Sunday, September 6, 2015


That's what I called it as a little kid, newly from Kenmore, NY, when the family would take off on a Sunday in our Chevy Biscayne, to look around the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Prior to this move in late 1963, my parents and my paternal grandmother had never ventured more than 20 miles out from Kenmore, except for a very rare weekend trip to Binghamton for something related to Dad's work. Once in California, the "old folks" acted like, I'm sorry to say, a group of hick-tourists, pointing out the "crazy Californians." My "big brudda" Kevin was so lucky; he was 10 years older than me, and, with a part-time job, Glendale College attendance, and his own car, could separate himself from the herd. I spent my childhood and adolescence in a state of envy and awe of his boldness and independence.

As for me, I was stuck in the back of the Biscayne, along for the rides whether I wanted it or not, sulking, rolling my eyes, and wanting to be anywhere but with my folks. Still, the seeds of my wanderlust were being planted, although I didn't realize it at the time. Sometimes, hiding out in my room, I would imagine all kinds of journeys on my own terms. And I counted down the years until I could finally live out those adventurous dreams.

This move to Colorado has been absolutely rejuvenating. Once I put down roots in Littleton, I began all kinds of research. Life is, once again, a blank slate. When I'm not working, or chatting up new acquaintances in my apartment complex, I'm online, reading those free publications I can find around town, or watching Rocky Mountain PBS. KUVO--the jazz station I listen to in the car--advertises local fun events, as does Colorado Public Radio (CPR--I believe its classical music helps me breathe!).

Because of some "attitude" my right knee has begun giving me again, I've had to put the MeetUp "Rock and Roll Oldies" to one side, at least until my MD and I can figure out what we're going to do about it. So, giving my dancing shoes a rest, I've turned to a group called "Let's Explore Colorado." Tomorrow, Labor Day Monday, a group of us are meeting for a picnic hang-out in Wash Park in Denver. Can't wait! I really want to meet people who would be up for day trips to national parks, historic towns, and maybe even train rides. I've made a list of places I want to see in the near future, and have it posted on my fridge as an energizing reminder to "get out thHere." Here it is:

Estes Park, South Platte River, Roxborough State Park, Riverside Cemetery, Fairmount Cemetery, the towns of Longmont, Niwot, and Louisville, Rocky Mountain Arsensal National Wildlife Refuge, Golden Gate State Park, Wild Animal Sanctuary in Hudson, Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve, Historical Daniels & Fisher Tower Tours, the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Mount Goliath, and the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield.

And that's a start...

To feed my inner history geek, I went recently to the Columbine Public Library, which is open 7 days a week, looking for books on the history of Denver, Arvada, and surrounding areas. Also, as inspiration, I'm currently reading High Altitude Attitudes: Six Savvy Colorado Women, and a couple of others about some foremothers, including Mary Coyle Chase, the author of the delightful classic about Harvey the rabbit.

'Splorin' also has taken the form of looking for a volunteer gig I can easily fit into my schedule, and still be enriched by meeting new people. A couple of Sundays ago, some nuns from Little Sisters of the Poor in Denver came to my church, to reach out for community support. The Mullen House in Denver has an almost-resort type of atmosphere. Two days ago, I went and talked to the volunteer coordinator and met with a few of the nuns. After attending a Mass at 11 AM, I was graciously invited to join them--and the senior residents--for lunch in their spacious, well-lit and beautifully decorated dining room. Soon, I hope to be doing some individual work with various residents.

On my way home from such an uplifting and positive visit, I decided to skip the freeway, and took Federal Boulevard for a trip through a part of town I had yet to see, including Little Saigon.

And so, the journey goes on...

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tiggy's and Valarie's Most Excellent Journey

April 28, 2015--I had packed boxes for several weeks, making runs to the packing store, folding the flaps, fighting with that damned packing tape that was like fly paper, almost in a round-the-clock push. My stress, frustration, and anxiety was at an all-time high, especially when I knew I'd expected to be out and on the road the day before. And escrow was closing on April 30th...

