Saturday, July 15, 2017

I'm Moving On.This Southern Girl Is Headed Home.

I'm movin' on
At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me
And I know there's no guarantees, but I'm not alone
There comes a time in everyone's life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone

I sold what I could and packed what I couldn't
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town
I've loved like I should but lived like I shouldn't
I had to lose everything to find out
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road
I'm movin' on
- I'm Movin' On, Rascal Flatts

The time has come to move on. When I moved to Laramie, I never expected to stay here forever. I planned to come so that I could watch my children grow up, and when they were adults, I would move on. I had always planned to move to Boise, Idaho, where my best friend Jenny lived. I thought that's what I would do right up until last year when she got married and moved to the San Fransisco, California area. I am still welcome there, but after some research I'm just not interested in California, though her daily photos of the beauty and sea life do have me jealous.

Since I have been in Laramie, I have had four people that meant a lot to me pass away, and I was unable to afford to go back to Virginia for their services. Thankfully, I visited my Great Aunt Margaret and Granny Jane my last trip back to Virginia, right before each of them took a downturn in their health. As I get older, so do all my loved ones, and I don't want to miss any more time with those I love.

I came out here for a reason. I got to spend a year living with Briony and seeing Cale one to two times a week for family dinners. After Briony left, Cale was cut off from my life by his father, and I have stayed hoping that as he got older he would go against whatever he was told and want to see me again. I will never fault Cale for doing what his father told him, or for choosing his father over me. There has been a lot of guilt put on Briony for "choosing" me over her real, blood family. I never asked her to make a choice. In fact, I desperately wanted her father to want her in his life after she moved in with me. In the same way that Cale came over regularly, I would have loved for her to be invited to their house regularly, but that was not what happened and that cannot be changed now. I would never want Cale to chose me over anyone, I only wish he would chosen to have me as a part of his life.

I have stayed until Cale has been of legal age for over a year. I remain hopeful that one day, whether in the near future or many years from now, he will want to rekindle our relationship. I will never stop being his mother, and never stop loving him and missing him. I think of him every single day and nothing will ever change that. But I cannot stay here for the hope of him contacting me.

Wyoming has been good to me. I have worked for four and a half years at the best veterinary clinic in town, first Snowy Range under Christa, and now at Gem City (they bought Snowy Range last Sept) under Crystal and Jacque. I have been taken care of financially by this job and have cared for some amazing pets. I cried as I said goodbye to my favourite cats, Gabby, and his wonderful mother invited me to visit her in Texas (she winters there, and is hoping to get there full time soon). I have met some amazing people that I will be friends with long after this. Tia, April, Maria, Christa, and Amanda have been there for me through thick and thin.  Baend and Janel, I'm so glad I know Tia so I can also count you as friends. And my new Gem City co-workers and friends, it has been a pleasure working with you.

I am going to miss so many people when I go. But thankfully, through social media and texting, I will be able to keep in touch with these wonderful people who have become my family away from home.

I am grateful that I was able to see so many things out here: Mount Rushmore, the geographic center of the US, the actual center of Wyoming, the Tetons, Yellowstone, and Devils Tower. I was kissed by a wolf! I have had a good four years, but I am ready to go back to Virgina, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, I have forgotten what it's like to experience FALL! I want to put my feet in the ocean again. There are things and people that I will miss when I leave, but what I will be gaining is what my heart needs right now.

So thank you, Wyoming, for showing me your wonders. I am a better person for having come here, but it's time to go HOME.

I will let everyone know when I am back in the Commonwealth.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Run Into The Wild 5K.

In 2011 my friend Jenny and I spent Labor Day weekend with Briony and Cale in Denver. One of the things we did before returning them to Laramie was to visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.  The facility was amazing, and they were in the process of building their Mile Into The Wild walkway, which allows visitors to walk above the animal enclosures so that the animals do not get stressed. They have since completed their walkway, which is now 1.5 miles long. I am looking forward to going back to visit this year.

