Visiting the Aquarium with Granddaughters -by Fran Green

 
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While getting my nails done on a Saturday morning my cell phone started receiving multiple texts.  Since my fingers were occupied I had someone get it out so I could read the texts.  Our son wanted to know if I would like to meet the girls (ages10 and 6) at the Denver Aquarium for the afternoon.   Of course I wanted to do it so as soon as I could I let him know “definitely YES.”

 We met around 1 pm.  First we had to review the ticket options, the base price, the next level with one or two add-ons, or the highest priced one with three add-ons.   Of course they chose the most expensive one.

Before I could get to the ticket window the 10- year-old managed to trip and cut her hand and knee and was very upset.  Normally I am prepared with an ample supply of Band-Aids, but having left home in a rush I only had one tiny one with me.   The ticket seller directed us to an office where she could get some first aid and larger Band-Aids.  Things were looking up.

After that, we followed some complicated directions to get back to the entrance.   When we got there two options awaited us to get to the exhibits:  an escalator or an elevator.   I did not see any steps.  The 10- year-old wanted to take the escalator, but the 6-year-old is afraid of escalators.  She wanted to take the elevator, but the older child has never been comfortable on elevators.  After considerable balking and discussing,  the younger child took my hand and the three of us headed to the exhibits.   

About 10 minutes later the younger one announced that she was very hungry.  Part of her “hunger” was precipitated by the fact that the next exhibit area seemed scary to her.  But we retraced our steps and found some stairs, leading back down this time.  

To get to the restaurant we had to pass through the gift shop.  Going to a gift shop with these two is always a challenge.  (I know from my previous museum career that “crowd flow” is part of the marketing strategy.)    

We finally managed to get to the café without buying anything in the museum gift shop but learned that we had missed the last afternoon performance by the mermaids by just a few minutes.  They recovered from their disappointment and it was time to order lunch.  The 6-year- old ordered two mini-burgers and fries from the kids’ menu.  The 10- year-old ordered a cheese steak and fries from the adult menu plus a Sprite.  I ordered a cup of soup, figuring there would be plenty left over for my lunch.

The meals came and the 6-year-old ate one burger and all of her fries.  The 10- year-old took one bite of her cheese steak and spat it out, telling me it was awful.  I tried a bite; it seemed okay to me.  She did not try the fries and did not eat any more of the cheese steak and she thought the Sprite tasted funny.   She then suggested I ask for a refund.   I told her that I would not do that, and that I would just eat some of her meal.  In the meantime the 6-year-old could not finish hers so I ate the second burger.  

A couple more times the 10-year-old suggested I get a refund.  Finally she said that if I got a refund she could then spend that amount in the gift shop.  Again I refused but when the waitress came to check on us I told her that the older child did not like her food.  When we got our check the manager had decided not to charge us for the uneaten food.

I was able to convince them we would visit the gift shop later, but the dilemma now was to get back up to the exhibits.  This time the 10-year-old agreed to go on the elevator although she looked terrified.    

For the add-ons, the 6-year-old had chosen face painting and, although it only entailed someone holding a stencil against her cheek and spraying on some paint, it was successful. The 10-year-old had chosen to feed the stingrays but when she looked at the cut up pieces of raw fish she almost gagged so we turned those back in.  The attendant gave her a ticket to get a drink instead. Neither girl decided to do the climbing tree add-on because it was very high and they felt they did not have on the proper shoes.   

Since that did not work out we decided to go to the 4-D movie, our third add-on, which was in a different building.  We all enjoyed it even though I screamed louder than anyone else when the giant spider almost landed on my face.  Upon reentry we once again faced the challenge of getting up to the exhibit level.   The 10-year-old immediately took off up the escalator, but the 6-year-old started crying because she wanted to take the elevator. We had to wait in line for it and when we finally got off her sister was nowhere in sight.

You can imagine my panic and fear when I realized that we had become separated.  Being desperate I flagged down a staff person (they were few and far between) who offered to help me hunt for her.   Fortunately about that time she appeared in tears and hugged me saying she waited at the top of the escalator but had left to go looking for us.  

