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My birthday was actually yesterday, but I think these count, along with all the other ones we saw this morning.  MKL and Kelsea have both made my birthday extended on either end and very special and I love them. Otherwise, the world has been hard on itself, and on the people I love, which makes it hard on me as well. The mixed curse and blessing of the empath. For now, I am listening to the wind in the aspens outside our room, and watching their green leaves shimmer and tremble as no others do.

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved. The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.” — Susan B. Anthony

Daily gratitudes:
Our voices
Our hearts
Forgiveness
Blue skies
Small adventures

 

Today is my birthday, and as it winds down, I must say it’s been very nice. Quiet. Work (though it’s too slow right now for my taste). Lunch with MKL, and a beautiful card. A tour of the vaults in the Broker Restaurant in downtown Denver. A yummy cupcake and card from a lovely co-worker. Facebook greetings. A call from my daughter. And now I’m cuddled on the couch watching The House of Elliot. I realized yesterday that MKL makes me feel so special every day, and has helped me gain so much confidence in myself, that I don’t need my birthday to be a particularly special day. Every day feels special.

I’m glad I was born, and there were years when I couldn’t say that. I did indulge in a turn of the “Happy Birthday to Moo” spinning musical cow when I got home tonight. Because it is my birthday.

Birthday
Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “…we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand.” —  Robert McCannon

Daily gratitudes:
The woman I passed who smelled like lily of the valley
Guiding a new town resident through the grocery store
That my parents had me
The occasional cupcake
A nice walk today

As the end of my birthday week celebration (or at least the first week of my birthday month celebration), MKL and I went to see La Boheme at the Central City Opera on Friday night.

It was magical.  Our last opera was The Marriage of Figaro by Opera Colorado in February.  If you’ve never seen an opera, I don’t recommend Marriage of Figaro as your first one.  I love opera, but haven’t seen one in about 17 years, and “Figaro” was four hours long and tough to follow, which made me wonder why I loved opera in the past.  But La Boheme made me remember.

We drove Tristan, MKL’s BMW show car, up to Central City just in time for an appetizer and a glass of champagne at the Teller House as the sun dropped below the mountains.   The Teller House fortunately still has an air of age and elegance to it.

Though the Face in the Barroom Floor has faded, as has much of the grandness of this former mining boom town since gambling was introduced back in the early 1990s.

The Face in the Barroom Floor – image from centralcityoperafestival.blogspot.com

We still had a little time to peek inside some buildings that have not been tainted by slot machines and blackjack tables, including the Williams Stables, which is also the purvey of the Central City Opera, and which holds small pre-performance excerpts of whatever is playing.

And the dagger in that picture?  REALLY sharp and totally unattended.

You are notified that it is almost time to head in for the performance by the staff marching up the street singing, by the ringing of handheld bells, and by  ten-minute, five-minute announcements, a friendly and gentle reminder to get your buns in gear.

Image from centralcityoperafestival.blogspot.com

It takes no time to get to your seat, and the interior of the Opera House is intimate, old, and beautiful.

As photos weren’t allowed during the performance, I borrowed this one from the Central City Opera website.

The Central City players performing La Boheme

This version of La Boheme was staged in Paris in the 1930s, and sung in Italian. The subtitles on the foot of the stage were very helpful, even though I knew the storyline, and I played with my own memory of two years of college Italian to see if I could catch any words or phrases. I must say, the subtitles were pretty loose with their translation, but it was still easy to follow.  The orchestra was seated beneath the stage, and I could just see the tops of their heads from our seats in the fourth row.

At intermission, we retreated to the darkened, romantic, terraced garden for a glass of wine.

Central City Opera House Courtyard image courtesy of http://www.waymarking.com

Every performer had a simply heavenly voice, and we both cried at the end (spoiler alert) when Mimi died.

It was a lovely evening, though it was late as we started home, and we had just reached the turn-off to I-70, when Tristan decided to play out his own death scene. Yep, he died.  And no amount of MKL’s roll-up-your-sleeves sensor/relay switching and eventual tire iron thumping made him start. My view was approximately this:

We wound up our evening with a long ride in a cushy (really!) tow truck, learning about life story of Ryan, owner of Father and Son Towing and longtime acquaintance of MKL.  It was a little surreal, but totally charming.

A marvelous birthday present…

I know that really, every day is special. But today is especially special for me. Why? Because today is the day that my most special and precious daughter arrived on this earth (at least this time around – she’s a very old soul.)

