I loved the way he posed right by the “Watch for Wildlife” sign. There must have been three dozen of them, just strolling along, licking the salt off the road. Apparently, Estes Park is good about road maintenance at the start of a light snow. We had a lovely drive up on Sunday, with the trees tipped by frost. More about our adventures at the Stanley Hotel later. We both like the energy in Estes Park and are considering it as a move option for our mountain house. But boy, does it get windy up there, and neither of us like the wind. I keep wondering how to make peace with the wind, but so far I have found no spiritual or energetic connection to it. Any ideas would of course be much appreciated.

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Outside of Estes Park, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”  —  Edith Sitwell

Daily gratitudes:
Nina and Kelsea decorating our lovely little tree
My unusual Christmas decorations
Shedding tears for Christmases without my parents
Snuggly cats
A lovely work holiday luncheon

You’re probably expecting that, since I’m in Colorado, you’ll be seeing snowy Christmasy pictures. Not yet. It was balmy here today, but not as balmy as it was on Little Cayman. Tomorrow, we are expecting snow here, and are heading up to the mountains for an overnight treat! In the meantime, you will have to console yourselves with the view we had for our week at Sunset Cove. The only thing to worry about there was falling coconuts and running out of the best rum ever.

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Sunset Cove, Little Cayman

Quote of the day: “When you’re young, you always feel that life hasn’t yet begun—that “life” is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays—whenever. But then suddenly you’re old and the scheduled life didn’t arrive. You find yourself asking, ‘Well then, exactly what was it I was having—that interlude—the scrambly madness—all that time I had before?” — Douglas Coupland

Daily gratitudes:
Getting my tree today
Seeing my old friend the chiropractor
That one of my favorite bad movies is on
That I can fit into the dress I was planning on wearing tomorrow night
Chickens

Daily words:
There is no update on the kibble conundrum. No kibble in the bed again last night. Although the peanut butter jar was out with the lid unscrewed and I can’t remember if I did that in a conscious drug-induced state last week or an unconscious sleeping pill state last night.

Winston was one of the three iguanas at Sunset Cove in Little Cayman that we had the pleasure of meeting. He was the friendliest of the lot, and loved it when I petted him. We spent some quality time together. And he’s obviously photogenic. They take their iguanas seriously on Little Cayman. The single road, which crosses the airstrip, is dotted with “Yield to Iguana” signs.

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Little Cayman

Quote of the Day:“When it comes to looking after all the species that are already endangered, there’s such a lot to do that sometimes it might all seem to be too much, especially when there are so many other important things to worry about. But if we stop trying, the chances are that pretty soon we’ll end up with a world where there are no tigers or elephants, or sawfishes or whooping cranes, or albatrosses or ground iguanas. And I think that would be a shame, don’t you?” — Martin Jenkins

Daily gratitudes:
The movie “White Christmas”
Bundled up babies
Feeling less pain
Laughter
MKL

Daily words:
The kibble conundrum has yet to be solved, though the spirits, or me, did not break into my lanyard cat treat corral today, and when I returned home from work the bed was both debris and kibble free. We’ll see how it goes tonight.

My colleagues and I were speculating today on cat treats. Apparently, the different flavors of cat treats are barely discernible to cats. We think perhaps they flavor them to give us humans the illusion that we are offering our kitties variety. However, why do they not make cat treats in the flavors of the foods that cats in their natural habitats actually eat? Like mouse-flavored treats (which would help take care of my mouse issues), or baby-bird flavored kibble? These are the things that cats eat in the wild. I mean, when was the last time you saw a cat take down a cow? Or a tuna?  Is it just the lack of appeal to the human purchaser that holds manufacturers back from what cats consider true treats?

Just kibble for thought.

To start this tale, I should tell you I’ve been sick. But sick in a balanced way. A kidney stone on the left and an ovarian cyst on the right. That’s me, always balanced. Pain on both sides. A post-bath collapse as I tried to feed the cat. A trip to the ER on a busy Friday night. Pills to kill the pain, pills to make me relax, pills to help me sleep. As many pills as a 92-year old woman. Enough of that. Now, I’m just going to get better, since medicine doesn’t seem to be doing the trick.

But perhaps cat treats will help.