My friend April and I are participating in the Wild Animal Sanctuary's Run Into The Wild 5K on June 3rd.

Please help us support the animals 450+ animals at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, by making a donation through my page. The process is fast, easy and secure. Thanks so much for your support... and please don't forget to send this link to any friends you think might be interested in donating!

You can sponsor us by clicking this link HERE. No amount is too small, if you have a dollar or two, please consider donating to our fundraiser page. Thank you.

Here are some of the photos I took during our visit in 2011.

Steamboat Springs.

A couple of years ago I drove through Steamboat Springs on my way home from geocaching in Utah. I only had time to drive through at that time, but thought it was a lovely city that I'd like to go back to visit. Last year I planned a weekend getaway, but didn't ended up going. I will still do that one day. The Steamboat Grand has rooms with hot tubs, fireplaces, and private balconies. I want to get one of those rooms on a snowy weekend, and spend some quality time in the hot springs.

This weekend I went down to do some geocaching. I drove down Friday after work, and Georgia and I slept in the car for the first time. I wouldn't call it comfortable in the 4Runner, but it was more comfortable than in the Rogue. I think it will be better when it's actually warm enough to put the windows down. It dropped to the low 40s, and I was fine in my sleeping bag, but Georgia was cold, so she crowded me the whole night.

I was at Winona's for breakfast when they opened at 7am. I got a waffle with bacon cooked inside of it, and fresh fruit. It was so good. Then I headed to some geocaches and to see some sights.

I found eight caches, which isn't a big number. There were three I couldn't find, and one that I found but didn't have a wrench to get it off. Georgia and I met a nice lady out walking that told me about the Fish Creek Falls, so we went on a short hike to see them from above and below.

There was some fun art that had geocaches hidden in, on, and around.

Breakfast was so good that I went back to Winona's and got lunch on my way home. I was exhausted by the time we got home, and Georgia and I crashed for the rest of the day.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Six Years of Geocaching.

Six years ago today I logged my first Geocache. My sister started taking me out with her when she went caching as a way to get me out of the house after my marriage ended. Since then I have far exceeded her in the amount of time I spend caching and the number of caches that I have found. It gets me out of the house, it takes me to places that I'd likely never see otherwise, and it has allowed me to meet some great people. I honestly do not know where I would be right now if I hadn't discovered the game.

*You've found 842 cache(s) since your first cache find on 04/23/2011.
*You find the most caches in June and usually on Saturday.
Find Rate
0.3838 caches/day
Longest Streak
18 consecutive days with finds from 08/01/2013 to 08/18/2013
Longest Slump
115 consecutive days without a find from 10/31/2011 to 02/23/2012
Best Day
63 caches in one day on 09/04/2016
Best Month
72 caches in September of 2016
Best Year
276 caches in 2013
There are many challenges that one can try to complete within the Geocaching realm. All of these challenges are optional, of course, but they bring me joy to attempt.

Some of my challenges that I have started (and some I have finished):

Find a cache in every county in the state of Wyoming.

Find a cache on every page of the DeLorme map book for the state of Wyoming.
Find a cache on every single day of the year. This is a major work in progress, and finding caches in Wyoming in winter can really be a challenge.

Find a cache that was placed in every month since since Geocaching started, and one that was placed on every day of the year. I'm not exactly trying to do this challenge, but it would be cool if I accidentally completed them.

Find a cache in every difficulty/terrain rating. This one I'm not trying to complete, because I know that I won't be scuba diving or rappelling to get the most difficult caches that are out there. 

Find a cache in every state/county/country, etc. This one is obviously more involved, and I have been gradually marking off states as I plan trips. When I took the children to Washington DC, we popped into Maryland and West Virginia for a cache in each. When I visited Jenny in Idaho we popped over to Oregon just for a cache. When I drove to Wyoming, I planned my trip to get a cache in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. One weekend I drove to Utah for a cache, and another I drove to South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana for a cache. One crazy weekend I drove to New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma for a cache in each.