Back to the exhibits.  This time we entered the exhibits from an opposite end because the 10-year-old wanted to see the sharks, but her younger sister was terrified of looking at them.  A standoff ensued and both of them ended up crying.  I joined in by going, “Waa, Waa, Waa.”  That got their attention and they calmed down a bit although the three of us got some strange looks.  I decided I would stay with the 6-year-old but could still keep the 10-year-old in sight while she took my phone into the shark area to take a video to show me the sharks.   

Knowing the video was on my phone upset the younger sister again, and the 10-year-old got more upset because she wanted to see the tigers and the only way to get there was through the shark exhibit.  It was after four o’clock so I decided to call my son to come rescue us.  Now we headed back down a staircase that took us back into the gift shop and the exit.  He was to meet us at the door. The 10-year-old then had a dramatic meltdown and started coughing and feeling dizzy because she could not decide what to buy.  I kept increasing what they could spend but having already spent over $70 to get in and about $25 for lunch, I told each girl they could only spend $10.  About that time their dad arrived. So I suggested he take the younger daughter to the car so that the 10-year-old and I could finish the exhibits.   We could do the gift shop later.

That turned out to be a great idea.  I got to spend some time visiting with my daughter-in-law and almost two-month-old granddaughter for a few minutes while he loaded the 6-year-old into the car.

The big sister and I reentered via the escalator. She was calm and cooperative and knew the names of many fish and animals in the exhibits.  Sadly, the tigers were in their den so we did not get to see them.  After our time in the exhibits we all met in the gift shop.  I could see that it would be taking a long time for decisions to be made so I handed $20 to my son and took off for Fort Collins.  

WHEW!  It was a great day, all in all, but I was exhausted and enjoyed my drive home peacefully listening to the Denver classical station.  For future visits I will convince my husband to come along and we can each manage one granddaughter as we go our separate routes.  Please note that names have been omitted to protect the guilty as well as the innocent.

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Fran Green grew up in western Virginia, graduated from The College of William and Mary and followed a career path into retail buying and management. She and her husband Bob moved to Fort Collins in 2013 to be closer to their son and his family, including 3 granddaughters. She and Bob have always been dog people. She is also a goat person, a musician and, when she finds the time, she writes.

Attitude Wins -by Suzie Daggett

Mom and Dad died eight years apart. Shortly after Dad died, I asked Mom what she wanted us to do with his remains. Her request was for us to wait until she was gone then take them to the beach. I knew just where she wanted us to place them—by their much loved beach house, which they sold years before to move near us in the mountains. Finally, it was time to fulfill her request. The broad, mostly empty beach had changed over the years, but the scene from their house, the dunes, the rolling waves, the surfers and the windy open sky remained the same. I found a spot where I knew Dad had walked daily and where Mom could see the waves, surfers and Dad from her favorite reading spot. Knowing never to trust waves or turn your back on water, I was watching while my husband prepared for our ceremony. We were in that sweet spot where the waves lapped gently onto the beach. 

We took a deep breath and said our goodbyes as we gently put a few of my parents’ memories in the sand. We could feel the love they shared for each other and their special time at the beach house. For just a second, I took my eyes off the waves while we got down on the sand for a photo to capture the moment. Suddenly, a surprise rogue wave came crashing into us. It was so unexpected we fell sideways into the water. I managed to keep my phone dry, but our shoes and parts of our clothing filled with seawater and sand. We smiled, laughed, kissed and realized Mom and Dad were sharing the moment with us in their own magical way. We were not upset nor unsettled. Our inner and outer happiness showed in our faces and attitudes as we shook sand from our clothes and removed our wet shoes. 

Our easy adjustable attitude was the savior of the day. We chose to live our lives without drama. Yet, there are those who would be upset and undone by the wave’s action, which led to a tiny bit of discomfort. They might spend time complaining about being wet and sandy, finding fault where none lies. Adopting a positive attitude in every aspect of life allows for ease and flow. Mom and Dad lived with the philosophy of “let go,” “what will be will be” and “life is good; be happy!” We taught the same to our kids, allowing for harmony and calm in their lives.