The night after all the hoopla of pain, after my hero MKL had gone home, I crawled into bed and felt something hard. Upon further drugged investigation, I discovered a single cat treat – Purina Whisker Lickins, to be exact. I didn’t really think anything of it. I wasn’t really thinking anything about anything. And I slept. I think that was Sunday. I spent Monday on the couch with pain pills and a heating pad and my computer. When I got in bed on Monday night, I noticed that there was a lot of …. debris in the bed. Like crumbs. I often produce sand in my sleep (yes, it’s a thing), so I wasn’t really that concerned. I figured Mr. Man had tracked something in, since I hadn’t made the bed that morning.

Tuesday was another at-home-drugged-on-the-couch day, though this time I did make the bed before moving to the couch. When it was time to shift back to the bed, I again found the debris, and after sweeping it out and crawling in, I discovered another cat treat. I was puzzled, but still not too aware of my surroundings to be curious.

Let me say that Mr. Man does like to be in the bed, but he has consistently crawled between two of the comforters – never between the sheets. When I look everywhere for him and can’t find him, I know to look for a lump on the bed, and if I pet it and it’s warm, I trust that it’s Mr. Man. But he has not left my side since I got back from the ER.

So now we come to Wednesday. Another day at home. The bed made, and again kibble debris on Wednesday night. When I awoke this morning, I went to make the bed, and found three cat treats positioned neatly in a triangular shape on MKL’s side of the bed, near the pillow. And now I’m stumped.

I wondered if Mr. Man was somehow getting cat treats from the bag on the Boat Anchor and bringing them into the bed, but have ruled out that theory because:

1. He can’t reach the bags on the Boat Anchor

2. He doesn’t have opposable thumbs to open the bags, even if he could reach them

3. When he gets a treat, he wolfs it down completely as one watches.

He’s not one to squirrel things away.

Then I thought perhaps, horror of horrors, a mouse had made some kind of nest in the bed and was nibbling breakfast and saving lunch for later. So I have stripped the bed completely, and found no sign of rodent. If I had, I’d have had to burn the house down.

My next theory, which I have not ruled out, though no doubt most of you will, is that the house spirits are leaving treats for Mr. Man, as a way to help me out since I’ve been sick, making sure he’s taken care of. It’s possible.

My final theory is that I’m doing this. The sleeping pills I’m taking (and have been taking for a month or so) are ones that do not make people inclined to sleep-eat, sleep-drive, or sleep-murder (my doctor and I discussed this), but it does happen, and back in my college days, I had a tendency to sleepwalk. Is it possible that I am getting up at night and bringing Mr. Man cat treats? And further, was the unexplained extremely strange taste in my mouth of late evidence that I have been eating the cat treats? And all this in my sleep?

This would make me just about the best cat mom ever, and would assure future purchases of Listerine by the case if I ever want MKL to kiss me again.

So tonight, I have washed all the sheets and comforters. We’re starting fresh. I have woven a complex maze of my work badge lanyard around all the cat treats. I am about to drug my pain-ridden self and go to bed. If the treats are disturbed in the morning and there’s kibble in the bed, I’ll have my answer.

If not, perhaps I’ll fall back on my Mother’s explanation of “A man came in and did it.” (Kelsea uses that phrase now.)

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My Mother died this night eight years ago, and I miss her beyond words. (Maybe she’s been feeding Mr. Man.)

Winter, particularly these two weeks, are very difficult for me. It seems especially hard this year. I am heavier than I have been. My depression is thick. My back hurts again. I am having a hard time remembering to be grateful for the wonderful things I have and that I’ve recently had an amazing trip to somewhere lovely and warm. And that in itself makes me sad.

When I trudged up the stairs from the bus station yesterday, as most I do most days, I came into Union Station (a story in itself). There are two remaining original benches in the new version of this place where I used to find such solace. On bad days, like yesterday, I try to lower my stress levels for a minute by sitting on one of these benches and just soaking in the spirits that still remain from thousands of travelers who passed through this building for over 100 years – including my own grandfather.

As I watched the light flooding through the high, round, window, a Cat Stevens song came on over the piped-in music. I think it was “Morning Has Broken”. I remember hearing that song when I was in the sunny front window of my first restaurant at 17. At that time, I knew where I wanted to go to college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew where I wanted to go. I was a little slip of a thing, a dancer. I was looking forward to my future, even though I couldn’t see what it was

There was a line in “Out of Africa”, one of my favorite movies, that says, “Perhaps God made the world round so we could not see too far down the road.”

I believe that.

