Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Before and After

It's been over a month since the fire, and life is moving on for most of us. But each morning we are reminded of it when we look out our windows or take a walk in our neighborhood. Here is what it used to look like a block from our house (where I used to walk nearly every day).

And here is what it looks like now.

It looks surprisingly good. In the past month, we've had a lot of rains and the middle hillside is already greening up. This section wasn't "severely burned," which means vegetation will come back sooner. As you can see, a lot of Blodgett Peak wasn't burned. A lot of it was burned, but it just so happens that much of what we see is the slopes that escaped the burn.

As you look south (left), you start to see the severely burned area above the quarry.

From the quarry south begins the area that was just decimated, although we have one pretty green ridge line that separates us from it, which softens the blow. So what looked like this one soft fall sunset,

Now looks like this.

The upside is that now we can clearly see the rock formation on this hillside, which before was covered with trees. Even so, it's bleak. We've been finding new places to take our afternoon walks, where we can still see the beauty of the mountains, but not the scars of the fire.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Wanderlust: Haiti

When I traveled to Haiti several years ago, I was only there for two days, so I can hardly say I really saw it. I just got a little taste, which left me wanting to return. I went before the earthquake, but I still saw the resilient character of the Haitians, who have been through hurricanes, corruption, starvation, oppression and more in the last several hundred years.

Yet the lasting impression Haiti left on me was of beauty. Perhaps that's me romanticizing after the fact. But more likely, I think it was the impression the people left. Usually I leave a place filled with images of it - I'm more interested in nature than man, frankly. But there is just something about the Creole accent, the dignified countenances and the French food that were...stately, even amidst the poverty of pre-quake Haiti.

Some day, I would love to return. Here are a few of posts about my short time in Haiti.  

Ca Va Bien, Merci. Et vous? 
A Day in Port-au-Prince
Slide Show

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cousins, Cousins Everywhere

This week, we've been in Estes Park for some time with Mike's family, otherwise known as "Cousins Galore" or "Cousins, Cousins Everywhere." Mike's family is like the Nile: prodigious and fertile. Here they all are together.

At other times in the week, as many as 7 other cousins or second cousins were present. 18 kids, Oi Vay! But there's nothing better than taking pictures/videos of babies together.

Here Alexandra is with a cousin and second cousin. I think she took the prize for loudest, though she was tied with her second cousin on the left for biggest thigh rolls.

We also got a chance to see a bit of the world. We hiked to Morraine Park.

Saw the Alluvial Fan.

And hiked from the Y to Sprague Lake (and got lost several times because of all the fallen dead trees!).

Now we're home and in our own beds. Yippee!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wanderlust: Dominican Republic

I've slowed down on all my traveling posts, because from here on out (I've been doing them in chronological order), I blogged about all my other international trips. But for my own sake, I'll jot down a few remembrances.

I went to the Dominican Republic several years ago to train Compassion's Field Communications peeps on writing. What a sweet deal, right?

I remember on the way over there, I didn't fill out my customs form right and the Dominican guards at the airport started jabbering at me in Spanish in great annoyance. But I couldn't figure out what they were saying or what I had done wrong! Finally, after I began to panic that I would not be let in the country but would have to from then on it simply live in an airport in Santo Domingo, a fellow Compassion traveler (whom I didn't know at the time) came to my rescue and got me through, speaking to them in heated Espanol.

I didn't get to see much of the Dominican Republic because I was mainly just in a hotel doing training all day. But from what I saw, I would love to go back and wander along the grand streets of Santo Domingo and laze on a beach all day. One of my lasting memories of the trip is the immense frustration I felt upon waiting to see Santo Domingo. We were supposed to leave at 3, I believe, and we sat and waited on the bus for the others to arrive for 2 to 3 hours! (2 to 3 hours that I could have spent in the ocean!!!) This was torture for me, the most impatient person who has ever lived. In the end, we raced through Santo Domingo in the dark and didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked seeing the sights.

But my favorite thing about the trip was just getting to know and hanging out with my coworkers from Central America and the Caribbean. They were, and still are, the bestest.

Here are a couple posts from Dominican Republic.

At the Batey


The Queen is back on her throne

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cute Stuff

When Allie sits these days, she crosses her feet at the ankle. It's cute. 

That's all.

Oh yeah, Mike also carried Allie around the house in a backpack. That was cute too.

P.S. We figured out where Allie gets her crazy face.

