Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Halfway Point - 52 New Albums in 2013

I am a great believer in New Year's resolutions and each year starting in late December, my sister and I exchange strongly worded emails encouraging the other to get our goals down on paper. At the end of the year, we review. Typically, I accomplish at least 75-80% of my yearly goals.

What is my secret? It's pretty simple. I only make resolutions that are super awesome to fulfill. For example, this year I resolved to make more cakes and buy fancy bras. What's tough about that?

My favorite resolution so far has been my 52 Albums in 2013 project. The rules are simple - listen to 52 new-to-me albums with no duplicate artists on the list. I'm a little bit picky about who I select. I don't mind some familiarity - I know one or two songs from the radio perhaps, or I know of the artist, but their album is brand new. Several of these came from Colbert Report guests and others were just randomly picked based on the pretty album cover. After I listen, I choose one of my favorite songs from the album to represent on the list.

Here is a list of the first 27 weeks of the year. (Click here if the embedded player doesn't work).

The best way to find new albums is to poll your friends. My Facebook peeps came back to me with a whopping 22 artists that fit my criteria. So if you made a suggestion, check back later and see if it makes into the second half of the year!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Conversation with a Two Year Old, Limits

It's no secret that two-year olds are awesome. Yes, there are fits, screaming, completely irrational arguments and irritating obsessions. But, they are also amazing creatures - tiny humans who pair bike helmets with pajamas and belts, who sit in bowls in the middle of the floor, who fall asleep at the dinner table.

Our two year old (and five year old) foster kids are now back with their mother, but there are stories galore. I'll be sharing a few of them here.

It was before work, and I was starting the scrambled eggs. K, our foster son, was eager to help. My egg cracking and stirring was quickly accompanied by the scrape of the chair across the kitchen floor. Soon, his tousled curly head was under my chin, asking to stir.

Enter distraction.
What’s this? 
Cupcakes, please don’t touch them.
Stirring the eggs, I notice that K is eyeing the box. Slowly, he reaches out and draws the box to him.
Hey buddy. What are you doing?
Me just gonna look at them.
Okay, remember I said no touching.
Me know.
At this point, I know that I should probably take the cupcakes away, but I am sort of interested to see how this is going to play out. As if on cue, I hear the sound of the clamshell cracking open.
Now, what are you doing? Remember what I said?
Yeah, me know. Me just gonna smell them.
Really? This isn’t going to end well. 
At this point, the eggs are demanding my attention. I turn back just in time to see a small tongue touching the cupcake. 
Dude! I gotta take these away now. 
Fit ensues.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Around Here (late!)

Finally emptied, cleaned and despidered our sunroom. A thrift store truck pick up was needed plus multiple special trash dumps. Furniture has been Craigslisted. I can breathe now in this room.

Had my best time ever in (of course) an untimed 5K. The Denver Graffiti Run had a fantastic concept - a fun, non-competitive 5K in which you received a healthy dose of colored powder in a highly mutated version of the Holi Festival of Colors. The colored powders were messy and enjoyable, but the race itself was a poorly organized disaster of no water stations, a barely marked course, no distance markers, and an inability effectively cope with the number of participants. Still, even an unofficial best race time is a victory.

Just in time for winter to...well, keep on going, new boot shelves for the collection. And to complete that thought - it dumped at least 8" on May Day. To put some perspective on this storm - schools are only less than three weeks away from summer vacation.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Roar of Bowser

A couple of months ago, I posted this goal on Go Mighty (and here on this blog):

Make a Bowser Costume for My Foster Son Before He Leaves Us in March

To be honest, I had hoped that J, our foster son, would forget the promise to create a Bowser costume. I had no idea how to even start and with limited time in trying to take care of two little ones plus befriend/mentor their very young mother, building a costume seemed impossible. Plus, I was struggling on how to translate the literal image of Bowser into fabric and felt.

As often happens, the deadlock was broken with a simple reminder. One of my quilting friends saw my blog post and dropped a quick email of ideas and advice. “Remember,” she wrote, “imagination can fill in a lot.”