Hal, my faithful friend and "outlaw," appeared suddenly, startling me, and saying, "Oh, I thought you'd be gone by now." Then and there, I went into a minor melt-down, wailing about how I had forgotten just what was involved in packing up four generations of family possessions from a garage and a 1,775 square-foot house. To quell the storm, Hal told me to let "them," meaning the local family, take care of the rest the next day. Why didn't I just pack the car, and leave--now? Just calm down!

No further persuasion was needed. Within the hour, I had stuffed my little Ford Fiesta hatchback with numerous totebags and plastic bags--all quishy to maximize how much I could cram in--with a week or two of wash-and-wear clothes, toiletries, my church materials, and Tiggy's food, bowls, and comforts like a travel-sized litter box. Gently, I placed the tote with Mom's cremation urn on the floor in front of the passenger's seat.

Following one last visit from my neighbors, during which time Sandy hugged me hard and gifted me with some devotional books to help me on my way, I was ready to grab Tiggy. She hissed and protested, but I had tried to soften the trauma with some calming spray to the carrier's interior, and having her favorite toy nestled in with her. I'd prepared a spot in the back of the car that would be secure, and as free as possible from bumps in the road.

Despite the later-than-expected departure, we still made pretty good time. Sensing that this was not going to be a trip to the v-e-t, Tiggy stopped meowing after about 20 minutes, and curled up. East on the 210, to the 15 to Needles. We stopped in a Best Western when the adrenaline of the past few days finally caught up with me. It was wonderful to exit my car and know that I would be sleeping in a space free of packing boxes. When Tiggy's carrier door was opened, she remained in it for a full minute or two, creeping out, going back in, and then choosing to spend the night hiding under the bed's dust ruffle...

April 29, 2015--I was determined to get an early start, with a projected evening stop in Gallup, NM. By now, I was in the world of lots of long-haul truckers and 75 mph speed limits. I soon adjusted to the etiquette of the road--no tailgating the rigs, keeping to the left, keeping up with the pace. The scenery almost made me forget how far I was traveling from California--almost other-worldly rock formations, red soil, sights of trains with their tracks running parallel to the highway.

I also learned about the wisdom of keeping one's gas tank at least half-full, because the distance between stations can get awfully long and scary. When my gas gauge, at one point, got tauntingly close to the "red," I saw this "GAS" sign with almost obscenely large letters from the highway. Swallowing hard, I pulled into this place landscaped with plastic palm trees and the name "Gas Oasis." And, of course, the cheapest price for 87 octane was $4.99 a gallon.

Yes, we got to Gallup, and this time Tiggy was happy to be set free, and take a tour around this new room. Getting her back in the carrier the next morning was another matter. Thank goodness I had some fishy-aromatic treats to catch her.

April 30, 2015--This was going to be the day we got to Colorado, and after a stop in an out-of-the-way roadside store called Pecos River Station (I've posted about it on Yelp) for the port-a-potty, a Coke, and what proved to be a less-than-fresh sandwich, I took in the scenery that changed dramatically from rolling hills, forests, and pastures. The miles to Littleton, posted on the roadside, beckoned as they decreased.

It was getting dusk as I stopped in a mall parking lot in Castle Rock, concerned that it would be dark before we got a room for the night. I had somehow been under the delusion that Littleton had an Extended Stay America, but soon found that I had to go further into downtown Denver, near the airport. It was my intention to hole up there until I could connect with the realtor I had reached out to in California about some living arrangements. Extended Stay America will allow pets, and will not intrude with housekeeping, so I didn't have to worry about someone opening a door, revving up a vacuum, and having Tiggy run out in a panic.

Fast-forward to May 2, 2015--I had already settled in, and stocked the fridge with a couple days' provisions from the Super Target next door. I'd even treated myself to a so-so bottle of red vino, for which I had actually gotten carded by a checker who seemed to be barely 20 herself. She said I looked "too young to buy wine," and I replied I'd live on that compliment for quite a while!

By now, Tiggy had taken to sleeping on the bed, close to me. For the whole Saturday, I stayed in my nightgown, and binge-watched episodes of "Prospectors Unearthed" on the History Channel, about professional Colorado rock-hounds. I was wiped out--tomorrow I would get back to business.