Because some of her friends read the blog, I’m not going to inflict much gushiness and reminiscing on her. After all, she’s 15 today, and you know what that can be like. At least I do. I remember 15 quite well.

The idea that she’s 15 is amazing to me. How could that be? Like an excellent vacation, it feels like she’s been here forever, and yet the time seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.  I wish I had been (then and now) the one to spend more time with her. I missed a lot of her day-to-day growing up by working so much to support us all these years. But she had an excellent parent in her dad for those many years.  And I do feel that the time we have spent together has been “quality” time, more precious for its scarcity.

It snowed the day before she was born; it is snowing now. That day was a Sunday. Today is a Thursday. But at 4:06 pm on that day, my life changed forever for the better because this strong, smart, beautiful, funny, caring soul decided to grace it.

I can’t wait for many more years of roadtrips, inside jokes, kitchen disasters, epic fails, soul-level hugs in front of endless fields of sunflowers, famous chats, and getting to know one another better as we both continue to grow and change.

Happy birthday, Kelsea, my dearest daughter and friend.

Kelsea and Jack. Machyllneth, Wales. June 2007.

Wednesday was Kelsea’s birthday.  She’s 14 now.  As she puts it, she’s now officially a teenager – 13 was just a warm-up year.  She didn’t want to make a big deal out of her birthday, so it was just a few gifts and dinner with Pat and me.  And of course, lots of facebook greetings.

I remember splotches of my childhood – probably more splotches than most people do.  But my memories of 14 and up are pretty continuous.  God, I was a pain in the ass at 14.  That was the year that I was incredibly embarassed to be a part of my own family.  I just wanted to be grown up and independent.  We took a train across Canada that summer and I remember my Mother blocking some twenty-something Frenchman who was trying to flirt with me.  She was having none of that.  And I remember saying to a boy that I met on the trip, who was a year older than me, that “Things change when you’re 15.”  Looking back, I would say that’s true.

Kelsea seems much more comfortable in her skin at 14 than I did.  While her dreams and plans change with expected regularity, she seems grounded.  (Of course, my dreams and plans change with alarming regularity now at 48, and I don’t wish that on anyone.)  She’s well-liked.  She stands up for herself, her friends, and those who don’t have a voice of their own (such as the planet Pluto – and yes, I said PLANET.)  She is curious – among her few birthday presents were, at her request, Charles Darwin’s Origins of the Species and Richard Dawkins’ The God Dilemma.  Seriously.  I haven’t even read these books, but she’s trying to organize her opinions about God.  More power to her.

She’s funny and compassionate.  She’s relatively reasonable for a teenager as long as she’s treated with respect.  She does get mad about things, and when she does, steam comes out of her ears.  She’s your average level of teenage grumpy.  She hates getting up in the morning and she hates being given “busywork” in the form of homework, especially when it’s a topic she will never need or use and has no pertinence in any vision of daily life.

In short, she’s awesome and the best thing in my life.  I hope she has a spectacular year.

Today is my birthday.  I’m 48 years old.  I could think that’s old, but I don’t.  For one thing, I’ve been saying I was 48 for months now.  I just forgot, or got confused, or wanted the year to be over, or felt like I’d earned another year.  Or something like that.

It has been a nice morning.  I woke early, refreshed.  I wrote a little.  I read a little.  A friend called.  I dozed for another hour.  I got up and correctly [insert wild screaming cheers here] installed my Digital Transport Adaptor, which makes it sound like I should be able to teleport a la Star Trek, but really only enables me to watch my TV, now that the cable company has “improved” service.  I made soup.  I got a shout out from Swinemama on Facebook.

I’m lunching with my sister.  I have some work to do, and I have a friend coming over for dinner.  Tomorrow, Kelsea and I are off to Steamboat Springs for the hot air balloon festival.  If you haven’t seen them, you can check out my pictures from last year’s festival on Monkeyeye here.  I had a great time last year, and I think she’ll really enjoy it.

The vet called and my darling Dusty (the cat)’s blood work all came back normal – he’s been ill the last few days – it stared with a sort of weird gagging/choking sound, and now he’s hiding, and won’t eat, though I did get him to eat a little baby food yesterday.  Next step is an x-ray. 