I've been to almost every state on the East coast, but will have to get back to them to find caches, and I'll knock out California, Nevada, and Arizona this fall on a trip I have planned. I'll eventually get them all, and I'll get back to Tijuana one day to add Mexico. In a few years I'll be back in the UK, and am already planning which countries I can get on that trip.

Last week I went to Seattle and Vancouver Island, adding a Washington state and Canada to my tally.
Seattle is the birthplace of Groundspeak, the company that started Geocaching. I ultimately decided on Seattle for a vacation for that reason, and because it was a quick jump across the water to Canada.

I arrived in Seattle on Wednesday evening and took a train and a bus to my hotel. The airport is quite a ways South of the downtown area and my hotel was North, but the public transportation is good, and very inexpensive. I checked into my hotel and walked to a little Mediterranean restaurant for dinner. It was an early to bed night.

Thursday morning I was up at 5am, and had already packed my bag for the day. I took a bus as close to the dock where I was to catch my ferry as I could. With no traffic I got dropped off earlier than I had thought I would, so I took a detour to the Space Needle, which is where I was when the sun started to light the sky. From there I unsuccessfully tried to find a geocache on my way to the dock, but did find my first amazing cup of coffee. I am a relative coffee newbie, but boy, coffee really is better in Seattle. I got a window seat for the three hour ride, with a table between myself and a lovely couple from Australia. 

My plan for Victoria, B.C. was to wander around the downtown area all day. I had mapped out caches and there is a castle and several museums. At the last minute I decided to rent a bicycle. Now, I am an insecure bike rider, made all the worse after having broken my arm during a tumble I took in Leicester. I was able to get this bike fitted just right for me, and the town is extremely bike friendly, and after a little while I was fairly confident in my skill. I rode close to 20 miles, first along the coast, then back through a busier commercial area. One of the caches I got was a webcam cache that I was lucky was on the Eastern portion of Victoria, as I was able to access the webcam on my phone to get the required screenshot (no cellular service in the downtown area). I got to Chinatown (oldest Chinatown in Canada and second oldest in North America - San Fransisco's is oldest) right as the rain started, and I took a break and got a takeaway for the ferry ride back to Seattle. I also walked down Fan Tan Alley, the narrowest street in Canada, which at it's narrowest it only 35 inches across.

I did manage to visit the mammoth at the Royal B.C. Museum before I had to be back to check into customs. There is a lot that I would like to see one day on a trip back to Victoria. I don't regret that I took the bike ride, but I do wish that I'd been able to see more in the downtown area. I got back to Seattle at almost 10pm, and took an Uber back to my hotel. The Uber rates are so much less than I've experienced in Colorado, which is fantastic for when you're just too tired to walk and walk and take buses. 

Friday morning I did not like the route the buses took to get to Geocaching HQ, so I took an Uber there. I spent about half an hour exploring the lobby/gift shop. By finding the cache hidden in the room, I got a souvenir for visiting HQ, and I picked up a passport for the GeoTour. I also got to take photos in the photo booth. It printed two copies, one to put in the HQ cache, and one to keep for a souvenir. I left there and headed to find the nine caches in the Tour. I tried to group the caches by farthest away first, but should have done the two mystery caches first, as they had me backtracking quite a bit to places I'd already been. The weather was good, though it was a bit chilly with the wind coming off the water. The Fremont neighborhood is a cool place. I visited a troll and ended my Tour with a phone booth cache at the front door to a Turkish cafe, so I had lunch there before hiking to the bus that would take me downtown.

It was on the bus that a man asked me, "do you geocache?" I thought I had forgotten to take my GPSr that I wear around my neck off, but when I looked down I realized I was wearing my Geocaching HQ hoodie that I'd bought that morning when it was chillier than I'd planned for. We talked for a few minutes until the bus got too busy to do so. He works in PR at Geocaching HQ. He'd been an avid cacher, and took a job at Geocaching HQ to be more involved. I regretted not asking his name, but later on the Wyoming associating FB page, a conversation was started about the GeoTour and I mentioned I'd met someone from the company, and it turns out that I met Chris, aka Rock Chalk (he'd given me a travel bug that said Rock Chalk, which at the time didn't mean anything to me).

