30 October 2009

Love at First Bike

4 April 2004

I'm in D.C, and my luggage is in Fort Lauderdale. My friend wears size 18, and I wear a size 8. I don't know what I'm going to wear tomorrow, but in a way, it doesn't matter.

I received an email from The Lizard today, and I don't think my feet have touched the ground since. I may not need a plane to get home! I think I could float!

After a crush that has lasted at least ten months, The Lizard finally asked if we could go on a bike ride together. Today is 04.04.04. Is this my lucky day or what?!?

I told him I'll be in Moab next month, and he replied that he would love to ride with me. Yes, he used the word "love." I'm not making this up!

8 April 2004

I wish so bad I had the courage to ask The Lizard if we could ride this weekend. But it's last minute, the roads probably would be bad on the way there, and I shouldn't spend the money.

I want to ride with him. And yet I don't.

I have been thinking about the Moab trip. I don't want another big letdown. I want a relationship that goes right. I'm not sure there are any of those in store for me. I feel like everything is destined to go wrong. I think I'm meant to be alone.

9 April 2004

I think I'm beginning to understand the reason I'm Dateless in Denver. I'm not date material. I suck at this, and I have no desire to excel at this particular task. I hate this!

11 April 2004

I couldn't wait to e-mail The Lizard tonight about the Moab trip. I secured the time off. I made my hotel reservation. This is the moment I have waited for. And now I'm scared.

13 April 2004

I finally received my long-waited e-mail from The Lizard. He requested we not do Slickrock. I replied, hopefully in a humorous manner. Communication is difficult. When I first read his response, I didn't catch any feeling in it at all. I thought I would just leave it at that until we had to make a plan. My defensive nature. Back off.

I reread the email later, and instead of seeing a cold, blunt reply, I saw excitement. He used exclamation points. He works full time and goes to school, and he's getting ready for finals. Plus, he's a guy. Guys don't get bubbly like girls do.

I answered back with bubbles but tight and terse, the way my newspaper editors have always encouraged me to write.

The Lizard replied with a bit of gusto. Actually stated a ride preference. He still seems very professional and distant, but there is a surety that squeaks in now that has always been absent before.

It has been a totally rotten day. It was so good to see his name come up in my inbox. I wished we were close friends so I could call him and whine about my day.

I guess that makes me guilty of baggage. I wanted someone to talk to tonight. I wanted more than a hit and run from The Lizard. But we don't know each other well enough for that yet.

I looked up our initial correspondence because I couldn't remember how we began tooting each other's inbox tunes.

I had forgotten he was one of the biggest fans of my Longs Peak poem. That poem was written with a different guy in mind. The Lizard sent this magnificent compliment that still utterly makes my day every time I read it.

He's written so many things to me that jarred my senses. I've felt a connection ever since the first time we talked. I've wanted to date him ever since I climbed Uncompahgre. After I wrote that trip report, he wrote to tell me there is much magic to be found near Cinnamon Pass. I envisioned us eating cinnamon rolls atop the pass together one day…

15 April 2004

I don't have a shot in the dark. The Lizard is going to be thoroughly disgusted that I'm such a slowpoke. That's not my typical pessimism speaking. That's fact.

18 April 2004

I cyclo-crossed the dirt road leading to the Lair of the Bear, and once again, I thought of The Lizard. His web page is Lizard's Lair. Not the same thing, I know, but that's where the simple thought of the word took me.

I sat down on a bench where I could swing my legs over the rushing river and ate my spicy tuna while I daydreamed about doing the same thing with The Lizard in just two weeks. Will he be disgusted with me because I'm so slow? Will he think I'm gross for eating tuna out of a foil packet with my fingers? Will he think I'm a wimp because I can't do Hurrah Pass or Amasa Back? Will he talk to me while we eat lunch on a bench, or will he try to get as far away from me as he can?

What do I care? Who needs a relationship?

But I did fantasize about sitting next to him on the bench, enjoying a conversation about the scenery.

26 April 2004

I am trying very, very hard to strengthen my legs and build my self-confidence so I can do single track with The Lizard on Saturday. I am trying so hard to be "good enough," based on my riding experience with other guys. I'm not satisfied with my level, but I should be doing it for me, not so I can keep up with some guy. I need to do it for me.

29 April 2004

The Lizard really is going to meet me in Moab on Saturday for a bike ride! Plans were finalized today! Little bit nervous, little bit excited. Trying very hard not to think about it. Trying to concentrate on all the stuff I must do before I head out. I still haven't replaced the tubes on the road bike! Undoubtedly I'll be up until 2 a.m. getting ready.