Pat called to say “Happy Birthday”, which was nice of him, but we got into a bit of a tiff about taking the cat in for the x-ray – it was a money issue and a control issue.  He wants to watch the cat to see how he is – which makes no sense to me, as I watched the cat and determined that something was wrong.  Why does he need to do it too?  We also batted around whose financial responsiblity it was.  I say we should split it.  He says I should pay for it – on top of the $266 I paid yesterday.  And we snipped about bedtime rules for Kelsea – he’s of the mind that she’s 13 and should go to bed at 10:00.  And so they fight about it.  I think she can stay up later – she’ll learn that she needs to go to bed earlier if she screws up her next day.  He says she’s not old enough to make her own decisions and that I’m just acting like her best friend.  He says she needs to listen and learn.  My argument is that she needs to make her own mistakes and learn.  And I don’t think I’m just acting like her best friend.  So I guess this proves that even in a “pretty good divorce”, you’re still going to have issues and disputes, and they’ll be very similar to the ones you had when you were married.

Anyway, that was a mini-rant, wasn’t it?  A departure from the point of this post.  Back to the subject at hand. 

There hasn’t been a birthday that hasn’t had me in tears for longer than I can remember.  I think last year, that’s all I wanted – a whole day without crying.  I didn’t get it.  It’s just always been something (often with Pat) for years – a fight, or he’ll forget, or something else.  Maybe I put too much importance on my birthday, but I think if you’ve been with someone for 25 years, you should be able to remember their birthday.  Which made it really nice that he called with birthday wishes today.

This morning though, I realized that maybe I have placed too much importance on other people celebrating me.  It makes perfect sense for ME to be the one celebrating being born.  I’m (finally) happy to be here.  I’m happy to have the friends I do.  I’m happy to love as I do.  I’m buying myself a AAA membership and a book on old Route 66 for my birthday.

I’m viewing today as the start of a new year – a chance to set new goals and walk through new doors, see new places, keep working on that life list.  When the next birthday rolls around, I expect I’ll be even happier.  There will be bumps in the road, but you must take the roughs with the smooths – it helps you appreciate the smooths more.

So, happy birthday to me!  And just FYI, the buttercream frosting roses were always my favorite part of the cake.

Today is Jacques Cousteau’s birthday.  The undersea explorer/environmentalist would have been 100 years old today.  My favorite (as you know) TV channel, Turner Classic Movies – a.k.a. The Bonnet Channel – has departed from its customary old movie programming for the day and is showing some of the 120+ documentaries that Cousteau filmed.  The line-up has included discovery of the Britannic (the Titanic sister ship, which sank in Greek waters in 1916 when it hit a mine); diving for Roman bronze statuary – some of which was discovered by sponge divers in the 1920s in a site off the Italian coast; the ecology of the Mediterranean; and exploration of the waters around Easter Island.

In these segments, Cousteau comes across as a man who has realized his passion in life, one whose mission on the planet is to explore, enjoy and enlighten.  He seems happy – like someone you whose company you would very much enjoy.  His boat Calypso, immortalized in the John Denver song and rammed and sunk by a barge in a Singapore harbor in 1996, was his companion in adventure for many years.

In the Britannic episode, he helicoptered in a spunky little 86-year old lady from Edinburgh who was one of the few remaining survivors of the wreck, having been a nurse aboard ship at the time of the disaster.  She provided the eyewitness account of the explosion and rescue, which, along with Cousteau’s narrative of his dive into the corpse of the ship at a depth of 354 feet beneath the sea, takes the footage from educational to emotional.  Before she is whisked away again, his crew takes her down in a submersible to view the remains herself.  What a marvelous experience for her – and for us as viewers.  I can only assume that Cousteau wrote his own descriptions of his dives, as well as the rest of the script for the documentaries – his words are evocative and heartfelt.

Where, you may ask, do childhood memories enter into the picture?  It’s not like I knew Jacques Cousteau, or played with his kids on a North Carolina beach.  No, my memories are still tied into the same documentaries I watched today.  They would air on Sunday nights from time to time during my growing-up years, and I found them frustrating.  Looking back on that feeling, I was partly bored and partly envious.  The boredom came from too many words and not enough action, in my 8-year old opinion.  But the envy came from watching Cousteau’s travels above, on and under the sea, to all those places that I wanted to go.

My Mother absolutely adored Cousteau, his mission and those shows.  She had a similar love of nature and a similar wanderlust – similar to both Cousteau and to me.  She would sit, rapt with attention, on the couch, not wanting to miss a minute of the tales of his travels, but patiently answering my numerous whiney questions about what we were watching.  I think she had a secret hope that one of us would become an environmentalist.  She’d have been pleased about my learning to dive.