I like what the Dalai Lama says about attitudes: “It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”  This rings true for our family—attitude wins!

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Suzie Daggett is an award-winning author of The Pink Door ~ Mom’s Journey to the Other Side, and the author of two other books: From Ego to Soul ~ Discover what your Soul needs and what your Ego wants, and PEARLS ~ 52 Contemplative Insights. www.suziedaggett.com

NOT IN MY TIME OR YOUR TIME, BUT IN OLDEN TIMES. . . . - by Jean Meimann Christen

Telling stories in granddaughter Hailey’s 2nd grade classroom, April 2016

Telling stories in granddaughter Hailey’s 2nd grade classroom, April 2016

“And bird, mosquito, bedbug, crab and snake high-fived each other, shouting in joy that they had done something they could never have done alone.  Working together they defeated the horrible Odon the Giant!”  With wide-eyed wonder, the young people in front of me clapped in excitement, for in their imaginations, they had become part of the defeat of the strong and powerful by the weak and small.  Back to reality, I packed up my storytelling bag and was surrounded by smiling 7 year-olds with questions, comments, smiles, and hugs.

Thus ended another storytelling session with 2nd graders in Poudre School District.  As  a member of the Spellbinders Storytellers, I am immersed in bringing the ancient art of storytelling to today’s tech-savvy children.  About 11 years ago, a retired friend told me of a group of storytellers just getting started.  They were looking for people to join their ranks.  So after my retirement from teaching, I embarked on a four-week training where we learned the techniques and skills necessary to be successful.  We practiced learning and then telling stories to the other adult students.  I summoned up all my courage to overcome my natural fear of performing in front of an audience.  And then I was ready to give it a go in the real world.  For me, the elementary classrooms were very familiar, but I was now wonderfully transformed from teacher to honored guest.  

I learned as I went, taking notes on what worked and what didn’t.  Remembering a half hour’s worth of stories without using notes is a bit of a challenge.  Equally challenging is using voice, gestures, timing, etc. to keep my listeners engaged. They love the occasional “Knock Knock” joke or riddle I challenge them with between stories.  I almost always use music in my program, often playing my ukelele as we sing silly songs or songs with gestures.  One of the most-loved is a song that feels just a little bit naughty, called “Don’t’ Stick Your Finger Up Your Nose”.

From folk and fairy tales to real life stories, our goal is to pass on wisdom, values, humor, and a sense of community.  The magic begins when I put on my storytelling beads and ask them to “click onto their imagination app” where they get to make their own videos while listening to my words. The children get quiet, eyes on me in anticipation.  Then begins tales of adventures often related to the classroom curriculum, school values or holidays.  Kids especially love Halloween stories, but are also delighted when I weave tales of tricky leprechauns, talking animals who overcome great obstacles, and heroes of all kinds.  At the end I invite them to retell my stories to their families and friends.

One of my greatest joys has been telling stories in my grandchildren’s classrooms.  Whenever possible we timed our trips to New York to coincide with our grandson’s school schedule so that I could be guest grandma and storyteller.  Also once a year I would tell stories in the classes of my two grandchildren in Highlands Ranch. It was a great way to get to know their school environment, and hopefully give a meaningful and special gift to them and their classmates.   In addition, the two grands from Highlands Ranch used to beg for stories before falling asleep at our house during their weekend visits.  Now I have begun telling stories to my five-year old grandson. “The Belly Button Monster” and “Bark George” have him asking, “Is that real?” I’m anticipating being the storyteller in his classroom some day.

Over the years I have loved receiving cards and letters from students expressing their appreciation and favorite stories.  Among the many memorable comments are: “I think you would be a pretty good teacher too, but I like you better when you tell us stories.”  “You’re the nicest storyteller in the world.”  “Your stories were gold.  They made kids happy.  You are speshl.”