Lizard, I've had butterflies in my stomach all week. I've had fantasies about you since September. If you don't like me, the dream lives on because what I think of you is just in my head, not the real thing. It doesn't mean the real thing doesn't exist somewhere.
But I do hope...

We have so much in common. And yet, that scares the heck out of me, because every guy I have so much in common with flakes.

Lizard, please don't flake.

30 April 2004

I'm in Moab. Finally. At long last. All my questions and more will be answered tomorrow. Tomorrow, I may be a whole different person than I am right here, right now, at this very moment. I may have to be really strong, which could go either way, or I may have to find motivation to keep being bubbly and energized. I'm in Moab. How hard can it be?

1 May 2004

I can't believe this day. We rode into Arches National Park together. I couldn't keep up with him. He kept riding ahead and then riding back to be by my side. When we reached the Delicate Arch trailhead, he took off his shoes and carried his bike – BAREFOOT!!! – to walk with me! (I wear mountain biking shoes I can walk in when I'm not riding, even when I'm on my road bike.) We ate lunch together on a bench in full view of the prettiest arch in the world!

We had dinner together after the ride. Because he stayed and talked until both of us were hungry again. He asked if he could make dinner for me Monday night before I head home. That would put me home at midnight or worse.

I like The Lizard. I think he likes me, too. I'm so wired, I'm not even tired. And yet, I'm scared to death. This day has been unbelievable. I can't believe this is happening to me. It's like a fairy tale. This definitely doesn't feel like my life.

He wants to see me again!

2 May 2004

We talked on the phone! Long distance!!!

The Lizard asked what my plans are for today. I told him I am going to church before I hike in Canyonlands. He asked if I always do this, if I always go to church whenever I travel. I told him I do. He asked if I pick a church out of the phone book. I told him I have a church, but I occasionally have to look it up in the phone book to find it.

He said he thinks it's extremely neat that I go to church wherever I am. Then he said it's neat that I go to church.

It's SO tempting to think this is my "sign." That this is meant to be. I wish I could know what God wants. But I will be patient and wait for His answer. I don't want to do anything to mess this up.

3 May 2004

Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Lizard is an AWESOME cook. He made homemade chicken enchiladas, and he was the perfect host.

But, it was bound to happen. I've had nightmares about this for a month now. Not half an hour into dinner, he popped THE question.

My heart sank because everything was going so well. We were getting along so well. And then it finally had to come out. I couldn't hide the truth anymore.

"So, you have any children?" he asked.

I could lie. I could lie in a way that it wasn't a lie. I could say I've never given birth. That's the absolute truth. I could leave it at that and maybe the topic would never come up again.

But I don't want to live out this dream dishonestly. If nothing else, I want to be able to say I was an honest person and that I never tried to hide from my past.

"I have two children," I softly said. "I adopted both of them at an older age. Both are special needs. Both of them ran away before they turned 18. They came from horrific backgrounds, and I learned the hard way there are some things a parent just can't fix. Both of them are grown now, but they still have challenges, and sometimes they still make life difficult."

He handled it very well, considering. It was a lot to unload on him. But I didn't want either of us to get hurt worse by hiding the ugly truth and then dumping it on him after we're both so attached, we can't let go.

He asked polite questions. He continued conversation and didn't make me feel like a leper. He was the perfect gentleman. He was every girl's dream.

And now I'll never see him again.

4 May 2004, 1:23 a.m.

I just received the most beautiful e-mail I've ever received in my life. The Lizard said I'm the strongest person he has ever met. He wants to see me again! He wants to see me again this weekend!!!

I feel like this is it.

Everything I've ever been through has brought me to this point, and it was all worth it, for what I feel right now.

Author's Note: Six days later, he told me he was falling in love. We dated long distance for 14 months. He called me every evening, and we talked non-stop each time. He met both my kids, one at a time, and years later confessed the younger one scared the daylights out of him and made him question if he knew what he was getting himself into. But he took a leap of faith and married me anyway on July 15, 2005, and I still to this day feel as if I'm living a fairy tale. I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. This was worth every frog, every wart, every heartbreak and every bout of depression and doubt I've ever experienced. The Lizard is proof God loves me!

Fingerprint Friday

I love snow days! I love being able to find hints of autumn color even though winter has moved in. And I'm very thankful to have a job to return to when the sun comes back out.