I never thought I would be living in Denver, would have been here for over 30 years. That wasn’t in the plan when I stood in that sunny front window that afternoon. I wonder when I lost track of the plan? I wonder if I ever had a plan? MKL and I were talking about this the other day – how I have a hard time with creating a plan and sticking to it, especially when I have more than one thing to focus on. Together, he and I are building a plan, and that feels good. I never thought I’d be divorced, much less re-marrying. All of that makes me look forward to my future.

I watch my daughter planning her future – I think she’s better at it than I was, but then she’s more down-to-earth than I was. But I wonder, in twenty years, will she look back on being just 18, and having all these plans and dreams, and have achieved them? Or will she be like me, looking back and wondering, “What happened?”. If that’s the case, I hope she finds herself happy with where she is.

There’s that other saying that I love (credited to many) that “Life’s what happens when you’re making other plans.”

I believe that too.

So what’s the point of this ramble? I suppose it’s that when we are younger we cannot see our future, no matter how much we think we can or how optimistic we are. It’s great that we have that vision, but it’s a real challenge to make the vision a reality. I didn’t really understand that at 17. I do now. So that’s part of the point.

And the other part is that I am a gloomy otter and the eighth anniversary of my Mother’s death is next week.

I’ll find my light again. I promise.

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Little Cayman.

The mantra of my tribe is that Depression Lies. You may recall a post a few weeks ago about a young woman who committed suicide, a friend of my daughter. I have thought of her often, and of the culture in which our teenagers grow to adulthood (as if any of us every REALLY become adults – I still maintain that we’re all just playing at being grown-ups, and some of us are just better at it than others.) I would never blame a parent for a child’s suicide. I have nothing but the utmost, heartfelt compassion for what they must feel. Since I have personally contemplated suicide and self-harming behaviors since I was young, I feel I want to share my perspective on it now as the parent of a teenager.

It’s very difficult to judge your own capabilities as the parent of a teenager. You think you are encouraging your child to work harder, to achieve more in school, and somehow she interprets that message as “I am a disappointment to my parents,” even when you are conscious of telling your teenager how proud you are of her. And if a teenager is suffering from depression, that sense of being a disappointment becomes not just overwhelming, but seemingly unconquerable. Sharing those same feelings with their parents just makes teenagers think that they are even more of a failure, that their parents won’t believe them, or won’t understand, and their world starts to spiral out of control, through behaviors such as excessive drinking, cutting, or drugs, and sometimes with unthinkably horrible consequences – such as choosing to end their own lives.

I have consciously tried to not push my daughter too hard in school, and she has been an excellent student since kindergarten. And yet, in her eyes, I am constantly nagging her about her homework and her grades, despite the fact that she has proven to me that she’s got this – she’s proven it by her grades. These difficult few months, combined with the fact that she’s taking much harder courses in her senior year, two of her grades aren’t aligned with what her grades usually are.

One very cold night, as I was waiting for a ride at a bus stop, we talked about it on the phone, both of us in tears. I realized what she needed to hear – and what I told her – was that SHE was not the sum of her performance in school. That she is an amazing, intelligent, compassionate, talented, beautifully unique human being, and that’s what matters. Not – at this stage of the game, as she is trying to find her future – how well she did on a Calculus test. I told her I didn’t care about her grades anymore. And I meant it. It seemed to take some of the pressure off, and I am truthfully telling her now that I am proud of her when she is trying her best, and proud of her no matter what. I remember what it was like at her age, struggling with workloads, priorities, time management, work, socializing, and just trying to figure out my future. Remembering that is great help when your teenager is in the same place.

I have not chosen the “friend, not parent” role, though we are friends. I tell her when I need to say “mom stuff”, like having a conversation about the availability of drugs when she goes to college, and the dangers of drugs now versus what was out there when I was her age. I know she’s done things that I don’t want to know about, even though I thought she was telling me everything. She wasn’t. That happens when teenagers are trying to find their path to independence. We, as parents with seemingly open relationships with our children, need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that this will happen, and short of locking your teenager in her room for four years, the only thing you can do is be supportive, vigilant, protect your child-woman as best you can, arm them with as much information as you can, and hope that, if they do not feel they can share with you, that they can find someone trustworthy to share their feelings and confusion with.

My daughter was fortunate enough to have a counselor at school who, while she often gave her the same advice I did, was not me. She is a stronger and wiser soul for having had that counselor at her disposal, and having made that close connection. I was sad to see politics make her counselor leave the school just as so many students were recovering from their friend’s suicide. But that is the way of the world, and at this age, there is no sense in sheltering our soon-to-be-adults from it.

