Exploring The ‘Hood

One thing I absolutely adore about my new house, and my new neighborhood is that I can live far enough outside of town that it’s a personal sanctuary, but I’m close enough to a city that has all of my personal favorite stores.  The farthest one away is a 45 minute drive on the freeway (to just past Lone Tree).

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Just up the road from our home is a field shared by cows and the pronghorn.  The males have horns like deer, and the females don’t.  They are quite shy, and when I pulled over they took off.  I had to switch lenses to my 800 mm.

The top two pictures show how close the pronghorns to the city.

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On sunny days and nights this is what I see.  This picture was taken before a stretch of foggy weather, then we had beautiful weather, and again we had snowy weather.

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The foggy weather still yields beautiful scenery. Though the mountain is not visible, the pictures, I still think the pictures are beautiful.

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A few weeks ago, the fog broke, and this is what we saw on Pike’s Peak.  Snow came back like the first time we visited, and picked out our new home.

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Yesterday, we had a snow storm.  It was fantastic.  I slowed down the shutter speed, so that I could capture the snowflakes in without them looking too blurry.  The after effect made for the most perfect winter wonderland.  Sadly, the only remnants of snow are in the shadows of our home, and where the trees cast a shadow.

Besides the pronghorns that live the fields near our home, we also have two red tailed hawks.  They have a nest in our front yard, and we can hear them call in the late-afternoon, when they come out to hunt.  We also frequently will hear their young cry for food.  There are plenty of insects, field mice, and snakes to feed their babies.

 

This year we had a record number of painted ladies.  The painted lady butterfly flew through Colorado instead of taking their typical route through Florida.  It is hypothesized that it was because of the hurricanes that hit during the season.  Before the freeze we experienced, there were still many wild flowers to attract the butterflies.

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And of course there are song birds galore.  I imagine they will be migrating soon, so I won’t hear many of them during the winter, but I can still enjoy them.  The hummingbirds have gone already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time Flies When You Are Having Fun

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Immediately after I was released from the hospital, we went to celebrate Shane’s 20th reunion at the Air Force Academy.  Twenty years have flown by.  In twenty years, we moved around twelve times (thirteen if you count extended TDYs)– Minnesota to Colorado Springs to Oklahoma to New Mexico (me) and Louisiana (him) to North Dakota (both) to Germany to North Dakota to Virginia to Ohio to Florida to Colorado Springs. We have survived five years of separation, and four deployments (two combat).  And now we are back where it all began.

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Thursday, we went to Antlers, a local hotel, and picked up our tickets.  One thing about the reunion is it’s quite expensive (the tune of $900!).  The registration alone was $100 each.  It included a dinner and free drinks on Thursday night.  There we met up with friends we hadn’t seen in years.  I found out that several people Shane sang with in Catholic Choir were living here locally.  It was so nice to see people I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and being asked to come hang out!

On Friday, we went to the actual Academy and toured it.  We went to Shane’s old squadron.  Talked to the cadets.  We learned interesting statistics about the new class.  The greatest statistic was the cadet class in 1997 was only 10% female, while the cadet class in 2021 is 30% female!  It was so nice to see such a change in environment at the Academy.  Most of the women at the academy are studying STEMM majors.  So it’s not just “fuzzy” majors.  These women are going to be the future leaders in Engineering and Math career fields.

We also found out that Shane’s boss in Florida, General Silvaria is now the Superintendent at the Air Force Academy.  It was nice to see him and his wife again.

At the end of the day we went to the memorial service.  There were several deaths in the four reunion classes (1972, 1992, 1997, and 2007).  They read the names of the deceased this year (including one senior) in each class.  Played Taps, and the Missing Man formation of A-10s.  The clouds have begun to roll in, and the angels began to cry during the formation.  It was beautiful and sad at the same time.  There was one guy in Shane’s class that died this year in combat.  It made this ceremony extra special, as the family was there to lay roses on his name.  There was not a dry eye in the crowd.

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At the end of the ceremony, I caught this nice fellow watching with his friend.  He is a PTSD service dog, who was attending with a 2007 graduate.  It’s a stark reminder of the sacrifices that living veterans are making.  It has changed my attitude about being a veteran.  I am considered a disabled veteran, and for years I was not proud of my service.  I didn’t deploy.  When I left the service I got someone else’s going away gift, and I felt like I didn’t sacrifice.  But recognizing those that did make the ultimate sacrifice, and seeing the PTSD dog made me feel blessed, that even though I have service connected cancer, I did experience what my husband and other vets have experienced.