Steven Curtis Chapman sings:

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know its true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you're covered with
The fingerprints of God

PamperingBeki challenges bloggers each Friday to discover, recognize and see God's fingerprints and share them with the rest of the world. See instructions to join in here. Also check the other blogs linked there to see more great Fingerprints!

29 October 2009

Eye Candy

NatureFootstep has come up with yet another excellent challenge. I'm extremely thankful because this week's assignment inspired me to fire up .gif-creation software I've had since about 2003 for the first time ever.

The current challenge, using an online glitter service to spice up a photo, reminded me I have a prehistoric version of Fireworks. I have wanted to make my own animations ever since my brother transformed a still photo he snapped of my son fishing into mini movie by causing the casting arm and fishing pole to move. But I never had ample time or good reason to wander that creative path.

Until now.

I read NatureFootstep's challenge, and one tutorial later, I had my first .gif ever. Now I'm getting carried away all over again. You get me started doing a project like this, and it's likely I'll be hooked for life.

Good thing I had a snow day today! Gave me plenty of time to play with my new old toy!

Original Photo

Photo Manipulated at GlitterFly

Original Photo

Photo Manipulated at Glitterbase

My first .gif ever!!!

My snowbear was created by first making eight identical images in PhotoShop and then inserting "snow" via VanDerLee plug-in. Images then were exported from Fireworks into .gif format.

* I have no monetary interest in any of the software or websites mentioned here and am not being compensated for mentioning them; I just love manipulating photos, and I love sharing my experience.

Dreaming of a White Halloween

Snow day! Snow day! Snow day!

Yes, I live at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, but we don't get these often. It's a real treat to be able to stay warm, stay out of traffic, get some work done around the house, and take some white pictures!!! (And shovel snow, and shovel snow, and shovel snow. Then shovel some more!)
The bird feeder when I got home yesterday.
The bird feeder before daylight this morning.
"Will you come out to play?"
Even the park benches are happy about the accumulation. Check out that teethy grin!
The reward for shoveling even more snow!

Mount Sherman

24 January 2004

Brief version:

Exquisite joy!

Detailed version:

Friends Hakan and Tim met me at the Fort at 4 a.m. for what we thought would be a Tour de Sherman. The original plan was Dyer, Gemini and Sherman, then it warped into Gemini, Sherman and Sheridan. But none of the climbing goals went as planned.

We passed the Leavick mine about half an hour ahead of our plan and made it almost all the way to the gate using only basic four-wheel drive, so we stayed warm in the car waiting for daylight so we wouldn't have to carry flashlights/headlamps. When we finally began assembling our gear, the decision was made NOT to take snowshoes, and that later proved to be a wise choice.

We hiked together up the spotty dirt and snow road to the Dauntless Mine, skirting around two extremely slippery 20-foot-long ice beds, and that's about the last we saw of each other for the next eight hours. Tim opted to take on Sheridan and Peerless from the user-friendly road, Hakan set off for Sherman, Gemini and Dyer via the CFI trail right of the infamous cornice, and I lagged behind hoping to bag Sherman and Gemini, my first calendar winter 14er summit, my first calendar winter centennial 13er summit, my first black check(s) and my swan song, as I had received instructions from my doctor two days earlier not to bike, run or do what I was about to do for a minimum of six weeks. I carried my ice ax instead of my trekking poles, assuming my knee would be in such bad shape after my forbidden ascent(s) that I would have no choice but to glissade down. Or be carried on a stretcher...

Within minutes, speed demon Hakan was out of site. In the few areas where the trail was covered with snow, he had effectively broken trail for me, except that his stride is about three meters longer than mine.

Having finally taken the digital plunge last week, I dallied around at the highest mine, experimenting with the plethora of buttons on my new toy, a Fuji s5000, before attempting the summit. I climbed up inside one of the weathered and beaten two-level structures to get just the perfect shot of another photogenic remnant nearby. Inside the building, atop a broken ladder I probably should not have attempted to climb, I finally figured out how to use the manual settings and snapped what became favorite photo of the day.

Upon exiting the fractured and rusty nail-laden slice of history, I stepped on an appropriately sized loose board that promptly decided to audition for the role of snowboard. Needless to say, he did not get the job, even though he deposited me safely atop a snow-covered talus slope before showing me what he is made of.