I’m probably rambling a little. I’m trying to help with my words. I’m hoping some parent will see themselves in my words, and think about what they are pushing their child to do, how they are pushing, why they are pushing, and have an awareness of how their child might be perceiving what the parent thinks of as gentle pushing. Let’s try to see our teenagers as more than just students or ultimate players, but who they are, which is so much more. We can offer guidance, but not make the horse drink. We can offer to listen, but cannot expect to be told the whole truth. We can be aware of signs of depression, but must understand that we may not see it.

These are the people we love more than anything else in the world. And as my mother always said, we are all doing the best we can with what we have at the time – both us as parents, and them as teenagers. Let’s just hope it’s enough to keep our children here in this world, instead of thinking that leaving it is the best or only choice they have.

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I know I’ve been gone a while, and I’m sorry. My darling daughter had her 18th birthday on Monday. We held Thanksgiving at the Bungalow four days after we returned from our trip. So it’s been a little crazy. But the Bungalow is as clean as it has ever been (at least in several rooms). I was an Amazon in disposing of a fierce, terrifying mouse, with much assistance from MKL (I have a ridiculous fear of mice, no matter how cute or small). Mr. Man has been super snuggly since I got back. And we missed the -16 weather in Colorado during our days on Little Cayman (and one day on Grand Cayman).

I’m glad we went. We found the people to be the nicest we’ve met in all my trips to the Caribbean – lots of ex-pats and British folk – but neither Grand nor Little Cayman was “our” island. The beaches on Anegada and Great Exuma trump any we saw on either island. If we hadn’t gone, I would have always wondered, and it probably would have been a different experience were we divers, as I hear the diving is amazing. It was still wonderful to have a week to read, relax, pet iguanas, drink rum, and watch sunsets and just be together.

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Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman.

Quote of the day: “Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.” — William Goldman

Daily gratitudes:
Beach colors
Cold milk
Bookstores
Lunch with MKL
Good family

It is a night for positive prayers and intentions:

That people and animals less fortunate than I will find a warm and caring place to survive the projected cold and our current -7 degree night

That my sweet friend at work’s family finds strength and peace in their time of approaching loss

The MKL and I can successfully accomplish our tropical sabbatical to fend off winter for just one week longer

That this cold snap is gone before we return

That Mr. Man is well looked after by his caretakers in my absence (it’s his birthday on Friday)

That I can accomplish the long list of to-dos before departure time

That my physical not-rightness improves and is healed by rest and rum

I have always found my prayers more powerful when I turn my eyes to the sky and speak to the Great Spirit as a friend. This church in the Bahamas inspired me to do that. It was lovely inside and out, and a visiting orb accompanied me during my solitary explorations there.

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Georgetown, Great Exuma, Bahamas.

Quote of the day: “Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur? Half the benefit of prayer is in the asking itself, in the offering of a clearly posed and well-considered intention. If you don’t have this, all your pleas and desires are boneless, floppy, inert; they swirl at your feet in a cold fog and never lift.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

Daily gratitudes:
Straight roads and green lights
Loving my daughter
Feeling blessed by my relationship with my parents (and missing them daily)
A warm nightgown and bedsocks
The kindness of strangers, experienced twice today

I was starting to write a post about the ongoing consequences of teen suicide, and the words just weren’t flowing, and they are important words. So instead, because I am feeling a little better, I give you Abby. The fluffiest, happiest, snuggliest most adorable T-shirt wearing dog to ever brighten a warm Saturday ultimate Frisbee game before our freezing temperatures hit. And if you have been feeling bad for over a month and need to feel better, get an Imaging Center to tell you that it will cost you $500 for their services. That’ll make you get well pretty darn quick.

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Broomfield, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.” —  Milan Kundera

Daily gratitudes:
My bear of a coat
Feeling better
Chicken noodle soup
Helping
Knowing that there is a hammock and a sunset and MKL in my very near future, all in the same place

Not a bar fly, but a bar cat. I can’t remember this little fellow’s name, but he was certainly friendly and adventuresome. And a poser. Still battling something being wrong with me, and hoping that our sabbatical on Little Cayman will be the cure.

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Great Exuma, Bahamas.

Quote of the day: “I know of a cure for everything: salt water…in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”   — Isak Dineson

Daily gratitudes:
Cozy covers on cold nights (but missing MKL)
Understanding doctors
Good talks with good friends
Hope
Tomorrow

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