The weekend ended with the football game.  I don’t have any pictures from this event.  I brought my camera, but decided to put it back in the car.  The game was a close one, but our Falcons could not pull it out in the end.  Anyway, the kids, Shane, and I went to the class tailgate, where we met a friend from both Shane’s squadron AND pilot training, Ryan.  Turns out Ryan is a published author, so I got his card to discuss with him how to get published (I have kind of decided to publish my book as a collection of short stories and novellas).  When we got to our seats, it started raining.  The rain started out lightly, then the wind picked up, and by 9:00 minutes into the game, it was 48-degrees, with driving rain, and 30 mph winds.  We watched the Falcons score first, and then we decided to leave.

As we left, my son, decided to hit every puddle.  We got home, fired up the fireplaces, and turned on the game.  Luckily we left, as the game was on an 80-minute lightening delay.  We flipped from various Big Ten games, drank hot chocolate, and ate chips and dip.  All-in-all we really enjoyed ourselves at the reunion.

 

July Camping

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In July we went camping.  It was our first Colorado camping trip and we had a great time.  We went to Eleven Mile State Park.  I don’t even know how to describe where it is, but it’s on the other side of Pike’s Peak.  The reservoir runs along a river fed by snow melt.  The lake has Northern Pike, Salmon, Trout, Bass, and Crawdaddies.

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Yes, that’s right Crawdaddies, Mudbugs, or crawfish, the little red delights that are often found in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras.  They were in season when we got there.  Some of the park rangers were having a weekend seafood boil.    We were surprised to say the least.  Unfortunately, our boat is broken, and Shane had to take it to the shop after we got home.

While the kids and Shane went fishing, I walked around camp, and took some pictures of camp. I found one of the Colorado Springs Rocks.  The staff from a beauty salon in town had hidden rocks throughout the park.  There were a lot of song birds too.  The top two pictures posed for me on the picnic table.  The other bird and rabbit were regular visitors to our campsite.

 

And flowers galore!  We took hikes on the third day through the pine and birch trails.  I have traded tropical flowers for wild flowers.  Succulents, red poisonous berries, and other fragrant flowers.

 

And of course a new toy.  I sucked it up and bought a super wide angel lens.  It took perfect pictures of the landscapes around our camp.  I could get full mountains without turning my camera all sorts of different directions.  I still haven’t figured out astrophotography.   But hopefully I will be able to take pics when I get out of the hospital.

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And we had our security system.  She LOVED sleeping outside, and getting in touch with her wild side (chasing ground squirrels and birds).  Thor didn’t pose for me.  He would walk up to me every time I put up my camera.  The only time I can get a good picture of him is if I am at the end of the yard, and he’s running towards me.

 

I’m Still Here…

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Hello friends, it’s been awhile.  A lot has happened, and I have been busy, but I have not forgotten you.  Where to begin…  I finished up Doxil chemotherapy in May.  I was stable, some of the tumors were even starting to shrink.  But the doctor wanted to save my last eight infusions for another time.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and we are not quite at desperate measures.

In June, we moved.  We left Florida forever (I will visit, but I will never live there again).  I was regaining my health, and I found my new sanctuary in Colorado.  Florida was beautiful in a tropical way.  There were tropical smelling flowers, calming beaches, and thick forests.  Colorado is beautiful in a mountainous, rugged way.  There is wild life walking through our yard, song birds of every variety, and hummingbirds galore.

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We got settled and used to our new surroundings.  I sat out in the cool evenings and watched the sunsets.  In the mornings, I drank coffee and watched the sunrises.  Then things started to brew.  A few months into moving, I had my first bout of illness.  Easily explained– it was the coffee.  I was not used to drinking coffee, and coffee used to make me sick.  I had a biopsy, too.

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In July and August the storms started.  The illness struck again, but this time it was Kale.  I was trying to change my diet, and it had to be kale.  It was too rough on my digestive track.  The numbers on the scale were starting to creep up, despite me being a little more active.  I decided I was going to hike the Bar Trail next year (13 miles walk, 7000 foot elevation gain).  I had started to even run.  I was accepted into Camp Mak-A-Dream.