Cousteau’s legacy lives on in his grandson Phillipe, who continues the family’s environmental work, and is currently in Grand Isle, Louisiana, exploring the horrendous impact of the BP oil spill.  You can read his findings, and see footage of his dive of the spill, which was broadcast on Good Morning America, on his website, www.philippecousteau.com.

And so, happy birthday, Capitaine.  The best gift we can give you is to honor and protect the sea – her past, present and future.

Today in 1985, Maybell, Colorado, reached a record low temperature of -61 degrees.  You may not think this is overly noteworthy, but Maybell, Colorado, holds a special place in my heart, and since this is, after all, my blog, it’s noteworthy to me. 

A long time ago, in what right now does seem to be a galaxy far, far away, when Pat and I had only been together for about three years, we took off over the fourth of July to escape the heat.   We headed towards Dinosaur National Monument, which means we were really running TO the heat, as opposed to running AWAY from the heat, but that wasn’t our intent.  We always liked to take the backroads when we did driving trips, and didn’t really plan a detailed route, just took whatever turns looked inviting, and stopped at whatever little roadside motels looked cozy.  On this particular trip, we took a long (perhaps 12-mile) dirt road that stretched from Maybell to Meeker.  That road was iconic in our minds, and forever after, if either of us saw something that made us think of it, we could say to the other “Like that road!” and the other would know exactly what was being referred to.

The road seemed like it went on forever.  It was a gentle dirt road for the most part, just a few washboard spots here and there.  The day had been hot and dry and in the late afternoon, the sun turned everything a rich shade of gold and green.  We stopped and walked into a field of waving wheat and let it stroke our skin.  We caught sight of a mountain lion chasing something through the tall grass off the side of the road.  A herd of elk patiently wended its way down a grassy hillside.  The roadside stream would cascade into unexpected little waterfalls.  Aspens rustled in the breeze.  A creature the size of a pterodactyl flew directly over the roof of the truck encasing us in a massive shadow, and we turned to each other and said “What the HELL was that?”, but couldn’t find it when we stuck our heads out the windows.  We agreed that it was as if we had passed into another dimension, another world, another universe.  Time slowed down to a luscious crawl and we luxuriantly dreamed through it, trying to hold onto it, savor it, live only in that feeling, that moment, endlessly.

Ah, the road.  That’s why Maybell has made my history book. 

But back to business.  For you more practical, less romantic history buffs, here’s the further scoop on today.

It’s Clark Gable’s 109th birthday. 

Of course, he’s dead NOW, but he would be 109 if he were still alive.  While not one of my favorite actors, he is responsible for one of my favorite movie scenes – the hitchhiking scene in “It Happened One Night”.  Catch it if you can.  

He’s most famous for his role as Rhett Butler in “Gone With the Wind.”  We GRITS have all been able to forgive him for not having a southern accent when he played the role.  But Vivian Leigh complained about his bad breath during their kissing scenes, which detracts from his charming image. 

Gable was devastated by the death of Carole Lombard, his third wife, in a plane crash after three years of marriage.  Though he married twice more, he never really recovered, and is buried by her side at Forest Lawn.

It’s also Boris Yeltsin’s birthday – he would have been 79.  Since I rarely choose to get political here, I will just say that he was my favorite drunken, dancing world leader.  Not my favorite world leader, mind you, just my favorite drunken, dancing one.  How can you not retain a trace of affection for someone who once played wooden spoons on the balding head of Askar Akayev, the president of ex-Soviet state Kyrgyzstan?

Skippy Peanut Butter was also born on this day in 1933.  What the Skippy website doesn’t tell you in its history timeline, is that in 2008, they deceptively resized their standard-sized jars by adding a large dimple in the bottom of the jar, while keeping all other dimensions the same, so the trusting consumer, looking at what appears to be the same jar they’ve bought for years, was actually getting 1.7 oz. less for their money.  Not the peanut butter’s fault, but still just not cricket.

Today is the 90th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or “Mounties”, known for always getting their man. 

Also known internally as “The Force”, they are immortalized in modern-day cartoon culture by Dudley Do Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, one of my childhood favorites,

and in modern-day film by Nelson Eddy, who had a propensity to sing to Jeanette MacDonald when he was in Mountie mode.