All you parents out there may be shaking your heads by now, but for me, it was a revelation. Duh. I’d seen J use a vacuum attachment as a sword. And in our home, where we did not allow toy guns or even the word “gun”, J had quickly figured out how to build fancy “machines” out of Legos which shot out ice bombs or fire bombs. Imagination….of course.

Armed with that conviction, I sewed and cursed and sewed and finally cobbled together a semblance of a costume. My goal was his birthday in March and with several very late nights plus some hand sewing done in the office on conference calls (shhh), the costume was mostly done.

Unfortunately, between the mother, the grandmother and me, we can’t find any pictures of J in his costume, even though we know that they exist somewhere. Even if I had them, I couldn’t publish them anyway. So without further ado, the components of the Bowser costume:
The front + look at those adorable gloves!
That tail!
Me modeling the hood
It is hard to describe what it feels like when you *make* something and a newly five-year old boy’s  eyes light up with joy. When he throws down his current toy, and immediately shucks off his clothes (that’s not too hard to imagine if you know little boys), struggles into the costume then runs off, tail swinging behind him, with a shout that he’s “GONNA GO SHOW CHRIS!!!!” 

My heart exploded into a million pieces that even now, with the kids happily back with their mother, is not fully put back together.

Pattern:  Simplicity 1765
Materials:  Fleece, more fleece, fiberfill, felt, zipper
Missing:  Fierce arm bands, a spiky shell

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Soldiers, Mountains and Grants

Some big news here at Best Day of Life....from my post over at Go Mighty.

We are sometimes not a great judge of what’s possible.- Maggie Mason

Sometimes all it takes is one phrase to jump start something. I know that this is nothing profound – the Go Mighty community are a people who are sensitive to inspiration. A people for whom sometimes all it takes is one second of permission to change something good into something oh-my-God-what-am-I-doing awesome.

The drive to Glenwood Springs

That’s how this goal started. In June 2010, I scribbled my life list in the car on a road trip to Glenwood Springs with my husband. We were spitballing – just throwing things out there like we do – when “climb a fourteener” made the list. It was a safe item – like “get a tattoo” (which I can’t do without risking the wrath of my stodgy transplant team…but we shall see) – because it would  probably never happen.

And then it did. Twice. And actually one more time in September 2012 which will come in a soon-to-be-written post.

Almost at the top of Mt. Democrat
After taking an online course, I looked back at my list. Emboldened by Maggie Mason's suggestion that this be a living list, I crossed of ”climb a fourteener” and changed it to my secret, only discussed with my husband, life list item:  climb ALL the mountains!

And then I hit publish.

Never did I expect that this goal would make the front page of Go Mighty. Nor did I, in a million years, expect it to win a $1,000 grant! The morning I received the announcement email, I sleepily looked at my phone, put it down, rubbed my eyes and then pulled the covers over my head. Overwhelmed.

So what does one do with a grant for mountain climbing? Bagging local fourteeners, aside from gear (which can either be minimal (and unsafe) at tennis shoes, a Nalgene bottle and your dog or very high tech, all name-brand and fancy), is not a very expensive sport. I am fortunate to have inherited quite a bit of my gear secondhand from a friend who is a sponsored athlete for an outdoor clothing manufacturer.

Standing in a cloud

Well, as it turns out, my next climb is already on deck. And it’s a fundraiser. I am scheduled to participate in the “What’s Your Everest ” climb to on June 1st to benefit Soldiers to the Summit. S2S is a group dedicated to using the mountain climbing experience as a metaphor for soldiers to start rebuilding their lives after physical or emotional injury post-combat. Even though I am not a soldier, the idea is everyone has an “Everest” - those things that seem too big to ever summit. For me, mountain climbing represents the ultimate in what I couldn’t do before and every time I tackle a mountain I have to face and conquer all those heart failure demons as I climb.

We will be tackling Grays Peak  as a group under the expert leadership of several incredible climbers. Grays is typically done as a twofer with its neighbor, Torreys Peak   I hear rumors that there will be a rogue group headed to the saddle to grab them both. I will be among that company if my snail’s pace allows it.