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Then in August, the poo hit the fan.  The first week, I was sick, then I had a week where I felt a little better, then the next week I was sick.  I had an appointment with my doctor on the 21st.  The evening of the 20th, I got really, really bad.  I had lost control of my bowels, I lost control of my bladder.  My hands and feet contorted, and I could not move them.  I had soaked a shirt in sweat.  I stripped naked, and sat on the toilet for nearly three hours.  I alternated between vomiting and having diarrhea.  I didn’t know if I should go to the ER, or wait.  Finally, the Zofran, Imodium, and Tylenol took affect, and I was able to put on a Depends, and go to sleep.

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The next day it was confirmed.  My cancer was no longer stable.  It was growing, and producing fluid in my abdomen.  I had gained 20+ pounds over the summer.  I went from a size 10 to a size 14 by the time I saw the doctor.  The fluid is called Ascites (pronounced- A-CEE-TEES).  I was going back on chemo stat.  The new regimen– Gemzar, Cisplatin, and Avastin.  Three days after my first infusion, I checked my weight.  I was down over 15 pounds!

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The side effects weren’t bad.  They were there.  I got my second infusion on Labor Day.  Yes, the nurses in Colorado work on Labor Day.  Nurses are my heroes.  A few days after my second infusion, I left for Montana!  I was a little bit nervous.  There’s forest fires in the area, but I had fun.  I tried a lot of new things– horseback riding (I hadn’t been in over 20 years), archery, photography (next time I’m bringing my “nice” camera), writing, painting, and I could go on and on.  The biggest thing for me is I made life-long friends that I would never imagine I could make.  You see I have difficulty making friends.  But the women I met there “got it.”  The complaints I had about family and friends, who didn’t “get it” were the same.  They understood that since my surgery I tend to fart loudly, that there are certain things I don’t enjoy anymore, and understood the time I wrote ten checks, because I could NOT remember how to write a check (chemo brain is no joke).

 

After four glorious days of forgetting I had cancer, enjoying the company of my new sisters, and just an amazing time.  I came home.  On Tuesday (the 12th), I started to have cold symptoms.  It was just a cough.  On Wednesday, the cough turned into a deeper cough, fever, and dizziness.  I drove myself to University of Colorado Memorial North Hospital late Wednesday.  I was admitted into the cancer-ICU ward (it’s combined).  Several blood tests, infusions, oxygen, and fevers as high 103.6 later, I was diagnosed with influenza a.  I posted on the group Facebook page, and we discovered over 20 women had similar symptoms, six of us with the full blown flu.  I’m the only one still in the hospital.  My platelets are recovering, my white blood cell count just went up.  My bone marrow is non-existent.  I’m on anti-viral medication, anti-biotics (even though I don’t have a bacterial infection, they are keeping me on it because I have no immune system), and some other medications.  I am hoping to go home on Tuesday, but who knows.  My chemo on Monday is cancelled.

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The silver lining, because there is always a bright side, I get to catch up on my blog.  I have edited some photographs, read a novel, done word puzzles, watched football, binge watched USA Networks Movies, and decided that I am going to play with plastic pumpkins and glitter, paint a few of my sunset pictures, do a mountain mosaic, and brainstorm on how to open an online gallery called “Teal Expressions”.  There isn’t much sleep to be had in the hospital though.  But anyway, you’ll be seeing more of me later.

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Teal Expressions is an idea I have been playing with for a long time.  I would like to have an online storefront gallery with women, who are battling (or have battled) ovarian cancer.  It would be an opportunity for artists to earn money, raise money, and express their art.  You can submit anything from visual art (prints, wall art, postcards, greeting cards), wearable art (jewelry, scarves, blankets, shirts), or media art (self published, poetry, self-published prose, produced music).  If anyone is interested in assisting me on creating Teal Expressions, please comment below.  I am in the planning stages right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Am Groot

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Photo courtesy of Disney and Marvel copyright 2014

I Am Groot

When I watch television, movies, and even the news in April, I see lots of stories and information about autism.  I am aware that April is Autism Awareness month, for my family autism isn’t relegated to one month, rather it is every day, every month, every year.  We are more aware of autism than the average family.  My son, Ryan has autism.

When I have asked people, who are not as aware as I am about autism, what they think autism is?  They point to characters on television shows, movies, and children and adults in the media, who have autism.  Nearly every single person, or character, with autism is high functioning.  Prime examples are Forrest Gump, Max from Parenthood, Dr. Latham from “Chicago Med,” even the kid who shot all the baskets, the kid who was voted homecoming king.  The media turns a blind eye towards people with autism, who are not high functioning.  My son is one of those people.  Until very recently, there are no mention of lower functioning adults and children in the movies, television, or even in the news.  In 2014, Marvel Comics finally produced a movie that showed a character with limited speech in a very positive light.