As the trail began to steepen, I began to wonder if perhaps I should turn back. I looked up at Sherman's ridge, which was so close and looked so doable. I'd already been grounded from this year's Ride the Rockies, Basic Mountaineering School and a couple of out-of-state climbing opportunities. My rebellious side took charge. I decided to ask my physician for a three-day grace period. On Monday. I pressed on.

Just before I reached the ridge, I noticed something in the gap through which I would be heading. I fired up the camera one more time, not taking the time to check the settings, and fully extended the zoom just in time to shoot a coyote running the ridge. !!!

Atop the powdery ridge, I was overtaken by four more hikers, including acquaintance John. We snapped photos of each other on the summit and tried to identify all the peaks in the magnificent panorama surrounding us. Windless azure skies in every direction, no coats necessary. I studied the encircling landscape, particularly Dyer, for rapid movement but could not find Hakan. I saw what appeared to be a person on top of Sheridan and snapped a few photos, assuming Tim had reached his goal.

John and company headed north toward Gemini, and I prepared head back down. My decision to settle for only one summit on this perfect day and perhaps my last chance to summit anything for a while initially was depressing, but later my attitude would take a dramatic turnabout. As I geared up for the descent, friend Mark and his friend Steve reached the summit. Another round of photos and surrounding peak identification was followed by them heading north in quest of Gemini and me heading south, quite a bit later than planned, to meet Tim and Hakan back at the car.

Tim had given me a brief lesson in how to use the ice ax, so I took every opportunity in the next hour or so to practice. By the end of the steeper section, I had grown quite comfortable with this new piece of metal, and glissading is once again a very pleasant experience, even without the periodic respite it provides for my defective knee. By the time the trail began to level out, I realized I had finally, after two long years of yearning, earned my black check, and I was one happy camper! I could have danced down the rest of the trail. If my knee hadn't been so sore...

What a great way to start the year, what a beautiful day, what awesome camaraderie and unexpected support on what might have been the only mountain I could successfully summit right now. I love my ice ax, I'm growing attached to my new camera, and I'm now 100% content to spend the next six months, if necessary, catching up on quilting, writing and housework as I cheerfully and precisely obey my doctor's orders.

27 October 2009

Mount Silverheels, Part 2

See Part 1 here.

Sometimes you can do all the right stuff and still get into trouble. I tried to make wise decisions before I took on Silverheels. I told at least five people where I would be going. I told them when to expect me back. I took all the right equipment, even though it meant my pack was heavier than what I wanted to carry. I had an emergency shelter, extra fleece, rain poncho, knife, notepad and paper, enough food and water to get me through 24 hours, flashlight, extra batteries, lighter, snowshoes and first aid kit. I was prepared for a snowstorm or an unexpected and unplanned night in the mountains.

I went up a very circuitous route instead of the straightforward route. I think I added two miles onto my trek, but in retrospect, aside from not attaining the summit, I am glad I took the route I took. It was a good hike. I enjoyed the journey, and I got some terrific pictures. I saw parts of the mountain others most likely miss.

I was so discouraged when I decided I should turn back, I was near the point of tears. I didn't pay enough attention to where I was going. I noticed about a mile and a half down there were no footprints on the trail I was traversing.

I’d been following human tracks, and I thought I was going the right way. But suddenly the footprints were gone, and I didn't notice until it was too late.

I backtracked quite a bit trying to find familiar terrain. All uphill. I didn’t have anything left inside me to do this, and each step I took made me further from my car. I grimaced as I realized I probably was going to come out at the wrong trailhead, and I would be miles away from my car, which I would have to find in the dark. The oncoming storm at this point was actually beginning to threaten.

I knew I could spend a night in the mountains alone if I needed to, but I didn’t want to. I knew everyone I’d told of my destination would be extremely worried, and I didn’t want to do that to them. Search and rescue would cost more than I could afford. What if they pulled in helicopters??? We're talking thousands of dollars.

I had to get back to a road. Any road leading to civilization. I was on what looked like a very old and undeveloped road, so I decided to keep following it.

Eventually the road petered into a three-trail junction. None of my surroundings were familiar. I’d lost a lot of elevation, and I couldn’t see any high peaks to orient myself. I had to use my compass and the position of the sun, which was now totally engulfed in heavy nimbus clouds.

The trail numbers marking the junction were completely unfamiliar to me and not on my map. I thought if I called 911, at least they could tell me which way to head. Maybe someone would meet me at the trailhead and transport me back to my car. My fingers were crossed.

I dialed 911. The dispatcher took my name, my cell number and my location, then put me on hold to answer another incoming call that may have been a real emergency. My cell phone died.