My grant is headed to this amazing organization, earmarked specifically for this  fundraising climb.  By doing so, I will be able to climb with my favorite partner and husband.  We will be alongside men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country and are looking to overcome a real and present barrier – this 14,278 foot mountain.

We may not sometimes be the best judges of what is possible…indeed yes. I am thrilled and honored to be able to join with this team of wounded warriors to break through our own barriers of what we think possible.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Rest of the Story

The long awaited finish to the first Fourteener(s) saga. Here is part one and part two.

We had started the day at 5:00 am – too late to be considered an “alpine” start but not so late that it wasn’t still early at the summit of Mt. Democrat. As we headed back, climbing gingerly over the iciest damn rocks I have EVER SEEN, we began to mull the concept of actually continuing on. What the what?

No joke, those are what the rocks looked like. It was hard on knees and balance to crawl down the rocks, and nauseous-terrifying for someone who is afraid to walk across an icy flat parking lot.  At one point, my legs just stopped. I waited for a minute with the desperate hope that maybe someone would just pick me up? Just over this rock? Alas, that’s not how mountain climbing works. I dug deep, took a breath and moved. There was slipping and not a few moments where tears were close, but, since I’m sitting in my chair now, I’m assuming that I made it.

We reached the saddle.  Now, Mt. Democrat sits in a trio of 14,000+ mountains. Actually, it sits in a quadrangle, but apparently there are rules about these things. Democrat’s sister mountains are Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Bross.

From this poorly illustrated picture, you can see that you take one trail up to the saddle. Go left and you are on Democrat. Go right and you head on over to Mt. Cameron and then over to Mt. Lincoln and Brosse. Typically, climbers efficiently try to hit all three (official) 14ers in one day.

A few gels and some water later, Mike, Brian and I headed out. Chris (my husband) had sadly twisted his knee and decided to wait this one out.

We had stopped talking at this point. Breathing the frigid air, my only focus was my next step. It gets too overwhelming when you actually stop to think about how far you need to go…and your very inching progress.

Suddenly we were at the top of something. I saw the handwritten sign surrounded by rocks. Hallelujah! My second fourteener of the day. OMG! My second!

As I prepared my high-fives, Brian shared the sad news. Not all fourteeners are official Fourteeners. Again, what the what?  According to Wikipedia, a 14,000+ peak “must have at least 300 feet (91 m) of prominence to qualify.” Mt.Cameron, while a very nice mountain, did not fit the criteria. Alas, we took our pictures and moved on.

Finally, there in the distance was the top of Mt. Lincoln – a tough chunk of rock sticking out of more rocks. A lot of scrambling, some pulling and a boost later and there we were. It was official – three two fourteeners in one day for this transplant. Overwhelming.

There was a brief discussion of trying to bag Mt. Bross, but Mike wisely decided that I probably had enough. Plus, the biggest danger of Colorado 14ers was beginning to loom overhead – the clouds were breaking from ice to storm clouds. We judged it best to hightail it back to the car.

We made it to the bottom. My legs were shivery shaky – I hadn’t sat down once all day. I remembered all the terrible days of my hospitalization – the time I coded, the time I arrested, the emergency surgery and then I looked at my husband and at my feet. Those feet, his heart and this amazing heart had gotten me up and back. I couldn’t wait to do more.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: The Woodcutter

The WoodcutterThe Woodcutter by Kate Danley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always been a fan of familiar things retold in new and innovative ways. Whether it be a reworking of two folk songs into one new piece or a re-envisioning of Shakespeare in a different era, I love tracing the new lines back to the original.

This book did just that - combining the similar elements of several fairy tales and then creating a common link to tie everything together in a way that seems almost natural. The author would tease out each new character so you had to dig deep in your childhood memories to see if you could figure out which fairy tale would come next.

Sure, this book was written a bit melodramatically, but overall, the style helped create atmosphere and the subject material lent itself well to the style.

Very enjoyable for a fast read.

View all my reviews