When I got to Pike Place Market it was early afternoon. I walked all around, and there are some cool shops on the many floors. I saw the fish throw and wished there was a way to transport the some of amazing tulips back to Wyoming. I really wanted fish and chips from a place I found, but I wasn't really hungry yet. I debated getting it to go, but the restaurant had three stories of water views, so I went ahead and ate there, looking out of the third floor windows. On my way out of downtown I visited the Gum Wall (there is a cache hidden there but I did not try for it). I passed the original Starbucks, and could not help but laugh at the line half way down the block of people waiting to get in. The bus took me back to the hotel, and I crashed hard after my two days of walking in the fresh air.

Saturday morning I got packed up and walked a really long way to a bus that would take me to the Woodland Park Zoo. I did not have time to go there and back to the hotel, so I had my suitcase carry-on on my back, and my day pack on my front. The zoo isn't too large, so I was able to see everything in about an hour. I waited in line for 55 minutes to feed the penguins, when they got full and turned us away with only one person left in front of me. I was so tired at that point that I left and got an Uber to the airport. I got back to Denver on time, and picked up Georgia at her boarding facility in Fort Collins at 9pm. By the time I got home an hour and a half later, I was exhausted, but happy to have gotten so much done and explored so many cool places.
I couldn't go on my trips if I didn't know Georgia was well taken care of. She does so well at Four Paws Pet Hotel in Fort Collins. She gets her own toddler bed, and four 20 minute potty breaks/play sessions. I love that they have webcams so I can check on her while I'm away, though I only ever see her sleeping, since that's really all she ever does. They posted a few photos of her on their FB page, and surprise, surprise, she's being lazy! I love this silly girl.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Laser Eye Center of Northern Colorado.

This review is long overdue, but the week after I had surgery, I got very ill, which kept me down and out for over 40 days. I am finally feeling better, and catching up on things, so here is my story.

I have hated wearing glasses for a very long time. I got my first pair in the 5th grade (1985), and over the years I had plastic frames, wire frames, lenses that changed to sunglasses outdoors, and then contacts towards the end of high school as my eyes finally stopped changing drastically every year.  I did not have much problem with my contacts over the years, but they were a hassle. I couldn't go swimming unless I took them out, and I couldn't see ANYTHING without them, not even my friends in the pool. I never knew when one would fall out or get dirty, so I always had to carry a kit with me with extra lenses and solution. Traveling involved even more extra pairs, because I'd be lost if I needed to replace more than one of each on a trip. All in all, I hated it.

In 2008, I had decided that I would have Lasik surgery. I went through all of the preliminary testing and even had my surgery date selected, but then as life does, things happened and it got put on the back burner indefinitely. I'm not even sure why I forgot about it so long, probably only that I then had a family to spend money on and not just me, so it was not a priority. I continued to wear contacts until I moved to Wyoming in 2013, and then I discovered the never ending wind that was really hard on my eyes. They were always dry and uncomfortable, so I stopped wearing contacts and went back to glasses. This was good financially, but had its own problems, because the sun is almost always glaring down on you here, I had to start wearing hats or squint all the time, which was not ideal.

I decided that the second my house in Virginia sold I would schedule an appointment for Lasik surgery. On December 1, 2016 the house sold, and I had an appointment for my first evaluation and testing before Christmas. Everything looked healthy, I really liked the facility and their staff, and my surgery was scheduled for January 26, 2017. The Eye Center of Northern Colorado in Loveland was fantastic. They went over the procedure, what to expect, costs and what was included. They made me appointments here in Laramie for some of my pre and post exams so that I did not have to drive two hours each way more than necessary.

