my dinner companions I said that the calamari looked like onion rings. They had no idea I’d ordered squid inadvertently and thought I was an experienced calamari consumer making a joke. Not one to put on airs, between laughs; I let them in on my naïveté.

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Sea Food Pasta

Our first dinner in Venice – this food just calls out to be photographed. The colors, textures and shapes are beautiful, interesting and appetizing – AND everything is not drowned in a sauce. With my own limitations, so I continue to feel well, I find trying something different to eat when in another country, to be an important part of the cultural experience. And, new experiences after all, are what travel is all about.

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Calamari

At home Bruce and I tend to continuously, eat basically the same kinds of food: homemade: bread, pizza, vegetable soup, grilled salmon, healthy salads and my chicken crock-pot concoctions. Even in our basically, boring, rut eating we do notice the colors, flavorful combinations and presentation.

What’s the most exotic food you have eaten? How do you feel about food – is food something to fill your ready to eat stomach? Have you ever thought of eating as an experience – how so?

“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains

Celebrating Thanksgiving and Being Grateful

IMG_4898.jpgCelebrating Thanksgiving and Being Grateful

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving! I love that there’s a holiday centered on being grateful; with no pressure to send cards, buy presents or even decorate. Yesterday was Thanksgiving. It’s interesting to me to think about people all over our country doing the same thing – sitting down to a feast of turkey, cranberries, potatoes and pies – with friends and family and being grateful.

As life changes, so do holiday celebrations…when Bruce and I were 1st married we lived in Tulsa, OK and our parents lived in Ft. Worth, TX. As young newlyweds we were so glad for the ‘breathing room’ between us and our parents.  Generally, we didn’t really even notice that there were other people in the world. We went to Ft. Worth for either Thanksgiving OR Christmas and totally enjoyed having the other holiday completely to ourselves.

David, our 1st born, was a January baby – after his birth we started going to TX for ‘all’ the holidays. Decades later, after parents could no longer have the family gatherings at their home, we were the host for numerous years; until we moved. A cousin then took over hosting. Eventually, Bruce’s folks were in their 90’s and too fragile to take out. We then went to the ‘retirement center’ where they lived and finally, it was just Bruce’s dad.

Howard died in late October 2017. We were too spent that Thanksgiving and ignored a potential invitation. Last Thanksgiving, 2018 it was again just the two of us and I felt – kind of sad, missing the gatherings we use to have with more people.

I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with other people. I thought of our widower friend Don, being alone, as well our new friends, Sylvia and Bill. Everyone was pleased and accepted quickly. For various reasons, after some back and forth, it was finally agreed that we would all go to Sylvia and Bill’s new home for Thanksgiving. Daughter Terry has just moved back to Lake City and she brought friends Mike and Parker to Thanksgiving dinner.

Sylvia, your daughter, Terry, is so like you: vivacious, interesting and pretty, too. I felt like I just made another girlfriend! Thanks Sylvia for all of your wonderful, delicious efforts and warm hospitality! It was fun!

Today it’s really, really snowing – hard and long. All of us Lake City folks, living here at 9,000 feet, are doing the same thing – dealing with the snow. I’m thinking, those of us not removing the snow with a vehicle and plow, we are using some of those extra calories we stored up yesterday.

I am thankful for healthy bodies and being strong enough to move snow and bring up firewood. And yes, I am thankful we get to live here! And too – as in a romantic comedy, but this is my life, as we are shoveling snow my husband of 42 years calls out to me, “I love you Julie!” Aw!!!!!

Something else to be incredibly thankful for is our local veterinarian; knowledgeable, personable Linda – who also makes house calls!

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, I was able to text with Linda and she communicates that the medicine we need for Joy, our sheltie, is in the picnic basket between their garage doors – I love living in Lake City! This morning, before it was really snowy, Linda came to our home to check on Joy. Thank you again Linda!

I am also really grateful for my readers – thank you – thank you!

Do you have dogs? What kind? How’s your veterinarian situation?  How was your Thanksgiving? What are you grateful for?