May 3, 2015--I finally met the realtor to whom I'd reached out several months before in California, and she treated me to a lovely breakfast at Le Peep, a family-diner place. We discussed my short- and long-term goals, and the overall regional real estate market. I'd told her that I had been advised to rent for at least a year while I get settled, and she agreed that was wise. I gave her some parameters--close to my job, that was starting the next day, ground-level, one-floor, and, of course, pet-friendly. Since I was spending a significant amount per night at the hotel, it would behoove me to find something ASAP.

"ASAP" became "right away," and a such a place is where Tiggy and I are now calling home. I have since acquired a full-sized bed, and Tiggy enjoys looking out the window and watching her new neighbors. It's also a handy place for her to hide under during the thunder storms.

Now, next Saturday, I will have my furniture and other stuff from California brought in, and then I can take some pictures to post. Life is good.

Friday, July 31, 2015

90 days out -- 1775 to 685

I grew up hearing about this whole idea of "getting one's affairs in order," and I'm now convinced it's never done. We do the best we can while we're alive and functional to get it all wrapped up. Inevitably, though, stuff gets left for the next generation to deal with. I thought I knew what I was up against, but there's been a literal truck-load of surprises..and resurrected memories.

Yesterday marked three months since Tiggy and I rolled into Denver, looking for our temporary hotel address in the evening rain. Now that we have set down roots in Littleton, all boxes have been opened, California belongings have been sorted through, and I have made my 685-square-foot apartment my cozy home. "Cozy" in this case means a dramatic downsizing from a 1,775-square-foot house, made possible with my measuring tape and some ingenuity in use of wall space and odd niches, like the outer space under my kitchenette bar. The process of deciding which of my literally hundreds of books to keep has been the most emotionally and logistically tasking, but I've found odd-sized shelving to utilize the nooks and crannies, giving a deliberately offbeat, untidy, nerdy-chic to the living room and inner hallway. Pics to come, when I can...

I've made room for family knick-knacks and held onto some heirloom furniture, because each piece resonates with so many memories, clear back to when I was a little girl in Kenmore, NY. Their touch, their color, their scent all are anchors during years floating from one coast to another, settling in the middle of this country. The real treasures, though, have emerged as I have taken slow, deliberate evenings to go through the stuff that I'd so hurriedly tossed into cardboard boxes in California...a therapeutic task in the best sense of the word.

It may sound grandiose, but I actually feel somewhat responsible for the safe-keeping of memories of four generations. Each person--my parents, my grandparents, and my late husband--now has a plastic storage box, clearly labeled, filled with the items they've left behind. I've also found out some things I never would have one ever mentioned that my mother, while attending Glendale College as a middle-aged LVN student, landed a scholarship and was inducted into the Alpha Gamma Sigma Aunt Sis wrote to Mom just days before her fatal heart attack to report that Uncle Roger had to be institutionalized for his Alzheimer's-driven maternal grandmother's heroic care of her second husband after his blindness...precious, colorful threads of a family tapestry, so much that I don't want lost to my son and his's all here, organized for his own eventual discovery.

Coincidentally, I have found some media validation of my efforts at life-simplification. More Magazine's most recent issue had an article entitled, "The Joy of Wanting Less." Then, tucked in one of my psychology textbooks, I found a 2005 Los Angeles Times article that I had clipped out. It was about going through lots of family possessions. I'd totally forgotten I'd saved this piece, but I can't believe that it was an accident that I'd found it after all this time. It was like a message in a bottle, to tell me that I'm going to be okay.

So, in the weekends that follow, I think it'll be time to put on my new boots...and get out to that Country Western place that offers free dancing lessons.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Stuff I like about Littleton

On June 30th, I will mark two months since I rolled into Denver, and on July 4th (interesting coincidence), I will have been two months as a official Littleton resident. It's been a physically-demanding, emotionally-laden short span of time.

People might say I'm still in the "honeymoon phase," and that's fair enough. Some say, "Oh, yeah, but just wait for the winters." Okay, I'll grant you it's been 52 years since I was transplanted from Kenmore, NY to Burbank, CA, but I'm going to be trolling the stores soon for a real winter coat, and investing in some heavy-duty boots. What do you think...should I go to Sheppler's for some Western footware? Given the leeway I have with my attire, both personally and professionally, I'm kind of tempted to go this route.