You may ask who?  My answer is “I am Groot.”  We first saw the first “Guardians of The Galaxy” movie a few years ago, and my daughter was the first to notice that Groot was my son.  She said that our family was Rocket.  For those that do not know comic book, Marvel, or the movies, I’ll explain.  Groot and Rocket are a pair of bounty hunters that are looking for Star Lord.  Groot is played by Vin Diesel.  Rocket is voiced by Bradley Cooper.  Groot is a large tree creature.  The only thing he says throughout the entire movie is— “I am Groot.”  His partner Rocket, a walking, talking raccoon, translates based on context, body language, and intonation what every “I am Groot” means.  That’s what we do with my son.  Our family has become master interpreters for our son.  We know the meaning behind every phrase.

My son on the other hand is just like Groot, from his mannerisms to his monotonous speech, but he is also like Groot in other aspects.  Groot defends his friends with ferocity.  He has a really wicked sense of humor, and pretty good dance moves.  At the end of the movie, Groot sacrifices himself for his friends.  He grows into a dome that protects the rest of the Guardians from dying while their ship crashes.  While he grows, he transforms the environment to a beautiful starlit dome.  And he says one phrase while sacrificing himself, “We are Groot.”  This statement makes Rocket realizes Groot’s intention, and he begs him not to sacrifice himself.  In the epilogue we see a new baby Groot, who dances and sings to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5.  Like Groot, my son is brave, strong, caring, with a wicked sense of humor, he is smart, and when he says something, often it is so profound and meaningful.

In the waning days of the month of April, I changed my profile picture to Baby Groot.  I have posted “I am Groot” (sometimes I include emojis to show my mood) at random times throughout the day.  I have responded to other people’s posts with “I am Groot.”  Most people haven’t asked me why, some think that I’m being facetious, sarcastic, or I’m just a moron.  To the few that have asked why, I messaged them my reasoning (I have also posted it on my wall), and I encourage other parents to do the same to bring awareness of children (and adults) with autism and other developmental disabilities with limited language skills.  So in honor of my son, Ryan, “We are Groot.”

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 10 and 11: Portrait Environmental and Reflection

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I’m not really that great at portraits, and I’m still kind of behind on my photography challenge, so I’m double stacking my pictures today.  I took this bird a few weeks ago at the Maxwell-Gunther Reserve on the Chocktawatchee Bay in Niceville.  It’s a group of cabins reserved for military personnel and retirees.  Really close to Destin.

If you ever wonder where songbirds go when they fly south for the winter, this is it!  The birds come here.  Often in January and February our area is over-run by birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  We don’t have the parrot population that California gets, but we do get a lot of songbirds, loons, ducks, geese, eagle, falcon, and owls.  Anything that migrates from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the East Coast comes here.

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For week 11, the challenge was reflection.  Last week I went to EPCOT for the Flower and Garden show.  I love taking pictures of anything natural.  It’s my favorite thing to do is walk through gardens and take lots of pictures.  I have a really great submission for week 13, because I got some great macro shots of butterflies.

I have done a LOT of reflection the last few weeks.  Sadly, I lost another friend to cancer.  When you have cancer, you become a survivor, but you also realize that life is not something that you take advantage of.  With losing my father, then making and losing cancer friends, you realize every sing day is a gift from God.  So I have been doing a lot of reflecting, and I think one thing I would like to start is some kind of Art Foundation for cancer patients.  Painting, photography, and mosaics have gotten me through this tough time.  I think it would be great if we (survivors and friends) did things like the 52 week challenge, and then have an on-line store, where the proceeds go to help families dealing with cancer it would be great.  It’s something I’m tossing around in my brain right now.  I would sure like to do something like that.

Well, it’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, and I plan on taking my camera to the baseball game tonight to get some shots of my kids with their friends.

Dogwood Photography Weekly Challenge Week 8: Panorama

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I skipped week 8.  It has been a hectic week this week.  My husband has been in China, my kids and I had a lot of appointments, and I had chemo today.  Week eight was a panoramic picture.  I went to a local military beach and snapped this picture and merged it in Light Room.

My infusion went well today, though I’m considerably tired.  I did get some really positive news.  My CA-125 reading went down 40 points!  The doctor is going to continue me on Doxil.  I’m still planning on going to next base to talk to the doctors about clinical trials.

Here are some more pictures from the shoreline along the Chochtawatchee Bay in Florida…