Like Father

Like Daughter

Friday, July 20, 2012

Walking Along the Edge of a Knife

A few weeks ago, hundreds of people just down the road from me lost their homes and all their belongings in a firestorm. Just a month before that, a coworker's baby son was born with no legs. Yesterday, a friend found out his leukemia came back. And today, twelve people were killed at a movie theater in my hometown, at the mall where I used to shop at Claire's and perform in choir concerts.

These tragedies are so close. A reminder that we are just a breath away from catastrophe. It is as if we are walking along the edge of a knife, balancing, hoping that we will stay on top, but knowing that only a wisp of air separates us from what could be.  

The immense beauty and the immense tragedy of this world drives the painful truth of Christianity into my heart. For Christianity is a beautiful story, but a tragic one as well. And it reminds me that it is the only explanation that explains, as Chesterton said, the only puzzle that makes sense of the disparate pieces of this world.

Looking at the beauty of this world, I cannot hope for nirvana, a separation from the pain and suffering, as it would mean forsaking and denying the beauty.

Looking at the ugliness of this world, the horrible claims of karma are anemic and disgusting. No 3-month-old deserves to be shot.

A mystical view of the world - that all happens for a reason - simply defies reason in a time of hate. A materialistic view of the world - that all is the meaningless unfolding of nature - defies every notion of the human mind and every pulse of the human heart.

The only explanation that explains is that once upon a time there was a beautiful world. God made it beautiful - the kind of beauty that makes you ache. But then bad entered the world. It took what was beautiful and made a mockery of it, twisting and disfiguring it. So this world lived at all times along a knife's edge - between the tension of the two truths, that this world is full of both great good and great evil. But the God who created the world would not give up on it. He hated the ugly and had to punish it. He couldn't look away, but knew justice must be done. But there wasn't one perfect being in His world - they all had the stain of evil mixed into their good. But He loved His world too much to simply destroy it all with justice. So instead He took the punishment for all the hate, the ugly, the cruelty, the selfishness onto Himself. He suffered and died for it on the cross. But because He's God, he couldn't be kept down. He rose again and now opens His hands to all, saying,

Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.

Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
    and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

9 Years

Today we celebrated nine years of marriage. I've been waking up inexplicably at 4:30 a.m. every day for 5 days, so last night I drugged myself and Mike fed the baby in the morning and I slept until 7:30! Ahh, bliss. I woke to the sound of Mike making pancakes for me.

We celebrated by going to Seven Falls, a local tourist attraction that we've never been to. (Well, we both went in high school in the winter when the falls were frozen, which doesn't really count.) We watched the Native American dancers.

Then we took the 700 something stairs (I made that number up) to the falls - all while I carried the baby. I'm rather proud.

Once we were at the top, we took a short hike to Midnight Falls. It was so nice to get into the beautiful green forest and remember that not everything is burned.When Allie makes this face (below), she breathes heavily through her nose. Every time she heard Mike doing the breathing, she'd respond in kind with her favorite face. What a nut.

We ran into a few bears in the forest.


Then we saw a chipmunk who had found a couple of nuts. 

We topped it all off with a picnic along the stream. 


While Mike and Alexandra gazed wistfully into the horizon.


Love you, Mikey!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

10 Months and Counting

Pretty soon, she's going to be jumping off the chair!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Angry Allie

Alexandra has a new hobby. She does this face all day long, on all occasions, and in response to every situation.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Life

On Sunday before the firestorm of June 26th, I went for one of our favorite walks in Blodget Peak Open Space. I'm so glad I did. It was smoky and hard to breathe, but it was the last time I got to see it in its former beauty. I took this video to get a shot of the helicopter, but now I like it for the view (and because this open space is now indefinitely closed).

Happily, these mountains and hills didn't burn as completely as the mountains from us south to Mountain Shadows. There's a lot of burn, but there's also a bit of green to soften it.

Yesterday Mike and I took a stroll around Peregrine, which looks up at Blodget. It's still surprisingly beautiful. There's even new life already springing forth on the scrub oaks.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Today I turned 34. I could over-think it and start worrying about how the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be, but where is the fun in that? I still agree with how I felt when I was 32: Aging is fun! I like being in my 30s, even now that I'm closer to 35 than 30.

I worked most of the day, and then Mikey brought me flowers, peaches and cheeses. What a guy! We haven't gotten out much to see the beautiful world lately, so we were really itching for a mountain trip. We decided to drive to the top of Pikes Peak. We saw this little chipmunk on the way, drinking out of the gold panning troughs. He made me happy.   