I cried.

And I’m not trying to rhyme! I knew I had unintentionally started a search and rescue operation that might even make headlines. I was so paranoid, so devastated, so utterly helpless to do anything about it.

The sky was getting darker. The snow was coming down hard and fast. I could set up camp. I could start a fire. But something inside me urged me to keep going. I wrote notes and applied them to the trail markers. I built a wood cairn in the middle of the junction and stuck yet another note in it directing anyone who came by to check the trail markers.

I headed south, thinking that would eventually get me back to the highway, or the dirt road leading to my car, should I be so lucky.

About an hour later, I reached another trailmarker with yet another number I didn’t recognize. This was at the junction with a red dirt road. Quite stunning in appearance, the first 50 feet or so were entirely coated by a thick sheet of ice, frozen runoff engulfing the roadway. I would have to cross it to travel in the direction I thought would return me to civilization. I could go the other way, avoid the ice and get even further off target. So I traversed the tricky ice. It was not easy. I did not fall, but I had to move very cautiously and very slowly. With all the weight I was carrying, one false move, and I’d have done a face plant.

I think I walked another two miles down the red road before two tame dogs came running heartily toward me. I am so afraid of dogs, but I was so excited to see life forms! I let both dogs jump right up on me, and I welcomed them with open arms.

I could hear people voices in the distance calling to the dogs to return. My heart was doing somersaults. Oh, I was about to be rescued!!! I wanted to set my pack down and run! I knew I would need to remove the notes I’d left, just in case someone found them two or three days later and started a whole new search. I needed to call 911 to make sure they knew I’d been found.

When the dogs’ owners first saw me, they apologized for their dogs, and I simply stated, “I’m so glad to see your dogs. I’m lost.”

The couple said I was heading the right direction, but they warned I was still several miles from where I was trying to get. They offered to take me back to my car, which at the time they didn’t even know the location of, and I gladly, wholeheartedly, graciously, thankfully accepted.

When I called 911 from their cabin to report I had been found, the dispatcher said search and rescue had not been sent out yet because they didn’t know if I had found my way back to my vehicle, since they couldn’t get hold of me. I explained my phone had died while I was on hold, and I was unable to communicate in any other way until I reached my rescuers' cabin.

Imagine my surprise when upon reaching the trailhead, the female half of a husband/wife search and rescue team was studying the Silverheels map at the trailhead.

She asked if I was the lost hiker. Her husband was at the southeast trailhead just in case I came out that way. I told her I thought search and rescue hadn't been called. She said she'd heard it on the radio, and she and her husband got ready just in case, not wanting to waste precious hours in this kind of storm.

All three of my rescuers knew exactly where I’d taken a wrong turn. They said it happens all the time, and that seasoned mountaineers frequently make the same mistake. And oh, that fall on the ice at the end of the day? The part I wouldn't have told anyone? They witnessed it. Start to finish. Not only did I show them how lost someone can get, but I demonstrated my full klutz capabilities as well!

Nevertheless, I have learned my lesson. I lost the capability to make wise decisions when I got emotional. I need to stay sharp to think clearly. I’ve also learned that when I make bad choices, God further sharpens my mind by giving me the opportunity to think and act. He doesn't usually give me an easy way out on a silver platter. He allows me to work my way out of the bad places I get myself into.

I expected a medium-sized bill for making the canine-equipped search and rescue couple leave their warm, safe homes on a holiday to come out looking for me, especially when it turned out to be a false alarm, so to speak.

Instead, I was invited to help the couple train their dogs next time I'm in the area. I befriended four really cool people. And I learned to keep my cell phone warm if I expect it to work in cold weather.

26 October 2009

Mount Silverheels, Part 1

1 January 2004

This report was going to read, “Black Check! Black Check! Black Check! I rang in 2004 with my first calendar winter summit!"

I belong to a mountain climbing group with an online peakbagging checklist. Black checkmarks are awarded for calendar winter summits of 14ers and centennial 13ers. I wanted a black check. Almost everyone else in the group had at least one black check, and I, like a teenager obsessed with the latest trend, wanted a black check of my own.

However, I didn’t reach the Centennial peak I set out to climb. I did bag Pt. 12,282, Palmer Peak and Pt. 13,004. I did them in winter, and I did them alone. I had the entire mountain to myself on a beautiful day. I got a great workout, and I had glorious views. But alas, no black check for me. At least not today.