Another thing I'm loving is the overall friendliness and level of civility I've felt since "day one." Seldom has a day gone by that I haven't gotten a heartfelt "Welcome to Colorado" from someone at a store, at church, or anywhere. Recently, I got a library card from the Columbine library, and I was impressed by how patrons were actually adhering to the prominently posted "Disturbance Policy." On my way out to my car, I held the door for a young woman, who reminded the two girls with her to "say thank you to the lady." How's someone teaching children proper manners.

During my first week in Littleton, and my first shopping trip at King Soopers, I allowed a father and son, who had two items in hand to proceed in line, since I had a full cart. They were overwhelming in their expression of their appreciation and waved as they left the store. Then, when I started to check my groceries out, the checker told me that the father had left a $10 bill with him toward my total...I was so touched!

Another "valentine" goes out to the Colorado DMV on Prince Street. Yes, you read that right. For about five weeks, I've been the proud bearer of a Colorado Driver License (with a not-too-bad picture, either!), a Colorado auto registration, and my car is sporting the common white-mountains-green-background plates. Also, I'm a registered voter here now, too. And, guess what...the total time I spent here was under two hours for everything! I went into this neat, quiet, carpeted building, and found a DMV office that's about one-quarter the size of the one I used to frequent in Glendale. There I worked a touch-screen, got a numbered ticket, and waited comfortably with others on long, ergonomic benches that seemed almost like church pews. The sound level was comfortable, and the efficiency with which the patrons were processed was impressive.

Next to receive kudos is Ace Hardware, near King Soopers in the nearby Coal Mine Shopping Center. Yes, I've been in some of the Home Depots and Lowes here, but there's something comforting about a place where staff greets you, and actually asks what they can help you find! They have a Customer Service department in back, and they repaired one of my lamps that, unfortunately, was one of the casualties of my move. They replaced the broken socket, and now it's a three-way lamp. Success. I've got a Ace Rewards card, and every time I purchase a suction-cup soap holder for the shower, or some Command hangers, I feel good.

Ditto with Moore & Sons, a three-generation furniture repair firm. One of my antique chairs got dropped, with a leg getting broken off and a chuck of wood sheared from the side. It's a heavy piece, and wouldn't fit in my car. They were very accommodating about coming to my home and picking the chair up on a weekend, and hopefully, I can get it back it a few weeks. The online reviews were reassuring that the Moores will take good care of this heirloom piece.

After doing a late-night cruise through the Aspen Grove marketplace on Santa Fe Drive, I concluded the stores were more than a tad too trendy and boutique-y for my taste. Even though I'm not yet inclined to do any shopping (except in fall for the previously-mentioned cold-weather clothes), I'll be likely to be found on Wadsworth Avenue...turn to the left off my street, and Wadsworth will take you to outdoor recreational spots. Turn right, and you have several miles of all dining, shopping, and cinematic businesses. My "outlaws" had a great time taking it all in a few weekends ago, and had a great time with the view.

Pierce Avenue...turn to the left, and I'm at my church within five minutes. Turn right, and I'm up at my favorite shopping center for groceries or hardware. Go further near Bowles, and I'm at the park where the Columbine Memorial is, and the Columbine Library.

A lot of the street names here are picturesque...Coal Mine, Wood Sorrell, Progress, Alamo...I like to see them when I'm out "sploring," which I used to say as a little kid. I don't think, however, I'd like to live on Jack Ass Hill Road, despite the lovely condos that are there.

That's my long story for short, I'm happy to be here.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A View of My Future, Through My Rear-View Mirror

I haven't blogged since early January.

Since then, Mom passed away, peacefully, on February 1st. Once my lives settles down again, I have so much to write about how I experienced that transition, as I'm still processing it.

In the meantime, I'm knocking back my daily coffee and preparing for my next adventure. Boxes of every dimension are all around me and in every room, together with bags of packing material and rolls of bubble wrap that are as tall as me when stood on their side.