We drove past the burn scar, and it left me feeling so heavy to see so much beauty burned. But then it was so refreshing to remember that places like this still exist. 

Alexandra even got to dip her toes in the lake on the way up the mountain.

(Side note: When you're recovering from an ear infection, driving to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain is painful. I still can't quite hear out of one ear. I would avoid it if I were you.)

From the top of Pikes, you could see the whole burn scar. It was sad, but in a way it was encouraging to see how finite and small it is in comparison to this big beautiful world. On the way home, we drove up Flying W Ranch Road, as we always do. It is devastating. I knew it was bad, but I guess you just can't really know how bad it is until you see it for yourself. This area was so beautiful, we hiked or walked there quite often. Now it looks like some war-torn country you'd see on the news. But seeing the devastation was a fresh reminder of how blessed we are - since my heart has been grumbling about that very ugly burned mountain that I now wake up to every day, it's a good reminder that I still have a home.

When we got to said home, we found my coworkers had arranged to have pastries from Boonzaijers delivered to my front door! It's nice to be part of a team. (Especially one that plys you with treats even when thousands of miles away.)

And that's it! Wait... What's that you say? You want another picture of Allie? Oh, OK. Here you go.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cachorro Quente

Guess what I made....Hot dogs topped with mashed potatoes, french fries, and corn. Just call me crazy. Or Brazilian. It's a little something I made for the Compassion blog: Cachorro Quente, or Brazilian Hot Dogs. Read more!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Tonight, we went to a concert in the park in honor of the firefighters and police people who protected our homes.

I can't help but watch this video of Allie swinging in the park and think that these are the days I'm going to look back on and say, "Those were the days."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coocoo Poppasin

When my sister Tara and I were younger, we had nicknames for one another: Cocoa Butter and Coocoo Pappasin. I feel it is now time to pass this latter nickname onto my daughter, Alexandra. For she is, in a word, a kook. You might have gotten a smidgen of that from this post. I may be a bit biased, but I believe she is one of the goofiest, happiest, silliest babies I've ever known. Upon first acquaintance, she may seem all sugar.

But upon closer acquaintance, the real spice comes out. 

Look out, world.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Fourth: 2012

This morning was so clear, breezy and non-smoky that we decided to take a long walk at Ute Valley Park. I overheard people in Starbucks saying that spot fires had broken out here last week. I don't know if that's true, but I'm ever so glad my park is still fine.

Then in the afternoon we walked from Old Colorado City to Manitou Springs. It was a lot of work. I tried to fit in with the hippies by wearing my baby in a sling.

Alexandra insisted we eat custard.

After all her hard work walking, Allie was plum tuckered.

For dinner, we wanted to feel American, even though there wouldn't be any fireworks, so we got barbecue and ate it while listening to Bluegrass.

And then we had a tickle party with dad.

(By the way, that's the mini-massager I'm supposed to be working on my wrist scar with, not some weird baby torture device.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Great Fire of 2012

I suppose I ought to tell you the end of the story of the Great Fire of 2012. Once upon a time a boy and a girl bought a home. They loved to wander on top of hillsides and gaze at mountaintops, so they bought one at the edge of the forest. It was a lovely place.

But then one day a big fire came and burned all the mountains. (If you don't have 16 minutes to spare, the drama of the homes burning starts around 8:30).

And then Orcs invaded their land and made them all Sauron's subjects...Oh wait. Wrong story.

The boy and girl went and hid in Denver for the smoke, fire, and orcs to leave. Then after six days, they were allowed back home. Hundreds of their neighbors' homes had burned south of them, but their home and immediate neighborhood still stood.

The fire had crept within 1,000 feet of their home. (Google Earth said 1,400, but the boy's GPS said 1,000).

The boy and girl rejoiced and had never been more thankful for the quarry behind their home that had slowed the fire's progress into their neighborhood.

They arrived home to see their beautiful mountain which had once been so verdant look like this:

(It's hard to tell the difference on the video, but most of the trees on the upper slopes are burnt or dead.) But they really couldn't complain since the nice firefighters had bulldozed a new, wide trail for them up the hillside and since their home didn't look like this:

Now, for the girl's birthday, they are planting a tree. An Autumn Blaze Maple that will turn fiery red in the fall. It will hopefully grow big and green and help soften the black hills surrounding it.