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“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains

What’s a “Good Day” for you?

What a great day – My son and his wife were on a conference trip with their engineering NASA jobs. I was helping with my grandchildren. My son surprised me with an outing to the Japanese gardens and feeding the koi fish like we did when he was little – so thoughtful!

A Good Day

People are always wishing us to: “Have a good day!”

Good days for me have encompassed exquisite, rare opportunities like getting to see the aurora borealis in Alaska, visiting Paris in celebration of my husband’s and my 40th wedding anniversary, watching a total solar eclipse and flying over frozen landscape in a hot air balloon. Good days for me have encompassed everyday joys like a walk in the mountains where we live with our dogs, accomplishing something difficult like learning, yet one more thing connected with technology or enduring a challenging hike and always – reading a book I can’t put down. 

What constitutes a good day has certainly changed over the decades; hasn’t it? I remember – maybe you do too – when what made me have a happy included: no homework, my favorite babysitter, something I liked for dinner (perhaps spaghetti or grilled cheese) and watching a favorite TV show, like Bewitched or Gilligan’s Island.

Around that time, when I was about 8-years-old, TV and food played a huge part in my delight; as did spending time at my Meme’s. Summers at Meme’s were the greatest since I got to spend several days at a time there, without any parents! Spending the night meant being treated like a big kid. I was scared in front of the television watching The Twilight Zone with my aunt who was 4 years older than me. Sometimes I close my eyes at the really scary parts of the show and she would make fun of me. But the opportunity to be a big kid was worth enduring being teased.

Just Meme and I would have breakfast in her cozy kitchen.  Suzy the Siamese cat rested on top of the refrigerator, twitching her tail while watching us. I enjoyed warm buttered toast and hot tea with cream and sugar while watching The Beverly Hillbillies on the little portable TV.  I was sure there was no better way to start the day.

Meme had a great big above the ground swimming pool that was so deep; it was up to my shoulders! She’d bring out party sandwiches in the shape of triangles with the crust cut off and celery stuffed with pimento cheese. We’d eat right in the swimming pool!

Meme’s screened porch was one of my favorite places to play. Her elephant ears grew up against the porch creating a snug environment. I’d read or dress my paper dolls and Meme would slip in with a bowl of cherries or strawberries, respecting my quiet place.

When I was old enough to go on walks by myself, walking soon became my favorite activity and an important part of a good day. Walking our collie dog, Duke was so satisfying. Duke was a great listener and always up for a walk. I liked our alone time.

By third grade part of a good day was a trip to the library or walking to the neighborhood bookmobile. Having a new book to read or having uninterrupted time to read a book I couldn’t put down, that’s been a much loved part of a good day for me since childhood.

As a child, my favorite books were often Nancy Drew mysteries or stories about the lives of the saints. Regularly in my catholic school we’d have to give a report on the books we read. Classmates were clamoring for the books I described.  The lives of the saints were particularly fascinating; as one saint drove a nail in her skull to endure suffering for sins. Another saint was waiting to be torn to bits by a lion while she gave birth. The guard laughed at her birthing pang cries. She responded that she would not cry out loud in the morning when she was being torn to bits by lions. Periodically my mother got telephone calls from classmate’s mothers wanting to know what kinds of books was I was reading and where did they come from. I simply replied that I got my books from our school library.

Seldom was I the center of attention; so it was an intoxicating feeing having the whole class listening to me tell about my book. That is when it (be it subconsciously) occurred to me that the written word is powerful.

Having a reader tell me that they were moved my something I wrote is an exciting feeling that makes my day. The recent day spent alone with my 2-year-old granddaughter and I discovering each other was especially wonderful. A few days ago I spent the day with two 1st graders. It was a busy, tiring, exhilarating and very satisfying day. A good day sometimes involves getting together with one or more girlfriends. Good friends, good conversation and good food is always fun!

Yesterday my daughter telephoned and we talked unhurriedly about numerous topics important to us. It was part of a good day. She is having her first taste of ‘motherhood’ as she is presently staying home full-time with her 3-week-old foster son. It’s always good to know my daughter or son is thinking about me with a call, text or email.