I camped near Florissant after shooting the fireworks on Pikes Peak from a lovely moonlit perch in Garden of the Gods and awoke an hour later than intended for the drive to the Beaver Creek trailhead.

After loading necessary gear in my pack, I headed north on the standard trail at about 8 a.m. I carried my snowshoes even though the southern slopes of Silverheels appeared wind-scoured. I didn’t want to take a chance on turning back due to unseen and nonnegotiable drifts. I wanted this peak!

The entire route was relatively snow-free, with the exception of occasional drifts and lingering accumulation in shaded areas that were easily bypassed. I never used the snowshoes. When I did posthole, my feet went only two to three inches deep. One drift was so firm I traversed it without sinking.

Above treeline, the wind picked up but was not the typical tundra blast to which I’ve grown accustomed. Throughout the day, the wind shredded cirrus and stratocumulus tatters from the western lenticular blanket to keep me alert to potential oncoming weather changes.

I quickly got off route upon reaching the skeleton forest on the wind-swept south slopes near treeline and spent most of the rest of the day tundra whacking due to the plethora of photos begging to be snapped. I’d been to Kite Lake three times but had never seen Democrat, which I'd summited in zero visibility on Labor Day weekend. From the slopes of Silverheels, I had magnificent views of the entire DeCaLiBro, Quandary, Little Baldy, the Tarryalls and the Buffaloes.

Upon reaching Pt. 13,004, Silverheels still seemed so far away. I didn’t want to return to my car in the dark with the oncoming storm and not really knowing the trail proper, since I hadn’t taken it. I sat on a rock, drank an orange juice and ate my still warm oatmeal. It was a good day, a great hike and a calendar winter summit. Just not a black checkmark on my list.

At the end of the day, when I reached Beaver Creek, I crossed to the right of the road, where the ice appeared thicker and less slippery. Just as I stepped back onto the bank, the ice broke, and the foot still on the creek took the proverbial polar plunge. My knee (the bad one, of course) smashed into the sharp ice edges. Fortunately, my ski pants prevented the ice from ripping through my skin, and fortunately, the temperature of the water temporarily deadened all the nerve endings in that leg so I could make it back to my car without limping too much. I am now the proud owner of phenomenal shades of green and purple epidermis.

And now… The REST of the story...

At the beginning of the day, I aimed for the summer trailhead and crossed Beaver Creek in my car, trying to cut down on mileage and preserve my bad knee. The 4Runner high centered on a chunk of ice when the weight of the vehicle busted through the frozen water. I got my first chance to use my ice ax. Cold, but FUN. I was hacking away like an ice ax murderer!!! It was almost like a snow cone-making event. I was chipping ice shavings EVERYWHERE! Completely coated the back of my car!

The rest of the tale, however, is not humorous. Even now, years later. I was too humiliated to tell the unpleasant and embarrassing truth back in 2004, and there may be elements of this story that help someone else. That is my hope.

to be continued...

23 October 2009

Fingerprint Friday

How many blessings can you find in this story?

A co-worker recently faced a second surgery to correct a life-threatening situation. The first surgery had been performed earlier in the year (unsuccessful), and my co-worker had exhausted sick leave and vacation time. Insurance benefits were beginning to run out as well.

One person sent out one email asking all employees if they could help. It has been a difficult year for my employer. We've had layoffs, budget cuts and uncertainty in abundance. Nevertheless, we continued to give via our monthly charity jeans days, and we supported other special efforts by individuals seeking to raise funds for additional causes.

That one email asked if we had anything left to give after all the giving we've done all year. I personally did not have a dime to donate, having just overspent my vehicle maintenance budget three times this year. But I did have something I could donate that I wasn't sure many others would. I have unused vacation time. I don't burn off my PTO the minute I receive it. I always try to set some aside for "just in case."

We are allowed to donate our time to a co-worker in cases of emergency. To me, this a tremendous way to offer help when finances are tight.

I didn't know if anyone else would have vacation time to donate, and I didn't know if anyone would have any money to give after everything we've donated to all year long.

My co-worker is back on the job this week, and recovery is going well this time. Turns out several employees donated vacation time, and the co-worker who went through surgery ended up with enough paid time off to get through the recovery period. Also, we collected enough money to help pay costs the insurance would not cover, even though many had no money to give. I was astounded when I heard the total amount raised.

I'm so glad to see my co-worker back at work and smiling again. Friendship and camaraderie are such wonderful things!

