Tag Archives: Iowa

Still recovering from vacation

20140803_145557I have a vacation hangover.

True, getting away for a week to the beauty of the Rockies and the “newness” of Denver (my first visit to the city that lasted longer than a 2-hour airport layover) was, literally and figuratively, a breath of fresh air. I needed that vacation, more than I even realized. It had been six years since my last vacation, and that was a whirlwind weekend in Phoenix where I stayed with a friend/cousin. There have been overnight getaways but nothing like this, where I actually had the opportunity to unpack things and leave them for several days before rounding them up again.

We’ve been back for a little more than a week now and I still haven’t gotten this blog written or posted. When I’m not at work, sleep always seems to get in the way.

But here it is – a bit more on the wonderful trip to Denver.

Our first full day in Colorado we went to the mountains, driving to Mount Evans. Although I’d spent seven years in Alaska growing up – Dad’s uncle helped built the Alcan Highway and told great stories to his nieces and nephews, making my dad determined to live there one day – I still found myself caught up in the peace and the beauty of everything the mountains had to offer.

Young mountain sheep

Young longhorn sheep

We drove to the summit of Mount Evans – 14 miles up (the highest paved road in North America, according to the website) and 14,000 feet above sea level. On our way we had to stop for young longhorn sheep, and a mountain goat (yes, there’s a difference) met us at the top.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

The drive up was interesting: I remember once we left Alaska my dad would tell stories of the mountain roads we had to take to get to our hiking destinations – long, winding roads barely wide enough for two vehicles, with steep mountain going up on one side and going straight down on the other.

I didn’t remember the roads being as treacherous as he made them seem, and I do my dad is a bit of a storyteller (blarney runs deep in our blood), so I just dismissed it at a bit of an exaggeration.

Then we drove up to the summit parking lot at Mount Evans. Mountains straight up on one side, straight down on the other, and despite the steady speed of about 25 mph, there were many curves on which we slowed down considerably.

Ummm ... don't look down.

Ummm … don’t look down.

I drove us up, Mark (thankfully) drove us down.

Once we got to the top, I found myself experiencing a bit of altitude sickness. I got a little dizzy and had a hard time drawing a deep breath at first. My speech was slurred, almost like I was drunk, and I just fell a little … off. I sat down and took some breaths and started to feel better – until I realized how cold I was. The outside temperature at the base of the mountain was 85 degrees; at the peak, it was 50.

Our second full day, Monday, was a trip to the Denver Zoo. It was hot and there was little breeze, so many of the big animals weren’t out. Mondays must also be the day zoo staff clean the cages, so to speak, so in some exhibits we saw humans instead of the lions or bears we were hoping to see.

The last night in Denver, Tuesday, included a Rockies-Cubs game with club level seats Mark’s daughter and son-in-law had won at an auction. There were a couple of firsts that night: I’d never seen the Cubs play live, and I’ve never sat in club level seating in a baseball stadium.

One of the things that was most striking about our vacation was that we traveled nearly 800 miles from home to learn just what a small world it really is. Either Mark or Nate, his son-in-law, was almost always in some kind of Hawkeye gear and that drew the attention of many people in our hotel and in the places we visited – not because they were interested in learning more about our state but because they were from our state. There were at least a half-dozen families from Iowa staying in our hotel at the same time we were there, most of them from Eastern Iowa. One of the ushers was originally from West Branch and still has family there. The restaurant we went to on game day, Stadium Club, was first opened in Iowa City, and a customer at a nearby table grew up in Iowa and moved to Denver just five years ago. Even the owners of the marijuana shop we visited (we were in Colorado where it’s legal – the curious cat in me had to go in just to see what it was like) were from Iowa – one was a University of Iowa business school graduate.

It’s always a nice reminder that, no matter how far you travel, you’re never too far from home.

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Make new friends, but keep all of the old? Maybe not …

From Dreamstime.com

There are always two sides to every story.

When I was 16 and my brother – my younger brother – pushed me into the couch and I hit it in just the right spot to break three ribs, what never came out when I told the story to my friends was that I had patiently waited for him to get off the couch so I could steal his seat. When he came back we argued –  because we were teenagers and that’s what we did – and when I stood up he simply pushed me back down. Crack.

When my daughter, then 3, would come crying to me because her brother pushed her or knocked her down, I didn’t know until I went to talk to my son that it was because she stood in the middle of the area where he was playing blocks or driving his Matchbox cars and then kicked all of his toys around.

Little Red Riding Hood would most certainly have a different version of what happened that day in the woods than would the Big Bad Wolf.

And when you hear, “People come into your life for a reason,” you never think that people also leave your life for a reason.

But they do.

Anyone who knows me or who has been a regular reader of this blog (or both) knows that we moved around a lot when I was growing up – and by “a lot” I mean that by the time I graduated from high school we had lived in 13 different houses in five different states. We weren’t gypsies or transients or, as one friend often accuses, in witness protection. My dad simply got bored sitting in one place too long. As a result I went to two elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. And while it was tough leaving friends behind, it was always good to make new ones.

I’ve carried that with me through my adult years. In college I think I lived someplace new every semester, and in the (gulp) 23 years since the longest time I’d spent in any one house was the one I bought after my divorce in 2002 – and we moved out of that one two years ago.

I’ve never really had a problem making friends – again, those who know me know I’m not shy. Growing up it was never really hard to “clean out the bad,” either, because if I waited long enough we’d move and those I didn’t want to keep in touch with just faded into the sunset. (Unfortunately many I did want to keep in touch with faded, as well, but thanks to Facebook and social media  I’ve reconnected with many of them.)

As an adult, cleaning that closet is a bit more difficult. I can’t sit back on my laurels and wait for Dad to get bored and move (which, by the way, he stopped doing once we three kids graduated). When I need to cleanse, it’s got to be a decision I make, and it’s not always an easy one. How do you tell someone, “thanks, but it’s over.” Breaking up with a friend is harder than breaking up with a boyfriend, I think, because the relationship is different. When you make a romantic break, there’s the possibility you can be friends, or maybe without the romance there’s not much reason to be around each other so it doesn’t matter. With friends, it’s different. There is no, “but we can still be friends” – that defeats the whole process.

I’ve only made that cleansing move twice in the last 25 years, both because it is so damned hard and because, well, I generally love my friends. I don’t get to spend as much time with a lot of them as I’d like, but I do still like having them. What usually drives me to that point is how that person makes me feel. I don’t need to be coddled and given warm fuzzies by any means, but if I’m constantly left with a negative self-image after talking with the friend or just feeling badly about myself because of them, I don’t need them nor do I want them around. In many cases, these are the friends who use a revolving door – they come into your life for a while, then leave for a while, then they eventually resurface.

I do believe people come into our lives for a reason, but I have to remember that people leave our lives for a reason, too – and sometimes that reason has to be because we tell them to leave.

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