My son and daughter-in-law pop in and out to help. I have made countless trips to local thrift stores to donate tons of stuff that is absolutely of no emotional connection to me. Other things have found loving homes with my neighbors. My favorite mantra these days is, "You want it? It's yours!"

Of course, that leaves rooms of tender memory-things that will eventually find their way to me when I settle in my new condo--which is somewhere out there, especially on sites like After getting an insanely heart-stopping quote from a corporate moving and storage firm--even with the "discount," I've opted to store my non-essentials here briefly, find the permanent home for Tiggy and me, and then send for everything.

The house sale is getting wrapped up, and I have deputized a trusted relative/friend with handling the final details.

On Monday, April 27th, I will be packing Tiggy securely into her carrier, answering her plaintive "meew" inquiries with assurances, loading up my essentials (toiletries, outfits, some notebooks), and then hitting the interstate. My car has had a safety check, and my "out-law" Hal and I have spread out a map on the table and plotted the best route. With good fortune, and a stop or two in safe, pet-friendly motels (not anything "Bates"-like!), I'm planning on getting into Littleton, Colorado on Wednesday, April 29th.

There, a new job and a new future awaits.

For the past couple of months, I've done countless hours of research on my "new frontier," including a new church community, where the local Costco is, the seasonal weather, how to get in and around various points -- and, of course, what lies beyond in Denver. I've even reached out to a MeetUp group called "Rock and Roll Oldies," which is geared toward our generation with dances, parties, and even group attendance at geezer-concerts. Several friends here in Burbank have already connected me with their own Littleton connections, and I've already promised them to meet for coffee, wine, or whatever ASAP.

You see, I'm really, truly excited to make this move -- but I'm not clueless as to the enormity of it all. The last time I experienced this kind of migration, I was only eight years old, and seated in the back of the packed station wagon, as Mom nervously navigated unfamiliar roads and Grandmother barked directions at her while clutching the maps.

As my own d-date looms, those memories flash back to me, especially at night. And now, I'm in the driver's seat. If there's some kind of supportive system on the back end of my journey, it will soften my landing.

But don't worry about me. I'll plow through the next few days and weeks -- and have fresh material to share.

Talk to you soon. Lots of love, and farewell.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy 2015, as I consider other ventures

I will always be, at heart, a therapist and teacher. Considering how much I invested (on so many levels!)in my career path, how could I not be? And yet, other ventures are also calling to me to satisfy a longing in my soul.

As I have hinted in other posts, I couldn't care less about mall shopping, especially traditionally girly venues like clothing and shoe stores. When the need for such things as a new dress or pair of comfortable flats arises, I'll go into a discount store, find what I need and call it good.

But... in the past couple of years, I've become quite the customer of a certain so-called "big-box" home improvement store. I absolutely love the smell of cut wood in the lumber department, and the earthiness of the potting soil and, yes, even the manure in the gardening section. Recently, also I've discovered the joys in this store's center, Aisle 9, where all the tools are! The other day, to my surprise, I had the mischievous urge to jump on a forklift that was parked nearby, and take it for a joyride. Of course, I restrained myself; I do, after all, want to be welcomed back, and not be in the cross-hairs of the store's surveillance cameras.

Parallel to my house's physical alterations over the past six months, I've felt changes within myself that I find hard to ignore. Every time I accomplish a task, I find myself thinking, Wow, I can do this! Even if I have to enlist some physical muscle, I can at least understand how something works. It's not mysterious. It's simple nuts-and-bolts mechanics.

So, lately I've been seriously considering how I might take my listening/observational skills (therapy) and research/resource (teaching) prowess, and meld them with my passion for home improvement to come up with my newest professional offering. It would be different from the usual path that a designer or architect takes, because I would also be helping people make their house/structure into a home. A single-family dwelling is probably the biggest investment a person or a family can make, and it can also be the largest source of stress and conflict. With each project, done for beautification or for physical soundness, a stake is claimed for that precious sense of ownership, of pride, of permanence and security. It's good for the family, the community, the nation's future--and that's not mere hyperbole. It's a solid value that we should return to.

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