Steven Curtis Chapman sings:

I can see the fingerprints of God
When I look at you
I can see the fingerprints of God
And I know its true
You're a masterpiece
That all creation quietly applauds
And you're covered with
The fingerprints of God

PamperingBeki challenges bloggers each Friday to discover, recognize and see God's fingerprints and share them with the rest of the world. See instructions to join in here. Also check the other blogs linked there to see more great Fingerprints!

Friday Funny

Here's another video I wish I could say I shot. Amazing camera work!

Link in case the above doesn't work.

22 October 2009

Touch of Autumn

I wanted to post a photo this morning and call this entry White World, but there wasn't as much snow at the park and ride as at our house. The sun didn't come up until halfway through my walk along the riverfront, so I have no photos to show of our wonderful white blanket.
I try very hard each year to exercise some self-restraint and hold back on the Christmas-themed attire until after Halloween. But this year, I could not resist the temptation. Yesterday's storm enticed me to wear a snowflake sweater. And today I'm wearing a snowflake turtleneck!
It's all about staying warm, right?!?

Mount Shavano

20 September 2003

We left Denver at 3 a.m., arriving at the Blank trailhead half an hour before sunrise. The crowd was as numerous as a weekend Longs Peak Trailhead gathering, but 95% of this early morning swarm was bright orange and camo clad, not peakbaggers.

Our eyes readily adjusted to the twilight, so we did not take flashlights. As the eastern horizon became lighter blue, then pink and finally yellow, we discovered sections of aspen groves had changed hues, but most were still light green, ready to glow in a week or so.

When the bank of thin, high clouds began to turn mauve, we paused for photos, positioning ourselves alongside lanky tree skeletons calling out to be silhouetted. Once the display of morning color was over, we turned again toward the Angel of Shavano and the hints of fall color lining the trail.

Sha-va-no (emphasize each syllable slowly, short a, short a, long o) is an Indian princess who, according to legend, sacrificed herself on the mountain after drought caused great suffering among her people. Each year, her snowy spirit materializes in the form of an angel on the slopes of the mountain, melting off through the summer and providing her people with life-giving water.
Blank Trail takes hikers alongside the angel’s right wing, but on this day, the angel was decapitated and defrocked of one wing. Two snowfields near the Esprit/Shavano saddle could be traversed by anyone longing for a taste of winter, but the hiker’s trail along the edges of the snow had melted clear through to dirt and grass.

We’d been planning this hike for nearly four months, and each time we set a date, something came up or weather would turn bad. Three of our original group of nine participated in this long-awaited event.

We were impressed by the trail; it wasn’t steep and actually was rather easy. The boulder scramble near the top was quite fun. Snow was not a problem.

The 360-degree view from the summit is remarkable. We could make out the high peaks of the Sangres, long bands of snowy San Juans, the Elk Range, the string of Sawatch summits, Mounts Bierstadt and Evans, and Pikes Peak. Buena Vista and Salida shimmered in the sunlight, and what appeared to be three deep green golf courses below contrasted sharply with the slopes of pre-gold aspen. Monarch ski area was green, bare of snow. Lake Shavano below us also cast an emerald hue.

Winds atop the summit and time constraints robbed us of our second summit, Tabeguache, although watching a trail runner gracefully traverse the rocky ridge was a sight to behold.

Photo ops on this trip were numerous. Summiteers kept requesting my services during our lunch break. One of my hiking partners seized the moment to capture me in action while my camera was left unattended.

On the way down, we saw five bighorns, all girls. The quaking aspens that reflected the sun’s golden rays earlier in the day now danced in the breezy afternoon light. The trip back to Denver via 285 revealed an awesome array of orange, red, yellow and green near Kenosha Pass that had hidden in darkness during our early-morning drive. The most colorful aspens seemed to have been sun-kissed, with tips of orange, golden middles and green leaves toward the bottoms. Blue and purple clouds to the south turned flamingo pink and then deep magenta in the setting sun. The perfect end to my 2003 climbing season.

Due to pre-scheduled commitments for the next six to seven weekends, I probably won't be able to hike like this again until winter sets in. 2003 is not over yet. Winter ascents of Quandary, Bierstadt, Sherman (and accompanying centennial peaks) and San Luis await. If my schedule allows, I hope to get in at least one more peak during the calendar year -- albeit via snowshoes instead of hiking boots!

20 October 2009

Eye Candy

A few weeks ago, NatureFootsteps commented on one of my photos, and when I visited HER Swedish blog, I was intrigued by HER photo manipulation challenges, although I am not always sure I fully understand all HER instructions after running them through a freebie translator.