On January 26th I drove to Fort Collins, Colorado and checked Georgia into her boarding facility, and then continued on to the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Loveland, which offered a discount to Laser Eye Center patients, and was quite close to both food and the surgery center. I had a quick lunch nearby, and then I got an Uber from the hotel to the surgery center, arriving quite early, but I didn't want to risk being late. I checked in and paid my fee, and they asked what kind of music I liked. I requested country, and if an artist pick was possible, Keith Urban. The ladies were so calm and comforting while I waited, and they keep a nice selection of drinks and snacks for you while you wait. They were constantly checking on me to make sure I was comfortable, and answer any questions.

As the patient before me went in, I was instructed to take my Valium and then they took me back to a massage chair in a dark and quiet room. When it was my turn, Dr Foster met me in the surgery suite, where I was quite pleased that Keith was practically blaring from the sound system. After I had my eyes examined, I got on the bed. They went over everything as it was happening, and I would say that I was done in less than ten minutes. Each eye's procedure takes only seconds, but it felt longer. One eye was more uncomfortable than the other, but nothing was ever actually painful. When it was done they helped me sit up, and I could see! It was a bit foggy, but I could see the faces of everyone, and I had not been able to do that in so very long. Dr Foster checked my eyes again and then I went to another room where Peggy went over my instructions and put my eye shields on for me. At that point I was ready to go, but since I had to get my Uber, she helped me with my phone and then had me sit  and wait the six minutes until it arrived. I could see so much, and it was a big overwhelming, but with the eye shields on it was a little hard to focus on my phone, so they walked me out to the car and sent me on my way.

Riding back to the hotel was sort of like an out of body experience. The driver was really nice and asked what I'd had done, because clearly I looked like a bug monster at this point, with my eye shields taped on and sunglasses over them. Even with my required sunglasses over my shields, it was very bright, and a bit overwhelming that I could see so much. The driver kept asking me if I could read this or read that as we drove, and that really helped distract me, which was good. I got checked into the hotel and went up to sleep, which is what the doctor ordered. I woke up several hours later, and was famished. I was not allowed to drive the rest of the day, so I walked across the parking lot to the IHOP for a sandwich. I got a few stares when people saw me in my eye shields, but I did not care.

Friday morning I got up early and drove back to the surgery center for my 7:30am appointment. When it was my turn, Dr Foster did his exam, and I said everything looked great. I had 20/15 vision. Amazing. I went from about 20/400 to 20/15 in seconds.

For the first week I had to sleep in my eye shields to make sure that I didn't accidentally rub my eyes, which was a big no no until they'd healed. I had eye drops to use four times a day and moisturizing drops to use as often as I needed, which was about once an hour while I was awake. At home I was fine, but the first few days at work I wore my sunglasses inside, as the fluorescent lighting was harsh and dazzled me quite a bit. On day seven I had a check up with Dr Poteet here in Laramie and everything looked goo. I also had a 30 day check up, and this week I go to Dr Foster for my two month check up.

My eyes have continued to do well, and I only occasionally have to use the moisturizing drops. Sometimes at the end of the day I think to myself "I really need to take out my contacts" because they are feeling a little dry, and then I remember that I don't have contacts, and I put in some drops and everything is alright again.

A big part of me wishes that I'd had this surgery years ago, but another part of me is glad that I waited until now, because the technology has come so far, and I have benefited from that. The end result has been incredible, and I am just thankful that I was able to have the procedure done. To anyone that is scared or worried, just do it. I look forward to my trips this year where I only need to take my moisturizing drops, not the myriad bottles and supplies I had before. I look forward to going to Hawaii next year and being able to snorkel and swim. I look forward to not having my glasses fog up in the cold or have rain completely obscure my vision when caught in a storm. I am so happy for having had this surgery, and I am so grateful for the wonderful care I got from the team, especially Peggy, who was assigned to me at my first introductory meeting and was there with me before and after my procedure.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Dog's Purpose: A Review.