Today marks the 7th anniversary of the day the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry after its 27th mission, killing all seven astronauts aboard.  I remember the day.  I wept.

Rest in peace.

On a lighter note, today is Hula in the Coola Day, a day for those of us who have been too long away from the warmth of the sun and the sound of the waves to cast off the trappings of winter, wrap ourselves in sarongs and roast pigs and have a luau.  I can do the sarong with no problem.  I am awaiting delivery of the roast pig, but I think it’s going to take a while.

And finally (though in a way, not unrelated to the previous holiday), today is Robinson Crusoe Day, a day, according to Chase’s Calendar of Events, to be adventurous and self-reliant.  I firmly feel that every day in the years to come is Robinson Crusoe Day for me.


Thus endeth the history lesson.  Hope you feel slightly enlightened.

A good day in history!  Why?  Well, reason Numero Uno is (drumroll please)….

It’s the birthday of the King!  Yes, that’s right, it’s Elvis’ birthday today.  Had he lived, he would have been 75 years old today. 

(As would his brother Jesse, he of the unmarked grave in Tupelo, Mississippi.)

I recall the day he died.  I don’t know if it was really one of those iconic days where you remember where you were when you heard the news, but regardless, I do.  It was August, and we were at the beach.  I was standing by Daddy’s desk (i.e., the converted dining table) and it came on the little TV.  My grandmother was there and she was somewhat heartbroken.  I had no idea she was such a fan.  At any rate, here are a few things you might not have known about the man:

 – He was sleepwalker for most of his life.  It was a problem that ran (no pun intended) in the family.
–  His shoe size was 11D.
–  In the ’60s, he had a chimpanzee named Scatter who drank booze and accosted women.


–  His favorite snack was fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches – it took 2-3 sticks of butter to make it perfect.


–  Elvis’ heart and brain are still in storage at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, TN.  Considering the fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, that heart must be something else.
–  Elvis was quoted as saying, “When you let your head get too big, it’ll break your neck.”
–  Elvis once fired three bullets into his girlfriend’s yellow Pantera when it wouldn’t start. (It started on the next try.  Is there a lesson here?)
–  You can still park your soon-to-be-more-substantial-from-this-visit-buttocks in the same seat as Elvis’ at the Southern Maid Donut Shop in Shreveport, Louisiana for some HOT-HOT-HOT glazed donuts.

My personal favorites from the King’s body of work:
– Favorite movie:  Girl Happy
– Favorite song:  Satisfaction
– Favorite era:  Toss-up between his early years

and his early white jumpsuit period.

His was a rather ignominious end to an interesting life.  It’s a shame that his last words were spoken on the way to the bathroom.  I’d prefer that not happen to me.  If it does, I hope I say something really outre.

But Elvis impersonators abound.  Some are pretty good.

Some are not so good.

Some are women (such as Elvis Herselvis).

And some are just downright wrong.

We saw this gentleman in Portland two Septembers ago:

The largest assembled group of Elvis impersonators occurred in Australia in January 2007, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Die-hard Elvis fans must add the Elvis Contest and Convention in Blackpool, U.K. to their travel itineraries.  It’s happening right now (as it does every year): http://www.elviscontest.co.uk/.  They have a very cool logo – wonder if they have a webcam?

Elvis sightings continue to occur – from Nashville and Texarkana all the way to Alaska and Vancouver.  He seems to have a penchant for Colorado, though, having been sighted in Durango and Aspen.  Check out more Elvis sightings at www.elvissightingbullitenboard.com (you have to wade through the bogus “I saw Michael and Elvis singing ‘Hound Dog’ on the beach in Fort Lauderdale” stuff, but it actually is interesting to read these snippets about peoples’ experiences.  Perhaps the King is NOT dead after all! (And I myself am not so sure about Michael.)

It is also the birthday of the milk carton.

Dearest Milk.  How I miss you.

Finally, on a somber note, today in 1877, Crazy Horse fought his last major battle with the U.S. Cavalry in Montana at Wolf Mountain.  

Though the battle was considered a draw, the Lakota Sioux never recovered from the loss of ammunition and supplies suffered during the engagement.  Beaten by the elements and the enemy, Crazy Horse surrendered the following May at Camp Robinson, Nebraska.  I will not comment here yet on how the Native American cultures and traditions were destroyed by a government and settlers who felt they had a right to land that already belonged to others.  But I feel strongly about that topic.

Thus endth the history lesson.  Hope you feel slightly enlightened.

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