HER current challenge is to use alternate coloring (as best I can understand). I love running a photo though filters that render it wild and/or extreme, then making rainbow variations to stick in a digital quilt.

I haven't had time lately to do any real quilting, so digital quilting fills the gap until I can sit down at my sewing machine (or Amish quilt frame). And you never know... I may end up quilting some of these very designs in fabric I print myself! I got a little carried away with this project and made more than one digital quilt. I guess you could say I'm going through withdrawals...

For HER challenges, NatureFootsteps suggests Sumo for those who do not have PhotoShop. I'd never heard of it. You must have a fast internet connection to use it, but it has many tools similar to the Adobe program. The daisy photo was manipulated using Sumo, and all the montages and snowflake photos were manipulated with my PhotoShop dinosaur.

snowflakeI crocheted a snowflake, and then my husband held it up to the sky so I could shoot it with a fill flash.

snowflake fractalI used a Fractalius filter with a crayon setting and then bumped up the saturation to create the above version.

pretty in pinkI altered the hue 16 times and made an entire rainbow army of snowflakes.

wowsa!One of my favorite digital quilts EVER!!!

think pinkOriginal image of crocheted snowflake on batik fabric.

little pink aliensI created 15 different kaleidoscopes in Photoshop and picked the 12 I like best. This one came out pretty cool because the pink ribbons became little aliens. Kinda of apropos for Halloween, don't you think?

quilted crochetA kaleidoscope quilt of crocheted snowflakes with pink ribbons. This one would be so cool to crochet, just like this, and then quilt onto bright blue fabric and decorate with pink satin ribbon!

summer ended too soonOriginal image of wildflowers near Crested Butte, Colorado.

check out the heart-shaped water droplets!Six different kaleidescopes were created in Sumo, and then the six resulting images were montaged and bordered in Photoshop.

* I have no monetary interest in any of the software or websites mentioned here and am not being compensated for mentioning them; I just love manipulating photos, and I love sharing my experience.

19 October 2009

Snowflake Monday

My husband noticed me pensively gazing at my soymilk during breakfast, and as always, asked what was on my mind.

"I'm designing this snowflake on my glass," I replied, pointing to one flake in particular.

"You can do that?" he asked, incredulous. "You can decide which stitches you're going to use when you're not even crocheting, and then make what you thought in your head?"

I love my husband! He's so incredible! Not only does he let me hang snowflakes way before Thanksgiving and Christmas, but he actually likes what I make, too. And he always has the wonder of a child at Christmas when he sees my midnight oil churning. He'll watch as I remove stiffened flakes from my recycled pizza box condos and study each snowflake as if he might begin crocheting one day, too. (He hasn't said he would, but he does say he's ready to learn how to quilt. By machine...)

I usually hold up one flake each batch to admire and announce it's my new favorite. He never fails to reply, "I like that one, too, but they are all my favorites. I like all your snowflakes."

I really love my husband!

And now that the sappy part of this post is done, time to get on with that snowflake on the glass. This is the design I came up with during breakfast. I will be modifying the design several times until I have it perfect, not necessarily reflecting what’s on the glass.

You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!

Finished Size: 4 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 11 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or foil, cellophane tape, glue, water, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line

Glass Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: 1 sc into ring, * ch 10, 2 sc in ring, repeat from * 4 more times for a total of 5 petals, ch 4, 1 dtr into ring to form 6th petal. Do not pull magic ring too tight.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 2: 1 sc over post of dtr directly below, * ch 9, sl st in 2nd ch from hook and into each of next 5 ch, [ch 8, sl st in 2nd ch from hook and into each of next 5 ch] 2 times for total of 3 branches, ch 9, 2 dc into 3rd ch from hook, sk next 3 ch, sl st into next ch and into each of next 2 ch, working back down spoke [ch 7, sl st into 2nd ch from hook and into each of next 5 ch, sl st into ch beneath branch on opposite side of spoke] 3 times for a total of 3 branches on each side, sl st in next ch at base of spoke, sc into same petal, ch 12, sl st in 2nd ch from hook and in next ch, 1 sc into each of next 2 ch, 1 hdc into each of next 2 ch, 1 dc into each of next 2 ch, ch 3, sc into next petal, repeat from * 5 more times for a total of 6 points and 6 trees, omitting last sc of final repeat; sl st in starting sc, bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.

If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.
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