I had been wanting to see A Dog's Purpose since I first saw the trailer before Christmas. I have not read the book, because I have a hard time reading sad animal books. The movies are easier because I can just sit and cry if I need to. Reading is hard when you're crying, which is why I have yet to get past page one of The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Anyway, I decided today that I would see A Dog's Purpose. The theatre had more people in it than I usually have in the movies I've gone to here in town, and I was surprised by the number of children, considering this was a movie with a dog that dies over and over.

There are no spoilers, this detailed description is in the first five minutes, so that doesn't count as spoilers.

So, the film starts with a puppy being born. Cute, right? Until it gets picked up by animal control and euthanized (you don't actually see that part). Then his spirit goes into a puppy at a puppy mill. The puppy is overlooked, but escapes and is picked up by two guys that decide to sell it. They take him, but leave him in their truck where he starts to die of heat stroke. This is where the main character finds him, and his heroic mother opens breaks the window and they take him home, NOT THE VET, and lay him on the ground until he comes around. At this point I'm not loving the movie, to be honest.

After this, the movie improves greatly. It alternates between heartwarming, heartbreaking, and laugh out loud funny. Each different version of the dog's life is touching, but sad at times, because not all of his lives are as happy as his life with his boy was. I cried each time he died, which was four times in total. The ending was not a surprise, because the trailer gave it away, but it was touching how it happened.

While it was a decent film, and poignant, it's not one that I will ever feel the need to watch again, most likely. I would probably recommend it animal lovers. I overheard several little girls say how much they liked it when it was over as they were leaving the theatre, which surprised me a little as it was a slow mosey of a drama, and not what I would imagine kids would enjoy. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Twenty One.

My daughter turned 21 on February 1st.

We Skyped the weekend before, and we Facebook messaged on the day of. We have a Skype date in a few weeks. But it's not the same. Due to our circumstances we'll always be apart. Even if money were no issue, we will never be able to be in the same country for more than six months at a time. It's a heartbreaking fact, as one never knows the future, or how long we'll have together.

Today was a pretty crappy day. There was no one specific thing, just a bunch of little things that added up to a crappy day. By the time I got home from work I was ready for a beer (or three). I changed into jammies and drank my dinner while writing it all out for Briony to read when she got up. The act of writing out what happened today and how I feel made me feel better. Knowing that she will get it and support me no matter what helps. The amazing thing about my relationship with my daughter is that she is my best friend.

We struggled over the years.
I started as a stranger that moved into her house and made a bunch of rules, but enriched her life.
We moved to Virginia and I fully became head of the household, but there were growing pains.
She moved to Wyoming and we had an amazing long distance relationship with twice a year visits.
I moved to Wyoming and we became roommates and we struggled. 90% of the time we were great, but teenagers are not easy, and we teetered on the edge of good and bad for a while.
She moved away and I thought she might be lost forever, but things weren't really easier away from me, and we became close again.
Over the last three years that she's been gone, we've gone from mother and daughter to best friend and confidant. We've shared some of the most intimate details of our lives. We've shared our feelings and our dreams. We really can (and do) tell each other everything, and I am so grateful for that relationship.

Even though we'll never be able to live in the same town (or country), we don't need to. We are family and distance doesn't change that. I have been so blessed to have become her (and Cale's) mom. I am a better person for this different kind of love that I have been lucky enough to experience.

Happy Birthday, again, my dear daughter. I hope that this year is your best yet, and each one after is subsequently better. I love you.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Eight Years Ago Today.

Eight years ago today, I met a girl who would become my best friend. 
Eight years ago today, I walked into the dining room of her house and awkwardly (though faking confidence), shook her hand. 
Eight years ago today, I had no idea how my life would change, or even that four months later I would become her mom. 
Eight years ago today was a good day. 

We have shared a lot of good times and not so good times over the last eight years. 
We have celebrated moments that I will remember forever, and that forever changed who I am.
Those moments got us where we are, and they made us the family that we are now. 
My life would be perfect, if only Cale was still in it. 

I love you Briony, please share this with Cale. 
I love you both more than anything in this world. 

These photos were taken in August of 2008.  
It has been such an honor to be their mom all of these years, and to see how they've grown and become adults.