The children look forward to my visit each month, and their teachers appreciate storytelling as an important part of literacy education.  Storytelling is a gift given and a gift received, linking generations.  As a retired person and grandmother, I get the opportunity to challenge my aging brain to learn stories, songs, riddles, jokes.  I continue to grow and challenge myself to do a better job each time.  The children get to see that older people can interact and bring fun and excitement to their day and their learning.  We’re not just old fuddy- duddies!


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Jean Christen is a retired elementary teacher who indulges her passion for children by telling stories to 2nd graders and babysitting her grandson.  Originally from the Midwest, she put down roots in Fort Collins after a stint in the Peace Corps and graduate work at UNC in Greeley (CO).  In retirement she has begun writing vignettes about her life to pass down to her children and grandchildren.  She lives in Fort Collins with her husband, and together they enjoy family, volunteering, and traveling the world.  

Obituary for Barley -by Fran Green

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Barley was born on August 23, 2005, in Chesterfield, Virginia, and died on April 1, 2019, at Moore Animal Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Barley was 100% dachshund, black and tan, and was half wire-haired and half smooth coat.  He was adopted by Fran and Bob Green in November 2005 and spent his first week at their home in Richmond, Virginia.  A week later he moved with them to Corolla, North Carolina.  

As a puppy, Barley loved annoying his older “brother” Bagel by biting his leg and tail.  While Barley loved living at the beach he did not like to go near the ocean.  Particularly frightening to him was the red fire hydrant on the path to the beach.

In 2013 Barley moved to Fort Collins. He loved treats, was extremely stubborn and ate all sorts of wrong things:  rugs, particularly oriental ones, jockey underwear, Levi jeans, cell phone, CDs, wallet, dead worms and bunny scat.  Barley loved to travel in his crate and crossed from NC to Colorado several times.  He retained a stubborn streak all of his years and enjoyed exercising his vocal chords.

His doggie friends Cody, Gus, Mimi, Blackberri and Tutu will miss him as will his owners and their friends and neighbors.  He his ashes will join those of Biscuit and Bagel.

After reading his obituary, one of our friends wrote about the time they visited us and we went to a wildlife center in North Carolina.  She left her grey jacket on the back seat where Barley was.  When we came out, he was nowhere to be found...until we noticed that the sleeve of her jacket was moving.  He had crawled inside the sleeve and was stuck there with just his nose and beard sticking out of the cuff.  It looked like a seal in the back seat.  Adorable.

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Fran Green grew up in western Virginia, graduated from The College of William and Mary and followed a career path into retail buying and management. She and her husband Bob moved to Fort Collins in 2013 to be closer to their son and his family, including 3 granddaughters. She and Bob have always been dog people. She is also a goat person, a musician and, when she finds the time, she writes.

"Wind in my hair and bugs in my teeth” Part Two - by Wes Rutt

Introduction:

In January, 2019, Wes Rutt began to unfold his story of motorcycle riding with his wife, Nicki, on several continents and over 50 years. He ended the first part of his tale with the destruction of their trusty bike in the High Park fire, both of them assuming their motorcycling days were over. But it turned out that more adventures awaited them after all.


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We were physically beginning to slow down by the time of the fire. Reflexes weren’t as quick. Sitting on a motorcycle saddle for hours day after day would have left us hobbling around in pain. We told ourselves that losing the bike was probably a sign that we had had a great run but it was time to be realistic. It would be silly to press our luck.

We decided that it was time to sit back and enjoy the many fond memories of our past adventures, so we did...for a while. A few years after the fire we were in Chile returning from the Patagonian International Marathon (an adventure for a different story). Sitting in an airport waiting for a connecting flight, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman from New Zealand who was wearing a T-shirt that advertised an “Adventure Motorcycling” trip. He explained that he was returning home from eastern Europe where he had been on a motorcycling tour.