Visiting my daughter when she was at Brandeis University for graduate school – she’s dressing her puppy warmly for a cold day

For me a good day can involve many things, of which walks with my dogs and time spent reading and writing are often a part.

Today was a fun day with my husband. We drove to Montrose to get more supplies for our sunroom that he’s building us. It’s a long drive. We talked. We listened to podcast. After getting our building materials I picked out some colorful flowering plants for our deck. We then enjoyed a tasty lunch at our favorite Montrose restaurant, Daily Bread. We don’t eat out often, so it’s a treat. I very much enjoyed my cup of mushroom soup and my crab and avocado salad at this mom and pop café. When we got home we walked our dogs and I enjoyed playing with my flowers. I checked on a friend’s cat which meant I got to do a kindness and make an animal happy. I’ve enjoyed reminiscing about Meme and writing this blog entry (and remembering the theme songs to Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies!) It’s been a good day!

As you journey through life I wish you countless good days. What makes a good day for you?

Celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary in Paris

Our Adorable Mountain Village

Volunteers

As I write, a few days ago was the annual celebration of volunteers in our community! There are volunteer positions available to coincide with every gift & talent given human beings: from working with children, to working in gardens, to working to promote the arts, to the always traditional baking cookies & more – much, much more. A few folks make a more than part-time job from their volunteering & some, like yours truly, mostly stick to one area.

Easter Fun

As our little village gets ready for Easter, volunteers will help staff hide 1,500 eggs for the outdoor hunt – oh I see we are counting the snow to hold off.  In order to give all the children to best chance to find eggs there are different spots to hunt for different age groups.

All Are Welcome   

It seems especially appropriate that at Easter it is traditional that our village holds a community breakfast & a community worship service – ‘cause God love us all – God says ALL are welcome – ALL – just 2 commandments – Love God – Love each other –  JUST LOVE

Our Amazing Road Crew

This winter our little mountain village had an unprecedented amount of snow. It’s been very hard to deal with so very much snow. And it keeps snowing several times a week. The unprecedented amount of snow has caused avalanches.

 Snow – Snow and more snow – too much frick’en snow

In this season of too much snow our road crew has been the best ever

Mud Season

When you live in our mountains with snow you know about Muddy March. In this year of unprecedented snowfall we are having Muddy April. I feel sure that Muddy May will follow. Muddy June will not be a surprise.

Talk about child-like joy – making lemonade out of lemons – I love having captured this kindergartener playing in the mud in the middle of town!

Mud Season

Aging

The term “Baby Boom” is used to identify the huge increase in births following World War II. Baby boomers are those people born between 1946 and 1964. I am a baby boomer. I am 62 years old. I find this time of life reminiscent of adolescence. My body is doing weird stuff. So many things don’t make sense. There’s so much to learn.  Of course THE difference is that puberty is the beginning. When did we go from “I’m 13 AND ½”  to “I won’t be 50 until 9:33 PM”

According to Google, some younger people say that you are old once you turn 59. Somewhat older people say that old age begins at 65. Old age refers to ages nearing or exceeding life expectancy, which in the United States is 78 years

We say “it’s just a number” yet we do what we can to look younger than ‘the number’

I plainly remember when I realized that everyone died. Death wasn’t just something that happened to my great-grandparents for some unknown reason.

Clearly, if not before, then by the time we are in our 60’s we hear the tick-tock sounding. Everyone wants to go the Heaven. No one wants to die in order to get there – it seems that seldom is anyone ever ready to die, not even the old folks.

I think it’s important to remember we are going to die & that it may not be as far off as we would like. We have a finite number of days. Do what you need to do. Do what you want to do. Live all the days of your life. Personally, I like to feel as good as possible; so I find it rewarding to life as healthy a lifestyle as is doable for me. Regular exercise, food choices & portion control really do make a difference!

What will I leave behind…will any part of the world be a better place for my having lived –

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life… Thoreau