I told him that my wife and I had traveled rather extensively by motorcycle over the years and asked if there was anything special about “adventure motorcycling”. He informed me that in the last few years a few motorcycle manufacturers had introduced bikes that handled as well off the road as on it, so motorcycle tours could now reach more locations that were impossible to get to on ordinary road machines. I was intrigued because: 1) some years before we had visited Chaco Canyon National Park in New Mexico and had to travel several miles down a very rough washboard road. We literally shook the headlight and one of the turn signals off our road bike before reaching our destination; 2) I was starting to feel the wind in my hair and the bugs in my teeth while hearing about the New Zealander’s tour.

When we returned home I couldn’t get “adventure motorcycling” out of my mind. I started researching the topic and discovered that the two most highly praised manufacturers of adventure bikes happened to have shops in Loveland. Nicki has always been the (slightly) more practical member of our partnership, and we had already made a perfectly rational decision to retire from motorcycle riding so I straightened my hair, swallowed some imaginary bugs and determined to be rational.

A few weeks later, however, we were picking up some art in Loveland and, as we just happened to be driving by one of the bike shops, I mentioned that it might be fun to drop in.  Just to look, you understand. So, although it was a cold, cloudy November day and certainly not conducive to motorcycle riding, we stopped in at Elite Motorsport, the KTM dealer. Roger, the owner, who is about our age, asked if he could show us anything. I said that our last bike was destroyed in the High Park Fire, that we were too old to start riding again, and we were just there to “look.” Roger nodded knowingly.

 Of course, as motorcyclists do, we spent some time swapping stories with Roger of riding adventures.  When I mentioned that we had purchased a motorcycle from Elite Motors in London in 1970, he eagerly replied that in 1971 he too had purchased a motorcycle from Elite Motors in London...same shop and owner.One thing kept leading to another, and Roger ended up giving us such a good deal on a bike, a bike that we had rationally decided we didn’t need or want, that we, now in our 70’s, became the proud owners of a brand new adventure motorcycle.

Wes & Nicki - 1975

Wes & Nicki - 1975

Wes & Nicki - 2018

Wes & Nicki - 2018

 Unfortunately, having a shiny new machine in the barn didn’t do much to reduce our physical infirmities. Some days just swinging a leg over the saddle was an iffy proposition. However, having a motorcycle in the barn again seemed to improve our mental outlook dramatically. Instead of dwelling on memories and starting to feel “old,” we began to plan new adventures. We thought back on what we enjoyed most about our motorcycle trips. What we particularly enjoyed was the anticipation of going somewhere new, the people we would meet along the way, the new things we would discover, and, since this is a story about aging, reliving memories. So how could we enjoy those things again without spending so many weeks and thousands of miles on the bike?

In 1970 when we took our first long trip, there was no internet, there were no cell phones, and good cameras were bulky, hard to carry on a bike, and they required lots of film. We often didn’t do a very good job of recording our adventures. Nicki’s sister recently found some old postcards we had sent during some of our trips. They described adventures and discoveries we had almost completely forgotten about. It seemed to us that if we were going to embark on a new set of adventures, we might as well make some use of our hard-won experience and avoid making the same mistakes over again.

What we had to do is figure out how to take trips on our new bike that would take advantage of our maturity and experience, provide us with a little more of that adventure we so fondly remembered, and, this time, do a better job of recording everything to help us relive those memories  in the years to come. Fortunately here in Colorado we don’t have to travel far in order to enjoy some of the best scenery anywhere. To add frosting to this cake, Colorado is loaded with fascinating history that can make that scenery come alive.  We decided that the best way we could experience adventure motorcycle riding at our age would be to research local history and take relatively short trips, stopping often to relieve aching joints and, at the same time, relive the history at sites that might be overlooked by many travelers. But this time we wanted to do a better job of recording what we experience and discover. 

So we have created a YouTube channel to record our adventures and store our memories. We have just published our first adventure: Adventure Motorcycle Trip #1 - Laporte Loop. Now I understand why it can take years to produce a movie. This is complicated, but we have no timetable or deadlines to meet. As with our earlier adventures, and perhaps life in general, it is more about the journey than the destination.

Adventure Motorcycling for the More Mature


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Wes Rutt is a runner, biker, and woodcutter who spends his free time as the Outreach and Education Chair for the Colorado Tree Farmers.